Should I split a first year hive?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Bolivar NY
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    10

    Cool Should I split a first year hive?

    I'm brand new at this beekeeping thing and want some advice. I'm buying 1 package of bees this spring. I would have loved to buy 2 but 1 is all I could afford. I thought maybe I should split them this summer so I would have 2 going into this winter so that maybe at least 1 will make it til spring. Is that a smart idea? I also thought maybe I should split them early summer and then combine them again this fall. Would that make the colony stronger for the winter? Or should I just not do anything except for keep them healthy and hope they are strong enough to get through the winter. The problem is if I have 1 hive and lose it, then I'm back to buying bees and waiting another year+ before I can harvest any honey

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    moravia,ny
    Posts
    2,095

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    I would not split your package. probably that would end up with the loss of both. better to be ready to pick up a swarm in may or june. tell everybody you will gather any local swarms. be ready for anything though as I drove 20 miles once to see a few wasps by a porch. my fault for not asking enough questions. some years ya might get 4-6 swarms.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,514

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    I'm north of Albany, and though I've never started with package bees (mine are all from swarms) I think concentrataing in your first year on just getting your single hive established and well-prepped for winter will be enough, particularly as you are also a new beekeeper.

    It is often advised to start with two, but if one is what you've got, I would put some effort into locating and pairing up with another local beekeeper. The reason two are generally reccommended is that the second hive would give you something to compare and also it gives you some emergency resources to swap some brood around should yours go queenless. (Though you can usually buy a queen, when needed.) But if you have a buddy-beekeeper you will get a chance to see their hive and you would perhaps be able to get some emergency queen-making brood from them - or you could do the same for them.

    But if you concentrate on getting basics clear in your mind: food to start with, pest monitoring all season w/ treating (according to your philosophy) when needed, robbing protection while your hive is small or otherwise at a disadvantage, and aggressive supplemental feed in the fall to get them up to the best weight for your area, you'll be in good shape to expect winter survival. If you go one step further by adding good winter protection: quilt box, insulation, wind baffles, etc., plus pre-installing a feeding rim for sugar blocks or winter patties as you close up your hives for winter, you'll be doing everything possible to bring your hive through to spring in very good condition.

    A successfully over-wintered hive starts its new brood cycle in Februrary (I was flabbergasted to discover this my first year!) and if you continue through the late winter to make sure they have enough food to support good build-up by this time next year your hive will be really getting into gear.

    And then you can manage your spring build-up to give you a honey crop and make another colony (or two) to expand your apiary. Because you'll have resources from your first hive (drawn comb and some honey/pollen) the second year hives will likely make a crop in the third year, along with your first-year colony. And so it goes.

    It's true, you'll be at risk during the first twelve months (unless you catch a swarm the first year), but it's not impossible to do exactly what I outlined.

    But it depends on you putting some effort into learning how to manage the survival basics (sufficient food storage, early and effective varroa control, and winter protection) - if you get those items checked off, there's no reason not to expect success.

    My first year, 2013, I was utterly ignorant about bees when I unexpectedly got three swarms. It was an intense learning curve for me, but all three of my colonies made it through their first winter, and I still have those three, and one more I made from a split last year. So I know it can be done.

    If your bees give you as much pleasure as mine give me, you'll be a very happy beekeeper, indeed.

    Good luck to you and your new bees. (Plus if there is a bee club near you - and there likely is - join it!) And welcome to BeeSource.

