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  1. #1
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    Mar 2012
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    Default Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    I have two hives that made it through the winter and they both are looking good so far. I'd like to expand some this year but I'm confused as to whether I should split them routinely for this purpose. Obviously splitting reduces numbers/disrupts them for a time (depending on if you have a queen on hand) and I'm concerned about how much this will cut into the honey yield. So where is the breaking point between splitting 2 hives into 4 hives and just maintaining 2 hives (opening brood nests etc.) so they produce the strongest honey yield possible?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Overwintered-bees often have to be split as part of swarm management, despite using other techniques such as opening the sides of the brood nest. The trick is balancing that with maintaining good production-hive strength. Many beekeepers also need the splits to make up for winter losses.

    Other people split to try and manage varroa (The broodless periods involved in growing a queen from scratch will interrupt the summer build-up of varroa. This is not the case if you simply introduce a new queen immediately after dividing the bees, as there won't be a long-enough interruption in brood production to have an effect.)

    For those of us with excellent winter survival, and no ambitions to keep growing the size of our apiary, the astounding reproductive capacity of our bees can be a problem. The usual suggestion is to make the increases and sell off the the bees as local nucs.

    I started with three two years ago. Last summer in order to pre-empt a swarm I was forced (despite opening the brood nest) to divide one of my colonies . This summer I plan on splitting my other two original colonies which grew remarkably last year. I'm hoping I can finesse their swarm plans long enough to be able to divide them in June, and not earlier. But at that point, with six hives, I will be at my self-imposed max.

    I have equipment to handle one or two more, but I don't have the time.

    Enj.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Knox, Pa. USA
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    1,616

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    You can do both!!
    Allow them to stabilize and build from overwintering. At the onset of your spring flow. Take the queen and 2 brood combs and put them in a nuc. Take one frame with pollen and honey....put it in to the nuc. Put one empty undrawn frame on one side and one undrawn frame on the other side, close it up. move it about 100 yards or so from the mother hive, feed and walk away. make sure there are no swarm cells. Check mother hive in 2-3 days for queen cells. if no Queen cells...take one frame from the nuc or other colony which has eggs and very young brood. put it in mother colony. do this weekly until u have queen cells. Let them go and watch for when the flow gets going check to see when to add honey suppers, because they WILL make tons of it if timed right. A split has been made, you aided in preventing swarming, and increased honey production all in one.

    You can do this yearly, for all the above reasons. but it is not always necessary. depending on the bees, geography, and year.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Talladega County, Alabama, USA
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    91

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Why not split into a nuk. Then feed the nuk offspring back into the parrent hive. You have 2 queens laying and all growth goes into the big hive.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Another option, for both increase and honey yield if you are working with just 2 colonies.

    If you are able to discourage swarming and your hives make it to the main flow intact, keep the stronger of the two "as is" for the flow, and super up.

    Take the weaker one and divide it up into 3 or 4 hives (or nucs).
    You can either purchase mated queens of your choosing for the splits, or pull the queen first and then divide up the capped queen cells later when you divide up the hive.

    One very strong colony will probably produce more honey than the combined honey yield from 2 colonies that have been split.
    To everything there is a season....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Cumberland Va.
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    1,992

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post


    One very strong colony will probably produce more honey than the combined honey yield from 2 colonies that have been split.
    I agree, and that's my plan. with 4 this year. I did it last year, with 2 and the one hive produced good surplus. G

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Sacramento,California,USA
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    4,064

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    If you wait until your main flow is tapering off to make your splits, you'll get both honey yield and increase in hive numbers.
    "A good day is when no one shows up and you don't have to go anywhere." - Burt Shavitz (Burt's Buzz)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Massillon, Ohio
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    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Another good option. Just be prepared to feed them through the summer if necessary.
    To everything there is a season....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
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    4,946

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    A good splitting strategy is to split off the queen and a couple frames of bees and mostly capped brood right at the beginning of your main honey flow. The strong now queenless hive have all the resources to produce a nice replacement queen and the queen and her new split will grow into a full sized colony to winter with a little love and feeding. She is usually superceded so you end up with young queens. The main colonies mite population crashes from the brood break but it is a good Idea to treat the new split for mites. a Strip of Apivar will do the job nicely on the small cluster of the split.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC USA
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    61

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    A good splitting strategy is to split off the queen and a couple frames of bees and mostly capped brood right at the beginning of your main honey flow.

    I agree. This strategy will leave most or all of your foragers with the parent hive so honey production shouldn't take much of a hit. Better than taking a chance on an unexpected swarm and losing maybe half or three quarters of the hive.
    Walter

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
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    Worcester County, Massachusetts
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    4,009

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    2 things to add to Vance's Comments...

    1. That strategy also has the advantage of increased productivity (markedly) in the parent hive...as brood emerges there is no brood to care for, so the young bees are available for foraging while the flow is on.

