4.22.2014 Mini-Splits

I did my second inspection of the package bees yesterday. And like every trip to the bee yard, this one had an element of adventure.

First, if you remember from last week, the Pink Hive has the party queen and a lot of the bees I installed into the Lavender hive migrated over to the Pink Party Hive. Consequently, the Pink Ladies got a second brood box last week and they have made a lot of progress in filling it up. Not quite to the point that they need another, but I will cut them a little slack. It was cold last week. The queen is laying very well – 4 beautiful frames of capped brood. Boo-ya, baby!

Meanwhile, back in the less than half-staffed Lavender hive, the poor girls were plotting rebellion. They have a laying queen that’s put down the equivalent of one frame of brood – over five different frames. A little bit here. A little bit there. Her support staff apparently don’t like her organizational skills, especially considering how short they are in girl power. I found 10 capped supercedure cells scattered over the frames.

There I was with 10 potential queens and not a single strong hive with which to make a single split, much less ten. I could have just left them alone to sort through their own revolution, but I saw this as an opportunity to learn something new.

In my web surfing about beekeeping, I’ve seen beeks take queen cells and put them in very small hives called mating hives. These are designed to house a small amount of bees – just enough to raise a queen and see her mated and laying. I don’t have any of these cute little hives. But, I have follower boards that I made last year just in case I ever had a need to run my 8 frame boxes with less than 8 frames. With the boards, I can completely close off the unused parts of the brood box.

So that’s what I did. I made two 3-frame mini-splits off my Lavender hive. Each of the splits got a frame of brood with queen cells and bees, a frame of nectar and pollen and an empty frame. The nectar/pollen frames were donated from the other hives since the Lavender hive didn’t have much to spare. I wasn’t particular about where the current laying queen went. All three hives got entrance reducers on the smallest opening. It was about three in the afternoon when I got all this done and I just stacked the splits on top of the Lavender hive in hopes of catching a few of the forager bees in the new splits.

Where there was one now there are three.

Where there was one now there are three.

After dark, I moved the splits about 30 feet away and partially blocked the entrances with cedar boughs. Then this afternoon, I gave the Lavender hive and the two minis a bucket of sugar water. There wasn’t any entrance traffic in the two mini-splits today, but there were still bees on the brood. Now we wait . . .

In 8 or 9 days, those queen cells should hatch.  Also in about 9 days, the little bit of capped brood in each split will hatch out, freeing the house bees for foraging duty.  In 20 days, I should have laying queens.  So, by May 12th I should start seeing eggs in the mini-splits. And by June 23, the first of those eggs will be out foraging, probably just having missed the main honey flow. (For more on bee math, see this link from Michael Bush.)

Of course, the splits could just die off. But even if they do, I will have wasted very little, but learned quite a bit.


I shared this post at The Backyard Farming Connection

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