Doing The Split

I have two hives, one in my front garden and one in my back garden.

My Front Garden Hive

I have Buckfast bees in my back garden, and it’s a very established hive.

It’s also a very tall hive. There are two deeps, a medium and two honey supers.

In the past, when the bees needed more room, I just slapped on another super or two. If I keep on going on the same way, pretty soon I’m going to need a ladder.

But the Buckies seem to love it! They haven’t shown any signs of swarming, and they’ve been very productive.

The hive at the White House is tall, so I figured it was okay.

White House Bees

In my front garden, I used to have Italian bees. This was their first year, and they didn’t make it. It was very sad.

So I decided to split the Buckfast hive. I’ve never done a split before. There’s something intimidating about the concept.

I also have a confession to make. My Buckfast bees are so healthy and happy, I leave them alone for the most part. I’m of the “if they’re okay, don’t mess with them” school of beekeeping.

But my empty hive was making me sad. So I took out my copy of ย The Practical Beekeeper by Michael Bush and started reading up.

I decided to do what Michael calls “a walk away split.” ย Basically, you do a split without giving the new hive a Queen. Then you walk away and let them sort things out. After four weeks you check to see if you have a laying Queen.

When I opened the Buckfast hive this morning, I realized it was a good thing I was doing a split. The hive was absolutely to the rafters with bees and honey! ย They need fewer bees and honey and more room to expand.

Honey extraction was going to have to wait until tomorrow though. Today, I had to find at least ten frames of brood and honey to form the core of the new hive.

I found it in the medium super, which was perfect because the new hive has all medium boxes.

I carefully placed the 10 frames in the new hive boxes, and gave the bees six more empty frames to build on. Then I shut up the hive and crossed my fingers. Split accomplished!

But I still have the problem of not enough room in the original hive.

Tonight I’ll be building frames. LOTS of frames!

And tomorrow I’ll be removing at least half of the honey frames for extraction. I’ll replace them with empty frames, and the bees will have plenty of time to make more honey before fall.

If this works, I may never buy another package of bees again!!

31 thoughts on “Doing The Split

  1. maria says:

    I am thoroughly enjoying reading your journey with beekeeping. It is very informative.

  2. Very interested to hear how the walk-away split goes. I really like the idea of allowing the bees to requeen themselves rather than purchasing queens to introduce to the hive. It seems much more natural! Best of luck!

    • Errr…. I chickened out and ordered a Buckfast Queen after I wrote that post. I’ll admit it in a post tomorrow.
      I think I lost the Italian hive because of a weak Queen.The robbing came afterward.
      I can’t bear losing two hives in one season! After the hive gets established, I’ll let them requeen themselves like I did the original Buckie hive.

      • Ah ha, I’m sorry to have “outed” you accidentally in my comment! Very understandable, you get to love the “dear little rascals” and I would hate to lose mine if I could help it. Either way, can’t wait to hear how the split turns out! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • No problem! ๐Ÿ™‚
        I would have ‘fessed up anyway. Eventually…
        I just couldn’t leave this beautiful little nuc of bees Queenless.
        I got my Buckies from BeeWeaver in Texas, and they have Queens available for five more days.
        Now I will have experience in requeening too!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. dracomyst says:

    You may find you have problem with your split. We did a split with a newly bought queen two weeks ago, and found that while the young nurse bees remained with the new split, the foragers nearly ALL returned to their previous home’s location . . . The original hive. This left the new hive devoid of foragers, and therefore no food was coming in. We exchanged hive positions only to find that we had reversed the problem with the new hive in the old location having all of the foragers, and the original with none. We resolved it in the end by placing the hives tight side by side with a large leafy branch in front of the entrance to the hive at the original location, and the foragers then reoriented themselves, and divided pretty evenly between the hives. Keep an eye on the comings and goings for a few days.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that!! So far, the foragers have stayed around the new hive because of the honey spillage, but I need to be vigilant.
      Did you originally place the split in the vicinity of the old hive? My new hive is a good 50 yards away with a house in between. I don’t know if that helps or hurts though.

