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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Durango, Colorado, USA
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    22

    Question Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Hello everyone,

    I'm sure I'm overthinking this whole issue, but I am curious to read what "splitting" method you guys use. I am new to beekeeping and I'm just planning ahead and researching as much as possible. When I took a beekeeping course, the instructor explained how he does splits and this is basically what he does when he sees advanced swarm queen cells.

    • Finds the Old Queen and moves the Brood comb where she's at and 2 other brood combs to a new hive. (all the bees on these combs are also taken to the new hive)
    • Moves 2 honey combs (and the bees on these combs) and places one on each side of the brood combs
    • Inserts empty bars at the ends


    So the new hive will look like this:
    Empty Bars, Honey, Brood, Brood with Queen, Brood, Honey, Empty Bars

    The old hive is now left to finish raising a new queen.

    I've seen online or in books where some leave the Old Queen in the Current hive and move the brood comb with the Queen cells and some honey comb to the new hive instead.

    Which method do you guys use? Or do you have your own variation or method that you feel works best?
    Last edited by luigee; 11-25-2009 at 11:08 PM.
    Listen to the Bees and they will guide you

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Dalkeith, Ont, Canada
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Well the guy I worked for made nukes, he removed 1 honey 2 brood from a hive and added a queen cell. I would rather remove the queen cells this would hopefully disrupt the mother hive less since they would still have a laying queen. I don't know yet though, since I have yet to split my hives (new beek) I can only speculate.
    Funny story though, when I went to move my 2 langs into my new tbh I happened to open them just when the queens were all coming out, kept some frames of honey for latter emergency feeding in a covered super inside. When I checked a few days latter I found a virgin queen and a small colony inside the super in my house! Put em outside in one of my tbh, they are doing well hopefully they will make it through the winter.


    Sam.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,142

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Assuming two boxes and enough bars, one method is just "deal" the combs. One for you and one for you. You can slip the ones staying forward in the established hive and take every other comb and give it to the new hive. Whichever one is queenless will raise a queen. Whichever one isn't won't need to. If you happen to see the queen, I'd give her to the new one as the drift will favor the old one.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Durango, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    22

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Sam and Michael,

    thanks for your responses. I appreciate the feedback.
    Listen to the Bees and they will guide you

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Dalkeith, Ont, Canada
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    O yes I had forgotten about this, the older bees will go back to the old hive location so you end up loosing bees in your new hive, gota consider that when spliting.


    Sam.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Phoenixville, PA
    Posts
    579

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Last year I split my four hives to prevent swarming. I thought by kidnapping the queen into a nuc that the host hive would scramble to raise a new queen and not swarm. My thinking was that if the honey flow was going, the emerging bees would maintain the foraging army and total numbers will be better than what's left after a swarm. Also, by interrupting the brood cycle, I'd also interrupt the mite cycle.

    Didn't work.

    Our SE PA spring was rainy and cold, all the blooms where pushed back three weeks and I had a miserable harvest.

    The flow may have then lined up with the eventual decline in the number of foragers while a new queen got established.

    I saw the small hive beetle for the first time. I read recently that the pheromones from a queenless hive attract them. I'm using the beetle barn, but as of yesterday they didn't catch any.

    All my mite counts were high in September. In one I counted more than 70 from a sugar roll. By the numbers, that's 7 out of 10 bees have a mite. I gave that hive two rounds of formic acid pads and am hopping for the best.

    One nuc was a top bar. I put the queen with a pile of bees in the box with syrup. I'm not sure if I took enough workers but they didn't take.

    One nuc was from my mean hive. The host swarmed later in the season then went weak, but rebounded and is now gentle. My buddy who took my last mean hive grabbed the nuc and I hear their doing well. He didn't get a harvest either.

    One nuc was from a weak hive. They didn't go crazy. After the TB nuc failed, I put the Lang frames into my TBH hopping they would make the transition. My top bars are much shorter than lang frames. They must have gotten confused and cross combed the little they built, then failed. May be that the queen was why the original hive was weak. I put a frame of brood and eggs into the host hive from their neighbor when I split and they rebounded and look good OK for the winter.

    The last nuc is now my nicest Lang hive. They went from three frames to 2 fully built deeps and gave me some honey. Surprise surprise.

    I caught the swarm from the mean hive. They took to the top bar nuc and now looks OK for the winter, I hope.

    Next year I'm going to split again, but I'm only taking brood frames and leaving the queen. I'm hopping reversing the deeps and leaving empty frames in the middle may help keep down swarming.

