When Can I Split My Hive?
Spring: The Ideal Season
The best time to split a hive is during the spring months when there is a surge of nectar and pollen available. This abundance of resources encourages colony growth, making it the perfect time for bees to establish a new hive. Aim for splitting hives when fruit trees and other flowering plants are blooming, and when the daytime temperatures consistently stay above 50°F (10°C).
Summer: Proceed with Caution
Splitting a hive in early summer can still be successful, but it requires careful attention to resources and colony strength. As the season progresses, nectar and pollen availability may decline, making it harder for a new colony to thrive. If you decide to split a hive in summer, ensure that both the parent and new colonies have ample food stores, and consider supplemental feeding if necessary.
Fall and Winter: Not Recommended
It’s generally not advisable to split hives in the fall or winter, as bees are preparing for the colder months and focusing on preserving their resources. During this time, the queen’s egg-laying decreases, and the colony’s population shrinks. Splitting a hive late in the year can stress the bees and may lead to the collapse of one or both colonies due to insufficient food stores or inadequate population size to maintain the hive’s temperature.
Before You Split Your Hive Ask…
Is the Colony Strong Enough?
Before deciding to split a hive, ensure that the parent colony is strong and healthy. A robust colony should have a good brood pattern, a healthy queen, plenty of worker bees, and ample food stores. A weak or struggling colony may not survive the stress of being split and should be given time to recover and grow stronger.
Do I Have a Spare Queen or Queen cell?
When splitting a hive, you’ll need to have a new queen available for the new colony, either by purchasing a mated queen, allowing the bees to raise their own, or moving a queen cell from the parent hive. It’s essential to plan and ensure you have a queen ready to introduce to the new colony at the time of the split.
Is There Enough Nectar and Pollen or Do I Need To Feed My Bees?
The climate and regional flora in your area plays a significant role in determining the best time to split a hive. In regions with mild winters and early springs, you may be able to split a hive earlier than in colder climates. Pay close attention to local blooming patterns and consult experienced beekeepers in your area for advice on the optimal time for hive splitting.
Timing for Late-season Hive Splitting
In most regions, late-season splits should be done between mid-August and early September. This timing allows for the new colony to build up enough bees and honey stores to survive the winter. In colder regions, it’s recommended to split hives earlier in the season, while in warmer regions, splits can be done later in the season.
Methods of Late-season Hive Splitting
There are several methods of hive splitting that can be used late in the season, including the classic split, nucleus hive split, and queenless split.
- Classic Split: In a classic split, the beekeeper creates two equal-sized colonies by dividing the hive into two parts. Each part should have a queen or queen cell, brood, and bees.
- Nucleus Hive Split: In a nucleus hive split, the beekeeper creates a smaller colony by removing a few frames of bees, brood, and honey from the original hive and placing them into a smaller hive.
- Queenless Split: In a queenless split, the beekeeper removes the queen from the original hive and divides the bees and brood between two hives. A new queen will need to be introduced to the split hive.
How to Care for Newly Split Hives in Late Season
To ensure the survival of your newly split hives, feeding is essential. Bees need a good supply of food to build up their honey stores before winter. A healthy hive will need around 30-70 pounds of honey for a typical winter in most regions. To provide this, you can feed the bees with a 2:1 sugar syrup mixture, which is made by mixing two parts of sugar with one part of water. Pollen patties are also a good source of protein for the bees, which they will need to produce brood.
It’s important to monitor the food levels regularly and replenish them as needed. Bees need to have access to food all winter long, so make sure they have enough before the cold weather sets in. If you notice that the bees are running low on food, you can feed them with a sugar cake or fondant.
Monitoring Brood Development
Checking the brood pattern is an essential part of beekeeping, especially when it comes to newly split hives. A good queen will start laying eggs within a few days of the split, but it may take a few weeks for the new colony to build up enough brood. Look for a solid brood pattern with plenty of eggs, larvae, and capped brood. This indicates that the queen is healthy and actively laying.
If you notice that the queen is not laying enough eggs, consider introducing a new queen to the hive or combining the split hives back into one. A queenless hive will not survive the winter, so it’s essential to make sure that the bees have a healthy and productive queen.
Late-season splits may be more vulnerable to pests and diseases, so regular inspections and treatment may be necessary. Varroa mites are a common problem in beekeeping and can weaken a colony if left untreated. Check for signs of Varroa mites, wax moths, and other pests and treat them as necessary.
Use treatments that are safe for the bees and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. It’s also a good idea to keep the hive clean and free of debris to prevent the buildup of pests and diseases. Regular hive inspections will help you catch any problems early and prevent them from causing unnecessary havoc.
Windbreak and insulate
The hive wrap should be snug but not too tight, allowing for proper ventilation. That helps the colony keep the warmth generated inside the hive. Many beekeepers choose black hive wraps so that on sunny days the wrap absorbs some heat from the sun.
The wrap should be removed in the spring when the weather begins to warm up. This will allow the bees to regulate their temperature and prevent the buildup of moisture inside the hive. It’s also a good idea to provide a windbreak or barrier around the hive to protect it from strong winds.
The ideal time for hive splitting is during the spring, when resources are abundant, and colony growth is at its peak. Early summer can also work, but careful attention must be given to the resources and strength of both colonies. Splitting hives in the fall or winter is not recommended, as the risks to colony health and survival significantly increase. To ensure the best outcome for your bees, consider factors such as colony strength, new queen availability, and local climate before deciding when and how to split a hive.