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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Pleasant Grove. AL
    Posts
    18

    Default Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    I have an existing hive that I have not worked. I got in in late 2013 and only opened it once to see how the girls were doing. Was hoping to learn all I needed to know over the winter so I could begin working the hive in the spring. Short version of the story - we found out we were pregnant again, and life got in the way. Only able to watch them buzz around in the summer and the fall, and obviously did not harvest any honey. I also did not know to put a super on to let them have room to expand, so I feel very lucky that they have not swarmed! On warmer days I do see them starting to emerge now, so they did survive the winter all right. Until it gets a bit warmer than it is now, I can't open it to see inside - and that prompts my question.

    I have ordered 2 packages through my local club, and I have 2 hive boxes on order. Each has a deep and 2 medium supers. From reading the comments on here, I think watching a package start small and grow would be awesome. But in my New Beekeeper's Class, they showed us the results of a recent club poll, and most members say that they would recommend Nucs to the new beekeeper as the preferred way to go. One suggested starting a Nuc *and* a package to see how both compare. That is what has me thinking.

    In the For Sale section of this site I see someone selling Nucs locally. I contacted him and he does have one for sale. Should I get one? Right now I will have an existing hive and 2 empty hives with packages. If I get a 4th hive, I would have the option of trying to split my existing hive or adding a Nuc to it. Perhaps the smartest thing would be to not do a 4th one at all, but I don't want to miss out on anything that will give me bee experience! If you were a new person in my position, what would you do? (Or, what would you do differently if you were new?)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    6,433

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    I have seen this pattern before, when someone gets no honey because they did not care for the hive, so they expand to more hives but of course if their life was too busy to look after one hive, they are too busy to look after many hives.

    But if you must expand, I think you lack the experience to split the hive, getting a nuc will be a safer option for you than a package, long as it comes in good condition, not all nucs sold by hobbyists do, could pay to ask some senior members of the club on their opinion of the person selling it.

    Best of all would be for you to get a mentor but don't leave it all to them DO be prepared to get your hands dirty. A good mentor when with you, would be making you do the work & they just watch and advise. Them doing everything will not work for either of you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,724

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shutrbug View Post
    , so I feel very lucky that they have not swarmed!
    They probably did, but you just didn't notice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shutrbug View Post
    I have ordered 2 packages through my local club, and I have 2 hive boxes on order.
    I would just stick with your original plan ... 2 packages and 2 sets of equipment for them. In the unfortunate event that your existing colony doesn't make it you will have plenty of drawn comb available for your packages.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shutrbug View Post
    Perhaps the smartest thing would be to not do a 4th one at all,
    I think you're right. One step at a time ... keep it simple.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shutrbug View Post
    but I don't want to miss out on anything that will give me bee experience!
    An overwintered hive and 2 packages will provide you with a generous amount of experience. But the experience will come from time spent inspecting your colonies and observation.
    To everything there is a season....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Bellflower, Montgomery,Mo,USA
    Posts
    222

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    My advice is to work your existing hive to get honey from it. You have possibilities of new colonies from your package and nuc. If you try to split your existing colony you will not be able to have them produce enough bees to bring in extra honey for you to harvest. Like most things honey production is a numbers game.

    Do try to get a local mentor either through a club or just a beekeeper who is close to you. Good advice from Oldtimer.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    5,248

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    i agree with mike that your colony very likely swarmed last year without you noticing it.

    i disagree though about not attempting to make a split from it. the rationale is that these bees have survived two or more winters off treatments and may have good genetics, plus it is very likely that they will swarm again anyway this spring. propagaing another colony from it instead of letting it swarm makes good sense.

    making the split is as easy as finding the queen. remove her and three frames of bees containing brood, pollen, and honey and place into a nuc box. be sure and leave eggs behind in the parent colony.

    having the nuc will be good insurance in case one or both of your packages fails.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,724

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    propagaing another colony from it instead of letting it swarm makes good sense.
    That is an excellent point!

