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Discussion Starter #1
Visiting with a beekeeper entering his second year, he was asking about buying queens because he felt his overwintered, first-year hives will need to be split. That's what he was told by experienced beekeepers.

I talked to another beekeeper who bought someone else's hives over the winter, and said, "And you know, they'll have to be split." He said it as if there was no other way, but he didn't seem to think it was a burden, just a normal thing in the course of spring beekeeping. He splits all his hives every spring.

I have no argument that splitting hives greately reduces swarming, in fact, it may be the easiest, least-cost method of swarm prevention, and the method which appears to the choice of 99% of the beekeepers I rub elbows with. Splitting hives also replaces the winter losses.

I choose not to split in the spring, working other methods like reversing and checkerboarding. I've also had some bad luck with the quality of the queens sent through the mail, then fighting the fickle spring weather that I prefer to raise my own summer queens and split on the backside of the nectar flow (usually after the 4th of July here in Southeast Missouri). I'm also under the impression that stronger hives (yes, taller too.) make more honey than two weaker colonies that were split.

I'd like to hear other opinions as to spring splits, particularly those who choose not to. All the best,

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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Re: "And you know, they'll have to be spit..."

Good question Grant, and I'd like to reiterate it just a little by asking: For those of you who harvest honey, do you end up sacrificing spring harvest by splitting in, say, March/April? Or do the two new hives collect more than the single "old" one would have?
 

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Re: "And you know, they'll have to be spit..."

I have discovered that if I make splits soon enough, I can still get a honey crop off both hives. But generally I'm making splits to increase the number of hives I have. My greatest success in honey production is when I do not split, and start in the late summer getting them ready for the next Spring. Then in early spring practice swarm management. Get larger crops from larger hives that way.

And if I do lose a swarm, I'm repopulating the local bees, and some day those drones will come back to mate with my virgin queens. :applause:
Regards,
Steven
 

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Re: "And you know, they'll have to be spit..."

I choose not to split in the spring, working other methods like reversing and checkerboarding.

I prefer to raise my own summer queens and split on the backside of the nectar flow

I'm also under the impression that stronger hives (yes, taller too.) make more honey than two weaker colonies that were split.
Grant, I haven't spring split a colony in years...unless it was full of ripe queen cells and it's the last thing on the list. I too would rather make my nucs later in the main flow or just after and winter them.

Splitting for swarm control is very effective...at stopping most swarming and reducing your honey crop...I'm in the north and our buildup is fast, intense, and over. Production colonies don't build up enough for the flow many years after they have been split, unless the weather is perfect. So, I'm not saying you can't, it's just that I can't here, very often. Much more dependable the no splitting way.

If you can keep them in the hive, a colony of 60,000 bees will make more than twice what two colonies of 30,000 will. That's the art.
 

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Re: "And you know, they'll have to be spit..."

Mike, when do you usually pull frames from colonies to make nucs?
 

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I met a local beekeeper this weekend who said
-"... and last year I think I had 2 or 3 swarms off my hive, so I didn't really get any honey."
(me) - "Well how many hives do you have?"
-"Oh, just the one."
(me) - "Uhh... sounds like you need to start splitting hives instead of losing them to swarming."
-"Ya, I think I might split and build a 2nd hive next year"

Keep in mind... I'm now only a 2nd year beek... but is splitting really that hard of a concept? I was doing it in my first year with the hives we bought because we wanted to grow. (I bought-out an old beek... he helped me do the splits.)
 

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I don't think splitting is a hard concept for people to follow. Its a process that the new beekeeper learns quickly. He buys a hive or three and splits to keep increasing his size. It's when he has achieved his desired goal in numbers that the problem arises of trying to keep them from swarming. The art I think is keeping a hive as large as possible (to get the most honey) and not have it follow it's natural instinct to swarm.
 

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So what does one do if one doesn't want to increase the number of hives?

I am a (now) 2nd year beek, and have 2 hives in my (small) backyard (assuming they both survive the winter), and don't think I want any more. I also don't want another swarm to take down my honey production (I got nothing last year).

What are my options?

Thanks - Steven
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I would suggest expand your hive vertically rather than horizontally (making a split).

Give your hives ample room prior to the nectar flow. As you add another hive body, pull some frames of brood from the old boxes and place them in the new boxes that are added.

Do some reading on "checkerboarding," the works of Walt Wright. Read up on an old-fashioned technique called the Demaree manipulation (very effective but often over-looked). Read and search the archives on swarm prevention.

I'd also suggest you super early and often, adding new supers under the stack of supers (known as bottom supering) and harvest your honey early and often, pulling frames of capped honey to harvest rather than waiting for the entire super to be capped.

There are lots of options, and if you ask the forum or your local club about doing a certain technique, be prepared for half the responders to agree and the other half to disagree.

