Dividing a colony

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by Max, May 16, 2012.

  1. Max

    Max New Member

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    I've heard that taking 3 or 4 frames of brood from a strong hive and relocating them in a new hive is one possible way of doubling your colonies and helping to prevent swarming. As I heard it, there is also no need to queen the new colony because some of the un-hatched cells in the relocated frames will contain queen larvae that would otherwise be killed if not moved from the original colony. Any truth to this? More importantly, is it a good way to increase the number of hives you have? And does this work to stop or slow down swarming?

    If this is one reasonably sane way of building the size of my apiary and/or controlling swarms, when is the best time to try it? When is the cut-off; latest possible time in the season I could attempt this?
     
  2. melrose

    melrose New Member

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    Couple of things you're hearing wouldn't seem to yield much.
    1. When moving frames to a nuke, be sure those frames have 'new' eggs in the cells. (not all brood)
    2. Unhatched cells don't contain queen larvae UNLESS the bees started a new queen, which they'll do when they sense a problem or are over crowded.

    If you have strong hives and are pushing the limit on space, splitting is an option, probably before you see swarm cells. I hear they'll swarm regardless, once the thought has hold of them. There are some things you can do to keep the queen from fleeing until she settles in the new box.
    When to split depends on hive strength, flow, climate etc. Don't wait too late, you may have issues surviving the winter.

    Others smarter than me will chime in soon enough to offer expert advise.

    Good luck!
     

  3. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    Melrose has answered it pretty well. If you have any signs that the hive is preparing to swarm, I always remove the queen with the nuc (making sure there are no queens cells on those frames) and move it, leaving the remaining colony to think it has swarmed and allow them to requeen.
     
  4. dr.buzz

    dr.buzz New Member

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    1) If you are wanting to prevent swarming, the existing laying queen has to go, since she would be the one that would leave with the swarm, and they can't swarm without her, for the most part. Now, removing the queen isn't the only way to attempt to prevent swarming, I just mean that if you want to remove a few frames to try to stop swarming, the queen has to go, not just some brood.

    2) Put swarming aside and imagine you just want to do a split. The bad thing about trying to do it with just a few frames of brood (and the bees on those frames, of course) is that you are forcing a very weak colony (your 3 or 4 frame nuc) to create a good queen. They probably won't raise a good queen, and they may not raise one at all. It takes a lot of bees to raise queen cells. You usually want to use a strong colony as a queen raiser. Whatever bees were on your few frames of brood were mostly nurse bees, so your new nuc won't have many foragers bringing in the nectar and pollen the nurse bees were accustomed to, and it will take time for your nurse bees to mature enough to forage. You can try feeding them syrup, but it might take them a few days to start taking it, and to raise a queen the eggs/larvae need to be fed lavishly, non-stop from the get-go. So, you can start a few frame nuc with a queen cell you had started in a strong colony or you can start a few frame nuc with the laying queen in a colony, which would also retard the swarming impulse if you do it in time. "In time" is usually going to depend on that particular colony and the conditions currently existing in it.

    3) Signs that they are wanting to swarm are nectar being stored in the brood nest (being honey bound) and since she stops laying eggs a few days before swarming, you can look for the presence of eggs. No eggs could mean they are fixing to swarm, but a honey bound brood area with eggs still present wherever she can lay them indicates to me that it's not too late to intervene. Fast and easy is move honey bound frames in the brood area up or away and replace them with foundation or foundationless frames, anything to give the nurse/house bees something to do, and this will also give the queen someplace to lay, as soon as the comb gets drawn.

    4) How late can you do it? Well, if you want to prevent swarms, you'd be doing it in the time leading up to the flow and even during the flow. Later in the year they don't swarm, in general. But if you are just wanting to split for increase, you can do it in late summer or early fall and usually be OK. You have to do it when the drones are still flying, of course, so the new queen gets mated. You want to feed them if there is no flow so they can draw comb or put up stores as necessary.
    You can do more aggressive splits in the spring, like a queen/queen cell and a couple/few frames of bees and brood, because the weather is nice and they can build up on the flow. My late summer and fall splits are less aggressive, like maybe I'll knock a double deep into two singles. Ten frames each of some combination of stores and brood and one half gets to keep the queen and the other half gets more brood and the old location (so the foragers stay with the ones that have to raise a new queen.)
     
