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Discussion Starter #1
I've experimented with cut down splits for 3 years now - with mixed results. This year I did about 10 - enough that I think I'm seeing some patterns. I did these splits all between the 13-17 of April. Our main flow - tulip poplar - started right on schedule on May 1. Today I inspected all hives for queenright status and need for additional supers of foundation (out of comb).

Those hives that did not get cut down and also have not swarmed yet have by far the most honey so far.

Hives that swarmed more than 2 weeks ago are the least productive.

Cut down splits have been very effective at swarm prevention, but honey production is a mixed bag.

The split hives which already have brood are not too far behind the qr hives. I expect that they have benefited from foragers drifting from queenless hives.

The ones with no (to me) clear evidence of a laying queen are not very productive so far. Those hives all got a frame of open brood today to check queen rightness, and will get caged queens if needed in a few days. The nucs those queens come from will get cultured cells.

None of this is earth shattering, but it indicates to me that it will be helpful in the future to give the queenless splits ripe cells to accelerate the requeening.

Your experiences with this manipulation?
 

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David- You are absolutely correct in using ripe Q cells when you do a cutdown split. It will save you exactly 16 days, and gain
you some honey if its a flow.
 

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David,

I did a cut down a few weeks ago (I called you and you walked me through it). The original hive ended up swarming last weekend. I was able to capture that swarm and they have filled the mediums that they were placed in. The original hive was left with maybe half, or so, bees and have very little honey in the supers. As for the queen in her new home...she is steadily increasing her numbers.

Same breed of queen (hive) next to her (no swarm, no split, no cut down) has doubled what I thought they would put up. And, I've been able to make a new queen from her by robbing some eggs.
 

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Nuc size splits or really any split will take off like mad in spring. My overwintered 5-frame has drawn out to about 17 deep frames, put on first honey super today.

I think this is mostly a function of flow/forage ie time of year, splits made later in the year June and on will not take-off the same. Atleast in this part of the country, Tennessee is not too different.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
David,

I did a cut down a few weeks ago (I called you and you walked me through it). The original hive ended up swarming last weekend. I was able to capture that swarm and they have filled the mediums that they were placed in. The original hive was left with maybe half, or so, bees and have very little honey in the supers. As for the queen in her new home...she is steadily increasing her numbers.

Same breed of queen (hive) next to her (no swarm, no split, no cut down) has doubled what I thought they would put up. And, I've been able to make a new queen from her by robbing some eggs.
Unfortunately I have yet to experience anything that has worked as a 100% sure swarm prevention measure, but splitting out the queen and removing ALL of the swarm cells is the best I have tried. Sounds like you are at least making increase this year though, which is a big deal in the long run.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
please describe exactly how you make up your splits (number of frames of each: brood, pollen, honey)
Around April 15 From a big strong hive that is showing signs of getting swarmy I remove the queen, and any frame that is more than 50% open brood. To that I add a frame of empty comb and sufficient food stores to sustain the "nuc" until it establishes foragers - extra food may not be needed if the brood frames contain enough.

Put that in an appropriate hive setup in a new location. Usually extra bees don't need to be added because there will be enough clinging to the open brood, and retention will be high because of the laying queen.

I thoroughly inspect and remove all q cells from the nuc, and all but a few on a single frame from the original hive. In the future I may remove all cells and add a ripe cultured cell. A frame of open brood a bit later to check for queen rite would probably be a good plan - followed by a caged queen in case of a fail.
 

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I have noticed a huge difference in comb building when I don't have a laying queen in residence. If they already have empty drawn comb they fill every available cell but they draw new comb reluctantly even with a heavy flow. The minute they have a new queen they start drawing like crazy. Due to this I had wondered about how cut down splits would get a better honey yield. I guess this is why they talk about drawn comb being so valuable. Kinda hard to come by when you are fairly new and have KTBHs (crush and strain if I ever get any surplus).
 

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Come on over to the dark side Colleen. KTBH's are an advanced skill set. Life is easier in a Langstroth. As he waits for the outraged shrieks!
 

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"In the future I may remove all cells and add a ripe cultured cell"

Why would you think that adding your own cell would be somehow better than the swarm cell the parent colony has raised? And why would you attempt to remove some cells and leave others behind?
 

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good thread.

my yard looks a lot like you've described yours to be david.

i'll post more details when time permits, and i'm still thinking about all of this, but i will likely cut down most of my colonies next spring.

my current thinking is that leaving most of the brood in the parent hive is good for honey production.

it's more like only 12 days difference between adding a ripe cell vs. letting them make an emergency queen, and those extra 12 days make be helpful in pushing them past the timeline for swarming, plus it will leave the colony broodless which may make them think twice about swarming after the split, and may help to decrease the mite count.

i like the idea of a split that has three frames of bees, the queen, stores, some capped brood, and empty comb going into a five frame box. these can be sold or used to combine back to any of the parent colonies that fail to make a new queen.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
"In the future I may remove all cells and add a ripe cultured cell"

Why would you think that adding your own cell would be somehow better than the swarm cell the parent colony has raised? And why would you attempt to remove some cells and leave others behind?
A big strong hive with lots of swarm cells will often swarm even if you remove the queen - possibly multiple swarms all with virgin queens. The queen will often swarm from the nuc if you leave a cell in it. The main thing about a cultured cell in this case is that you know how old it is, and when the resultant queen should be mated so that you can test for queenrightness and take timely action.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
it's more like only 12 days difference between adding a ripe cell vs. letting them make an emergency queen, and those extra 12 days make be helpful in pushing them past the timeline for swarming, plus it will leave the colony broodless which may make them think twice about swarming after the split, and may help to decrease the mite count.

