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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Howdy folks.

Got in the hives for a thorough inspection yesterday. One hive is absolutely booming, which makes me ask the question: how early can I split that hive?

I saw plenty of brood in both deeps and a fair amount of drone brood too. I saw no swarm cells, but they can't be too far away. Our nighttime temps are sort of all over the board right now - sometimes in the mid-30's to mid-40's, but tonight we might get a little snow and again on Weds night and Thurs we might get a little bit. Pollen looks to be in good supply but not sure about nectar. Could feed if I had to but would prefer to not. We are probably 3-4 weeks away from fruit trees popping, and dandelions should be somewhere around there too. All depends on how much late snow we get.

So my question is this: how early can I split this hive and expect the split to be successful? Do I have the best chance of success when I see swarm cells?

TIA
 

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All I can tell you is how I do it. In beekeeping, there are as many opinions as there are teenagers in an Apple store.

If it is Springtime and the hive is starting to boom, if there are fresh eggs on frames, if there is capped brood, if there is stored pollen and honey, if there are enough frames in the hive you want to split to where you can remove 5 frames (one with eggs, two with capped brood, two with honey/pollen stores and all with accompanying nurse bees) and you can leave as much in the original hive, then it is time to split. I don't think the presence of swarm cells will affect the chances of a successful split. Once split, the dynamics of the hive change and the bees adapt.

When I split, I don't bother looking for the queen. I only ascertain which hive she is in after the split (about one week after) so I can ensure the hive without her will make a new queen. This technique falls under the category of "lazy beekeeping". Others here will have different advice, but that's what's great about forums, no?
 

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As TS points out, when to split is not calendar related. When you have enough bees to make the number of colonies intended that have the beepower to grow, do it. (With respect for the local forage season, that is.) Or, be prepared to feed generously.

Walt
 

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In my experience, splitting too early is not a good idea. I would wait to split until your areas swarming date. That is usually during that dandelion and fruit bloom. If you are in a position to checkerboard and or keep the sides of the brood nest open, you can keep ahead of the swarming. An easy check is to just lift the top brood box and look for cells on the bottom of the brood frames. When you see them, that is the day to split.
 

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As TS points out, when to split is not calendar related. When you have enough bees to make the number of colonies intended that have the beepower to grow, do it. (With respect for the local forage season, that is.) Or, be prepared to feed generously.

Walt
Correct if this is incorrect but I believe you don't have to get all your frames from the same hive. Instead of splitting one hive into 2 you could take fewer frames from several hives and combine them. You don't to be putting in several Queens:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks everyone. Looks like you confirmed my suspicions of needing to wait a few more weeks to increase numbers.
 

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Here in southern Colorado the rule of thumb is April 15th. Still have to check hive strength, stores, drones, etc but that's my starting point. Some fruit trees will be blooming very soon, dandelions are already blooming. From what I gather, reading other CO posts and watching the weather, Fremont and Pueblo counties are ahead of the rest of the state by a couple weeks. I wouldn't start seriously thinking about it until about April 21st, maybe even the 30th, unless conditions you observe say something else.
 

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Gees, I think if you have queen cells you have to split and you are a tad late for swarm prevention. I would like to split before I saw the cells. Then if the one with the queen developed cells I would think about splitting again.
 

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I'm in SW CO and decided to perform a swarm control split about a week ago. Found about 5 swarm cells with eggs in them in one hive. I was able to split into two deeps and have plenty of brood, population, and stores for both. With the coming cold snap, I wonder if that was the right way to go, but the bees in the split are nearly ready to cap the queen cells.

Went through two more hives and found swarm cells in all of them, but no eggs in them yet. Both hives are honey bound. Created some space and am hoping for a little warmer weather. Fruit trees are bud breaking - ahead of schedule. Pretty sure swarm season is coming earlier than usual this year due to warmer than usual weather.

My two cents? Listen to the bees. That said, I am also crossing my fingers. :)
 

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Here in NorCal we had a very mild winter. I made my first split on March 1 and found the new queen and lots of uncapped brood last Friday. Usually mid-March is as early as I'd split. Swarms are happening like crazy now so it's definately time.
 
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