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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Augusta, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Hive Split/Queen Question

    Hello Everyone,

    I'm a second year beekeeper and I'm down in the southeast where we've had some really warm weather the past month. One of my hives was booming, so I added a second deep to that hive so they would have more space. A few weeks later this hive had mostly filled out that deep and had begun to construct swarm cells. Not wanting them to swarm I decided to split the two deeps equally with the idea that I would keep all the swarm cells in one and the queen in the other, hopefully making them think they had swarmed or at least encouraging them not to.

    Here's the issue, I tried pretty hard but I just couldn't find the queen. What I ended up doing was leaving the two split deeps (both have eggs/brood, and both have at least a couple queen cells). My question is, what would you do now? I obviously don't want the hive with the queen to swarm anyway. What would be a good indication of the queenless one? And should I just attempt to make another "fake swarm" with the queenright one? Or just go in and cut any remaining queen cells that were already there?

    Thanks for any advice!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Southern Oregon
    Posts
    1,162

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    After 4 days the one with the queen should have some eggs. Was there room to lay and how old were the queen cells? There could be a chance she swarmed already, even before your split.
    Last edited by JBJ; 03-03-2011 at 08:58 PM. Reason: spelling
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
    Posts
    308

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    First of, I would not cut out queen cells. Since you already split the hive, and it sounds like you gave each half at least some queen cells, the one with the old queen will probably tear down the cells, while the one without the queen will continue to care for the cells and eventually cap them. However, if you want to be absolutely sure they won't swarm, go into both hives and look for evidence of fresh eggs a week or so after you split your hive. They are easier to spot than finding a queen in a busy hive for a beginning beekeeper. Trust me, I know... The hive that has fresh eggs has the queen, the hive with just larvae, but no eggs does not have a queen and they are anxious to raise one from the existing swarm cells. By seeing eggs you can also confirm that the queen has not swarmed yet and it is safe to destroy any remaining queen cells.

    Can I ask you why you went ahead and split the hive? Was it just to prevent the hive from swarming? If that's the case, then there are easier ways to prevent that and still get a honey harvest. It sounds like your hive did well, drawing out a second deep. Why not add a super with foundation to it? I don't know what your plans with your bees... but if you want to harvest some honey it is better to have strong hive that is able to draw out super frames and make some honey. Maybe you can give us some more information about your plans and your situation? Above else, welcome to the best hobby in the world!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Augusta, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    Thank you for your quick responses!

    I'm fairly positive the original queen hasn't swarmed. I actually spotted her just a few days ago and she was still quite large. Also there didn't seem to be a noticible difference in the population of bees, or their behavior or anything. Also, the queen cells had not been capped yet.

    Marc, to answer your question, I am all about harvesting honey this year. I guess I figured with it just being the beginning of March, at least the hive with the queen would still have enough time to build up strength since they already have a filled out deep. I was under the impression from everything I've read and heard that once a hive starts building queen cells and the queen has laid eggs in them there is really nothing you can do to stop them short of an extreme action such as splitting. I could be very wrong about this...but the short answer is yes I split them so they wouldn't swarm.

    I also wasn't sure about whether a hive would tear down queen cells after they have been built, which was why I didn't think just adding a super with foundation would solve the issue. And this was why I was concerned about the split hive still swarming with the remaining queen cells.

    So all together, right now I have three hives. One hive has two deeps and is building up great (except they are more aggressive than I would like). And then I have my two splits I just did (each one a complete deep)...one which I'm fairly positive does have a queen, and one with just queen cells working.
    I would like to harvest some honey this year....so if there are any suggestions as to what actions would be best to take now, I'm all ears. I would be very interested in knowing how to prevent a swarm easier than what I did, while still keeping a strong hive....

