I am coming into my first spring as a hobby bee keeper with two hives cosisting of two deeps two meds each. I have read everything I could find for the most part. I feel I have a pretty good handle on what I am doing. I for the most part think hands off is a better way of handling the bees. I regularly inspect the hives and leave them alone if things look good. An inspection this week revealed The cluster fills up the first deep and extends through the next deep and all the way to the top of the medium on both hives. This cluster fills most of the area of the first deep half of the second and 1/3 of the med. I left two deeps and a med full for each hive of honey for the winter vs. extracing any last year. So they should come into spring just as they are now. If I leave them with out splitting them will I have any issues? If so what. I would prefer to stay with two hives. from my studies I would think I will have a swarming issue this spring.
That's a huge cluster! I would test the mite levels, and watch for swarming down the road.
Add a third deep for brood and get some more supers, the more space in the hive, the less chance of swarming, if you get enough space, they will not swarm at all.
Also to reduce swarming, find a way to let bees bypass the broodnest, that is, relieve the congestion, have an upper entrance, the less the bees are cramped up, the less chance they will swarm.
Southern Oregon Apiaries
If they are that full of bees right now, I agree with Sol. Add another deep for brood space. If they have built up that much already, they will double that population quickly and if you don't add some room, they will swarm. Do they have enough stores? How much of that is brood nest? Do they have enough pollen? Is it warm enough for them to fly?
I have found that at this time of the year the queen will be neaar the top of the hive, busily laying eggs in whatever space she can find.
Look for the brood nest; if it is indeed in the second or top super the bottom super will in all probability be empty. Put it on top, put the brood nest just above the bottom board and cut out any queen cells you see, even if they are only cups with no eggs.
If you look at this idea, it echos what your first two advisors told you--give the queen plenty of space and don't crowd the bees. The moment the bees begin to bring in honey, give them a new super. Keep burr comb cut out and give them plenty of ventilation once it gets warm. A slatted rack helps cut down on crowding and bearding.
You are coming into spring with two great colonies. If you can hold them in the hives you will have a couple of great producers.
As an aside, I don't use more than two deeps for winter quarters. That much honey on a good colony will have plenty of bees.
Wow that will bee one tall stack. I have two deeps and two mediums now on each hive. Screened bottom board Inner cover drilled with (4) 2" holes covered with hardware cloth for extra ventilation. I have an empty deep body on top of the stack that I house the syrup can when I feed. I just cover the hole on the inner cover with a board and leave it all together year around. It gets wet here 30 miles east of Seattle.
I have two deeps and can add the upper entrance. When do I do it?
They are not flying it is in the 40's mostly . We will start having 50 degree days next month.
As someone mentioned above, you may have an empty box on the bottom that could be swapped around instead of adding one.
As for an upper entrance I try to have one all winter. It's better than the entrance getting clogged with snow or dead bees and they suffocate.
If you want to stay with two colonies you can take the antiswarming measures that are pretty well published.
rotate the colony boxes
add an undrawn medium under the broodnest to give the bees with little to do a way to focus their efforts on something besides swarming
keep plenty of supers on, keep plenty of space open
if you don't have a young queen then requeen
clip the queen, if they do swarm they will return although the queen may be lost
You have been given some great information. Pay close attention to it, especially that last bit by wfarler.
As for upper ventilation (wet in Seattle), I don't like cutting up inner covers with extra holes, leaving the top open, etc. I don't want a lot of fenceline for the bees to have to defend. They are helpless in cold weather.
I prefer a reduced bottom entrance and a 3/4 inch bored hole in the top box, just above the handhold in front. I eyeball-center it between the top and the handhold. In summer the bees will use it as a top entrance, taking shortcuts to the supers. (You will sometimes even prop up the top board when the hives are working hard and boiling over with bees during a honeyflow.)
When it begins to get cold the bees will propolize this hole, bringing it down to whatever they think is needed, sometimes no more than a pencil-sized hole. They can get all the top ventilation they need thru a very small hole--All the air exchange they need is enough to keep themselves dry. If they need an upper exit they will use this top hole. Leaving big holes in the inner cover leaves the bees living in a draught. You do not like sleeping in a cold draught, neither do they. A strong colony will do well in a draughty hife, but they need more stores to do it.
thanks for the help everyone.
The holes in the inner cover are covered with fiberglass screen and when you add up the space it is just a tad bit larger than the elongated manufactured hole in the inner cover that is always covered with either the syrup can or board when not in use. It looks like the five on a dice when you look at it from above. So there is no more space really just better distribution of the air with dead space provided by the super above the inner cover . IMHO
Everyones hives I looked at locally were all crusty and moldy so this was my solution.
"if you get enough space, they will not swarm at all."
Sol, if you are eating these words about ten times over this spring, just remember....the bees will always prove you wrong.
