I split this year letting them raise their own queen. The first set of brood did not produce a queen or she was lost on her mating flight. Meanwhile they packed the hive with honey so it wasn't a total loss. I added more brood making sure eggs were included - actually chased the donor hive queen off the frame. This time a new queen was produced and she starting laying like mad - however, there was a 6 week gap that the new hive was queenless and they went into the fall flow weak on stores. I'm feeding before the cold weather hits (Texas isn't so bad in the winter) and will requeen in the spring because the cross of tame bees and wild bees yielded mean bees. (AHB's are in the next county)
I was under the impression I should be able to make one split a year. Started searching for confirmation of this and found this discussion on a more intensive splitting approach. Link is: http://www.gobeekeeping.com/0makingsplits.htm
With this approach and using purchased queens (to avoid the gap in laying) they are claiming for every colony you have you can throw off a new colony every 8 weeks without excessive pressure on the donor colonies. (8 donor colonies donate 1 frame per week - net is 8 new colonies in 8 weeks). This is a lot more attractive than buying packages or waiting 4 years to fill my beeyard.
Thoughts and feedback on this approach? Would appreciate feedback on how many splits you can reasonable expect?
Also, thoughts on how much pressure donating a frame a week would have on a colony - would it wipe out your honey season?
The author claims not. I am thinking putting down a $100 for queens is a lot more attractive than $500 for 8 packages (the shipping costs are brutal).
The info from your gobeekeeping link says to take 1 frame from 8 hives.
"This hive has 8 frames of brood and bees and a ne queen. In two weeks it will kick butt."
You might be interested in MrBEE's (Michael Bush) comments made on 11/18, 1:08PM @ http://www.beesource.com/ubb/Forum12/HTML/000189.html
He made FOUR SPLITS from ONE package.
Dave W . . .
A NewBEE with 1 hive.
First package installed
>He made four splits from ONE package.
I would have said "He made four splits from one PACKAGE.
The queen in that package was awsome. She layed up a storm and I raised several queens from her besides the ones from the splits.
I would attribute the success of getting four splits to a combination of things. One is a good queen. Another is limiting the space to a minimum size. I installed the package in a five frame nuc. Three weeks later I split the five frame nuc into two five frame nucs. When those were full, I moved each of those into eight frame nucs. Then I moved each of those into 10 frame boxes. After the original one got up to three ten frame boxes I split off a four frame nuc. Then three weeks later another four frame nuc. And, come to think of it, when I was queen rearing I split it again into another 10 frame split. So it is now five hives. The current "offspring" of this package is now a five medium box hive (the original one), a three medium box hive, a one medium box hive, a two 8 frame medium box hive and a single 8 frame medium box hive. They are all pretty strong except maybe the single 8 frame box hive, but we'll see how they winter.
Some of this is luck. Some is timing. Some is genetics. I've never gotten that many splits from one hive before, but then I didn't try the techniques I used this time.
If you don't weaken the original hive too much and you keep the split crowded enough (when they are small) to keep things warm easily (by using nucs) I think you can take a strong hive and start a five frame nuc every three weeks. If you push it too close at the end of the year you can combine some of them. Also, you can use the four frame nucs and stack them on top of the parent hive for warmth. You can even make a bottom board with some double screen so that the warm moist air can get into the nucs.
The down side is that I got NO honey from this hive and I fed them a lot this fall.
Michael, Did you use drawn comb to help speed up these splits?
Was the extra combs those Perma Comb?
I am thinking this is what really hurt my 2 packages that I started with. Not having drawn comb slows them down to much. I have had to feed them alot( I have purchased 200 lbs of sugar syrup).
I hope that these 2 colonies will make it thru the winter. If they both do and I purchase queens should I be able to get 6 colonies and a honey crop( some for me) with foundation filling the rest of the hive. 2 of these will be TBHs. I do not forsee me getting to be a large scale beekeeper but would like about 20 hives in about 3 years. My wife has demanded that they start paying their way( atleast take care of themselves) next year. I am lucky enough to have free scrap lumber in which to build the hives nearly completely from this. It is one of my main reasons for getting into TBHs. I really do not have all the tools I need. I would love to have a table saw.
All the comb in the splits and the original hive are PermaComb. It is fully drawn. That is probably part of the reason they did so well.
