I have 1 hive that I successfully overwintered. I did a hive check on April 22nd -- so 15 days ago -- and saw eggs, brood of various stages, etc. And, I was lucky enough to lay eyes on my queen and witness her laying.
I went back and checked on the hive yesterday (May 7th) - saw no eggs, larvae in various stages, capped brood, pollen and nectar. Some capped honey on the outside frames. I also saw at least 9 queen cells -- a majority of which had been capped, any not capped were filled with larvae. This was with only looking at about 4 - 5 frames. The queen cells were all located at the bottom of the frame. I also heard what sounded like squealing, so I followed the sound & saw the current queen. She was crawling on one of the capped queen cells and the worker bees were very aggressive towards her. They chased her off the queen cells & all over the frame. She moved to the other side of the frame and was then left alone for the most part. It was really interesting to see!
So, I am a little unsure of what to do. Do I just leave the hive alone, let the new queen hatch & mate, come back to the hive to lay, etc.
Or, do I perform a split? I'm a little unsure about doing a split since there are no eggs - mostly capped brood and some larvae at various stages?
Since the cells are all located on the bottom of the frames, I feel like a swarm may be possible. But, maybe not since the current queen isn't laying -- this may be just a replacement queen, and they won't swarm?
I have warned my hive host that if there is a swarm, it would most likely be around the next 7 days (based on my math as to when the the queen cells may have been capped).
And, some background on the hive:
I overwintered in a single deep. At the beginning of April, I added a medium box on top of the deep, to give them more room to expanded into. At this time, I removed the sugar bricks and added sugar water, to encourage them to draw out the medium frames. I am continuing to feed. The medium box is not fully drawn out yet, however they are storing sugar syrup the frames that they have drawn out. Based on a quick look last night, the queen hadn't started laying worker brood on the medium frames, but there was some capped & uncapped drone brood near the bottom of the frames. I pulled out one frame from the medium box last night and saw 1 queen cell at the bottom of the frame there.
The bees thin the queen down and she quits laying so she can be thin enough to fly away with the swarm. I would hurry and split several ways and then see how many queen cells atually end up mating and then I would combine what I wanted back together if I did not want that many hives.
I would move your queen and some frame into a NUC asap. then leave one frame of queen cells in the box with frames and move the other into NUCs making as many as you can. Once the queens hatch and start laying keep what you want to expand and sell or give away the rest. I started beekeeping by a friend giving me a nuc to start with, two years later I return a nuc to him. It had different genetics than his bees for payment of his gift.
I would remove the queen and some frames and put into a nuc (or full size, depending on how many bees you have and what you want to do); whatever frames go with the queen, make sure to remove any queen cells.
The colony that is now queenless will not swarm, and will await the emergence of the new queen(s).
Depending on how many bees and queen cells you have, you might be able to make several splits, moving at least one queen cell into each new hive. I guess the question is: Do you want to make more colonies, or do you want a few larger colonies?
Thanks everyone -- The more I think about it, the more I do think that I need to do a split. This will be the first one that I've ever done, so I am a little nervous!
Philip - to answer your question, I don't have the equipment or space to have several colonies, so I think that at this time, I would rather just split into 1 additional colony.
So, I'll set up a new hive.
Go into the original hive -- find the current queen & remove her from the hive.
Pull about 5 frames that have a mix of capped brood/larvae, drone brood & honey/pollen & put them into the box.
I'll cut off any queen cells that are on those frames.
I'll also add 5 undrawn frames. Release the queen. Put some sugar water on top & let it go.
I'll check on it in about a week or two, to confirm that the original queen is back to laying.
Then in the other hive - I'll leave all the queen cells, or remove a few?
Add 5 undrawn frames, sugar water & close it up.
Then let things go for a few weeks to let her emerge, go on her mating flight & begin laying again.