Beekeeping Blog

Splitting Season 2019

The part of the year when we split parent hives to repopulate the deadouts is upon us, and that always lifts my heart. April through June is generally an upbeat propagation phase where all of the hive equipment is needed to get the bee season rolling. It also requires a lot of queens–some of them are pictured all caged up at the top of this post. Large queen boxes have the attendants on the outside of the cages rather than packaged with the queen inside the cage. Since we only had a couple of dozen hives when I was little, I remember feeling some shock when we scaled up to the point that we received queen cages with bees crawling all over them 🙂

For a lot of years we only did three frame splits here in our Iowa climate. Eventually I learned that two frames of brood and adequate bees is plenty to get a hive up to production strength if started in the first three weeks of April. The April temperatures of 2018 and 2019, however, both caused me to revert to the three-brood system because it has been too cool at night for me to trust that the smaller splits can keep their brood incubated adequately. Hopefully 2020 will allow us to maximize the brood a little more by using the two-brood concept again.

Here are nearly 100 that we set down the other day. They will be distributed to honey production sites or sold as singles after the queens are well established:

92 Pretty Little Splits for 2019!!!

There are still hundreds more splits that we need to make in the next three weeks, but finishing up the first round makes me feel like life is coming together properly. And it brings me a lot of joy to have fewer empty boxes sitting in the building waiting for bees.

Another load of bees came in from almonds at 4 p.m. yesterday. I was really worried about them because I hadn’t seen them for six weeks, but it looks like they held up quite well despite being stuck in a wet orchard for a couple of extra weeks. I will investigate more thoroughly this afternoon and provide an update in the next few days! Some of them need a couple rounds of feed in swift order, but the populations look quite stellar compared to when I left them on the verge of bloom in February. A lot more splitting awaits!

3 thoughts on “Splitting Season 2019

  1. I love reading your updates and just learning about your organization. This is a tremendously, laborious undertaking and so amazing. Of course, the bees are the ones that add the wonder and excitement to beekeeping. They are mystical creatures.
    I understand splitting a hive that beekeepers use the 2′ or 2 mile rule. I’ve also heard from experienced beekeepers that the 2′ rule rarely works. How far away do you put your splits from the parent hive?

    1. Hi Traci, we’re happy to learn that you enjoy the blog!

      When there are a lot of bees and at least a couple of frames of brood in a split box, you will usually keep enough young bees to create a viable split within the same yard–though a small percentage of our in-yard splits have certainly wound up abandoned over the years. You should expect the majority of the foraging bees to go back to the parent hive.

      If you move them out to a new location, even moving a new hive 1/2 mile from the parent colony will retain most of the bees at the new location. One mile is enough to keep almost all of them. When we relocate most of our hives, we are generally going a mile or more to the next destination as part of our system, but we often repopulate the occasional abandoned hive with brood and bees from the same yard without moving them at all. Hope this helps!

  2. This is helpful. Although my locations are limited and most of them are at least 2 miles apart anyway. Thanks for your quick response!

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