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:
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!