Cut Down Split Gone Horribly Wrong?

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by bradsbees, Aug 10, 2012.

  1. bradsbees

    bradsbees New Member

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    I've been lurking here for a while now. Until now, I didn't have much to post. Now I really need some advice from those more experienced members.

    A little about my setup:
    I started with 2 packages of Italians in early May this year. I use 8 frame medium Langs (foundationless) but I went to narrowed frames about a month back to get 9 frames in each brood boxes. Both hives have 2 mediums for brood. One hive (the more productive of the 2) has had a honey super (7 frames evenly spaced) on it for several weeks now (no excluder), but the bees have not drawn out the comb up there. They do tend the 3 combs of brood that are almost all hatched out now. We've been lucky with the rain this year, unlike other areas.

    Here's what I did 6 days ago (and see if you can anticipate how this could go horribly wrong...):
    I decided to do a cut down split, that is to remove the queen, 2 frames of sealed/ almost sealed brood, and 1 frame of mixed pollen and honey from the more productive hive to free up the workers so they don't have to tend brood. This is supposed to result in more honey in the target hive, plus another laying queen after about 4 weeks.

    And here's where things are now. Either a smashing success, or not. I guess I'm undecided...
    The nuc (with the queen and 3 frames) is doing fine. Bees are tending the brood, which is still not all sealed. Hardly any field bees, but that's ok for now. The queen is active, but does not appear to be laying: no eggs or young larvae. I'm not sure if this is a problem, yet. The original hive, however, has many more queen cells than I anticipated, and the placement/positioning of most of them makes me think the girls may have decided to do some swarm prep (without consulting me first!). Five frames have queen cells (I'll try to post pics below). None were capped 2 days ago. I inspected again today, and five of the cells are now capped.

    Here's the evidence...

    Frame 1 with 5 cells, 1 capped.
    Frame 1 - cells 1 through 4.JPG Frame 1 - cell 5.JPG

    Frame 2 with 3 cells, 1 almost capped.
    Frame 2 - cell 1.PNG Frame 2 - cell 2.PNG Frame 2 - cell 3.PNG

    Frame 8 (of 9 in this super where the queen was laying) with 3 cells, 1 capped. I'm not sure why this frame is so far from the others. I may have moved it, or maybe that's where the queen had space to lay.
    Frame 8 - cell 1 and 2.PNG Frame 8 - cell 3.PNG

    I had moved this frame into another super to protect the queen cells. My notes showed that there were two cells about half way down the comb. Now I see there are 3 cells on the bottom edge, 2 are capped. On next inspection, I will closely check for the two cells that I noted in the previous inspection.
    Super 2 Frame 2.PNG

    Lastly, there is another frame with 2 queen cells, but it was in a different super from the others at the time when I did the cut down split. Not sure if they are empty, but I will confirm on the next inspection. I reached the image upload limit, and could not add this pic after trying to delete a few that now show as attached thumbnails. (Can't seem to delete them!)

    That's what I know to share, here's what I'm thinking...
    I am leaning towards using equipment to create 2 or 3 separate hives (the limit of my supply on hand) from these frames. I would have to get some lumber to expand the stand setup into a longer platform, or I could stack the hives. Any advice on stacking vs not stacking? I can balance the risk of having some weak hives as we get into autumn by combining those that need help.

    The option I like less is to leave all of these frames together, as I am concerned about a swarm that I will be unable to capture. Am I reading the above correctly? The bees aren't saying.

    I would prefer not to cull any of the cells, but let the stronger queens win out. I wanted one more hive to prepare for the winter, now I may have 3 more!

    Observations? Advice? Questions?

    I know you'll all do your best to help me out of what may be a bad (or a good) situation.

    Thanks in advance,
    Brad
     

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  2. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

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    IF I am reading this correctly, You intentionally put one hive in the situation of loosing their queen. But are nto worried they are trying to swarm. I also take yoru concern is due to either the positions of the queen cells or the number. I am not sure.

    Here are my thoughts. most of the cells in your pictures look like emergency cells. Not prepared cells. If this where an intention to swarm or supersede the cells would be more of the intentional better prepared variety. It appears they did get a better job accomplished on the cells at the lower edge of the comb.

    In this case the bees developed queens wherever they chose was the best candidates. I don't think the number of cells indicated anything. This is because I consider all teh rules concerning queen cells go out the window when you put the bees in an emergency situation. Keep in mind the sudden loss of a queen is not common to a colony. You can't really tell much by how they react. They are in crisis mode.

    I would also be very reluctant to deviate from my original plan simply because more queen cells where built. IF I had set out to simply split the hive I am not sure I would suddenly take the risk of splitting it 4 ways. If that did not sound like a good decision a week ago I don't think it got any better since then. Once the cells are capped you might want to try and save as many of them as possible .Possibly give each one a mating nuc to get started in and let them pretty much start from scratch or have mated queens to offer for sale. This way you don't put your hives at great risk but still have a chance at preserving the queens that are in progress.