    Since the lang to lang splits went well, I'm eying my TBH for splitting next year if they survive the winter.

    If the nucs raise a queen, I may try a two queen hive. I heard some beeks got a huge crop from more bees filling the same supers.

    So what did I learn. Not much. Too many things going on at once for any did this and gave me that. Since my TBH dimensions don't align with Langs, I won't try going from from Lang frames to TBH again. After seeing the beetle, I'm too scared to intentionally let the host go queenless.

    I'm falling into the trap of doing what worked last year and shunning change due to fear. I feel that breeds "bees only move up", "screened bottom boards are the only way" and similar blanket perspectives. After five years, I understand the resistance because you need to wait for next year to try again.

    My bigger fear is that status quo will be our undoing. Less package producers mean less genetic diversity and more problems. fewer beeks with more hives mean more eggs in less baskets. Greater dependence on mass migration for pollination of our food means everybody will share all problems. Like it or not, change is here and we will fail if we don't embrace it.

    I read in Bee Culture that the term Hobby is falling out of favor since we are all beekeepers regardless of scale. I think TBH and similar smaller scale endeavors will be our salvation through random exploration of methods, genetic diversity from localized operations and more public awareness from urban hives.

    I'll try to maintain what works and expand enough to dabble only with part of the picture.

    Thanks for joining the fun and wish you the best of luck.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Hirschbach, Bavaria, Germany
    Posts
    643

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Randomly splitting a TBH will not work out as well as you think it will. Remember these are natural combs we are dealing with they are not and should not be perfectly straight they are a bit wavey. A natural nest cannot just be torn apart and shoved back together as each comb face is modeled after the adjoining one. What you will end up with is a big mess as the bees will build out the comb where it is spaces too far apart and bridge it where it is too close together. Besides a Natural nest should not be disturbed at all. Working with the bees natural instincts would be best by capturing swarms. With that said I know there are beeks that will just insist on splitting TBH's Don't dispare the main concern here should be how much stress you will cause the bees and how to minimize it!!!!

    If you insist on splitting a TBH as many adjoining combs as possible should be included in the split. An equal amount of brood and honey combe from the center of the brood nest back i.e. start from the center of the brood nest if there is two broodbars and it goes to honey take exactly half of the brood and honey bars starting at the center of the brood nest counting backwards and move them to the new colony with an empty bar on either side so the bees have no problems recreating the bee space.

    Now your stuck with a big gap in the old colony this needs to be closed- all pushed forward but an empty bar has to be inserted between so the bees can again reconstruct the bee space, this bar should also be watched as it may be all drone brood and you just created a Varroa factory!

    In conclusion it can be done but it is stressful to the colony and goes against the principal of a TBH being conducive to a natural nest if all your going to do is destroy it! As always monitor mite fall in both in one the brood cycle is broken in the other it is not!

    I find it much more easy to hive swarms!

    Hope that sheds a new light on splitting a TBH
    Procrastination is the assassination of inspiration.
    www.customwoodkitsinternational.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Totnes, Devon, England
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    1,019

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by luigee View Post

    I've seen online or in books where some leave the Old Queen in the Current hive and move the brood comb with the Queen cells and some honey comb to the new hive instead.

    Which method do you guys use? Or do you have your own variation or method that you feel works best?
    I do splits within the same hive from swarm cells (mostly), making use of followers.

    Because the colony is enclosed within two followers, in the middle of a 4ft long hive, there is space at one end reserved for splits. This end section has its own entrance, which is positioned on the opposite side to the main entrance holes.

    To make a split, combs can easily be lifted from the main section to the end and provided with a swarm cell, or the laying queen if required. The usual rules apply as regards stores, brood and nurse bees.

    For swarm control - if such is desired - the whole hive can be rotated through 180 degrees so the new entrance is in the same position as the old was. Flying bees will then reinforce the new colony and deplete the main one, preventing them organizing a swarm.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Lakeland, FL USA
    Posts
    803

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by MIKI View Post
    Randomly splitting a TBH will not work out as well as you think it will. Remember these are natural combs we are dealing with they are not and should not be perfectly straight they are a bit wavey. A natural nest cannot just be torn apart and shoved back together as each comb face is modeled after the adjoining one. What you will end up with is a big mess as the bees will build out the comb where it is spaces too far apart and bridge it where it is too close together. Besides a Natural nest should not be disturbed at all. Working with the bees natural instincts would be best by capturing swarms.