    Enj.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Squaw Valley, CA, USA
    Posts
    1,018

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    I would not split your bees. Your main goal should be to build a strong hive that will overwinter well. Worry about splitting next year.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Cullman, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    1,240

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    Are you building, or buying your hive boxes, etc?
    If building, go ahead & build a spare , set it up as a bait hive. I would use foundation-less frames in the bait hive, less frustration when the varmints get it.
    research in the swarm & trap out forum.
    build a nuc box.
    Consider your time frame.
    when your package gets strong enough to rob 2 frames of bees ( one of worker brood with some fresh laid eggs , and one of food stores) will the queen have time to mate, and rear some brood before cold weather kicks in?
    Some times, a spare queen is a really wonderful thing to have. and hard to find out of the prime marketing season.
    Even if they do not have time to "get big enough" to over winter", you can still pick the best queen, and combine them late in the season.
    Or use your "spare" queen to bail some one else out.
    Of course you should take my advice with a very skeptical atitude ... I am recovering from my second Alabama "winter"
    Local beekeepers give better local advice, and like all people, some are conservative, & others take risks. Good Luck ... CE
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Big Stone Gap, VA
    Posts
    1,261

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr wannabee View Post
    I thought maybe I should split them this summer so I would have 2 going into this winter so that maybe at least 1 will make it til spring. Is that a smart idea? I also thought maybe I should split them early summer and then combine them again this fall.
    When I started beekeeping, I would never have split a first year hive. Five years later, I would absolutely split a first year hive. I have no idea what size nuc colony you need to overwinter. We live in a Zone 6A and can easily overwinter in a five frame deep, no problems. We have overwintered on much less. Our nucs have had a better success ratio than our full size hives.

    We make spring splits in May and summer splits in July. Following Mr. Palmer's and Mel Disselkoen's plans.

    Shane

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    523

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    You haven't picked up the girls for your first date and you are already talking kids...
    It's too early to ask about splitting, slow down. You are getting way ahead of yourself.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Louisville, KY
    Posts
    3,284

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    I wouldn't try to split em, not worth it.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    5,521

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr wannabee View Post
    The problem is if I have 1 hive and lose it, then I'm back to buying bees and waiting another year+ before I can harvest any honey
    It's possible that you might get a little honey from them this year, but I wouldn't plan on it. Your package bees will have a LOT of work to do this summer. They need to drawn out comb on all the frames and then put up enough stores to make it through next winter. Splitting them with no drawn comb would do much more harm than good. You will probably doom them both in the end.

    I would concentrate on one hive and do everything possible to keep that one healthy and prepared for winter. If they make it though next winter you will probably get a decent honey harvest from them next summer. If they do die over winter you will have all your frames drawn out and ready for the next package. With drawn comb in place another package will probably provide you with honey as well.
    To everything there is a season....

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, USA
    Posts
    183

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    6 or 7 weeks of steady feeding 1:1, while not adding enough space, the bees will split themselves by swarming. Build the 2nd hive. As stated above, it can come in handy if you catch someone's swarm (or your own).

    Whether it should be split is up to you. You can split it, but then you have 2 weak hives, and both will need to be fed. DO NOT split with the plan to combine in the fall-leave as one strong colony all year and they will make more drawn comb/store honey than the two weaker hives combined. It's a matter of do you want to have one (hopefully strong) or two (possibly weaker/light on stores) hives going into winter.
    Regards,
    KGB-8Fmed

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Cullman, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    1,240

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    The advice has ranged from "Oh yes, absolutely make the split" to "Oh no,I would never do that'.
    I think the real question is , should a brand new, totally inexperienced Beek attempt a split with his only hive, with the New York weather/season.
    I am sorry, Wannabee, you asked a simple question, but you did not get a simple answer.
    When I started 3 winters ago, I read & read & read.
    I visited a relative "far away" from me, & witnessed them pull honey from a couple of hives.
    I decided to order NUC's, because that had a better chance of success, I thought.
    Unfortunately, the NUC supplier I pre-bought from had a dismal spring, & a death in the family.

