Last spring, it was difficult to manage some of my hives and a number of them ended up swarming. I ignorantly thought that I could just show up a week before spring, and do a simple honey extraction, give them room to expand and they won't want to swarm. From what I've gathered, they decide whether they want to swarm before such a time, and when they've decided that's what they want to do, then they are very persistent to work towards such an end and the only real reliable way to stop such is to split them.
If I didn't want to split a hive for whatever reason, what should I be doing, prior to spring, to encourage them to stay? Should I just be making sure the queen has space to lay eggs as I'm coming out of winter, maybe I should be checking up on them one month before winter leaves? I should mention that, in my part of Australia, only on the coldest of winter nights does it get below the freezing point and even that is rare. I suspect that for the most of winter the bees are to some extent out foraging.
I am interested in splitting some hives. Most of my hives come from feral Australian bee swarms. My research suggests that, these bees are predominately The European dark bee (Apis mellifera mellifera). I found this interesting chart comparing the different honeybee subspecies, and it seems to have a credible source:
It seems that, for me having Ligurian bees rather than German bees (another word for European dark bee and apis mellifera mellifera) would be better, as they produce higher amounts of honey, have a stronger spring build up (spring time is lucrative in honey flow in Australia) and heavy robbing doesn't matter so much. Ligurians also have the disadvantage of eating too much, and creating too much brood (which is particularly bothersome in countries where it snows during winter), again not too relevant or bad.
I have to decide where to get queens from, if I wish to split hives. I can create queens from my best producing hives, but I'm left to wonder if I used a different subspecies, whether I'd get a better quality honeybee. There's this list I've found of queen bee breeders in Australia:
There's quite a number of them. I'm not sure if I should just stick with the Ligurians. The other species don't seem as good, but some of the research I read suggested that the hybrids can offer unique advantages, Ligurian and Carniolan hybrids seem to possess such. I figure if I did invest in queens, that I'd just buy one or two from a breeder, and then give them a trial run, see how they compete with the other imported genetics, and possibly in a later year I could graft or split from the best stock and select which bees work best for me.
Or maybe it'd be best to just split from my strongest hive. I found this quote from Michael Bush, as a good means of splitting beehives:
"Honestly, here's what I would do. First, one hive isn't likely to make 21 splits, but if you have several hives you can take the queen, two frames of rbrood and two frames of honey and put them in an eight frame box (or ten frame box) with whatever you have, drawn comb is nice, foundation is ok, foundationless is ok if you have comb guides. Then in nine days make several more of these splits from your other strong hives, and maybe one or two more from that hive each with a frame that has a queen cell, a frame that does not (if there are any) and a couple of frames of honey). Now you've only made ONE hive queenless to get several queens instead of several hives queenless to get that same number..."
Since spring time is a strong heavy flow for me, I am concerned about weakening my strongest hives during a lucrative time. Doing it this way will result in just one weak hive.
When would be the best time to split the hives? I'd imagine a week or so prior to before the spring warmth comes on?
Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see where the OP mentioned running 2 brood boxes? I run singles because they're so much more manageable if you work your hives on a set schedule. For those that only go into their hives a few times throughout the season, that probably wouldn't work for you.
Originally Posted by burns375
I would start with tilting up the top brood box and see if they're starting to make cups or cells.
How many hives do you have currently and how many new splits do you have equipment for?
Each full size hive can be split atleast once. If not multiple smaller splits. The smaller the split and the longer they are broodless, the less it will grow. Ie not make honey until next year.