Updated: Feb 27, 2019
Bees like to work the center of the hive whether it is drawing wax, raising brood, or storing honey; this method of management takes advantage of this instinct.
There are many ways to split bees. On this page I am going to go over a method to split bees for exponential growth. For the beekeeper that is trying to increase his hive count this is a perfect way to manage your bees. For the beekeeper that is trying to produce honey a different method will supply better results. This method can also be incorporated with Varro control. If you want to increase your hive count you can apply this splitting method to half of your hives or only a few.
Remember all hives are not equal. In order to get the most out of splitting your hive should be headed by a queen that is a big brood producer. Italians and Carnolians are perfect. In order to keep this method from getting to complicated I will apply the splitting to 1 hive.
1. When temperatures start hitting the 60s consistently you can start your management. First you want your hives to begin producing huge volumes of brood. You will want to being by rotating empty frames of drawn comb in between the frames of brood. You have to be careful as in spring time the temperature can still drop, and you want the to be able to cover all the brood.
2. Feeding pollen sub. will help a lot. Also feeding sugar syrup will help but you cannot feed too much or the hive will begin to store the syrup instead of raising bees. Once you have about 8 frames of bees you can begin splitting.
3. If you use mated for your splitting you will have better success, however, queens are about 8 times as expensive as queen cells. Using queen cells will help with Varroa treatment a lot though (See last Paragraph) Queen cells are harder to find unless you raise your own. Queen rearing is time consuming but totally worth it. Click here to see our queen-rearing page.
4. We will assume our hive has 8 frames of brood. Confine the queen to a nuc box with 2 frames of brood and a frame of honey. You will then separate all the remaining 6 frames of brood and bees into a 3 separate Nuc boxes. The half frames of brood will go on the outside with the brood facing in.
5. Here is the configuration of what your Nuc boxes should look like.
Frame of brood/honey/pollen
Frame of brood
Frame of honey/honey/pollen
Add a frame of comb or foundation on the very out side, giving you Nuc with a total of 4 frames and a Division board feeder. Division Board feeders are probably the best for this type of split because it is inside the hive so robbing will be reduced.
6. Wait a day before adding a queen cell or mated queen. If you added a Mated check back in a week to make sure she has started laying. For queen cells, check back in 2 weeks. For queens or queen cells that didn’t take, you can spread the bees and brood between the successful Splits. Once the queens have started laying give the Nucs about a half gallon of syrup.
7. Once the Nucs has grown to 4 frames transfer them to a standard box.
If you use drawn comb feed the nuc about 1 more gallon of syrup. You do not want to feed too much or the hive will store the syrup instead of raising bees.
8. You can now rotate frames of comb between the frames of brood. The queen will be forced to lay in it.
9. If you use foundation you will have to feed a lot. You can still rotate the frames in towards the center, which will force the bees to draw the foundation out much more quickly.
10. Depending on whether you used comb, a mated queen, or queen cells will determine how fast you hive will grow. For best results use a Mated queen and comb. Once your Nuc has 5-6 frames of brood you can split again. Using the same methods previously described. Some Nucs will be ready to split in a month; some, depending on whether you used comb, a Mated queen, or queen cell, will be ready to split in 2-3 months. You can continue splitting until fall. I stop splitting about 45 days before cold weather stars setting in. You want to give your splits enough time to grow into a mature hive before winter.
Here is a diagram of how the splits work over a period of 6 months. Not all climates have a 6-month period that you can safely split and have enough time to get ready for winter.
You will have increased to around 30 hives depending on how well your splits took and how fast they grew hives. I have crossed out the splits that theoretically didn’t take.
You will have increased to around 30 hives depending on how well your splits took and how fast they grew. This is important all hives do not behave the same therefor all hives will many hives will not be able to grow this fast. This is not a recipe. Hopefully, you will be able to apply it and get very good results. I have crossed out the splits that theoretically didn’t take. If you were to follow this plan out to the letter using mated queens it will get very expensive very fast. Here is a bit of quick math.
40 mated queens $1600
60 hive bodies $900
30 bottom boards $300
30 lids $300
30 feeders $150
250 gal. Syrup $859
240 Frames $720
80 lbs. of Pollen sub. $100
We do not live in a perfect world but if you have unlimited resources of mated queens and equipment you should be able to increase your hive count by a large factor.
Incorporating Varroa Management in with the use of queen cells is quite effective. As soon as the queen begins laying you can treat the hive with Oxalic Acid. Oxalic acid kills mites above the brood, since there will be no capped brood you will be able to kill almost all the mites.