I have a hive colony that shows great promise. It came out of a package in spring of 2016, was a little slow to get going. Its sister hive, also from a package at the same time, came out of the gate like hell on wheels, built up very quickly, but became overrun with mites in October and did not make it past January. Both hives produced a lot of honey during the spring flow and well into the late summer and autumn. As I said, the one, apparently stronger, hive succumbed to mites; the other seemed immune.
The surviving hive got a quick start on the spring flow in 2017. I had left it with two deeps over winter, for a brood nest and stores, and a super of capped honey. They didn't go through the stores. (In late April, I added two new hives, from packages, to the bee yard, and ironically both of the new colonies cast swarms, one of which I recovered and the other of which is somewhere in the wind. Between swarms, I had hip surgery, which prevented me from trying to catch the second swarm. It was 30 ft up in a crab apple tree, and my orthopedic surgeon would not have been happy about my swan-diving from there, screwing up his outcomes data for a measly 5-7K bees. But, he wouldn't understand...
Back to the overwintered hive. I have five boxes on the hive now, adding two supers over the last month and a half due to number of bees and their frantic behavior. This colony has largely ignored the top super and are working on the lower, newly added super. In the evenings, they beard-up pretty well--gobs of bees on the landing board and amassed over the front bottom boxes. Some nights have been quite warm, but other nights (like tonight), not so much. I pull the empirical data together and conclude that there are so many bees that they can't all be in the hive at the same time and not raise the brood box temperature/environment above what is optimal for larvae/pupae, so the extras congregate outside, bearding.
Separately, this particular, second-season hive has shown no propensity to swarm. It does show good genetics as far as egg laying, hygienics when it comes to mites and other parasites, and a low propensity to swarm. Kind of like the traits I would like to propogate in all my hives. In honesty, what with my hip surgery I have not looked in on the other three hives in some time, but let's assume there are no emergency flares resulting from that inspection (maybe tomorrow).
My question is: Am I right that, if I have concluded that the overwintered hive has the characteristics we would like to propagate (laying habits, non-swarming tendencies, mite hygienics), that it would make sense to try to propagate those tendencies in progeny. If so, how do I do that? Presumable, by way of some kind of a split.
Coming to my big question: Should I be looking to split the overwintered hive into two separate hives? Is it too late for that given that we are at June 21? I understand that there are many ways to split hives, but under these circumstances is there a consensus that the milieu would approve of? Here we are, June 21, first day of summer--is it too late to expect both halfs of a split to get it together and produce enough in food stores to get them through the coming winter. What are the other risks? Should I allow the grandpa hive to keep going, adding on and removing supers as the girls fill them up? I've heard of a hive going as big as 12 supers without swarming, but under what circumstances?
Any thoughts on the "official questions" would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
You could still split, but you might need to feed them later on to get both parts up to wintering weight. (Or forgo some honey harvest.)
If you haven't made splits before, I would start small. It's not that making a split is hard, it's just different. I would use a Snelgrove board because I think these are the easiest splits to get queen right, and the easiest to reverse if things don't go according to plan. But as you know there zillions of splitting methods.
Keep in mind however, that if your goal is to propagate a queen of the same line, that the eventual workers in the hive of the daughter-queen of Ms. Wonderful-Queen will get half of their genetics from drones in your area, and not from drones from your apiary.
I'm not trying to discourage you, but good mite numbers in the establishment year do not guarantee (or even really predict) continued good mite numbers in the second and subsequent years. If you haven't been running sugar or alcohol rolls monthly this year, you may be surprised by their mite levels. It doesn't mean they are bad bees, just normal bees who got unusually lucky the first year with their starting mite levels being very low. That may not be the case this year, as it's often in the second summer when the mites start to get really out of hand.
Raising queens and making splits is one of the most exciting parts of beekeeping for me. I am jumping-up-and-down excited like six year old on her birthday when I check a new split for queenrightness.