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Splitting Hives May 2, 2010
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The weather cleared unexpectedly and I could have done some inspection, but had nothing lined up, and the one fellow I could reach had just received almost two feet of snow, so I stayed home and did some organizing.
I checked the hives again today and medicated against AFB. They are progressing, but I noticed a number of slow-moving young bees out front of two hives. The bees seemed intact and looked chilled. There were some play flights in progress when I arrived there at 5 PM, and I wonder...
The packages have hatched some brood now, but still look pathetically small compared to the overwintered ones. I have some queens coming and plan to split soon, and some are ready now, but I feel better making large splits this early. Later, when the weather is settled smaller splits can be made. As the season progresses, though, the splits must be bigger again to be sure to build up in time for winter. Splitting after July is risky.
I went inspecting today and did 4 yards. The bees look good and it was nice to get out into the country.
Last year the bees were split on May 16th and the splitting was done walk-away style. I was away in Ontario. My daughter and family just broke the doubles in two and let them raise queens, which they all did. On my return in late June I repeated the process.
This year I decided to be a bit more aggressive and to see how many splits I can make. I had some doubts about the stock on hand since I had a bit of foulbrood and am bringing in some new stock, starting with Kona, since they are handy and I like them.
I'm realizing, though that even hygienic stock can be burdened with AFB, even if we do not see it. In such hives, the larvae still die, but are removed so promptly that we do not see them melt down. I had figured that this would be a cure, but can see now that if the infection level is high and the larvae susceptible, then the result is a spotty brood pattern and slower build-up. That is better than a breakdown, but nonetheless, the AFB is a burden. In addition to HYG, we need larvae that do not break down easily and maybe we need to use a little oxytet or Tylosin to assist.
Here is the first hive I split, looking at the second and bottom boxes of a three storey hive. I split four hives before quitting for the day and of course some were not that good. One had very spotty brood and the last had barely enough brood to give each half two frames with brood. I usually hate wood-bound excluders, but the ones we have lying around came in handy since the rim gives a little space for patties.
I now have sixteen queens to use tomorrow.
Looks like rain this morning, but I expect I'll get some more splitting done. It takes me about fifteen minutes per hive, so with sixteen to go, that is four hours.
I was splitting hives the past two days (a week or more early) and can report that so far, the styrofoam hives are far stronger on average than the wooden ones with wraps. This is a small sample -- four plastic hives and eight wood.
This is also the first year I noticed this effect. Last summer I drilled a one inch ager hole in each styro box and left the holes open all winter and I think that helps a lot. I had considered closing all but the top one, but this worked well.
In fact, one hive, wintered in four standards, had three boxes absolutely crowded with bees and a number of sealed swarm cells. The queen was slimmed down and ready to go. The bees were smoked down just before the shot. Picture at left. Click to enlarge.
I moved one box with the queen (which I happened to find by luck when I shook some bees into the queen carrying box) to another stand and split the remaining hive. Hopefully the mother hive on the new stand will lose some bees back to the home hive and decide not to leave.
They may have been superceding and I may have found a virgin since there was one apparently emerged cell and another nearby with a notch out of the side. It is hard to tell, but most of the the cells were intact and on an outside frame. At this time of year things can go either way, but with such a huge population and so much brood, I'm thinking they had to be swarming if the weather got right. I have not seen any scout bees in my equipment stacks, though. I've found hives in spring with a number of virgins running around and they did not seem to be swarming. Jonathan put some such virgins together one day to see if they would fight. They wouldn't.
My friends who wintered in single styrofoam boxes with no auger hole have bees varying from a half box to almost a full box.
I only got three of the four hives on the scale split before I ran out of time and weather. We had to go to Mckenzie's piano recital and, as it happened, the wind picked up just after I tidied up and went in. The other two hives made beautiful splits with at least four frames with brood each. They will have to be split again before long unless I want to wind up with a lot of honey. I definitely do not.
Having spent the night at Jean and Chris', we headed home around 9:30. We stopped in Red Deer and bought a riding mover. Ellen doesn't fool around. We bought a 25-HP machine with a 50" cut. After all, she has four or five acres to mow.
