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Hello everyone, This is gonna be my first spring with my bees and they are expanding very rapidly. I live in Sacramento California and it was a very mild winter, we are already experiencing steady temperatures in the low to mid 70’s throughout the day. So my question is when is it best to split the hive and what is the best manner in which to do so? Currently they are in a double deep 10 frame hive, they have drawn out 15/20 of the frames and have brood on probably 7 frames, honey and bee bread on the rest of the drawn frames. The population has seen to be steadily rising over the last two inspections, and I even noticed on a brood frame that there were 3-4 queen cups on the bottom of a frame. I really don’t want to see them swarm so some advice would really be appreciated! Pictures included for attention!
 

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Those are nice looking frames! The key for making a split is whether drones are present or not. You didn't say in your post if drones are present, but without drones a split will not be successful.

If drones are there, then you can choose to split or not. You could wait a bit for another three frames to be drawn. But you wouldn't have to, as long as both colonies have adequate resources.

As far as the queen cups go, bees make them for their own reasons, it's not a major issues. However, you must keep you eyes on them. The queen cups don't necessarily mean the bees are getting ready to swarm, but they could start using them at any time. Look to see what's inside the cup. If it's empty, you're fine.

If there an egg or larvae or royal jelly, you now have a queen cell and will need to take some kind of action. Some people like to make a quick inspection about every 7 days during the beginning of swarm season to keep an eye on this. The easy way to make a check is simply to tip up each deep brood box and look for queen cells on the bottom of the frames.

If you have a queen cell, you have a couple of choices. One is to destroy the cell, which will delay swarming but not prevent it. Once the bees start making queen cells, it's difficult to convince them to do something different unless you split. There are other methods that involve opening up the brood area, but since you're asking about splits, I won't go into that. If you decide to destroy cells there are two important things: make sure you still have a queen; and hunt down every queen cell in the hive.

Or you can make a split. If you want to increase, this would be a good choice. Look for the queen. If the queen cell is still open, she's probably still there. If the queen cell is capped, she may have left already, but you will need to look carefully. The suggested split in this case is to put the queen, capped brood and larvae along with frames of honey a pollen in a new hive. Throw in some open comb of foundation so the queen will be able to lay. In the old hive leave the queen cells, and they will continue to make their queen. In the old hive leave frames of eggs, some larvae an some capped brood. Be sure to feed both hives with syrup if it's still early season.

If you have drones and you want to split, there are many different kinds of splits to make. Remember that bees are hearty and industrious and if left without a queen they will make one given proper resources (eggs, honey or sugar syrup, pollen). So it's hard to screw it up beyond recovery. But there are certain things you can do to help things along. Feed the splits. Make sure each colony has enough resources and bees to survive. Usually foragers will fly back to their old hive, so the new hive, without foragers will definitely need some sugar syrup until they promote nurse bees to foragers. If the activity of the new hive is quiet, feed syrup.

Here's a list of splits that I wrote up last year, might be more than you want to know. Probably the walk away split or the even slit are sure bets, depending on your goals.

Walk away: Arrange brood, eggs, and larvae roughly equally between two brood boxes. The split does not have to be equal—maybe two or three frames of brood, honey, pollen, and empty frames or foundation can make up the new hive. This is a quick easy split and does not require finding the queen. One has the queen, the other doesn’t, but it is not necessary to know where she is. After splitting, “walk away” for four weeks before checking for eggs. Though this split can be done early in the season, make sure there are drones present or at least capped drone cells. The new hive can be left in the same bee yard or transported far away, but each hive would need inspection after 4 weeks.

Even: The resources of a hive are split evenly between two boxes. The two hives are then placed in the location of the original hive facing each other. Foragers coming back to the hive have to decide which hive to enter; after a week switch the positions of the hives. The idea is that all the resource and bees (nurses and foragers) will be split evenly.

Doolittle: The beauty of the Doolittle split is that the bees arrange themselves appropriately and you don’t have to locate the queen. Gather together a set of frames with brood, larvae and eggs in all stages. These can be from different hives. Shake the bees off completely before putting the frames in their own deep box. Once there are frames of brood/larvae, etc., and honey and pollen in the box, but no bees, set on top of a queen excluder on the hive you want to split. Close it up and wait three-four hours or overnight. Nurse bees will come up to take care of the brood. Then remove this top box and place on its own bottom board. The bees will create their own queen, or introduce a queen.

