It’s springtime in New England! Which means it’s time to don our bee suits, and get into the hives!
This spring inspection was our first, closing out our first year as beekeepers! As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I haven’t been in the bee hives since early last summer, as I was far along in my pregnancy… AND, we were planning to do our first hive split!
Both of our pre-existing hives did very well. We had wrapped them in foam board and paper, provided them with candy boards, and did all we could to ensure the best outcomes for our hives. To have both hives successfully make it through is a good statistic, especially for first time beekeepers! We have a local friend who lost 15 out of 16 hives this winter!
Our bee populations are high, and the queens are doing well. Both hives had honey frames left, but we only harvest one frame for ourselves, from the stronger of the two hives. In an ironic twist, the hive we nearly lost last summer is now our strongest hive!
The spring inspection consisted of removing the winter provisions, changing the entrance reducers, cleaning the bottom boards, scraping down propolis, removing queen cups, dark and unused comb, locating our queens and confirming the presences of all stages of brood, from eggs to capped. Both hives met all the marks!
Then came the split. Splits are beneficial for many reasons – you reduce existing populations to prevent swarming, and can create a new colony. We have said before that three would be our maximum number of hives, but I feel like we will be eating our words next year! Beekeeping is just too addicting!
Anyhow, to create our split, we took two brood frames from each hive, and one resource frame each. We put this in a new box, on top of Hive One (our strongest hive), with a queen excluder between. This keeps the queen of the existing colony in her hive, but allows nurse bees and other workers to move up to care for the brood in the new box. We could have left them to create their own queen, which has serious pros, but is also a risk. Being new, we decided to play it safe and added a purchased queen to the box. We waited 24 hours for the nurse bees to arrive in force (and boy, did they ever!), before we moved the box to its own bottom board and permanent location.
Now, we wait 3-4 days before checking to confirm the queen has made it out of the cage, and then the painstakingly long 6-week wait for the hive to establish itself! The urge to peek is hard to resist, but in the growing colony’s best interests! I hope that our split is successful, and we are able to grow a healthy third colony!