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Info sheet "Splitting a hive"

Splitting a Hive  (Website Narrative)

Honey bee colonies fluctuate in population over the course of a year. Managing colony strength is an important aspect of beehive managementThere will come a time in every beekeeper’s experience when you will need to learn how to split a beehive.

Splitting a hive is relatively easy to do but you have some important things to consider first. This is an activity most often approached by a 2nd year beekeeper and beyond.

It is a simple process of taking 1 honey bee colony with a large population and dividing it into 2 complete smaller bee families.

When done properly, both “halves” of the colony will grow into productive beehives.

The process of hive splitting is not without risks. Some beekeepers split hives and end up with 2 dead hives.

Taking the time to identify why you want to do this and making a good plan increases your chance of success.

When splitting a hive, its is important to remember that we are not only splitting the bees themselves. We are splitting the resources of the bee colony.

There are several reasons that a beekeeper might want to split beehives. 

  • increase beehive numbers
  • save money
  • reduce swarming
  • requeening hives
  • One of the most common reasons is to take advantage of the bee colony’s Spring build-up and grow more hives.
  • Beekeepers often want to increase the number of hivesin their bee yards or apiaries.
  • In this way they can replace any winter losses. Effective hive splitting is a way to increase hive numbers without having to buy honey bees.
  • Hive Splitting to Avoid Swarms
  • Another reason to consider making a split is honey bee swarm prevention.
  • If the colony splits itself via a swarm and you catch it – great! But what if you don’t? You have lost bees.
  • A natural part of bee life, honey bee swarmingis a good thing as far as colony reproduction.
  • However, we beekeepers don’t like the idea of half a bee colony’s population flying away to create a new home. 

·        Splitting Bee Hives in Spring

  • Late Spring is one of the most common times for creating hive splits. It is a natural time of increase for honey bee colonies.
  • For the beekeeper with a strong, growing honey bee colony, splitting a hive to prevent swarming makes senseYou are splitting a hive before they split themselves.
  • While Spring is a good time to make splits, you may also find yourself needing to split large Summer colonies. You can use splits to managing swarming at any time during the warm months.
  • However, you must be sure that the smaller colonies have enough time to build and prepare for Winter.
  • Requeening Split Hives
  • Some beekeepersuse the strategy of splitting hives as an opportunity to produce new queens. A honey bee colony has the remarkable ability to make a new queen bee.
  • When we make a true split, the older queen goes into one box. The other one half-sized colony will have to make a new queen.
  • Unless the beekeeper provides a new queen for the colony, they must have the resources needed to produce a queen.
  • Short term, no fresh eggs are being produced. Colony population will slowly drop until new bees emerge.
  • One benefit is mite control. The temporary break in the brood cycle, provides a break in varroa mite reproduction.
  • Some varroa mite treatments are more effective during a time of little or no brood.
  • Best Time to Split a Beehive?
  • Spring is the optimum time for making a hive split. It is a time of rapid grow for the honey bee colony.
  • The time of the“honey flow” is a natural growth time and the bees are easier to encourage to grow.
  • They are getting ready, raising young, in order to take advantage of the nectar.
  • After the colony has built up a large population with almost no room for more bees in the box, you should have a plan. 
  • If you do not relieve congestion in the brood nest, the bees will. If you see queen cells(swarm cells) during a mid-Spring hive inspection, you must act.