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Expanding apiary 2023

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I am a second year beekeeper. I currently have 2 hives. I am hoping to scale up as much is realistically possible next year. If I could get to 5 hives great, 10 would be even better. I will be trying to catch swarms, but my question is involving splits. With my goal in mind, how/when would you make splits in spring 2023? I do not mind using pollen patties/feeding syrup if this will help the process. I am located near Charlotte NC, as I know this can affect answers.

I also do not have any spare drawn out frames at this time =(

Thank you, all input it welcome, and please spell it out like you are talking to a dummy :)
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By the question you ask, I am going to say that you have more learning to do... Or just reading and learning more from your area.
My location wouldn't help you at all.
And only you can know when your hive need splitting.
There are a ton of videos that a simple search on Google will pop up.
 

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Splitting a swarm is not something that I would attempt, on purpose.
I have done it, slow to grow, forget taking any honey (unless mother nature smiles upon you)

When a colony is split there are frames of brood and food.
No brood or food in a swarm, they are starting with nothing.

Getting a swarm to accept a new queen might prove to be more than tricky.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
A lot of the resources I am finding are walk away splits, splitting to avoid swarming, and much less aggressive forms of splits. I am finding it harder more difficult to find more aggressive ways of splitting while still having high success rates. Some people do splits with 2 frames which seems maybe too aggressive, and doing a walkaway split seems not aggressive enough. I am trying to get information on somewhere in the middle that will yield more splits but not be too aggressive.
 

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You won't find that and be 100% which is what you are asking. There is no Perfect way which is what you are asking.
You have to do the work and find out how it works for you and change it for your setup.

Again I suggest you spend the Winter watching all the videos you can and then set a plan for Spring......and hope your 2 hives come out alive in Spring.
 

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You could buy queens, you might get less swarmy stock that way.
This also eliminates the most hazardous part of re-queening, mating.
On your best day you will see only a 75% return of new mated queens

The best swarms are the early large primary swarms, but you have to remember they will swarm again in 60 days.
Don't let that queen fly away if she is of the stock you desire.
You will NEED to pull frames around 45 days to keep them from swarming (and keep pulling frames as she fills them).
Managed right those frames are your next splits......


Personally I don't care for commercially bred queens, I like local wild genetics.
The above will get you going and then you can be selective about genetics

Getting started is a lot of work and a cliff of a learning curve to surmount.
Not having bees is holding you back, take advantage of this time to gather/build the gear you need.
You will need gear on hand ready to go before you get bees.
Nothing worse than bodging together some crap because you are not ready.
I would have at least 10 empty complete hive setups ready for this season, you may need more (I collected 17 colonies last season).
Have hive stands set up and leveled in advance (leave room behind the hive to mow and walk).

Swarm calls all seem to come in in the late afternoon, so your getting home late.
When you get home from collecting a swarm, tired and sticky the last thing you need to do is chase gear.

You want to place a swarm in gear that they will stay in to minimize disruption and hive organization.
Unless you have a small swarm and place them in a nuc.
Nuc's are your best splitting tools, and for a first season keeper, a walk-away is the easy button.
 

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a mega jillion ways to do things depending on you, your overall goles, and your location. ask 3 beekeepers, get 5 answers

for growth + no drawn comb, hands down I am a fan of flyback splits
here is a series of videos on a FBS that lets you watch them draw comb and grow and then get split 3 ways 35 days later, add 20 days if they were making there own queen, 10 days or so less if they were left with a laying queen.. in this case I was just syphoning off forage bees from a queen right cell builder
take note of the the frame of foundation I put in at day 30, its 2/3+ drawn when you see it at day 35 ! with feed I often seen nucs of this size (6+ frames) draw and fill about a frame a week. its all about keepinghtem the rigt size and mode... Ie flybacks made with foundation act like a swarm and go to town drawing comb

my recipe (when I do this, I often have my own grafted queens, but some times a hive or 2 need split before I have cells/queens) is to leave the queen + 1-2 frames of open brood +1 of food in the old location...the rest is foundation and put on feed
come back in 10 days and split the queen less dubble deep that was moved in to 4 nucs
75% or so will mate out... and you can often get at least one more round of splits, breaking each nuc(now 10F or more) 3 ways or so

1st time I did this in a big way was 2017, I had just restarted in 2016 with 3 swarms after giving up on beekeeping for a few years after TF failure. one of the 3 swarms swarmed nd was broken in to nucs, I came threw winter with 2 full-sized hives and 4 nucs and a bunch of new equipment
3 were left for honey production

The 3 others were fly back split in April as per above, then the splits were split , then split again- Ending up with 33 nucs

But I went one split to far, then got called away to work all of Sept/Oct. I had a lot of weak nucs that didn’t build up and had to combine come early Nov, went in to winter with 22. 17 survived the winter, so for me a 5x yearly growth is fairly reasonable with simple methods and a lot of feeding, if that is my only goal Ie no queen sales, no nuc sales, no honey production and of course good weather

what I am trailing locally is one frame of brood in each side of the 6/3 in a fly back split as swarm control to grow there own queen and the main hive left for production till the end of the flow, then a post flow flyback split to pull off the now useless forager force
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for that information MSL! I may just try that. For the splits that get moved to a different location, do you know how long it would be before they could get moved back to the original location?