    In all it sounds like a situation you are not really ready for and that gives it a good chance of being more of a headache than anything. I woudl tend to go straight forward with my original plan and consider all this unanticipated things like number of cells as a learning experience. Let nature takes it course and may teh best queen win. If anythign I woudl reduce the number of queen cells to 2 or three of the best ones and leave it. Jus to much risk of my attention be drawn in to many directions at once. I would rather be focused on getting one new hive going with a healthy mated queen. Opportunities to expand in the future will happen and you will be all the more prepared for it then.
     

  3. Omie

    Omie Active Member

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    Hi Brad, and welcome! :)

    You will get various advice from various other members, but here's my two cents...

    You have two hives, started from packages in May. Each hive consists of only two medium boxes of 9 frames each. (not counting an empty foundationless honey super which they are not working in anyway).
    Now you have removed a queen and 3 frames and started a nuc with her.

    I think it's late to be starting a 3 frame nuc in PA and expecting it to get strong enough to survive the winter. The other problem is that your two hives I think need to have at least another medium brood box in order to be strong as well, and to put by enough stores for this coming winter. Forget about taking their honey this year. As the Summer ends, you'll find they will not draw any more comb, especially on foundationless frames, no matter what you do to try to persuade them otherwise. You are already seeing them balk at drawing comb in the empty super you put on.
    My advice is to NOT do any more splitting at ALL this year. Your hives are not big enough for late summer splits. My advice is to see if you can take a couple more frames of brood and honey from the other hive (the hive that still has their original queen) and give it to the little nuc and put that nuc in an 8 or 10 frame box so they can expand as fast as possible before summer ends. If they fill that medium (and I hope they do) give them a second box. Unfortunately am I to understand you do not have frames with wax foundation to give them a little head start in drawing comb?

    As to the queen cells- don't worry about the fact that there are QCs along the bottom of the frames- I got that too recently and it was simply that the bees found many good places for the queen cells there along the bottom. They are not going to swarm on you right now. Leave all the queen cells alone. They are just trying to make a new queen with what they have.

    I get the feeling you are inspecting too often and moving frames around too much. The queen cells are VERY delicate when forming- any jostling or bumping can damage the developing queens. Do not keep changing the positions of the frames. Every time you go into the hives and move things around you are setting the bees back by another undetermined chunk of time.

    Now- leave all the QCs alone in that queenless hive. Keep out of that hive for the next 3 weeks and then go in to look for the new queen or evidence of new eggs or new brood. If you see nothing give it another week and then look for eggs and brood again. You have a lot of good QCs...you'll get a good queen but if you inspect and interrupt them too much you may well screw things up for them at a critical time and wind up with a queenless hive too late in the season to fix the situation. Then you'd have to re-combine the old queen nuc with them again and that'll be a hassle.

    Basically, I think your hives are not big enough to be splitting this late in the year. So now you will have to be careful and let them try to recover and increase their population and their food stores in time for winter. Keep in mind that they will not be wanting to build much new comb this late in the summer, and soon not at all until next Spring. Spring is the time when hives are really into building comb like mad. Good luck!

    Others will give their perspective. :)
     
  4. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    First, 7 frames in an 8 frame box only works with drawn comb. It does not work with foundation, or with foundationless.

    Next, as Omie said, your hive wasn't strong enough to split this late in the season. You will most likely lose both of them this winter. An 8 frame hive should have 4 or more mediums for the winter. Your's won't have. You can continue for the fun and education, or combine them back to try to save them.
     
  5. bradsbees

    bradsbees New Member

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    Daniel - both the number and location of the cells were not what I expected. If the consensus is to stay the course, I would prefer my original plan of going into winter with 2 strong hives and 1 nuc.

    Brad
     
  6. bradsbees

    bradsbees New Member

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    Omie - south eastern PA tends to have milder winters than other parts of the state. If I stick with my original plan, I think I can have 2 hives with 2+ brood boxes and sufficient stores, plus the nuc. The honey super was an effort to get stores up (ok, maybe a frame for my family). I will remember to use only drawn frames in the future.

    The extra inspection today was to get data in order to get advice from you fine folks here, and I needed that after seeing 3x more queen cells than I thought was "normal". I guess bees can be surprising, particularly for those of us with more book learning than practical experience.

    I appreciate everyone's advice!
    Brad
     
  7. Omie

    Omie Active Member

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    I think what we're trying to tell you is that you don't have two strong hives and 1 nuc, and things don't look very promising for you to have them by winter either. Right now you have two very small hives (one now with no queen, which will be losing aging bees steadily over the next few weeks) and 1 holding box of 3 frames and a queen. You also have no frames of drawn comb which could have helped the situation a little. Your two hives of only two mediums each are going to have a very difficult time building up sufficiently in time to survive this coming winter, even if it's not that cold. If there's nothing blooming, then it's winter for the bees. I know this isn't exactly what you would probably like to hear (sorry!), but maybe others will be more optimistic.
    Some folks might actually handle this situation by combining everything into just one strong hive of 4 medium boxes, choosing the best laying queen for it, thus increasing the odds of having bees in the Spring to split.
     
