It’s a little earlier than when I usually split bee colonies but this year, since we had little in the way of winter, the bees are really booming and desperately needed to be split. Bees typically start to bring in increasing amounts of nectar which stimulates the queen to lay more eggs and eventually the brood nest becomes so full of bees that some of the bees leave. That’s how a swarm is born. For beekeepers,swarms are not exactly ideal. I don’t always mind if my bees swarm so long as I can find the swarm and catch it. Too often though, swarms happen when folks aren’t watching and then half a hive of bees is lost.
Anyhow, I usually make splits to hopefully prevent natural swarms. To make a split, I simply take 3-6 frames of bees, eggs, honey and pollen from one hive and put them into a new hive box. The bees (apparently) feel as if they have swarmed and with the newly opened space, they are free to go on about their business as a properly sized hive. I usually make splits a few weeks from now but the hives at the house were bursting at the seams and had swarm cells. Swarm cells are the hive’s preparation to make a new queen to replace the queen that leaves when the bees swarm.
I have had excellent luck preventing swarms by timing my splits just right so I expect that this season will see no swarms from my hives. I have high hopes of getting calls from the city, however, to retrieve swarms from other people’s hives!
In addition to making splits this week, I also moved most of my remaining hives from the city out to our place in the country. Moving bees is a wild prospect. Emily and I woke up at dawn’s crack (actually, before dawn) to cover the hives in bedsheets to keep the bees inside for the most part. We laid down a sheet for each hive and then moved each hive onto the sheet. I gathered the sheet around the hive boxes and duct taped them to the side of the hive boxes. Emily then threw another sheet on the top and taped it down as well. For the most part, that kept the bees inside the “netting” and allowed us to move them safely.
We had to prepare the hives before dawn to make sure that all of the bees were inside the hives when we closed them up. The hives are quickly gaining weight this time of year so lifting them is quite an adventure. Emily was a great help and all hives arrived safe and sound! Sometimes splitting up and moving can be a pretty good deal!