I ask because I have a spot I could move them temporarily, but I cant have them there on a permanent basis.
 

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The FBS counts on the bees returning to the old location to stock a split instead of fighting the loss of bees form a split(s) (one on the reasons I love FBS for small hobby operations) so the splits only need moved 5-10'

you can even just move the 2 deeps up on a new bottom board (or dubble screen board or snelgrove, or ETC) with the entrance facing the other way and keep the split and main on the same stand
or you can just spin the main hive on the stand, put in the DSB and put the FBS on top with its entrance facing the old direction..


next look at what happens to your mite loads...
the new box in the old location is almost mite free (no capped brood, very little nurce bees) and it has no capped brood, so a shot of OA will kill all those buggers... the old hive has been broken in to nucs so they only have 1/4 of the mites, and will soon bee broodless in 21 days...
bam... dead mites and fresh queens... a very good start to your spring with just 1 oa treatment per box...

lots and lots of "fancy" if you go down the rabbit hole, but you don't have to.. the key is using the drift back to the old location to make a split instead of fighting it.

I have used this to make moving hives a short distance a breeze and save me trips..

I had a client putting in a pool and needed the bees moved 100' or so....
Moved the hive, left a nuc with a frame of open brood in the old spot to collect the foragers and picked it up after dark
 

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how are u running the 2 hives? Are they 8 frame, 10 frame, or something else? Overwintering in single deeps, deep & 1/2, double deeps or something else?

are you currently or planning to join a bee club?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
10 frame double deeps. One hive has maybe half the top frames drawn out, and the second hive has no frames drawn out in the top box. We are in the fall flow right now with goldenrod and aster, but their honey reserves are very low maybe 4 or 5 frames per hive. I am feeding currently to try and boost their honey stocks.

As far as overwintering, the one with the drawn top box I will leave as is, the second hive with no drawn comb in the top box probably makes the most sense to remove the top box?
 

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I’m in SE Tennessee. Weather is probably a tad colder here over the winter. I have made it thru winter in single deeps. But not by choice. My rear end was puckered for 4 months 😜

I would remove any boxes that were not drawn out in terms of winter prep. I doubt there is a strong enough flow to result in the bees wanting to draw comb. But Charlotte is not Chattanooga. My experience has been to have at least 4 deep frames of food for them to survive the winter.

Say you come out in 2023 with 2 hives that are basically single deeps. If you split both evenly, then you’ll probably have four 5 frame hives. If between a good flow and possibly supplementing the bees, you can go into winter next year with four strong 10 frame hives. May even get a little golden goodness to boot.

Do the same in spring 2024 in addition to maybe getting a swarm or two in a box and you are at 10 hives. May be a year later than you want, but I would be pretty confident that those months go by quick and you will learn so much by managing the bees instead of managing problems.

All that said, you definitely can go balls to the wall and get to 10-12 hives next year. There is plenty of info on this website to assist you. But that is where a bee club would be so much more beneficial for you. To bounce things off someone in person is invaluable.

To have someone with years of experience making splits give you a hand and tell you if the hives are strong enough. Or if the weather is warm enough. Or if there are enough drones to get a mated queen.

I don’t doubt your desire or intellect one iota. And nothing I type is meant to ruffle your feathers. I’m a conservative beekeeper, so my path is the slow and steady. I like to know things and then apply them.

I sincerely wish you the best. You are about to have the time of you life.
 

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Second the Bob Binnie suggestion. Coincidentally he was our guest speaker yesterday evening. At some point splits were discussed: he expects 70% success getting queens mated. Assuming strong hives in spring, mathematically you can get to about five by splitting both three ways. Then combine back any that fail to make a queen. I personally would not try splitting smaller without more experience.
 

