Natural Beekeeping

Top Bar ApiRevolution has begun! Lets make some inexpensive Top Bar Hives and let them be pesticide free on their own natural comb! Che Guebee is a rebel bee fighting for the survival of the Biodiversity we all depend on and which is seriously endangered by deforestation and mono-crop agriculture! What kind of teaching have you got if you exclude nature?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Splitting my honey bee colonies

I was talking to my local bee inspector (who sold me 2 colonies this year) and he told me that its ok to do splits as soon Dandelions start to bloom and there are a few emerged Drones in the hive and the Drone cells are capped. Since Dandelion flowers are exploding all over the landscape and the hives have Drones and capped Drone Cells I decided to make splits today. This is the very first time I did splits :) The temperature today was 27'C without wind.
All 4 of our long top bar hives are now occupied with Honey Bee colonies :)
Late Spring time is Swarming time! This is the best time to increase the colony numbers in our apiaries by making splits or by catching swarms since bees are anyway planning to split. I decided to make splits since my Queens have clipped wings and can't fly (most conventional beekeepers in this area do this as swarm prevention. I'm against this brutal method) so letting them swarm and then collect them could result in the Queen being lost somewhere in front of the hive.

I've split both colonies by moving 3 combs of capped brood and 2 cobs of honey and pollen together with the old Queen into a new Top Bar Hive. This is how a typical split is done around here at this time of the season. The brood combs are placed in the middle and on each end there is one comb of honey. I made sure no swarm cups are present on those combs. The original hive got mostly uncapped brood in various stages and some capped brood too as well as unripe honey and pollen. Both colonies have 3 swarm cups build which have no eggs in it. The worker bees will move an egg into it which is maximum 3 days old to raise new Queens. The colony will realise very fast that they have no Queen in the hive since her so called Queen Pheromone is gone. Bees don't waste time and I'm sure they will start making new Queens by nightfall. 

I can see 2 swarm cups through the window on one of my hives which I can observe without disturbing the colony. Will make updates as the Queen Cups turn into Queen Cells :)

Natural swarming can be very risky as Dr. Seeley explains in his book Honeybee Democracy. Large amounts of feral swarms don't make it through their first year due to various reasons. Even splitting has its risks! The Queenless colony will raise new Queens which will emerge as Virgins meaning they must fly out of the hive to mate with local Drones. This can result in the Queen being eaten by a bird or if the day turns rainy she might fall onto the ground and chill to the point of not being able to fly again, etc ... Last year we had a very rainy and cold summer and many beekeepers reported failed Queens, Queens that never returned to the hive. In this case buying a new local mated Queen would be the best choice since that Queen can start immediately laying new eggs. Lets be reminded that worker bees live maximum 6 weeks and many will die until the new Queen start laying eggs so time is critical in this case and the nicer the weather the better results one can expect. Lets see how this goes :) I wish them well!
I have build last winter 4 more hives for making splits and catching swarms. I hope to see at least one swarm move into my bait hive :)
This log hive is also set up as a bait hive. All bait hives are primed with Lemongrass Essential Oil, Propolis and Beeswax to attract swarms.

No comments:

Post a Comment