Splits and Nucs

A place for bee-ginners to ask questions and receive answers from experienced beekeepers.
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BDT123
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Splits and Nucs

Unread post by BDT123 » December 11th, 2016, 9:19 pm

Allen, Countryboy, Badbeekeeper, et al
Do you experienced folks have a protocol or timing or signals that tell you when to do splits or make nucs?
Is it by calendar, flow, brood pattern or what?
Or is it commercially driven? Or what?
My concern is swarm prevention for next year, just want to be prepped.
Any advice?

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Countryboy
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Re: Splits and Nucs

Unread post by Countryboy » December 11th, 2016, 10:09 pm

I normally raise some queens to make splits with. In order to get queens mated, you want to see drone pupae at the purple eye stage before you start raising queens so the drones are mature enough for mating when the queens are ready for their mating flights. Here in Ohio, I usually start seeing drones at the purple eye stage the first week of April.

In my experience, the week around May 10 seems to be when a lot of swarms happen. Swarm prep happens for the hive 3 weeks before a swarm happens. (That means I need to be making splits 3 weeks before the main swarming season.)

Once I see purple eye drones, I start grafting, and 10 days later I am making splits. I generally feel like I have a one week window to work with as soon as I start seeing purple eye stage drones. If I wait to start grafting more than a week after purple eye stage drones, by the time I do splits the hives are already making swarm preparations. (Don't get me wrong, sometimes splitting a hive will knock the swarm impulse out of them.) Do I always get everything done in the one week window? No, but that is the goal and I try to get the bulk of the work done.

Another method that may be easier for hobbyists is to remove the queen and a few frames of bees and brood once you see purple eye drones. Make a nuc with the queen and bees. The old hive will raise a new queen. Removing the queen will prevent the original hive from swarming unless they are already making queen cells and preparing to swarm.

If you want to buy mated queens, you can make splits whenever you want, but new queens will be accepted a lot better if you have a little nectar flow coming in.

The weather won't be the same every year, so the first week of April for drones and May 10 for swarms are guidelines and not written in stone. Sometimes it happens a couple weeks ahead of schedule, and sometimes you are a couple weeks late.
My concern is swarm prevention for next year, just want to be prepped.
Plenty of drawn comb above the cluster long before you think the bees will need it. I have seen bees make 20 or 30 pounds of honey from maple trees from a week of warm weather in February before. Keep an eye on your hives, and if they have nectar coming in, make sure they have room to store it.

Allen gave a neat trick in his diary years ago. In order to help the bees regulate the temperature in the hive, but still give them extra space, place a sheet of newspaper between each super. When the bees need the space, they will chew through the paper, but if they don't need it, the paper will help hold the heat down with the cluster.
B. Farmer Honey
Central Ohio

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BDT123
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Re: Splits and Nucs

Unread post by BDT123 » December 11th, 2016, 10:27 pm

Sweet, thanks man. Beautiful advice, just what I need.Thank you
Do you have a standard inspection protocol? When do you start? As soon as its above freezing?

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Re: Splits and Nucs

Unread post by BDT123 » December 11th, 2016, 10:29 pm

Should I say, as soon as you know it won't hurt bees?

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Countryboy
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Re: Splits and Nucs

Unread post by Countryboy » December 12th, 2016, 6:25 am

Define inspection.

If we have a sunny day and bees are taking cleansing flights, I will often look at bees. If I don't see many bees on cleansing flights, I may pop open the lid and see if they are still alive. As long as they are looking good, I close them back up. Some hives will be really active with cleansing flights, while the hive beside them is in a tight cluster and you don't have any bees flying,

I will lift hives to see how heavy they are to make sure they have enough honey. If I have light hives during winter, I have taken a fruit tree sprayer with hot syrup and sprayed a box of combs full of syrup and then put the box of syrup on top of the hungry hive. I just pop off the lid, set the box of syrup on, and then close them back up. Be quick, and I don't do it on a rainy day. Bees won't take syrup out of a feeder below 55 degrees F, but they will eat it out of combs if you spray it in combs. It's a pain to spray combs full of syrup, but it's an effective emergency feeding. (As I have gotten better at feeding them enough in the fall, I have not had to spray combs of syrup in a few years.)

At the end of February or the beginning of March, I will put in a strip of mite treatment (usually Apivar in spring) and fill the frame feeder with syrup. I leave a frame feeder in the brood box year round.

These are quick visual inspections that rarely involve pulling and frames. The only way I pull frames in winter is if I think there is a problem and I need to know for sure so I know how to address it. (For example, if a hive seems queenless when I am putting on mite treatments, I will quickly check to see if they have any brood or if I need to combine them with another hive.) I do a more thorough inspection pulling frames in April when I am making splits.

As a rule of thumb, I try to avoid invasive inspection during the winter, unless I think there is a problem that if I don't fix, will result in a dead hive.
B. Farmer Honey
Central Ohio

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