  5. heinleinfan

    heinleinfan New Member

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    Heya Max, here's a tiny biology lesson, might help with questions about queens and splitting.

    Every female bee has the exact same life cycle for the first 5 days. A fertilized egg is laid in a cell and after 3 days, that egg hatches. For 2 days, the workers feed that larva royal jelly. On the third day, things change. If the workers want to make a queen, they will move the larva into a queen cell and continue to feed her only royal jelly. If the workers want to make another worker, they leave the egg there and begin feeding the larva bee bread.

    Because of this, if a colony of bees finds itself without a queen AND IF they have an egg or a larva that is less than 3 days old, then they have a strong chance of making a new queen. They can build up a queen cell around that egg/larva real quick, and keep the royal jelly flowing.

    And so when you are making a split from a hive without seeing queen cells to work with or you don't want to buy a new queen, the trick is to ensure that you have frames with unhatched eggs or 2 day old larvae in any box that does not have a queen. For extra insurance, it's best to have these egg/larva frames in both boxes, no matter where the queen is, just in case.

    I did two splits from a productive hive this year, and both those resulting colonies raised their own queens. For each split I pulled 6 frames from my hive; 4 with brood (and 2 of those with the youngest brood I could find and hopefully eggs on them) and two of food stores. Those 6 frames were put into empty boxes that already had drawn out frames from previous years, and then I fed them each 1 gallon of sugar water over the course of 4 days. If I were doing a split and did not have drawn out frames available, I would likely pull 8 frames instead of six, and feed the new split colony a couple of gallons sugar water since they'd have so much comb to draw out.
     
  6. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    some great answers for you here max.
    dr buzz went into some more detail for you and has some good advice. i won't repeat what was said, except to add nuc hives need brood of different ages, eggs, larvae, capped if started from a queen cell. will just copy and paste a portion of the doc's post, all of his post # 2. i like free queens:

    "you can start a few frame nuc with a queen cell you had started in a strong colony or you can start a few frame nuc with the laying queen in a colony, which would also retard the swarming impulse if you do it in time. "In time" is usually going to depend on that particular colony and the conditions currently existing in it."
     
  7. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    I pretty much do as Perry describes.

    the season from here to Nebraska to Canada varies quite a bit. latest date will depend on how much season you have to grow a hive out (either the split off queen or the old hive/new queen) prior to everything shutting down in the fall. someone like bear or jack or someone close should be able to provide a somewhat accurate date for when is the last date you can pull this off. I would assume at this early date you have plenty of time to get this done although as someone pointed out generally you want to 'get the job done' before a hive gets all wound up and are actively preparing to swarm. some sources (Wilson I think) suggest a hives preps for swarming as much as 30 days prior to it taking place... however once cells are started in 5 to 8 days the swarm will be gone (as a general rule once the cells are sealed the swarm may issue at any time).
     
  8. dr.buzz

    dr.buzz New Member

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    Yes, I'm glad Riverbee mentioned that. Capped brood is important, because while a queen might lay 1,000 eggs (or more) a day, 1000 field bees (or more) are dying every day. Your split will be mostly nurse bees so they won't start dying right away, but it can take a month to get a queen created and mated and laying, so the clock can run out before you get going. Capped brood should be included when you make the split, and other hives can donate a frame of it a week or two later as well. Brood is capped after 9 days and emerges day 21, so as you get a little more experience, you'll get better at picking the frames with the oldest capped brood that will hatch out soonest.

    Below is a photo I took as an example for you a few hours ago. I have a strongish nuc that I had given a queen cell to, and I suspect she might not have returned from her mating flight alive. Not that she came back dead, either, but you know what I mean. I'm giving the below frame to that little colony. I'll check back in a week and see if there are queen cells or if they are just raising the brood as regular bees. On this frame you can see a lot of things: Eggs, all stages of larvae in royal jelly, capped brood in the upper right, bees with their heads shoved down in the cell either feeding larvae or headbutting pollen into the cell. This is a perfect frame, in my opinion, to give a hive to raise a queen with. The best way I have found to get these frames is to find the frame with the queen on it, like I did this one, and gently put her back in the box somewhere. So these eggs were probably laid seconds or minutes before donating it to a queenless hive.

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