Good points.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I have noticed a huge difference in comb building when I don't have a laying queen in residence. If they already have empty drawn comb they fill every available cell but they draw new comb reluctantly even with a heavy flow. The minute they have a new queen they start drawing like crazy. Due to this I had wondered about how cut down splits would get a better honey yield. I guess this is why they talk about drawn comb being so valuable. Kinda hard to come by when you are fairly new and have KTBHs (crush and strain if I ever get any surplus).
I agree with all of that. The most productive hives for me are usually the ones that for some reason don't swarm naturally. But the ones that swarm before the flow are the least productive.
 

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Come on over to the dark side Colleen. KTBH's are an advanced skill set. Life is easier in a Langstroth. As he waits for the outraged shrieks!
"I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood,and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." - Excerpt from The road not traveled by Robert Frost.

Poetry aside, I generally do take the road less traveled. I am, however, open to other options and this is why I am changing my bar size to be compatible with Langs and experimenting with a hive that combines the KTBH that I enjoy with Lang supers and a Warre quilt and roof. I may yet get that drawn comb. ;)
 

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David:

From my perspective, the time period between your splits and the beginning of your flow is too small. I would think that improved result could be achieved if all requeened hives where timed so that the first capped brood hatched when the flow starts. To do so, you would have to start your process earlier.

Another twist you could use, if time is short, is to remove all brood except for one frame of eggs and the queen. The queen is left with just field bees, and no bored nurse bees. The new hive will have bees hatching daily, with little brood to cover without a queen. The queenless hive has the potential(despite what others think) of producing more honey because they have no brood to feed untill a new queen begins to lay.

Crazy Roland
 

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I kind of differ with Roland, in that I like to make cut-downs as late as possible. Keeping in mind that the basic premise in the cut-down is to maximize production and minimize (late-spring) swarming. Other forms of splits can be done earlier and can be successful, but I don't consider them as "cut-downs". Perhaps this is just a matter of not having common vocabulary. Of course timing is a delicate line one must walk. If a colony is planning to swarm they will likely have done so prior to when I perform the cut-down split, so I see early season swarm management and cut-downs as distinctly different management tasks. Swarm management happens very early in the season as colonies gear up for reproduction. Later spring swarms, those due to congestion with a massive influx of nectar and under-employed nurse bees are those that can (sometimes) be managed with the cut-down.

I do a version of a cut-down quite often, but not every colony in my yard gets cut-down each year. I do not remove much honey, perhaps a frame or two at most - this is counter to MB's procedures posted on his site. I take 5 frames total (never more), with up to 3 frames of uncapped brood and the remaining stores. This makes a nice split at a time of year that can easily build up without large resource of stored honey (at least that's what I find locally). I like to do this split at the first sign of tulip poplar blooms. Again, I try to really hold off cut downs as long as possible because I'm really going for maximum honey yields. As mentioned, you can get into problems if the parent colony has started making queen cells. I have found that once the colony has begun swarm preps (due to congestion) a cut-down doesn't produce as nicely as one that is split prior to swarm cells. I've also observed that some colonies with no swarm cells present at the time of the cut-down will then go on to make LOTS of cells. These will almost always still swarm. The ones that I find most productive resulting from a cut-down are those that make only a few (2-4) nice cells after the split. These almost never swarm and usually go on to make great yields. The big question is what differentiates these two groups? One possible explanation is that once a colony entering into swarm prep, be it natural or beekeeper induced, their focus changes from storing honey to reproduction. I could be all wet, but that's my current vision on what might be happening. I've considered, but never attempted, for those that jump into swarm mode after the cut-down is to go in and remove ALL cells and leave them in a hopelessly queenless state for a week and then introduce a single cultured cell. The idea is to completely extinguish their ability to swarm and get them back into storing honey.

To recap, I find 3 scenarios on cut-downs:
1) the colony that already has swarm cells present at the time of the split.
2) the colony that moves into swarm prep once the split has been made (makes LOTS of cells after the split and really doesn't put up honey well).
3) the colony that has no intentions of swarming and makes a few cells after the split.

Obviously, scenario 3 is the ideal case and one as beekeepers really benefit from due to great yields. Scenarios 1 & 2 are pretty similar, but without much further action from the beekeeper will usually result in sub-optimal yields.
 

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The swarm impulse is generally seems to be broken if the queen is removed at the first sight of cells and cells are removed leaving them to raise another round on their own (assuming there are still eggs). A safer step is to cut cells twice a week apart after removing the queen (leaving them hopelessly queenless) and then give a queen cell. In this scenario they will fill the brood nest and nearly everything else that is not drawn with honey before the new queen can begin laying.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Astrobee - Very nice analysis. That is all very consistent with what I have seen - although I hadn't put all of the 2 and 2s together like you have.

I just inspected a hive from which I removed the queen around May 1 - no old cells evident, and the tell tale signs of a queen just about to start laying (polished brood cells) and absolutely plugged with honey from top to bottom. Extremely productive for the last 2 weeks. Consistent with your scenario 3. I'm wishing I had more comb - but I am getting a lot of foundation nicely drawn out.

Anyway, cut down splits are clearly not as simple as remove the queen - prevent swarming, make lots of honey - all in one step.
 
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