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To split or not to split...

1999 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Acebird
I have one hive that is pretty strong - 3 medium brood chamber with some brood up into the fourth box. I'd like to do a split or two but have a couple questions.

1) I have 3 honey supers on (2 full, 3rd one is being drawn out - nectar flow is pretty good right now). Is it OK to do splits with honey supers on, or should I have done the split(s) sooner?

2) What is a good rule of thumb to determine how many splits are acceptable? I would like to split it 2 or 3 times if possible, but I don't want to kill my honey crop.

I was hoping to catch 5-10 feral swarms this spring, but haven't got one yet. They just aren't swarming in this area this year due to hard winter. So I would like to increase my colonies to have more to go into next winter with, but don't want to decimate the only one I have.

Thoughts??? Thanks in advance!
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Should of split them before the flow is on. If you split them now your honey crop will surely suffer.
So what do you want? The honey or the bees.

You can give them a new mated queen after the flow is over so they can build up if you want all your honey now.
You might have to feed them to build up their population before the cold harsh winter. But the best queens are made
during the flow. Make sure they don't swarm by giving them plenty of room to grow. What do you think?
I would like to split it 2 or 3 times if possible, but I don't want to kill my honey crop.
The only chance I can see of accomplishing that is wait until the flow is over then split and feed like crazy.
I agree with Brian based on my limited personal experience, and what I've learned in working with others. I'll also parrot something I've heard: you can have more bees or more honey. I think that I can see how that is mostly true.

I did a split in mid-May, in the middle of a good flow. The parent hive was crammed full of honey within a couple of weeks, and I needed to harvest just to open broodnest area for the new queen in the parent hive. The five nucs I made put on a lot of honey, too (which they get to keep). So, I got a lot of honey out of one hive and none from the others. Now that they are off to a good start, the splits are going into the slower flow of the summertime but they have a strong enough population to maintain themselves. Without a strong flow, feeding (syrup and patties) is likely going to be required if you want to grow splits enough to split them again.

You could wait, and make one additional split later in the season. If you have a strong late Summer/Fall flow, then maybe you'll be able to split the splits at that time, but then you'll run the risk of bringing them into winter low on stores and bees.
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My "rule of thumb" for increase is four eight frame medium boxes of bees can be split into two. Less isn't strong enough to build up quickly. More might be able to be split three ways. For getting queens, the minimum is two frames (one of brood and one of honey). These do not build up quickly but they can get a queen mated and build up slowly. A colony can sometimes be split more than once in a season, but I prefer them to have the critical mass to quickly recover from the split.
I should also mention that I have about 40 medium frames of honey and 20 medium frames of pollen that I took off deadouts this spring, so any splits I do, I already have plenty of honey and pollen to give them. What would be better - making 4-5 nucs or splitting the hive 2/3 ways? I was thinking about buying some queens if I did a 2 or 3 way split, but anything more than that, I'd probably just let them try to raise their own as I don't really want to go spend $100 on queens just to watch me screw this all up! LOL...

Thanks again...
I should also mention that I have about 40 medium frames of honey and 20 medium frames of pollen that I took off deadouts this spring, so any splits I do, I already have plenty of honey and pollen to give them.
While honey may have a "forever" shelf life pollen does not. Good thing pollen is more available. I look at stored pollen as the cells they are going to raise for brood. After putting frames of old pollen in a bee hive in the spring I see they rip it out in no time flat.
If you want them to raise their own maybe starting with much smaller splits would be best. Then you can evaluate the queens if you get more than enough and use the best ones when combining to make whatever number of hives that will be strong enough. If you only get just enough queens raised you can combine using them. I see no reason to be worried about pollen frames so long as they were frozen which they must have been. I've never had bees remove pollen that has been frozen and used in another hive for resources.
Don't stretch them too thin or you will be asking for more dead outs. I agree with letting them make their own queens mainly because 85% of the queens I've purchased got superceded within months. Even if they raise a couple of doo doo queens they would likely be ok for getting through the winter.
If you wanted to get fancy you could use the flow to the utmost benefit by putting together a couple of 3 frame mating nucs out of a couple of ten frame hive. Populate them with a frame of open brood (open brood probably won't cost you honey anyway because they will be house bees for a good portion of your remaining flow-theories may say it could make you extra honey because the brood you remove won't need to be fed by the donor hive) a frame of honey/pollen and a frame of drawn. With a honey flow on there isn't much danger of robbing and doing anything during a flow is much easier. You could even go so far to conserve bees as to make one of these to get a bunch of queens started then populate the 3 frame mating hive. If you still have the type of flow you say you do then you are in the best situation. I would suggest you will still get swarms. I got one yesterday and my flow is nearly petered out.
Good luck.
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Challenger, I leave my hive equipment outside in the winter. It goes through many freeze cycles and in the spring they will rip out that pollen. Honey does not appear to have any degradation from one year to another but pollen is like any fresh vegetable. 6 months in the freezer and it don't taste the same. Some how the bees can tell.
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