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I would not fear size so much if you have the cells and resources
anyone looking to grow thier operation threw splits that raise there own queens should give the lateist from UMASS a read

558 splits were subjected to analysis using SAS statistical software. Among the Comfort Hive configurations, the larger 2 box hive was most successful (79%) in raising a queen, followed by 4 comb box (63%) and 8 comb box (59%). The trend among the Comfort hive boxes was statistically significant (p=0.001). Among the Langstroth Hive configurations, the 4 frame was most successful (68%), followed by 10 frame (54%) then 2 frame (48%). These differences were not statistically significant (p=0.4346), due in part to the small sample size of Langstroth configurations. Overall Comfort configurations were slightly more successful (66%) than Langstroth (60%). This difference, however, was not statistically significant (p=0.2532).
Comfort Hives” in the following configurations:
  • 4-comb (6 liters),
  • 8-comb (12 liters),
  • double box (skewers just on top, 24 liters)
In addition, our team used Langstroth hives for 15% of this study, in the following configurations:
  • 2-frame deep (8.4 liters),
  • 4-frame deep (16.8 liters)
  • 10-frame deep (42 liters)



  • Our team submitted 32 queens for analysis in three separate shipments mid-June, mid-July, and mid-August. 17 of the queens were used for comparison in SARE ONE19-326 to 10 day grafted cells and 2 day grafted cells, and all were found to be of comparable quality and mating percentage. While the 32 emergency queens submitted to the lab are a small and incomplete subsection of the trials, we deduced that the smallest hive volume (6 liters) we used here can indeed produce queens of high reproductive quality, and even without being heavily stocked with bees. 21 queens from the 4 comb (6 liter) Comfort hives had an average overall queen score of 73.3 (comparable to the total average score of 75.6) and grade “A- high reproductive quality” by the Queen Clinic schematics. Surprisingly, 3 of these queens were started with small population densities (thus at roughly 1500 bees in the 6 liter space) and had a combined average score of 83.4, even though this configuration had poor mating success (52%). The 6 “run-away split” queens submitted from double box Comfort Hives (24 liters) had an average score of 84 and had significantly higher weight (229.4 mg verses the group’s average of 209.7 mg).
    under line is mine

  • The Run-Away Split” Recipe
    (See Page One of the PDF One Pager for the Recipe)

    1. Use at least a 4 frame Langstroth deep frame nuc (16.8 liters) or larger, or a box hive of 24 liters or larger. Before swarm season, remove old combs from the hive and replace with new foundation (or empty bars, etc) close to the entrance (where brood rearing is favored). Beekeepers generally move combs away from the entrance, then out of operation, over time as they age. (NOTE: 5, 6, 8, or 10 frame Langstroth boxes could be suitable but were underrepresented in this study.)
    2. Once the bees are filling their box with worker and drone brood and populous enough to be actively working all the combs, wall to wall, it’s time to make the split. Move the hive to a new position in the yard. (It can be close to the original spot, i.e. on the same pallet, but with the entrance facing a new direction.)
    3. Set up a new, empty, similar box where it was.
    4. Move back one NEWER comb of MOSTLY OPEN BROOD with adhering bees and one comb of food (nectar/pollen) with adhering bees. If the queen is seen, leave her in the new position (or remove her for use elsewhere). Replace the combs with foundation or empty bars. Put the brood and food with bees in the new box (away from the entrance), place in foundation or empty bars, cover with a lid, and you’re done. The field bees will join this queenless hive and help build a new brood nest.
    5. Check the hive in 4 weeks for eggs, larvae, and the first capped brood from the new queen. If no eggs are present, or if laying workers are laying multiple eggs per cell, the hive can be shaken out or combined with a different split at no loss
    [*]
    In my climate 2f nucs faired poorly, 3f queen castles did well it would seem its thermodynamtancs , less important the number of bees, but the deninisty and the amount of seams of bees off the wall (ie the shape of the box matters) ... ie a 2 frame is wall 1/2 seam, full seam, 1/2seam, wall.. while a 4 frame box is wall 1/2 seam, full seam, full seam, full seam1/2seam, wall... 2x the frames but 3x the internal seams..
    long ago I settled on a 3 frame min for mating nucs/splits

    In the above you can see many of the driving forces behind my 6/3 nuc
    the shared wall between the 2 brood frames helps the bees control the climate and keeps it away for the entrance
    the side entrances allows for a FBS (called run away here) spliting the forage force in to left and right chambers

    the removable division board allows for easy combination when one side fails

    the box is big enuff to be split once it fills up

    and as a little guy, you get to play the odds, beekeeping is a numbers game... you can count cards and hedge your bet, or you can put it all on black
    IE if you pull a 5 frame nuc with 2 frames of brood and a few shakes of bees you have a 70% chance or so of getting a queen....
    the 6/3 lets you dubble down... small sample size this year (6), but when left to rear thier own queens I saw 50% a side acrost the board, giving me 100% return per 2frames of brood used to make nuc after division board was pulled and they were combined.


