I have 3 overwintered hives. One has a pure Russian queen (by one of the bona fide Russian breeders) and was started in August, so it's smaller than the other two. The other 2 hives are Russian hybrid queens from last summer's swarm cells.

I'd like to expand the apiary and am thinking about the best way to make splits AND still get honey.

I'm thinking of taking that pure Russian hive which is small right now (weather has prevented checking for a couple weeks, but I'll check tomorrow) and trying to get 3 walk-away splits out of it this summer, just by taking a frame of brood and eggs out of there 3 times. I can get a frame or two of honey/pollen from the bigger hives I think and get away with it. The mother hive and the splits would be smaller this summer and going into winter, most likely, but that's okay.

Does that sound plausible?

The only exception would be if I find swarm cells in a hive. Then I'll use those for splits, all at once, and start as many hives as there are queen cells.