    ...............In conclusion it can be done but it is stressful to the colony and goes against the principal of a TBH being conducive to a natural nest if all your going to do is destroy it!

    I find it much more easy to hive swarms!

    Hope that sheds a new light on splitting a TBH
    Hmmm, very interesting insights.

    Does anyone else have any further comments on this before I proceed in doing a top bar split this next week here in sunny Florida?


    .

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,142

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    I don't find it easier to hive swarms, as they usually swarm when I'm not there...

    You do need to take into account the wavyness of the comb and the matching of the faces. ESPECIALLY if you have SHB around. But that doesn't mean you can't do splits...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
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    430

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    If you take brood combs as a group rather than randomly you shouldn't have a problem. They will build their new combs outward to match the combs they start with.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Troutville, VA, USA
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    66

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by MIKI View Post
    If you insist on splitting a TBH as many adjoining combs as possible should be included in the split. An equal amount of brood and honey combe from the center of the brood nest back i.e. start from the center of the brood nest if there is two broodbars and it goes to honey take exactly half of the brood and honey bars starting at the center of the brood nest counting backwards and move them to the new colony with an empty bar on either side so the bees have no problems recreating the bee space.
    Would it work to take random bars, but in the new hive alternate comb with empty bars, allowing the bees to build out the new empty bars to fit inbetween the existing comb with the proper beespace?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,142

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Too much empty space in the brood nest can stress them out and result in chilled brood. Usually if you take every other frame, the differences will be minor. Whatever wave the shape of the comb has, it tends to get repeated over the next few combs, so if they are in the same position they usually work.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Lakeland, FL USA
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    803

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    .

    I suppose the same principles would apply, but have small top bar nucs:



    And here is Sam Comfort using top bar nucs, but he happens to have queens ready to put in them:

    VIDEO: 18 minute video tour of two apiaries in the Hudson Valley

    .

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Bayfield, Colorado, USA
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    139

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    sooo,Miki, what do you do then when your top bar becomes full?

    My Top Bar which is about 48 inches in length and beginning it's second year is becoming pretty full, lots of brood capped, and about space for 3 more bars on each end. I just checked all bars and see no queens cells or any other cells that spell "leaving soon", it seems to be doing so well that I don't really want to disturb it but I know that if I don't do something at some point they will outgrow their home and make the choice on their own. Probably isn't enough room any way to bring in enough honey for the Colorado winter. I guess my question is how late in the year can I wait, before it is to late for them to make a queen and build up enough for the winter? I know that there is math involved here.
    Last edited by hideawayranch; 05-19-2013 at 09:30 PM.
    "Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever." year 3, 14 langs and 2 top bars
    www.4cornersbeekeepers.com

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,495

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Well, bees are going to swarm, that is their way of spreading their genetics. Splitting is a way to prevent them from swarming. Anyone doing shaken swarms with TBHs?

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Newfoundland, Canada
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    My hive is in the same situation! I only have 1 bar left on each side. Yikes! I'm going to try a split... Not sure how that is going to go.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Cleo Hogan says that a bad split is better than no split. Sounds like you have plenty of resources to give from the parent hive, so it should go ok.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Newfoundland, Canada
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    17

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by shannonswyatt View Post
    Cleo Hogan says that a bad split is better than no split. Sounds like you have plenty of resources to give from the parent hive, so it should go ok.
    Thanks for the confidence

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Bayfield, Colorado, USA
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    139

    Default Re: Splitting a Top-bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by jen.dharma View Post
    My hive is in the same situation! I only have 1 bar left on each side. Yikes! I'm going to try a split... Not sure how that is going to go.
    I did my first split ever on June 3rd, so didn't want to do it. But if you don't they will, right! Picked my eggs and larva, added some honey for food, and some nurse bees on capped brood, "he future work force, right! Made sure the queen went with them. Then I did the switch of the hives. Put new split where the older hive was, so that the workers that were left outside would come to the smaller hive. All seemed to go well, within a week I checked the hive without the queen and they had built 3 queen cells. Long story short it was a long 28 days for me. I checked on day the queen should have hatched she didn't, checked back a few days later she was gone. Whew, oh but wait what if she doesn't come back. grrr... well on the 29th of June I checked back in and voila I have a not so virgin queen, "i hope", and eggs. Guess the true test will be if they hatch. But I was so happy to see the queen I almost screamed. It was just the coolest thing to have my first ever split work.
    "Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever." year 3, 14 langs and 2 top bars
    www.4cornersbeekeepers.com

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