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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Discussion Starter #13
...and not have it follow it's natural instinct to swarm.
Rather than trying to arrest this natural instinct, I like to think I'm "redirecting" their energies into an expanding brood nest. Once the nectar starts to flow, this natural instinct is put on the back burner.

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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You can split the hives, and then combine the halves back together once the swarm stage is over.

Or do a small split taking the queen and a couple frames - and then selling the nuc.
 

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"have to be split...", Heck nothing "has" to be done with them, at all. You can leave them in one box, or two or more boxes, but you don't even have to open them, ever.

Since I began raising my own queens and replacing production queens whenever a queen seems to be performing in a less than optimal manner. Which means I requeen each production hive, at least once per year, sometimes more often. That may be why I hardly ever see any swarms from my own hives. I like to think that it is even more due to how I manage my production colonies.

It is simply a way to arrange my hives so they perform well at maintaining good strength and collecting a large quantity of honey from our short but intense Mesquite honey flow. Here is a link to how this arrangement is configured: SketchUp model of hive arrangement

Maybe this only works for me, but I wasn't the one who made the original observation that led me to use this configuration for my hives. I discovered the concept when I was following some threads about queen excluders and remembered something I had read in the POV section of beesource.com about excluders and hive configuration, especially focusing on locations of entrances. It was also partly inspired by our local desert toads that apparently find honeybees their favorite food.
 

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Grant:

I suspect that splitting has it's foundation in the knowledge that stronger colonies are more apt to swarm. The original intent was to weaken the colony enough to discourage swarm potential. In more northerly areas, where winter losses are a given, it also provides a way to make up for those losses with starter nucs.

Taking a frame or two of brood from a strong colony with 9 frames of brood is not of significant impact to make much difference in strength. And in the swarm prep period, prior brood cycles account for most of the population. The parent colony can make up that loss in a week or two. A max of 3 weeks - capped brood is taken, and that's roughly day 11 to 21 of worker brood development. Maybe the pros have better luck or skill than I at finding emerging brood. There must be some other reason why splitting is fairly effective in swarm prevention.

Enter Reproductive swarm cut-off timing as described by the Tennessee Crackpot. With about three weeks dedicated to swarm preps, a two week delay becomes significant. I know of no one who has bought in to the repro c/o concepts, but I see it every year. Recently, with climate change, there is more scatter in the timing than when the conclusion was reached, but it's still there, with its internal colony changes in operations.

Terry Fehr, a Canadian beekeeper, had an article in B. Culture on 'nucing" in May '03. It was easy for me to keep a copy for ready reference because my description of the swarm process appeared in the same issue. In that article, he said that replacing a single frame of brood with comb relieved the swarming problem, but he noted that the deep with empty frame went on the TOP of the double deep. What he didn't say, and I failed to confirm, was the presence of empty comb above the double deep.

What I conclude from bits and pieces is that "taking a split" is related to checkerboarding. Although the original intent was to reduce colony strength, if done in the top box, a path for storage through the honey reserve is created. The basis for CB.

My experience with two frames is that it is marginal. Have no experience with a single frame, but a three frame path has not failed yet. Never say never. For the confidence factor, we recommend a full box of alternate empty frames on two levels.

Did I argue for both sides of the question? Yes. It was deliberate. Pick one you like, or generate your own.


Walt
 

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Discussion Starter #17
First, Walt you're hardly the Tennesee Crackpot, more like the Volunteer State Prophet. Thanks for responding. I've always thought your writings were excellent.

Second, Joe, I like your arrangement with the q-excluder and entrance shim. My eyes had some trouble reading the small print, tried to download the Sketch up picture but didn't have the file on my computer. I followed the explanation just fine. I wondered if this didn't invite robbing.

Where does one get the software for sketch up?

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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Google provides a version of SketchUp that is free for non-commercial use. The download link is --> Here. Big blue button on upper, right side of the page.

I only slide the supers back during the honey flow, whenever there is a dearth the only entrance is the primary one (full supers can easily be brought back into alignment with the right size woodworking clamp), which can be reduced with a typical entrance reducer, just like the traditional entrances are. Many robbers keep trying to enter through the bottom screen, where the hive odors are strong and there are no guards, but there is no entrance there, so they are wasting their time, just like a robber screen. Through the Winter I remove all entrances except where I have slid the cover back a little bit.

Besides with this strong of a population, robbers don't stand much of a chance.
 

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Im setting up 15 more this spring going to buy 5 nucs the rest are with pkgs. from different places around Calf. and down South. These will all be new un-drawn foundation. So I don't know how much honey I will get will be getting nucs from Chris Werner is this ok?

Here I have not made a split in 4 years started out with two hives standard for new bees This year I will here is what I want to know
some say use two frames
some say three
books tell you 5 frames

what is the best way to split strong over wintered hives??

Also I have one hive that is still alive now on the 4th year but have gotten no honey except for brood boxes
if they live until April I will re queen this hive has made a new queen last year she was big but they did not go to the wet supper. Bee inspector had no answer either

Have a good day
 
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