    2. When splitting anytime for any reason, dont forget to consider the foragers (who are tied to the original location rather than a specific queen) as a resource. A hive moved during the day (or at night if it stays in the same yard) can be replaced with a frame of brood, food, and adhering bees at the old location (the opposite of what Vance suggests above)...or move a strong hive specifically to place a few frames of bees at the old location. The biggest advantage to this is (unless there is no flow) the ratio of forgers to house bees is so high they act like they are being fed...most Cloake Board methods do some entracne manipulation to get all the forgers to go to the cell builder instead of the queen right half.
    "Imagine a world in which we are all enlightened by objective truths rather than offended by them."Neil Tyson

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
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    136

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Thank you for all the great input! So if I split off for a nuc should I do this for both hives or just the strongest one? If the parent hive is too large could I sill end up with an overpopulation swarm once the new queen is reared?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Posts
    824

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    I pulled the queen on two hives last year towards the end of the flow. There was a large population and signs of swarming. Seemed to me to really demoralize the hive as entrance traffic slowed noticeably. Hives did re-queen themselves and didn't swarm. What are others experiences with removing the queen from the main hive?

    My preference is to make up a NUC from early strong hives and buy a mated queen. As the NUC builds, you can elect to return frames of capped brood to the main hive to catch the flow.

    Or once you get a strong NUC((I run some 6 frame NUCs, take the queen and all but two brood frames of new eggs/young larvae, notch some cells and let the NUC build queen cells on a couple of frames. Leave a couple of queens cells in the NUC and take the other frame with queens cells and make a third NUC up. Place an Apivar strip in the NUC.

    Should be saving up some honey frames to give the NUC in late fall to overwinter with. Be prepared to fall feed syrup and use sugar blocks. I have two 6 over 6 NUCs that I started in late July, separated them with 2 inch foam and insulated with 2 inch foam, that are going like gang busters this spring.
    If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Gig Harbor, WA
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    38

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambassador View Post
    I have two hives that made it through the winter and they both are looking good so far. I'd like to expand some this year but I'm confused as to whether I should split them routinely for this purpose. Obviously splitting reduces numbers/disrupts them for a time (depending on if you have a queen on hand) and I'm concerned about how much this will cut into the honey yield. So where is the breaking point between splitting 2 hives into 4 hives and just maintaining 2 hives (opening brood nests etc.) so they produce the strongest honey yield possible?
    I am in the same boat, however I DON"T want to increase the size of my apiary at all...the two hives I do have are all I want and have time to manage, PLUS I may be moving this summer. What could be the worst that could happen if I just monitored them for disease and mites and left them alone? If they swarm and the hive responds favorably to that and produce a new queen etc., isn't that ok?

    Sorry, I might be really showing my ignorance here. Beekeeping is fun and interesting, but I can't manage this getting any bigger for a variety of reasons.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    2,859

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    If you don't want the increase then take out a nuc or 2 and then sell them off on CL.
    I am sure someone is waiting to buy your nucs too. The free section is even better when
    mention that you have to many to give away.
    I luv bee source!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,865

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    1. That strategy also has the advantage of increased productivity (markedly) in the parent hive...as brood emerges there is no brood to care for, so the young bees are available for foraging while the flow is on.
    I've read this before on BS and have issues with the management. I've kept bees for 40+ years, and my long time average is 100 lb/colony. I've made more than that at times and once made 58 tons in a good year. This so called "marked increase in productivity" is hard for me to believe, and is something I would never do with my bees. I think it another example of beekeepers reading about a management plan, never really becoming experienced with that management plan, and passing it on as intelligent management with any kind of proof of success. Honey production, and any other segment of sucessful beekeeping requires maximum possible population. How does splitting a colony, removing the old queen, and forcing the colony to raise a new queen, in any way promote population?

    Sorry, I just don't buy it.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    I never bought into the theory either.... my best honey producers are always ones that are headed by strong queens and brood like crazy at all times and hit any flows with strong populations. Colonies that supercede or splits always seem to need time to catch up.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
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    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    This so called "marked increase in productivity" is hard for me to believe, and is something I would never do with my bees.
    If you have never done it with your bees, then how do you know it doesn't work?

    Not trying to be a wise guy, just genuinely curious.
    To everything there is a season....

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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    1,897

    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    A question for Michael Palmer.

    What do you advise for increasing hive numbers and maximizing honey yield when you have two hives to work with?
    Janne....first hives April 2013, 19 hives, treat, plant zone 8b, at sea level, latitude 49.13, longitude 123.06

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    Default Re: Is it considered standard practice to split a hive each year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    If you have never done it with your bees, then how do you know it doesn't work?

    Not trying to be a wise guy, just genuinely curious.
    Because it takes population to harvest a crop, and it takes brood to build population, and it takes a laying queen to make brood. Now, my flows are from id-May to mid-September. I want my colonies to maintain a large broodnest which builds or maintains a large population through the flow period. There's no way, in my opinion, to maintain peak population if you remove a nuc with the queen, or remove the queen, and expect the colony to re-queen themselves.

    And then, of course, there are the colonies who attempt to re-queen, and the virgin fails to come back.

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