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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have two hives that I started last year and they appear to be doing well. On warm days (over 40 deg) they take flights around the hive. The hives have a deep bottom with a medium super filled with stores. I would like two more hives this spring. Here are the options I am contemplating on.

Option 1 Order two new packages and use the two mediums from the existing hives (Which should be empty in spring) to start the new packages and replace the two new mediums with undrawn comb to last years hives.
Pros : New packages have drawn comb and possibly capped broad to get started quickly. Cons: Last years hives will have to start new comb on the mediums and lose some brood.

Option 2. Feed existing hives early on to stimulate brood production and hope they fill the mediums with lots of capped broad and nurse bees so that I could start a new hive with a new queen. (Making a split.)
Pros: Save on not buying packages, Reduce the chances of swarming. Cons: Set back the overwintered hives by cutting them back to make the split.

Spring here in North New Mexico starts off wet from the melted snow and then goes dry till July when the monsoons kick in. So the bees would have food from fruit trees in April for a few weeks and than nothing till July.
I think this give them time to build their number for the nectar flow with if we get rain is in August.

I'm sure there are other factors that I'm missing, So please help me out anyone.
 

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Ok your nectar flow is in August, and you'd like to get some honey in August. :thumbsup:

You have two colonies now, and want to expand to 4. My inclination would be to go with Option 2. That gets you free bees, helps deal with swarming (you're making an artificial swarm) and you'll get new comb in all 4 hives. You have the option of purchasing two queens for your new splits, or let them raise their own. Either way, with careful management and good feeding to draw comb and stimulate brood (feed patties?) you should get surplus honey from your original two colonies, and there is a good chance you'd get some from your splits.

As an added wrinkle, are you going to try foundationless in one? or more?
Sounds like fun!
Steven
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I'm not going foundationless now but would like to try that later for comb honey. What I am going to do is use all plastic frames. I read many threads here how good they are or how awful they are. I think I could encourage they by mixing the plastic with the wooden frames and they should take to it.

Another option I was thinking about was to put all plastic frames for the packages but that would mean they would have to build comb. I prefer to give them the drawn comb to start off with. One thing I like about these all plastic frames is that it comes in black which should make spotting the eggs easier. I have a hard time finding those little specks on the white foundation.
 

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I was just in Santa Fe in November, beautiful place. had some great NM cuisine at Tomasita's in the depot district.

I would also go with option 2 if you are only increasing two hives. You know your existing bees already work in your area. I would feed the heck out of your current hives with pollen sub and thin syrup. Build them up and split them and get two queens from Zia to install.
 

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Agreed on option #2 being your best plan. Better to start out w/ built comb and viable brood than with a package. You can start out your new colony with as little as three frames. Only question is whether to move the existing queen into the new (smaller) colony or leave her with the original. I'd probably opt for moving the queen and requeening the original.
 

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you could always go with 3. Take one and split it and combine with a package the medium. OR, just split it without a package. you save a little on cost of starting 2 new hives and you have a backup (the original untouched one) to use brood from to assist in rebuilding and building should something happen).
 

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Have you thought about doing the above to get your 4 hives and then put out a bait hive and see if you can catch a swarm and get an extra hive free.
 

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How strong are your hives? You have a short season in SF. Get two Zia nucs and feed all hives. Splits are 2 risky with what you have. Trust me. I kept bees in SF for years.
 
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