Today I decided to split my large, strong hive into two.
I bought this hive a month ago and it came with three full boxes of bees and a new queen. When I mentioned I wanted to split it to the owner, he asked me to give the queen a few weeks to start laying first, so I gave her a month as per his request.
The bee workshop I attended earlier this May was all about splitting hives. The master beekeeper had about six, young two-box hives going that had been made from packages about a month previous, and he simply checked each box for eggs, pollen and brood, moved the strongest box to a new bottom board, dipped his old drawn frames in sugar syrup and installed them in a medium box above a queen excluder on both hives to collect honey. He explained that the weaker box should stay in the original location because all foraging bees would return there.
You don’t need to find the queen for this method as the queenless hive will hopefully just raise a new queen themselves. That’s why it’s called a “walk away” split.
He also said that while you can split anytime, you probably wouldn’t get much of a honey harvest if you did it much beyond the first couple of weeks in May. Since I never planned on a honey harvest in the first year anyway, it’s ok with me that we’re a couple of weeks late. Who knows, right?
My main interest in splitting my hive is I want at least three colonies going into the first winter. I’m still learning, and if at least one colony survives, I can hopefully use it to make more bees. If all my bees die, I’m looking at another $200 or so unless I get lucky and catch a swarm.
I left the full bottom medium brood box of the original hive where it was, put an empty deep brood box on top, gave them their top honey super that was completely full, and a new empty honey super to get started on. The split off hive (with the striped entrance reducer) got an empty deep brood box on the bottom and the main deep brood box from the original hive totally filled with bees on top of that. On top of that is a half drawn out honey super they’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. I haven’t used any queen excluders since I’ve only been giving them frames with foundation.
Not sure if I’ve given the bees too much room now or what. I tried to do an even split while giving the advantage to the split off hive. I guess I still don’t know for sure which hive the queen is in.
The original hive was still going strong after the split with bees streaming in and out, but the striped hive looks like nobody’s home. As the nurse bees inside turn to foraging bees that will slowly change. Here’s hoping they do a good job of raising themselves a new queen… They have a lot of resources to work with. I also gave them a jar of sugar syrup to get them started and I’ll top it up as needed.
I’m not sure if I’ll wait two weeks to check, or if I’ll wait a month to avoid damaging any queen cells. I’m leaning towards waiting a month. If the split hive fails, I can always recombine it with the original.