    Thanks Again!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,809

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    There are no guarantees with bees trying to swarm, but I always make sure both splits have some cells. If I'm trying to get queens, I'll do a split for each frame that has some cells. If I'm trying to salvage a crop, I may only do two splits and open the brood nest in both. Often the queens get treated as a supersedure if the opening of the brood nest and the split were just enough to change their mind about swarming.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    OKC, OK USA
    Posts
    2,869

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    Agreed, once a hive decides to swarm it can be near impossible to dissuade them, but if you have you can always combine the hives back together later once the threat of swarming has diminished and slap some supers on for an instant strong hive for honey production.
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Southern Oregon
    Posts
    1,162

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    At this point I would go ahead and mimic a swarm and pull the queen into a decent sized nuc on a different hive stand and at the original location leave plenty of swarm cells and most of the bees in a fat double deep if there is enough resources. This way if there is a problem at mating time the old queen in the nuc can be recombined, but if things go well you can end up with a large hive and a fresh queen leaving you well positioned to get a large crop. The old queen that would have swarmed should do great at getting the nuc established. A 3 to 5 frame nuc in a single makes a fine split most times of the year, and leaves the parent colony strong at the original location. Are you seeing any drones at this time?

    Fighting the swarm impulse can be very difficult as others have stated. I feel that one is better off to work with their instincts and help them divide in such a way the parent colony is not overly weakened, and that is similar to their natural life history; meaning the old queen leaves with some bees and you help them into a new nest. Everybody wins, the bees get what they want and you get a nice harvest.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
    Posts
    308

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    I agree with JBJ. As you said before, you had a strong hive coming out of winter and building up fast. That's a hive you want, those are queens you want. So making splits from it is what you want to do. It's almost impossible to get bees to abandon their swarming impulse, once they have set the process in motion. Seeing swarm cells only means they are pretty far along that process. At that point, like JBJ suggested, I would try and find the queen and move her with two or three frames of brood and a frame of honey and pollen to a nuc. In the old hive you still have all the foragers, you still have a lot of brood, you still have plenty of queen cells for the bees to raise a new queen. That hive will have no brood to care for in about two weeks (all the brood from the old queen will have been capped or will have emerged), and no new brood to care for for almost a month (until the new queen has emerged, has mated and has started laying herself). During that time your hive can and will focus on storing nectar and pollen like you have never seen before. They "think" they have swarmed, because the old queen is gone and the brood nest is a little less crowded. The frames that you took out for the nucs need to be replaced with foundation or empty frames, which gives all those young bees hanging around without brood to care for something to do.

    Try it sometime, you'll like the easiness of the method. The only downside to this is that you need to find the old queen. But trust me, it get's easier after a while. Michael Bush has a great page with a lot of info about all kinds of aspects for beekeeping. Above all have fun with the bees. Btw, be happy you can already work with the bees, still a few weeks away for us up here... :-)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Augusta, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    That sounds like a good idea to start a nuc with the old queen and recombine the splits. Should i be concerned at this point with any fighting between the two splits? I did the split on Tuesday, so this would be the 3rd day. I guess I can place newspaper between the two deeps.

    It should be easier to find the queen this time since I'll only be looking through one deep for her.

    Honestly, with this being my first spring buildup....I had no idea I would be working so much with the bees this early! We have had an unusually warm February this year.

    I guess this is a whole other issue, but most of the beekeepers around here operate with one deep hives (because they overwinter here fine). I think I like the idea of two deeps because of the more open broodnest. Bases on your responses, you seem to think a one deep hive is a weaker hive for honey production.....is there a really big difference in the two?

    Thanks for all of your input. My wife should read all of this so she'll understand why I sit around just thinking about all of this stuff!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Southern Oregon
    Posts
    1,162

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    They should marry back together just fine, use plenty of smoke when you unite them. Be careful of your queen cells they are precious.

    A single deep can make a fine brood nest with the right management. Historically there have been some honey harvest records set with a single brood box in some areas. As a beginner a double may be more forgiving during swarm season. From what I understand hive beetles may be an issue in your state, so maybe a jammed full single may be easier for the bees to defend?
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Augusta, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Hive Split/Queen Question

    Well, after all that I opened both of the splits to see which one had the queen, only to discover that apparently neither hive has the queen. In one split there were no queen cells to speak of or eggs. I guess the ones I left in that hive were not developed enough and didn't make it or something. In the other split there were no eggs, and several supercedure cells. One very nice looking one was capped. So I decided to combine both of the splits back together and just let them do their thing. I don't know if the other queen swarmed without me knowing, or somehow got killed in the process of all of this. Or maybe she is there and they are so close to swarming she has stopped laying eggs....I'm just going to let it play out unless there are any great suggestions. I hope this hive bounces back.

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