-Posted by Isaac
We're splitting hives and taking names.
And here comes the busy season...
If you're unfamiliar with what the term "splitting" is all about, basically we take a strong hive and divide it into two or three smaller hives. And thanks to that very warm March, they're all strong! (Well, almost all.)
At the moment, April 9th, it feels like January. But March was much nicer to the bees. The pollen came flooding in...
...and the bees brooded up nicely.
Maybe a little too strong.
Where we haven't made it around fast enough to remove the winter spacer, the bees have made a mess of drone brood and burr comb. Seth takes care of it.
In a yard of say, 20 hives, maybe 16 need split. So we're staying pretty busy, trying to beat the swarming. If you don't split a hive, the bees will naturally do it for you. Which is fine for the bees. But for us, we beekeepers lose out on that game. Half our bees are gone with the wind. We like to keep our girls at home in their tidy boxes.
My dad, my farmer father seems to have a hard time understanding what exactly I'm doing all day. (How hard could it be to keep insects in boxes?) Why am I running around, rain or shine, hot or cold, missing meals, missing basketball games?
All I can say is that this splitting time is the beekeeper's equivalent of the farmer's planting season. It's busy and it's important and it takes precedence over March Madness.
My beekeeper friend Dan Williams never fails to have a Facebook comment after the big championship: I heard there was some kind of game going on. Must have missed it.
And much like planting crops, splitting hives requires some forethought. For one, you need the extra equipment to store your splits. Lots of splits means lots of equipment.
This is something that starts way back in the dregs of winter. Building boxes, waxing frames, etc..
And then there's the queen issue.
We have a wonderful spring honey flow in central Ohio about the middle of May. The black locust and the bush honeysuckle make beautiful translucent honey. But if you're splitting hives, and you still want to catch this honey flow (and actually produce a surplus) then you need a laying queen.
And you need that queen in early. Oh, the joy of new queens.
We order our queens back in the fall. I've got 300 some coming between mid April and early May. But it's always a guess as to when exactly you're going to need them. When you have a warm March like we just had, you need those queens earlier. And that just isn't happening. The order dates are set in stone. Thankfully I'm connected. It helps to have friends in high places.
Barry Conrad, who handles central Ohio's package bee needs, was able to get me 50 beautiful queens on April first. Thank you Barry!
So we were able to make 50 early splits. These will soon be heading into the apples. The kids handled the specifics while I sat back with a cigar. Big pollination contracts = Big Money Money Money. Then, if we're lucky, Honey Honey Honey. Faster kids! Faster!