by Tammy Taylor~
Y’all know last year we became NewBEES when we bought our very first hives of bees. There are many ways you can obtain your first set of bees. You can buy a Nuc which is a queen with a small amount of bees. Or you can buy a package of bees to put into a full hive box. But we found a local beekeeper who sold established hives. Her hives were sold complete with a deep hive box containing frames of honey, brood, bees and a queen. It’s recommended that you have a minimum of 2 hives so we bought two and started our new beekeeping endeavor.
Both hives did great last year getting established here at the homestead. And since our winter this year here in NE Texas was extremely mild with record warm temps, both hives came through the winter with flying colors.
Inspecting The Hives Post Winter
During a recent warm windless day we cracked the hives open to inspect them. Both hives were nice & strong with plenty of honey left and plenty of new brood growing brand new bees. Now that spring is coming things are really starting to green up here and flowers are beginning to bloom. I’m always excited to see the wild plum trees break out into bloom in our pastures. So are the bees!
Of course with the blooms and warm weather enticing them, the bees are becoming more active. Some of the workers are already coming back to the hive with their pollen pockets full. They’re ramping up for a brand new year of honey production. So RancherMan & I wondered if the time was right to make a hive split.
What Is A Hive Split?
A hive split is where you take a vibrant, healthy hive and split it in half, essentially giving you two hives where there was once just one. As with anything in beekeeping, there are many ways to accomplish a split. Some people do a Frame-Swap Split, separating out 2 frames of honey, 2 frames of brood and a frame of eggs, leaving the other 5 frames empty for expansion. Some add a queen to the split while others let the new hive re-queen itself. Bees are remarkable creatures. If there’s no queen in a hive the bees will take a brand new egg and feed it royal jelly until it hatches into the new queen.
But since we’re so new at beekeeping we wanted to make this split as hands-off and gentle to our bees as possible. We decided to do a walk-away split with the least handling and disturbing the hive. Both of our original hives currently have two deep boxes full of bees, brood & honey. But our brown hive is slightly stronger than the blue one. So for this, our first split, we decided to only deal with our strongest hive to see how it went.
Thankfully we had enough room on our existing elevated hive stand for our new hive. So we decided to set up the new hive between our two existing hives. Easy Peasy!
Splitting The Stronger Hive
We placed a new screened bottom board next to the strong hive. Since it’s still winter we added the insert to the screen to help keep the hive warm. Then we removed the top full deep hive box from the existing hive and placed it on the new bottom board.
Finally we added a new empty deep hive box to the top of the both new hive as well as the existing brown hive. Now both the new as well as the existing hive each contain a bottom deep box of full frames and bees, & a new deep box with empty frames for them to expand to. All that’s left to do is top both hives with a telescoping lid, strap ’em down in case of high winds and walk away.
Doubling Our Hive Numbers
How exciting! Where there was once one hive with 2 full deep boxes, we now have two hives each containing a full box of brood, bees and honey! Both hives are topped with a deep hive box with empty frames for them to expand to.
Whichever hive still contained the queen will simply carry on with business as usual. But the hive that does not now have a queen will simply grow a new one by feeding a new egg royal jelly until it hatches a new queen. Then they will carry on with business as usual also.
Leave ‘Em Alone For 2 Weeks
Although we still go to the bee enclosure and watch the comings & goings of the bees every day, we won’t break into the hives for a couple of weeks. Since it takes 21 days to requeen, there won’t be much to see until then anyway. And we want all the hives to get comfy with the changes before we disturb them.
If all goes well we’ll also be splitting our other existing hive soon (the blue one). RancherMan’s in the process of building a second elevated stand with enough room to hold that split as well as other hives we might add in the future. How exciting!
Other Hive Split Method
Other than this walk-away hive split, there’s another way we split hives. I wrote about the Frame-Swap Split method we sometimes use. We’ve found that although the walk-away split is obviously easier, the Frame-Swap Split method allows the hives to recover more quickly and return to production faster. The method you use is up to you and dependent upon your circumstances, but I personally typically prefer the frame-swap split.
Want to read more about our beekeeping endeavors? Please do!
BEGINNING BEEKEEPING SERIES:
- Preparing For the Hives
- Obtaining Your Bees
- Inspecting Your Hives
- Frame-Swap Hive Split
- Expanding The Langstroth Hive
- Varroa Mite Inspection
- Feeding Bees In Winter
And MUCH More!
(You can see ALL our posts about beekeeping HERE)
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