Vertical: Not the same as a Doolittle split. Use a double screened board (Snelgrove board) to split the hive. The advantage of the vertical split are less equipment (at least for the split), and in cooler weather this keeps the bees warm in the split. Involves opening and closing doors on the side and back of Snelgrove board to sort bees and send foragers back to the queen. See Wally Shaw’s instructions: http://www.wbka.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/The-Many-Uses-Of-A-Snelgrove-Board-by-Wally-Shaw.pdf

Cut-down: One of the intriguing ideas for a split, not just for increase but also to keep honey production high. The easiest way is to put almost all the open brood and larvae, pollen and honey, and the queen, in a new hive. In the old hive leave some honey and pollen and one frame of eggs and all the capped brood. Move the new hive with the queen away so that foragers return to the old hive. Also reduce to 1 brood box and add supers. The idea is that the bees without a lot to do will gather more nectar and though they will make a queen, it will take awhile before the queen starts laying and the bees start taking care of brood again. This split is supposed to produce almost as much honey as a normal hive. Good to check specifics. I think the new hive has to be only one deep and a queen excluder and super, so they are forced to make honey. The timing is critical as it will take a couple of days for the bees to start a queen cell, 16 days to emergence, at least a week to mate and start laying, and then 21 days for bees to emerge. This provides about 24-25 days before new eggs are present and the bees have to stop foraging and attend to them; about 44 days for bees from new queen; presence of eggs and brood helps the hive survive and nurse bees becomes foragers earlier.


Lauri “Grab A Gear” Split” : From Lauri on Beesource (post 15 in saved threads)
https://www.beesource.com/forums/sh...uestion-about-large-hives-and-upcoming-dearth
This is the exact opposite of the cut-down. In this case, Lauri splits the hives leaving the hive with the queen and a few frames of eggs, larvae and brood in the old location; the rest of the frames are new. The foragers all fly back. The new hive could be a nuc or deep box. They either get a new queen or create one. The old hive apparently really get to work building comb and giving the queen space to lay while the new hive gets put in a nuc with a queen. It seems that this happens after the main flow. It is a method of increase and building comb rather than building honey, though it sounds like that might be a bonus.

Flyback splits (Ray’s way): From RayMarler on Beesource (https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?346619-Fly-back-splits-Ray-s-way) : This splits a two or three brood box hive into three separate hives. Each box is given four frames and the rest foundation. The four frames in order are open nectar, mostly empty comb, the frame with the queen, a frame of emerging brood. Close it up and put in the old location and foragers will fly ack to it. Equalize the other two or three boxes between themselves and put on their own bottom boards and stands. They will make new queens.

Swarm control: when swarm cells appear it’s probably too late to prevent swarming, so instead simulate a swarm. Place the queen in a new box or nuc; divide resources roughly equally. Make sure there is at least one swarm cell in the old hive; put no swarm cells in new hive, or if impossible, remove cells from any frames. It’s best to load the new hive with more capped brood than the old hive so they can increase their workforce; foragers will return to the location of the old hive. Feed the new hive if necessary, but ideally they have enough honey and pollen to get by.

Taranov: Interesting method in which the bees sort themselves. It’s also another method for creating an artificial swarm after finding swarm cells. Apparently popular in Europe but not so much the U.S. Create a 45 degree ramp several feet long and prop up in front of the hive but with a 4-5 inch gap between the board and the landing platform. Cover the board except the last bit with a sheet. Shake all the bees from the hive onto the sheet and wait for a few hours. The bees will start walking toward the hive. The older bees will fly across the gap, but younger bees and the queen will not know how and will form a cluster on the end of the board. Leave a cloth or stick dangling off the end of the board, which helps them form the cluster. The clustered bees can then be hived as all young bees/nurse bees; give them frames with eggs and larvae and they will create a new queen; or introduce a new queen.

Mississippi Split: An even split from one double brood hive divided into four nucs.

Texas offset: From Larry Conner’s book Increase Essentials. This is not a method of doing a single hive split, but works for a beeyard. Each hive should have two or more brood boxes. Equalize the frames of brood in all the boxes in the yard. Add three or four frames of honey; the rest can be empty comb or foundation. Stack the boxes in threes; Try to locate the queen and confine her to her box using a queen excluder or two. Mark the box. Wait a few hours for the nurse bees to arrange and equalize themselves among the brood as they see fit. When bees are calm (nighttime?) put each box on it’s own bottom board and close it up. It seems that new mated queens or queen cells should be introduced to each hive. And that the split should be done about a month before a major flow. One hive becomes three.