Here is another one of my newBee questions, We have three colonies two are very strong but the third is not that strong (it is kind of strong after injecting it with some brood two month ago but I think the queen is not that great) so I wonder how many split can I make out of them and still have Honey next year? I will be able to get queens from mid April and I am targeting the clover flow which is mid June.
Is it better to do one:many splits at mid April (i.e 1-2 brood frames in 4 frames nucs) and keep feeding until mid June hopping they will be strong by then, OR
Do one:two split in mid April and another one:two split after three weeks?
I tend to go with the first approach since I will have more queens laying which means more bees per colony by mid June, Am I right?
Any thoughts are much appreciated?
>Is it better to do one:many splits at mid April (i.e 1-2 brood frames in 4 frames nucs) and keep feeding until mid June hopping they will be strong by then, OR
Do one:two split in mid April and another one:two split after three weeks?
You pretty much have to decide if you want bees or honey. If you want honey, I would just split them all down the middle and leave it at that. More splits will probably not make any honey.
>I tend to go with the first approach since I will have more queens laying which means more bees per colony by mid June, Am I right?
It's a nice theory. Reality is a different story. Four small hives will not make as much honey as one super hive.
This is a bit complicated, but how about this. Buy some queens in early in the year and set up all your hives as two queen hives. (there are several methods to do this) They will thrive better than small nucs with more resources to share. Three weeks before you expect the main honey flow, do a cut down split of the hive.
On the old hive location put one frame of eggs and all the frames of capped brood and just a very little honey and pollen. Shake all the bees off of any combs of honey which you put in the new hive and shake half the bees off into the old hive of all of the rest of the open brood which then goes in the new hive. Face the new hive the other direction from the old hive. Put five or six supers on the old hive. Put the new queen in the new hive and kill the old queen. Reduce the entrace on the new hive. All of the field bees will go back the old hive.
The old hive will now raise a new queen, but in the meantime will have no brood to care for and therefore will have lots of field bees to gather honey. The new hive will continue to care for the brood and will build up to a decent strength by the end of the year as will the old hive. One is setup to produce honey, the other setup to produce bees. By the end of the year both will have strong populations and lots of honey for winter.
I learned the hard way that when making split if you can not make them strong they will not take off and make a colony before the flow. That is the main appeal of the method that you described. I only have 2 colonies going through the winter. I will be pulling 2 frames from each this spring to make my third hive. I hope to do this every 3 weeks without pulling the parent hives down. I plan on giving the parent hive foundation back so I am taking into account that they have to draw new comb. I might be able to get some permacomb before spring. I think that the use of drawn comb will doulbe the number of colonies you can get going before the main flow.
I put my package order in a few weeks ago with Koehnen. Ordered a four pack as that keeps the shipping at a minimum. Had good success with them last year - very productive queens. Asked them to include 4 extra queens. Plan is to requeen my existing hives and make splits. Got to balance the desire to expand with the need to fill those jars with honey before Uncle Sam decides this is a hobby and not a business.
Based on the advice I've gotten here I think I will do a couple of things:
1. start the packages in 5 frame nucs, feed heavily
2. give each package at least 2 drawn frames so the queen can start laying right away
3. feed my existing hives this spring to stimulate brood rearing
4. put out a swarm trap or two
5. rotate the brood boxes every few weeks
6. when the packages and queens arrive, requeen my existing hives to get them going with a strong new queen
7. if possible strong enough split the existing hives and give the splits a new queen.
8. leave these four honey hives alone
9. when the 4 package nucs have progessed up to two bodies, start throwing off splits every couple of weeks by pulling 1-2 frames of brood and putting into a nuc. This means letting them raise their own queens. (and suiting up tight as the feral bees are a bit fierce). Hoping this will translate into an extra 8-10 strong hives over and above the packages and existing hives.
10. I think I'll employ robbing screens on the splits. while they are raising queens they pack in a lot of honey but the hives are relatively weak and the feral bees are greedy too. I think they hauled off about 50 pounds of honey this summer.
Everytime you split a hive, you place stress on them. I like to split once and equlize/make increase three weeks after. Keep your colonies strong and producing. By continually splitting your hives, and without proper experience, you will start with one yard of healthy strong productive hives, ending with three yards of stressed dieased unproductive failing hives.
Also, timing is everything. Just before the flow is a great time to do a split because the struggling split has a good flow to get started and the hive you took the brood from has less brood to feed. Too early or too late or too much is much more stressful. A late or an early split is much more likely to get robbed out.