Easiest way to split a hive
that you've slogged through two days of bee doom and gloom, it's time
for a new hope --- splitting your hive in two! I've been daunted
by the notion of hive splitting in the past, since the techniques for
optimal efficiency are
complicated and often require special equipment. But there are
also quick and dirty techniques that work quite well using standard
hive boxes if you only want to create one new hive from each of your
hives rather than turning one hive into as many colonies as possible.
The simplest way to
split a hive is to begin with double deeps and wait
until both deep boxes are full of brood, honey, and pollen. You
should have a mixture of fresh eggs, uncapped brood, and capped brood
in each box --- if not, swap some around so the two boxes are evenly
filled with brood. Then set up a bottom board in a new
location and carry one of the deep brood boxes over to place on
it. Shake some extra nurse bees into the box, put on the inner
and outer cover, add an entrance reducer, and you're done.
One of the split hives will
have the queen in it --- this is the mother
colony --- while the other will realize they are queenless and will
quickly turn one of the eggs into a queen. Within a few days, you
should be able to tell the difference in the hives. Treat the
colony the way you would any other hive, but leave the nucleus (aka
"nuc" --- the hive with no queen) alone for 30 days to let them raise a
queen and give her time to start laying.
Inevitably, most of the
foraging bees will drift back to the hive in
the old location, which is why you put some extra bees in the hive you
carted to a new spot. This is also why you want to make sure both
hives have at least a few frames of pollen and honey to get them
started while they regroup and get back on track.
As long as you carry out
your split early in the year --- I figure April or May in our area ---
you shouldn't have to give either hive supplemental feed. You
won't get as much honey that year as you would have without performing
the split, but you will probably be able to harvest at least a bit of
honey from the mother hive (and maybe from the nuc as well.) I've
decided to try this out with both of our hives, if they seem strong
enough, and hope that we'll end 2011 with four hives instead of two.
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