I hope this helps.
 

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Cconnell gives some excellent information.
However,as a first year beek,I would suggest that you first learn the rhythm of a colony.Swarming is the natural reproduction of a colony and occurs when the colony has built up to the necessary strength.Learn to make this timing work for you and you will have few failures.The more you learn,the more you can push the limits.
At any rate,you need more drawn comb.Splitting on to foundation is a recipe for disaster.
 

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Six deep frames of mostly capped brood is when I take action. I dont know whether that time line would be appropriate for warmer climates. My thinking is that it is better for me to be a bit too soon than a bit too late.;)
 

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First, thank you for all the wonderful information! So this is i guess my second year as a beek, i got them last April as a nuc and they were busy building up so I didn’t have to worry about them swarming. I preformed what has been explained as a “walk-away” split, I took 4 frames of brood in all stages of development. I wasn’t sure if there were drones so I just peeked in and saw that there was in fact drones. So on top of the 4 frames of brood I had a few frames of frozen resources that I thawed out and added to the split hive, so I’m the split it consists of 4 frames of brood and 4 frames of honey and bee bread. Parent hive still has good numbers and the original queen who has been very productive! So my question is, should I wait the full 20 days or so before opening up and checking or would checking in 7 days or so be okay to make sure there are queen cells and they’re raising a queen?
 

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The callous oldtimers will say, "dont go back in for a month" They are mostly over the thrill! Let the bees do their thing and keep your nose out of their business.:rolleyes: I admit I like to peak in but there is danger of destroying some of the cells. If the bees are healthy and lots of nectar and pollen coming in, I think it would be very rare for them not to start cells. The colony might have had two queens though and if you wound up with one in your split they wont start cells.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The callous oldtimers will say, "dont go back in for a month" They are mostly over the thrill! Let the bees do their thing and keep your nose out of their business.
I admit I like to peak in but there is danger of destroying some of the cells. If the bees are healthy and lots of nectar and pollen coming in, I think it would be very rare for them not to start cells. The colony might have had two queens though and if you wound up with one in your split they wont start cells.
It’s the anticipation for me! They’re so fascinating to watch grow and develop which makes it hard not want to peek in. I know the hive that became the split had both queen cups, eggs and plenty of food so I’m assuming they’re going to be alright. I’ll try to leave them to they’re own devices 😂
 

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Great information. Can one of you tell me how much drone comb should be present before a split is made? I have a hive that has never been real strong, but during the inspection today, I noticed some drone comb. It was not much but it was there. I originally though this was just burr comb but a closer look showed it was drone comb that had been built between the upper and lower boxes. There were no queen cells that I saw, but I was wondering if I should go ahead and do a split on this hive. I am in southern Arizona and it has still been somewhat cool and rainy for this time of year (today was not bad) and is supposed to be that way for at least the next couple of weeks.
 

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Bradne, I think there are two important things with drones. 1) the bees are signaling they are ready to reproduce (swarm) when they make drones. They've made drone comb, so they are getting ready for the spring expansion cycle. 2) timing is important. After drones are capped (on day 11 after laying) it takes about 13 days to emergence, and then they spend another 6 days in the hive before flying and looking for Drone Congregation Areas. So 19-20 days after seeing capped cells; 30-31 days from the egg. A queen takes 16 days total from egg to emergence.

It's hard to know when the drone cells in your hive were capped (if that's what they are) but let's be conservative and say 13 days to emergence plus 6 for a total of 19 days. If you split now, it might all work out, since queens spend a few days in the hive after emerging. But the safer bet would be to wait until you actually see drones, and then you know everybody is ready. At least, that's my view for what it's worth.
 

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Thanks. The comb is at least 10 days old since I recall it there when I did the last inspection and just thought it was burr comb. Since it was between the upper and lower boxes, when I pulled the top box off today, some of the comb came apart and there was drone larvae (which I am guessing is about 10-12 days old according to the pictures I can find online) that was exposed. Oddly, both today and during the last inspection, (again about 10 days ago), the queen was hanging around the drone comb (she is marked).

The weather here is supposed to be bad for another week or so. They just predicted snow later this week, so I don't know when I will get in the hive again, but I will definitely be on the look out for drones and be ready to do a split.
 

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You also need to be checking your long range forecast. What is the the weather predicted to be 21 days post split? You will need temps around 60 for the queen to get mated.
 
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