 
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A lot of the resources I am finding are walk away splits, splitting to avoid swarming, and much less aggressive forms of splits. I am finding it harder more difficult to find more aggressive ways of splitting while still having high success rates. Some people do splits with 2 frames which seems maybe too aggressive, and doing a walkaway split seems not aggressive enough. I am trying to get information on somewhere in the middle that will yield more splits but not be too aggressive.
Splitting is not the answer if you want quality queens. What follows is a method I've taken from Doolittle (adjusted to suit your situation) of increasing from 2 colonies to 12 in one season, with Q/Cells raised within a very strong colony (NOT raised from within a split).

A few assumptions are necessary: I'm assuming both colonies will be alive come Spring, and assuming you'll have 24 drawn frames, and of these 50% will be brood and 50% non-brood when you begin expansion.

1) Make the strongest hive (having the largest number of foragers) Q-ve by removing the Q and 1x brood & 1x non-brood frames. Place these in a 'holding' nuc box. Locate this several feet away from your working hive.

2) Add frames from the second hive, leaving it's Q behind on 1x brood & 1x non-brood (plus frames to be drawn-out). Allow the Q-ve colony to then make Q/Cells.

Status in the Q-ve Queen-Rearing hive at this point will be 20 frames: 10x non-brood, 10x brood (some of which will contain Q/Cells).

3) Assuming there are at least 10x good Q/Cells, cut-out and attach one each to all 10x brood combs.

4) On Day 12 (+/-1), install 1x non-brood & 1x brood frame (complete with it's Q/Cell) into 10x nucleus boxes.

5) Return Q and the 1x brood & 1x non-brood from Step 1 into the original hive.

Add some frames to be drawn out (suggest one at a time), dummying-down excess space. Feed nucs as required. Combine nucs from any unsuccessful matings. All references to 'brood frames' include the bees on those frames.

Needless to say, combs on plastic foundation are a non-starter when it comes to cutting-out Q/Cells, and wired-wax foundation is far from ideal.
'best,
LJ
 

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Here's what I have done in the past. Use what you like.

1) Started the 1st year with 2 nucs.

2) Started the 2nd year with 2 hives, they both swarmed on me, and I caught 1 swarm.

3) Started the 3rd year with 3 hives and I used double screen boards on all 3 hives. I leave the new smaller colonies in the same yard after moving them to their own bottom board.

4). Started the 4th year with 6 colonies and again used double screen boards and ended up with 13 colonies. I got 1 swarm from another area.

5) Started the 5th year with 13 colonies. I used Hop Guard 2 in May and killed all but 3 colonies. :(

6,7,8) Started the 6th,7th and 8th year with 3 colonies and stayed with 3 for the next 2 years. Built 10 nuc boxes in year 8.

9) Started the 9th year with 3 colonies and did 3 walk-away splits and caught 1 swarm.

10) Started the 10th year with 7 colonies. I did 2 frame splits and ended up with only 10 colonies.

11) Started the 11th year with 10 colonies. I did 3 frame splits and sold 3 full colonies and 3 nucs.

I have 15 colonies at present, and we'll see what happens next year.

I liked the ease of using double screen boards, but I also like having splits made up to sell in the spring. I'm in mid-Missouri moderately close to St Louis (80 miles}. There are lots of beekeepers here and lots of competition for shelf space to sell honey. I have a better market in this area for selling splits. I charged $350 for the 10-frame hives and $185 for the nucs. I made $1500.

Lots of people get in a hurry once they start. You learn lots by expanding slowly. Plus you can spread out your cost for woodenware over time. I have 10 full hive set ups ready for next year and I would suggest you make (I do) or buy your woodenware in the fall/winter for spring.

I assume that you have a good plan for your Varro management. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of beekeeping now. I have been using OAV with a band vaporizer exclusively for the past 3 years and it works well for me. I treat 3 separate times of the year. December 21st, March 15th, and July 15- August 15 every 4 days.

Keep notes!

Good Luck and Happy Beekeeping!
 

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Do you like one of your colonies better than the other? If so, look into Queen rearing as several others have suggested. Be proactive in selecting to raise queens from only your best colonies. Be selective and grow your apiary with a plan and intent. I would advise against just taking whatever the bees will give you. Why take what you get from splitting out both hives if one was able to draw out nearly two boxes and the other barely one? Wouldn’t it be better to have queens from a queen mother that was fairly productive than from one that was kinda slack? Other factors certainly come into play. Did you perform several mite washes this season? Was one hive consistently lower on the mite counts than the other? Do you dread popping the top on one colony because they are crazy defensive, while the other will let you get away with most anything without stinging? Take these things into account. Decide which ones are important to you and go about expanding your apiary with a purpose other than just having more bees, regardless of their quality.
 
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