My First Split. How soon can I do this?
Background: I've had bees for less than a year. Built a top bar hive in May 2011 and in June, a small swarm adopted the hive. I looked in on my hive about Jan 12 and there were a few hundred bees and no brood, plenty of honey. It was warm in CA, so I changed the water outside the hive and left it alone hoping it wouldn't die out.
Today: I showed up at the hive and there were bees waiting to get into the few open holes! I unplugged all the summer entrances I had shoved sticks into in late fall as I was closing things down for the winter. When the top came off, I couldn't believe how many bees there were. They were just practically overflowing. There were six combs of brood in all stages and many others with good new honey and lots of pollen stores as well. The picture of a healthy expanding hive. I couldn't have been more pleased!
The Question: When can I split this hive? Or, should I split this hive? I want more colonies, but I also don't want to mess it up and kill all my bees. Do I dare split with a colony that is less than a year in one location? I would love to hear the voices of experience. Thanks, Chris, Exeter, California.