From what I've seen, the more room you give them, the bigger the swarms are. But not meaning, give them less room. You are trying to control a few hundred million years of bee's evolution and innate methods of propogation of their species. The day you can truly tell me a method to use that "they will not swarm at all", I will finance your marketing of this method and we will both become millionaires.
Yeah, bees don't always swarm because something is wrong...they swarm just as often because everything is right, they are doing well and its time to multiply.
Scot Mc Pherson
"Linux is a Journey, not a Guided Tour" ~ Me
"Do or not do, there is no try" ~ Master Yoda
Gotta agree with od.You better be thinking about swarm control when Spring gets here.My experience is 'everything that can swarm will swarm'.Cut cells, split ,or do a 2 queen hive.
Ok, Im in the same boat as Whitey.I have 2 deeps and 1 med full of bees, they are gethering pollen already, and the queen is laying (i think)I didnt want to pry to deep, its still a little early, the top deep still has a lot of honey in it, I want to make another hive this year. What do I do ??? wait for them to swarm, and catch it?, or split them some how? thanks...........................BB
Order a queen for as early in April as you can get it ,then divide the hive.If you let them swarm ,you may not be able to catch it,and afterswarms may deplete the hive down to nothing.Of course you can always divide,and let them raise their own,but the queen raised will be an emergency queen that wont always be the best.If you wait till they are actually raising swarm cells,you can use one of them as swarm cells are always well fed.But the danger in waiting that long is the swarm fever will have taken hold and they may swarm anyway.
If I get a new queen, how many bees should I take from the old hive,(drones and workers)Also should I give the new hive some of the frames of honey and brood to help them get started? if so how many of each?
I agree with Mike. Planning on catchng a swarm is unpredictable. Odds are you WON'T catch it unless you spend every daylight hour watching the hives.
If you want to do a split you can decide how you want to go about it and when.
If you can plan well enough to know when the main honey flow is you can pull all the open brood except one frame and a lot of the honey and pollen and put it in the split and leave the capped brood and one frame of open brood with young eggs in the old hive. Then let the old hive raise their own queen. That way they have a big population, because the field bees all return to the old hive and the capped brood emerges, but they don't have the responsibility of caring for all that brood.
The new hive won't swarm because it's got too many responsibilities (young brood) and not enough field bees.
The old hive won't swarm because it's queenless, but it will be productive because it has lots of workers.
After the honey flow you can combine if you don't want increase or leave seperate if you do. If you combine, you have now requeened the hive.
Another method is a 50 50 split. Pay attention to how the brood nest is arranged, and make two just like that. Honey and pollen on the outside, capped brood next and open brood in the center. The advantage of a 50 50 split is it weakens both of the splits so neither wants to swarm.
If all you want is a split without weakening the parent hive, just take a frame of open brood and eggs, a couple of frames of capped brood and a couple of frames of honey and pollen and put them in a 5 frame nuc until they get a queen rasied and she gets that layed up pretty well. Then put them in a 10 frame box.
There are lots of variations depending on the goal. The first one I mentioned is to prevent swarming and maximize the parent hives honey production. The second method is so you can prevent swarming, manage both pretty much the same, and make some increase. You can put a purchased queen in and both hives will probably do similarly. The last is to leave the parent hive strong and get some increase.
As MB says there are several ways to go about splitting.This is where the 'art' of beekeeping comes in.You HAVE to know the approximate starting date of the main honeyflow,so your hives will arrive with a full force of bees to gather it.One 'rule of thumb' is that 4 frames of sealed brood, with plenty of bees to keep them warm,,and a good young queen will arrive at peak strength 8 weeks later.So 8 weeks before the target flow,you tear down every hive and equalize to that approximate strength.But,as was pointed out ,there are other methods,and reasons for dividing.
Wow, thanks for taking the time to put down all these choices, it really helps me decide how to split my hive for what I wanted, (that being 2 stable, non swarming hives) doing it the first way makes the most sense to me, I will probally do it that way, but if I do a 50/50 split, who gets the queen? do I need to order 1, or will the queenless hive just make their own??
>(that being 2 stable, non swarming hives) doing it the first way makes the most sense to me,
It's kinda nice because one hive is focused on honey and the other on brood. Keeps them busy and productive.
>I will probally do it that way, but if I do a 50/50 split, who gets the queen? do I need to order 1, or will the queenless hive just make their own??
Either one works fine. Timing is everything. If you're going to do this early you'll buy them three weeks of brood rearing by buying a queen which will help production a lot. If you do it immediately before the honey flow and let them raise their own, you free them up from raising brood during the honey flow which will also help production while saving you buying a queen. Some of it depends on how imminent you think they are to swarm. It's best to catch them before they start building swarm cells, but if you catch them making swarm cells there is still time to split them.
Watch for swarm cells on the bottoms of the bars in the brood chambers. You can just tip the box back and look at all of them at once. If you have swarm cells, it's time to split them for sure.