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Splitting Beehives

President, Mike Thornberry spoke about the upcoming Honeybee Festival in LaFayette on June 1st. Volunteers are needed for the Education Booth. If you are interested, please contact Larry Little.

Volunteers are also needed for the judging booth. Items submitted will be judged by the GA Beekeepers Association.

April 10th at 1pm Honeybee festival committee meeting.

Election for board of directors will be held during the meeting in April.

Members voted in a new beekeeper demo that will take place before each class.

Splitting Hives Presentation by Sophia Price and Mike Thornberry:

Bee Biology

  • Bee populations naturally increase in anticipation of the Spring honey flow.

  • Bees naturally reproduce by a queen laying eggs (individual bees) and by the colony swarming (creating a second colony). When the colony swarms, the current queen and about 60% of the bees leave to start a new colony. In nature swarms’ issue from most colonies starting their second year.

  • When a colony loses their queen, they will make a new queen (daughter) from a young larva laid by the old queen (mother).

  • When a colony has a temporary break in the brood cycle (no queen is laying eggs) this provides a break in varroa mite production. Some varroa mite treatments are more effective during a time of little or no brood. In order to reproduce, varroa mites must enter bee brood cells.

  • Honeybees store brood, pollen/bee bread and honey on separate combs. Some frames may contain all three.

  • Bee bread is a mixture of pollen, nectar or honey. This substance is the main source of food for honey bee workers and larvae.

  • Average interior temperature of the hives brood area is 93-95 degrees (F) regardless of the outside temperature.

Bee Math

  • If you introduce a mated queen to a new colony, she will start laying eggs about one week after she is placed in the hive. (One-week gap in emerging brood)

  • It will be 24-25 days before a queenless split has a laying queen (start with a just hatched larvae, 4 days from when it was laid, plus time to orient and get mated) plus an additional 21 days before the first worker bee emerges. (No brood are present when queen starts laying, so three-week gap in emerging brood)

  • A deep frame fully covered on one side with bees holds .5lbs of bees or about 1750 individuals. You need to transfer 3 frames, covered both sides with bees, to get about the same number of bees in a 3 pound package.

Reasons to Split & When

  • Increase hive numbers without purchasing bees

  • To re-queen

  • To get more production / less production

  • To raise queens

  • To prevent swarming

When is the best time to split?

  • The best time to split is before the main honey flow so the bees a have a flow to get established on; however, this tends to cut into your harvest. You can split right after the main flow and probably still have enough time to build up for the fall if you make them strong enough and give them a mated queen.

  • Conduct a hive inspection

  • Use overwintered colonies – a brand new colony from a NUC or package does not have the resources needed for a good split.

  • Current hive has enough resources for two hives to survive.

  • It is very difficult for a split to build up unless it has an adequate number of bees to keep the brood warm and reach critical mass of workers to handle the overhead of a hive.

  • Each hive needs five deep frames of bees with three of them brood and two of them pollen/honey. For mediums this is usually eight medium frames of bees with five of them brood and three of them pollen/honey.

  • A queen should be provided for each hive.

  • Brood nest should be provided for each hive. Frames should contain eggs, open larva, and capped larva into each hive.

  • Respect the natural structure of the brood nest by placing brood comb together and in the center of the hive. Drone brood goes on the outside edge of the brood comb. Pollen and honey are outside the drone brood.

  • A split needs protection from robbers in the form of a reduced entrance or robbing screen.

Types of Splits

  • Even Split – You take half of everything and divide it evenly, keeping the brood nest intact.

  • Walk away split – This is the easiest type of split when a brood nest of a hive spans two brood boxes. You take the top brood box off and put it on its own bottom board with top lid and walk away.

  • Cut down split - Timing is critical in this split. It should be done two weeks before the main honey flow. Old hive’s bees are free to forage because they have no brood to tend, crowd the bees up into the super to maximize them drawing comb and foraging. This will produce more honey in the old hive. The new hive won’t swarm because the foragers all returned to the old hive and the old hive won’t swarm because it does not have a queen – it will take at least six weeks for them to raise a queen and get a decent brood nest going.

To Split or Not to Split

YES - You should split

  • NO - You do not have enough resources to make a successful split

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