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Discussion Starter #1
I wanted to get some help from people (hopefully in my area) with regard to my brood break and overwintering strategy. My plan is to rear my own queens this year to support queen introduction into 4 nucs I want to make for overwintering. Additionally I want to try to lower varroa populations with a brood break in the spring, also should help with swarming. My current plan was to do something like this:

1. Make splits: Wait until first major flow is in full swing, maybe tapering off (anticipating sometime in mid may give or take a few weeks). I plan on making a smaller split with the current queen in place, and leaving the larger split without a queen, hoping this will impact varroa in the larger hive better, but give me insurance by keeping each of my queens in my four hives.
2. Once the larger splits are showing queen cells, I plan on keeping cells queens from my best hives and not allowing the weaker hives. I haven't decided if I will graft this year or just let them do it via walk away splits.

At the end of the day I am shooting for 4 colonies and 4 nucs going into the winter. However i am not sure when i should be targeting to have queens ready for the nucs. Part of me says, once the drones are present and a flow is on and if the clusters look good, make the splits and rear the queens. If the nucs get too big, feed back brood to the 4 original hives with the 2nd year queens.

Any recommendations on timing for the initial splits? Anything I have missed or that I should be aware of?

Thanks for the help.
 

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I'm in MO. so dates would need some adjustment. Walter Kelly once said the earliest you could raise a good queen was when the blackberries bloom in your area. I've found this to be very true.
Any queen I have that's a year old goes in a nuc with three frames at the blackberry bloom. The hive will make honey and is not likely to swarm.

On the flip side. I raise most of my queens after the summer solstice. I'll start a set of nucs around June 21. I'll start another set of nucs around the first of August. These usually don't require too much help beyond a little feed to fill a 10 frame deep.
These winter just fine here but I'll need to feed as soon as temps allow in the spring. If temps don't allow syrup I'll mountain camp if needed but it rarely is.

This way I can get three strong nucs from a strong hive plus a honey crop from the first one without weakening the parent hive.

I'll add. I'm treatment free, foundationless, starting my fifth or sixth year. I've never lost a hive in the winter and I've only had one hive swarm.
I've lost lots of hives but it was poor management on my part. Raising queens too early, weak splits etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for your information Wolfer.

I am moving to fully foundationless; I have about 1/3 foundation or so right now. My biggest goal is keeping my hives strong to fend off hive beetle and hopefully keep varroa manageable without adding things to the hive. There are a lot of bees trucked in near me so that might not be possible but I plan on working with my local bee stock to get there.
 

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Any queen I have that's a year old goes in a nuc with three frames at the blackberry bloom. The hive will make honey and is not likely to swarm.

On the flip side. I raise most of my queens after the summer solstice. I'll start a set of nucs around June 21.
When do the blackberries bloom in your area ? Around here, start of blackberries, and solstice are essentially the same date.
 

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Blackberries bloom here any where from the first of may to the third week of may.

Year before last they bloomed first week. I made a couple nucs which did good. The following year I started a couple nucs the first week of may. Queens made it back and started laying. Blackberries didn't bloom until almost the end of may. Both queens failed by midsummer.

I've raised several queens earlier but not one saw fall much less the following spring.

Our flow doesn't get started to around the first of may. Do you have a flow way before the blackberries?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Went to my local bee club meeting last night to discuss with my local bee gurus. Sounds like here the time frame for earliest splits and queen rearing should really be around the start of dandelion bloom, an/or first apple bloom for early varieties. Keeping in mind all of the nuances of if you should split, etc. That works as a good litmus test for me as I have about 50 or more apple trees and lots of dandelions. Kind of like you were alluding to wolfer, timing should be set off of what the plant life is telling you, in addition to the status of your colony.

It is an important point to work off of the plant life indicators because where I live it is on the top ridge of a valley. I can have snow falling at my house, drive down the valley about 2 miles and see snow turn to rain (or no rain at all). In general my microclimate is a week or so behind houses 2-5 miles away from me. Several weeks behind areas within 30 minutes from my house.

Wolfer, when you stated that that any one year old queen goes into a nuc, can you clarify what you end up doing with those queens? Do you keep them after their former colony makes a new queen? or do you let them ride out the summer/winter in that nuc?
 

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Our flow doesn't get started to around the first of may. Do you have a flow way before the blackberries?
Maples and dandelions are just getting a good start here now. Between now and blackberries, we'll get a number of short flows, a couple of them rather intense. Blackberries start blooming middle to late June, but dont really ramp up till early July. We will get the majority of our honey off of them during July.
 

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I do a couple different things depending on what I need. If left alone they'll fill a nuc pretty quick and once transferred to a 10 frame will fill it pretty quick. These queens are back in build up mode and can be back in a double deep by fall.
Sometimes I rob brood to put back in the original hive early. It takes a lot of bees to make a surplus here.
Sometimes I rob brood to build nucs with. I can winter here just fine in a single deep. I'll have to rob these queens pretty hard to keep her in a single deep.

I'll do this until she's superseded at which time it's a whole new ball game.

Once swarm season has passed if I can get her to fill two deeps I just do the same thing next year.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
That was part of my concern, what to do with all the bees if those nucs ramp up quick. I assumed that the nuc with the laying queen would take off pretty good, turning into a solid hive unless I robbed from her. I don't have a lot of extra equipment this year and would need to start looking for places to put bees if I got too many more.

I was thinking that maybe, depending on what I need, I would do a combination of robbing, and/ or combining the bees into a single hive if I didn't like the aggression of a queen that I have. If they were unhealthy then I wouldn't be making the split to begin with. I do have two hives that were a bit more testy than the other two, not sure if some of that was just circumstantial, or genetic as at least one of the hives superceded their queen and had a hard time building up as a result.
 

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Yep, this method gives me lots of options. If a new queen don't work out I can combine her back in or keep giving them brood until they raised one.
I could always smack her but I never have.
 
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