I got home, intending to work on the splits, but I has several chores to do and the Internet was down! It came up, and a phone call interrupted me, so it was an hour and a half before I got outside.
It is time to isolate the splits from the mother hive, now, so I slipped in a sheet of plastic. I had some chunks of heavy (6 mil+) silage plastic sheeting around and using a lid for a pattern, cut out some pieces a bit larger than the top of a super so that placement need not be precise. I taped any holes, since the bees are known to chew. They never chew this stuff, but if there is a hole already, they could enlarge it.
The wind was a nuisance, but using two hive tools, I can hold the plastic after the excluder is removed, then withdraw them when the box is in place. Below, we see a plastic sheet on the mother hive. The split (right) goes on top and is lidded. The queen is confined still.
I managed to get all the nucs isolated from the parent hive by the time the weather changed, but I just finished as the storm hit. After supper, the wind dropped and the rain stopped and I went out and I tried to work again, but the wind was too gusty and the temperature was dropping fast.
The wind gusted all night and in the morning we discovered a white world. We have a little snow and the temperature is hovering around zero (freezing).
I must confess the wind kept me awake. I worry about our quonset and I worry about our bees when the cold winds blow. I hate to have this happen just when I have spread brood by splitting. Fortunately, most of my splits are bigger than normal. That is partly due to knowing that this always happens.
I have to confess I am surprisingly excited about the splitting and am almost sorry I signed up to inspect bees this spring. Time is short and I am interrupted in the task by the need to swing north for a few days.
When I return, I have visits to make around this area, and still somehow get my own work done. With my increased bee enthusiasm, and the new mower coming, I am now looking at the piles of junk in the yard and think I should attack them, but I also am booked to go west for a sailing trip, then east for the summer.
Wonder of wonders, our Internet works today. I had to call ten times in the past ten days due to outages.
For this time of year, this weather is not unusual. Here is the historical data. I'm not too sure how far it goes back.
Today, I still have some queens left and queens to release. I'm not going to get much beekeeping done today, since the weather is still awful and I'm getting ready for a trip to the Peace River country. I suppose I'll have to ask my wife to release them.
I'm getting ready to go north. I have line up my schedule and pack, plus I have odds and ends to tidy up here.
I got a call, and the mower is being delivered tomorrow.
I'm off to the Peace today. The mower arrives this morning and then I'm off to Edmonton.
On the other hand, the temperature is around freezing and that keeps the bees in. For hives with lots of feed, that can actually be good, since there is not much forage for them outside right now, and, being confined conserves their energy and remaining lifespan for when the bloom gets going in a few days. In the meantime, new bees continue to emerge, building up the populations and the queens continue to lay. The bees seem OK, at least in the styrofoam hives. In fact, one split is hanging out.
The mower arrived and we figured out how get it going. I admired the truck. It looks perfect for bees. It comes complete with a forklift on the back and opens and closes in moments. The sides are legal for the highway and apparently there is reasonable ventilation inside. the driver says they will be turning this truck in at the end of the year.
Right now, here is where I stand. I got queens and made splits several days ago, but did not make all the splits I planned to make. I have twelve splits and twenty queens. Twelve queens are in splits waiting for release, which I can do anytime the weather turns nice. Eight are in the storage box.
How much faster mated queens is than using cells is something that I always wonder about.
* * * * * * * * *
Well, it seems the weather up north is not as promising and the roads around Bowden are not good. We have put the plans on hold for now. It looks as if I am staying home.
We had some of the usual suspects here for supper. A good time was had by all.
I guess it is obvious that I am not in the Peace. I cancelled all the appointments and we will wait for decent weather.
* * * * * * * * *
The article at right describes the free security suite that I have been using for a long time now. I used its predecessor, not mentioned there, Microsoft OneCare, a paid subscription version for several years now and have found it very good. I take all the other stuff off friends' computers now and put this one on. (I have subscribed to the list that published the article for many years now).
As of today, the splits I made on the first are five days old. The mated queens I placed in them have now sat there, unreleased in the splits, waiting for weather good enough for safe release.