    Be sure to get into the colony as soon as the weather allows and clean things up a little bit. Hopefully it's in good shape, but after sitting untouched for 1 1/2 years you may have some work to do on propolis, burr comb and tidying up your frames. Try to get that done before they even start thinking about making queen cells.
    To everything there is a season....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Larimer County, CO, USA
    Posts
    334

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    It's sounds like you don't have time to take care of what you have no less end up with more. What's the plan for the hive you currently have. If you have not opened it up since 2013 its going to be a real challenge to clean up that hive. I would suggest asking someone from your bee club that is expirenced to help. I would not get more bees if your not dedicated and have the time to take care of them.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    hinesville ga usa
    Posts
    464

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    As others suggested you need to go into the hive and clean it up, if you want honey you should provide them with expansion room to keep them from swarming. If you want to split them I suggest an equal split which is like dealing cards one for this box, one for that box, clean the frames as you go, don't worry about where the queen is, four days later see which one has the queen cells, leave it in the original boxes' position and move the other one away. Mostly though you've got to get up and go into your hives or give them to someone that will. JMO

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Pleasant Grove. AL
    Posts
    18

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    Thanks for all of the advice! My only rebuttal to Oldtimer is that I'm not trying to expand it simply to get more honey - honey will happen. I want the bees to grow and be healthy, and any honey I get is a bonus. It's unfortunate that we started just before getting a newborn, but that situation isn't going to happen again any time soon.

    We have been in the local bee club, but we haven't had anyone over to help us. When I got in the hive last year it did already have propolis all over, so I do expect to have some work to do in a couple of weeks. I have tools, a new suit, and a lot of knowledge from the state bee symposium that I did not have last year, so we are going to consider this our 'official' start! In the club's new beekeeping class, they did tell me that I will get a mentor assigned who can help me install my packages. I'm also going today to the apiary of the fellow who sold me the hive. I'm getting the new hives from him because he makes them locally. I guess I gave the impression that I wanted it all to happen automatically, but that's not the case! I'm ready to dig in. I also fancy myself a bit of a photographer, so I would like to get some nice close ups of the action inside.

    Once I get to see what the inside holds, I'll come back here and update this. Thanks for the help!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    6,433

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    Sounds good Shutrbug. The best way to rebut me will be to get inside the hives and manage them and assist the bees to be productive.

    At this point you have lots of enthusiasm and put a tremendous amount of time into a lot of stuff around beekeeping, all except actually managing the bees. This is usually because of a confidence issue or not being quite sure just what to do. Which is why I suggested a mentor, once you get in there and start doing things and seeing the results and improvements it will help you greatly, but even if you open the hives but do not specifically achieve any particular thing that time it will still be learning plus boost your confidence.

    Now I see why you are called Shutrbug, I love looking at photos so will look forward to that.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
    Posts
    2,920

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    You got the hive in late 2013 and only have been in it once? Didn't your baby take naps in 2014? lol

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Pleasant Grove. AL
    Posts
    18

    Default Re: Split the hive, or get a nuc?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.Beeman View Post
    You got the hive in late 2013 and only have been in it once? Didn't your baby take naps in 2014? lol
    Oh, if that were the only problem! We imagined napping kids and taking short trips outside with open windows... but the 3 year old doesn't nap. He is up when we get up, and he's 110% all day. We didn't anticipate how much he could absorb all of our time. And I could go alone, but I promised my wife that this was HER hobby and I wouldn't open the hive without her, etc. Long story short, it didn't work. So I went to the Alabama state bee symposium alone, I'm taking the New Beekeeper class alone, and then I fill her in on all that I've learned. We'll likely attend the monthly beekeeper's association meetings together. The babysitter cost is what gets you!

    On the flip side, the 3 year old (Parker) thinks that the hive is his. "Are we going to see my bees?" he says. So today we went out to the back yard and cleaned out the brush where the new hives will go. We set up the pre-built one that we got locally, and we set up the table for the one I got from Rossman. (We will wait for a warmer day to actually build the supers and such). We set out our paint brushes, and he's ready to help paint the woodenware.

    We watched the foragers come out of the hive and we watched them land. We did not open the hive of course, so we were able to get fairly close without suiting up. He's absolutely not scared, and I want to keep him that way. I'll introduce him a bit at a time. Now he's old enough to accompany me if he wants, so we'll take this a step at a time. I can see a ton of propolis between my two deeps, so it will be a chore to clean that up. I own that problem though, so I'll have to clean! The best news is that I learned today that a friend of mine about 10 miles down the road wants to learn bees and has decided to start this year too. He bought his bee suit at the local farmer's co-op (didn't know that was an option!) and he has built his own hives already! I'm going to track him down this week and we'll compare notes. I'll look inside and post some pictures.

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