    I dispaired of ever recieving the nucs, & bought another off craigslist.
    The craigslist nuc was full, & heavy, & healthy. Unfortunately they have traits I do not want to encourage, at least notclose to my house. more on them later.
    Finally , after July the fourth, I recieved the prepaid nucs. they were "light", & one of the queens disappeared shortly.
    I gave these bees brood/eggs from the other prepaid hive ( not in a nuc box, so it is a colony in a hive now), they made a queen, ( do the math, lost queen mid july, new queen startslaying mid august, new bees emerge mid september, in the feild OCTOBER. I learned about feeding bees through the winter, about queens & queenlessness.
    all three boxes made it through the winter.
    come spring I "experimented "with queen production, feeding pollen patties, etc.
    My queen manipulations were pretty much a bust, but the "industrial bees" I got from craglist were not, they made swarm cells gallore, which I split into nuc boxes. most of these bees wint into "supercedure overdrive", new queen would mate, 7 lay a patch of eggs, then diaappear & a new queen cell would be there. I finally got one to keep their queen & combined the largest ( original ) box with it. (whew!)

    year 2 I also purchased 2 packages of "suvivor /russian/something hybrid" from a producer in a neghboring state, kept them in a yard at a relatives house, 20 miles away. one box did better than the other, of course, which is a polite way of saying one built up slowly, & did not store much honey, & the other was poorer. But, they were gentle bees.
    meanwhile back at the home yard, desendants of the industrial craigslist bees systematically robbed out desendants of the prepaid NUCs, & practiced their stinging skills on me.
    I moved the industrial bees 15 miles in another direction, & requeened the robbed out hives. moved the surviving NUC's I had started to my mothers & brought the survivir blends home to enjoy the Soybean bloom.
    I never saw a bee in the soybeans, & the saved stores continued to decline until goldenrod started.
    one of the promising NUC I had kept at home, after moving it into an 8 frame box dwindled, I sent a sample to the gov bee lab in mary land. I discovered I am not immune to mites. that box died, before I learned this.
    Winter #2 , I did not protect the bees properly.the two gentlle survivor hybrids died, one during the next to last ( nI hope)
    cold snap. when it warmed up, I checked them again, discovered I had a few bees, with a few eggs.
    I have two hives surviving from the NUC's at my mothers, one I am not sure where I got the queen brood from. & 1 that is industrial (booming). I brought a frame of brood & bees from the boomer & added to the gentles at home. last time I checked, the gentls eggs were gone, replaced by pollen, & there are a couple of queen cells on the frame of industrial beesI had added.
    Last fall, some one gave me a hive of bees their grampaw had, but after he died, no one tended them. after probate, & family matters were cleared up, they found the bees while preparing to sell the property, & gave them to me to get them off the property. so I have these somewhat unknown bees.
    Will I make splits? not so much, but I will start NUCs out of everything. and to prevent swarming, if I catch it in time.
    I will move the industrial bees all to the yard 15 miles away, let them rob each other. I will try to harvest honey as soon as it is capped this time. I will take the gentlest nuc/splits from the grampaw bees & the less defensive box ( I cant remember what I put in them ) & requeen with some carniolian mutts I have committed to take in June.
    Man plans, & God laughs.
    every day, every decision, I roll the dice.
    need queens in august? good luck. the breeders have quit last month. will a nuc make it through the winter for a newbie like me? I'll let you know next spring.
    Harvest honey? so far the only honey I have harvested came from the grampaw bees. their box was falling apart, so it was part of the general clean up. I have high hopes for them.
    Good luck with your bees ... CE
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Bolivar NY
    Posts
    10

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    Ok so based on the advice im getting here this is the plan. I will not split my hive but rather do whatever I can to make it strong and healthy. Hopefully it makes it through the winter so I can split it next year and maybe even get some honey off of it too. I have been building my own hives and I have built an extra 1. I also found an idea for building a swarm trap on youtube. I plan to build several of them and maybe expand my apiary that way. Ive also been telling people if they see a swarm to let me know. Ive been trying to figure out what the best plan is because Im a bit worried about getting through the winter as it can be pretty brutal here in western NY. It sounds like my best chance at getting a hive through the winter is to keep it intact and strong. Thanks for all the great advice.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Shelby, NC, USA
    Posts
    197

    Default Re: Should I split a first year hive?

    In the south, I have split a first year hive and raised a queen after the summer solstice. In the north, I'm not sure I would try that.

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