I am fortunate to have another eight queens on hand. The sudden discovery of small hive beetle in the Big Island of Hawai'i has frozen queen shipments to Canada. Stupid, I know, but that is our CFIA for you.
Right at peak splitting season, they stall shipments of essential queens due to Small Hive Beetle. There is no evidence that Small Hive Beetle is not already present in Alberta or that if imported that it would thrive here and become a nuisance.
I'm going to have to consider raising some queens, perhaps, so should I mark them? Here is the colour chart (right) again courtesy Wikipedia. Marking queens is not practical in a large commercial operation, but when splitting and attempting to improve stock, it can be useful to determine queen age and also to confirm the queen is the one that was installed.
Nancy Trout mentioned at EAS, that Wal-Mart sells a good marking pen that is bright, and that is very important for visibility. Blue is what I need.
Maybe I owe CFIA an apology? It really looks as if things were fixed fairly quickly, considering we are talking government here.
I'm betting, though, that it was people like Medhat who actually kept this from being a disaster and maybe for once CHC did not stand in the way as they have so many times before.
I have been wanting to try out the Rogers Rocket Hub, so El and I went to Calgary and picked one up. We did a few other things and came back home. I had hoped that it would provide a more stable signal for Skype. I made a call to Aaron and got dropped several times. Although the speed test showed twice the speed that our current provider demonstrates, the jitter is just as bad -- so far. It comes in marginally better on the VOIP test, but still, no cigar.
We have another dull day, and the queens are still confined. I may have to make wire release cages.
The site at left looks very useful. One article showing there today indicates that the ban against import of bees to Vancouver Island will be lifted. I assume this is in response to the realization that the Island has suffered huge bee losses this spring and is not unique anymore.
I got out and did some work on the hives, but ran out of time. I had a meeting of FACS tonight and did not want to miss the chance to see the guys I will be sailing with, so had to quit at 5. before that, though, I went through some of the splits and either released queens or took out the corks to expose the candy.
Although dandelions are out today for the first time, I doubt there is much of a flow and I did not put nail holes thru the candy. I'll look tomorrow and see how fast the release will be.
I can see I made a mistake by including eggs and larvae on some frames going into some of the splits. The bees have made cells and they will be harder to get acceptance in. I broke down the cells. It is a shame, since they looked really good and I'm thinking now that I was getting close to a new queen raised by the bees while I am still trying to get the purchased queens accepted. Do I know what I am doing? I'm thinking I don't. I'll write more on this soon.
When releasing queens, I open the hives and lay the queens in cages on the top bars. I return in five minutes and try shaking the adhering bees off the cages. If the bees come off easily that is a good sign. If the bees really cling, and especially if any are doubled up in stinging position, there will be problems.
I ignored that signal in one case and had a queen balled. I had no water to drop the ball into and, in separating the bees, the queen lost a front l leg. She will be released and lay, since I broke down the cells which I knew must be there from the bees' behaviour, but then will be superseded soon. No matter, I want the genetics she will bring.
I am thinking that I made the splits too big. That is what comes from splitting too early and fearing the cold. Every time I use mated queens I realize once again how much easier ripe cells are and that in changeable weather, that they are probably just as quick.
I went out in the afternoon and cut some grass, tidied a bit and worked on the bees. I checked on how the queens are being released and moved some boxes around and did some more splits. I counted when I was done and got 38 hives total. Hard to believe. I would have expected more.
I am not doing a good job and this spring has not helped. Looking back, I'm thinking I should have just reversed the good ones and waited until the 15th, then just split all the ones in two or more boxes into singles.
It bothers me to have these queens sitting here with no home and no clear prospect of having one ready. Maybe I need to make some small splits into nuc boxes.
I see the hives at the west end are not nearly as good as the ones on the east end. I think they get more wind. I also have concluded that the Styrofoam boxes are far superior to wood for wintering. The hives in plastic were superior on average to the ones in wood although there were some good ones in wood, too.
I was to go inspecting today, but got an email early this morning that the area where I was to go got three inches of snow last night. Cancelled again!
I mowed the lawn a bit. From what we were paying to have it done, we figure it will take six hours each time it needs cutting, and so far that seems close. After that I checked for queens in three hives I split yesterday.
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