This is the second of two blogs on why, how and when to split your overwintered hive. We’re also finishing up an instructional video that will help illustrate the method.
1) Close to the hive area, get your equipment ready. You will need to get your smoker working, have clean frames and boxes ready to go, your metal hive-handling tool, pollen patties and a pail feeder.
2) Smoke your bees – use cool smoke before you open the hive. Allow the bees two to five minutes to go and fill their stomachs with honey. Prep other equipment while you wait. Russian bees particularly need smoke. Don’t use the smoker like a weapon. Consistently smoke your bees each time you inspect.
3) Remove the lid, vent box and any feeder pail. Don’t take off the inner cover yet.. Split the two brood boxes from the back and lift. Smoke the space. The bees will move away from the smoke. Lift the top box and set down in a lid. This stops the queen getting away.
4) Lightly smoke the bees down in the lower brood box now exposed.
5) Pull frames away from each other before lifting out of the box. Remove the first frame, which should contain honey and pollen stores, and set in a frame holder.
6) Inspect each frame in the box and look for the queen. She is slightly lighter in colour, and moves more slowly and purposefully than other bees. You must be able to locate the queen for the split to be successful.
8) Set capped brood in another box set on a bottom board facing away from the parent hive. Leave open brood and eggs behind. (Hint: the queen is likely on a frame where bees are just hatching) Leave frames with open brood and eggs in the parent hive.
9) Next take off the inner cover of the top box. Lightly smoke.
10) Remove the first frame, this will be honey and pollen stores. Set in the box with the capped brood. Honey goes on the outside then pollen then bees.
11) Once you have found the queen set her aside in a queen clip.
12) Put capped brood in the new box and shake bees off three frames of open brood and eggs in to the new hive with the brood frames.
13) Set open brood and eggs back in the parent hive.
14) Evenly distribute honey and pollen stores between hives.
15) Each box must have 10 frames. Your split should have 4 - 6 frames of capped brood with stores and 4 honey and pollen frames.
16) Put an inner cover and lid on the new split. Add a feeder and pollen supplement is you need.
17) Put pollen supplement on top of the 10 frames in the bottom box of the parent hive.
18) Add a new deep box to the parent and add 10 (preferably drawn comb) frames. Add an inner cover, feeder and vent box with lid.
19) Clear up equipment and extinguish your smoker.
20) In 24 hours add a new queen in a cage to the new hive. Suspend the queen in the middle of the cluster for 48 hours. Then release the queen into the mass of bees or use slow-release candy.
21) Here’s how to mark the queen: Dab a spot of colour on her back, using the correct colour for the current year. You can do this free hand or use a marking tube. Keep her in a container until the colour dries, so that other bees do not clean it off her.
22) After releasing the queen, add a new deep box on top of the hive and add 10 (preferably drawn comb) frames. Add the inner cover, feeder and vent box with lid.
23) You now have two hives ready for the addition of honey boxes towards the end of June.
If you need support or supplies for successful beekeeping in Western Canada, check HiveWorld.ca. And we welcome your questions and comments on this blog. We’re Alberta-based. We know the country, and we know bees.
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What should you do if your bees have died? First thing you should do is look at your hive and see if you can detect any moisture, disease or anything else that may have caused your colonies demise. Do your best to take any samples you need, photos and get a second opinion from a fellow beekeeper, mentor or us!