  8. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    this late in the season to try and developing nuc into a strong colony in pennsylvania. this is not a matter of anything but math how many days of nectar gathering flowers are there going to be left in pennsylvania I lived in southern pennsylvania for most of my life and I know the nectar I will shut down in late october at the most during that time your bees will have to gather enough honey equal 60 pounds to go to the winter or they will starve by late december. that presumes the bees begin to build up enough population to gather the nectar which they can't its math. 21 days egg to adult another 2 weeks to begin to foraging you simply don't have enough time left in this year to build another population the cluster of bees for winter will be way too small .
    Barry
     
  9. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

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    I didn't say anything about your original hive strength in my first post because I was certain I was not real clear on just what strength you where describing it. I am also not the best person to be judging if any hive is strong or not. IF others are correct in their interpretation then I agree and would re consider if splitting at all is a good choice.
    I can give you this as a comparison.
    I have a hive I started in mid may from a 5 frame deep nuc with a laying queen that was already building up. Since then this hive has filled 3 deeps and one med with honey, nectar, brood or pollen and the bee population has increased by a factor of approx 7. In other words I have gone from a solid 5 frames of bees to 30 to 35 frames of bees. I chose about a week and a half ago to not split this hive as I am not sure it is strong enough. I believe it is doing well. but it is not a boiling over hive. Provided it winters over well I will split it in the spring. At her peak I believe the queen had 14 frames of brood. I don't know what she has right now but do believe she is slowing down.

    Keep in mind as fall approaches the queens will reduce their laying and you cannot prevent that. We will not start getting really cold temperatures until late October and I already consider the window closed for making nucs, or new hives. I am also in the process of trapping out a hive from a house so will either have to get the queen or purchase a mated queen for them to really be able to make it this winter.
     
  10. bradsbees

    bradsbees New Member

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    I was aware that there would be significant amount of time required for the new queen's brood to hatch and become productive. I guess I misjudged or misunderstood the ability of the existing bees (and brood) to continue to build up their stores in the remainder of the season. Thanks for helping me catch my mistake early enough to hopefully put things right.

    At this point, it appears I would be better off combining the old queen back into the hive. Any things that I should be particularly careful with there?

    Brad
     
  11. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    She will be a stranger now. You must combine them as if she had never been in that hive before. The newspaper combine should be sufficient.
     
  12. Omie

    Omie Active Member

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    Lots of things to know before you re-combine. The old queen is now a stranger to the hive and they may well kill her if you just casually plop her back in there. You will have to carefully re-introduce her. Also, you have a whole bunch of ripening queen cells in there now, which will have to be removed. Others can give more specifics and suggestions.

    Brad, don't take this the wrong way, we all want you to succeed with your bees...but-
    Please consider starting future threads with something like:
    "Here's what I'm planning to do, does it sound like a good idea?"
    ...rather than:
    "Here's what I did 6 days ago (and see if you can anticipate how this could go horribly wrong...)
    ...And here's where things are now. Either a smashing success, or not..."

    In other words, it's almost always a far better outcome when you get advice before you do something major to your bees, than it is when you have to UNdo something major that you did to your bees. Take full advantage of all the great experienced mentors here that are all too happy to give you free suggestions and help you each step of the way! :thumbsup:
     
  13. bradsbees

    bradsbees New Member

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    Iddee and Omie: points well taken.Brad
     
  14. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    This whole "adventure" has taken a toll on the hive. If you follow the advice to recombine (the best advice in my opinion) give serious thought to feeding the hive so as to have adequate supplies to carry the family over the winter. If you use your second ("undisturbed") hive for comparison, you'll be able to see how much this educational process has set this hive back. Any plans to pull a frame of honey for your human family should not include this family as the donor.

    BY THE WAY--we didn't get the chance to give yo a proper welcome. We're glad to have you as an active member of the forum. It's a big leap to go from a "lurker" to an active contributor. I hope you don't feel the jump wasn't worth it. Always remember, every one of us is on your side. :grin:
     
  15. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

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    Hey welcome to the site. Don't get discouraged, the previous posters only have your and your bees best interests at heart. But in my opinion nun of them gave you bad advice. Bring a strong hive thru winter and you can split it 3 ways and get honey from them to boot.
    Making early August splits is possible if you have the resources to back it up. If you had drawn comb so the queen could lay in wright away. have a mated laying queen that could be introduced and be laying in 3 days. Bees and brood from other colonies to support new nuc. Nucs are knot the easiest to successfully get thru the winter. The die out rate is a lot higher than that of regular hives. It is hard enough to get a normal strong hive thru the winter.