      • dracomyst says:

        Our new hive was on the same stand as the old one, so about 4 ft between entrances. Your separation of the hives could make the difference, but I would definitely keep an eye on the numbers. It can’t hurt though to simply place a branch in front of the new hive for a few days. The unexpected obstacle will force them to re-establish their bearings when they leave on their foraging outing, making it more likely that they will return to their new point of departure rather than their old home. Because it’s close by, they may return to it the way we find ourselves driving on “autopilot” to the wrong destination sometimes because that’s the way we “usually” go.

      • Again, an excellent point!! Thanks so much for giving me the valuable benefit of your experience!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. dracomyst says:

    The White House sure was big! I hope ours are so robust next year! This year we’re just hoping to get them strong enough to get through the winter.

    • The White House hive is huge!! I’m hoping to take a tour of it soon. My son lives in D.C., and I have a few connections. I want to ask the BeeMaster about his rationale for so many supers.
      Although, a tall hive does make sense when you think about bee hives in hollow trees and house walls. And my original colony is sublimely happy in its tall hive.
      Sometimes I think the shorter hives are for the benefit of the beekeepers, not the bees.

  5. willowbatel says:

    I’ve never done a walkaway split, but they sound simple enough. I split my bees by brushing half of them into a new box with the laying queen. They liked that so much they swarmed. Twice. And the parent colony swarmed as well. Shows how much my bees listen to me. But your buckfast bees seem much better behaved (and such exceptional producers if they’ve filled up all that space!) than my carniolans, so I bet this whole thing goes off without a hitch!

    • From your lips to God’s ears!! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Buckies are not as gentle as Carniolans, but they are true homebodies.
      I’ve never had a swarm, although they’ve chased me around the yard a few times. And caught me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • willowbatel says:

        My bees last year were downright vicious. They chased my mom and I all over our yard and waited for us in our regular spots around the garden. It got to the point where I couldn’t talk to my neighbors for a few days because there were always a few bees waiting for me over there. They even would wait at the edge of our patio, so we couldn’t step outside for more than a few minutes without being buzzed angrily. I’m sorry to have lost my queen to a swarm, but hopefully her daughters will raise nicer children!

      • I swear after my spring harvest, one of the Buckies stalked me for three days. She finally surprised me and stung me right under my left eye. I looked like Popeye for three days.
        Usually, they aren’t so cranky. But I give them their space. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • willowbatel says:

        Yeah! It was always the same two or three that came to bother us as well.
        Do they bother your dog? My westie has been stung almost every day for well over a week now. The bees get lost in the grass and she ends up stepping on them. The bees don’t bother the dogs too much otherwise, and they know to stay away from the hives. My littlest dog will stop dead in her tracks and turn tail if she hears a bee in the grass. She hates them with a passion, but she knows better than to try stepping on one. She and my biggest dog will nip at them if they fly too closely to them though.

      • My dog is a big red Golden Retriever who has the pain tolerance of a Sherman Tank.
        He was a little surprised when he got stung repeatedly in his mouth when he drank out of the bees’ birdbath, but he soon forgot about it.
        He doesn’t seek them out though, and stays away from their hive. And their birdbath.

      • willowbatel says:

        Lucky him! My smallest dogs are so little that they’re noticeably affected by a sting. My littlest dog usually has to go lie down somewhere cool for a few hours, even with a pain med to help her through it.
        My black lab never gets stung. I think I’ve only ever seen him get stung 3 times in the 8 years we’ve had him, and one of those was a hornet. He’s usually only put off for a few minutes and then he’s ok. I’m wondering about how his arthritis would do if he got stung again though… He’s got classic-lab hip and arthritis problems. Bit of bee venom might do him good!

      • Bee venom certainly helped me that way!

  6. jmgoyder says:

    This is fascinating!

  7. I agree, a fascinating journey of bee life, thank you so much for sharing, looking forward to the next installment!

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