Monday, June 5, 2017
I mentioned in my last post that I’d made three splits from my stronger hives. All three splits contained queen cells, so in a perfect world, the queens would emerge within a week or two, or three, and I’d have three fully functioning hives.
Taking on the Not-so-Perfect World
There’s a fair amount of risk with splitting hives this way. First, the queens have to emerge. Then the queens have to find good opportunities to leave their hives and mate, then return back to their hives to make lots of baby bees. Sounds simple enough, but the rainy May weather substantially limited their opportunities to leave their hives and mate. If bad weather wasn’t bad enough, queens face predators (birds) and other environmental risks, plus the possibility of getting lost or returning to the wrong hive. Its amazing that queens make it back to the hives at all. With that said, only one of my splits produced a successful queen. Very successful, actually. So I decided to combine it with the Blue Hive split before it died out.
Blue Hive Joins Green Hive
Combining hives is simple in concept. Take one strong queen-right hive and add a weaker queenless hive on top, and pray that they peacefully merge and mesh to form an even stronger hive.
My first hive combining experience, several years ago, was a mess. Bees from different hives do not get along. Their scents or pheromones have to mesh, and the introduction needs to take place slowly over several days. The process typically involves:
- Removing the top and inner covers from the strong hive;
- Fully covering the top box with a full single sheet of newspaper (keep in place with some tape on the edges – blows easily on a windy day);
- Using a thin, sharp knife to cleanly slice 1/2 inch or smaller slits (maybe 10 or 12) evenly across, up, down, and all around the newspaper; then
- Carefully set the bottom box of the weak hive on top of the newspaper without ripping or shifting the newspaper out of place.
- Wait 3-4 days then give them a peek.
The first time I did this, I had trouble keeping the newspaper in place, the paper ripped when I attempted to slice it with a not so sharp knife, and bees from the bottom started making their way up through the paper before I could even get the weak hive positioned on top; and when that happened, I managed to shift the hive and rip the paper even more. Needless to say, all heck broke loose, bees started fighting, and good intentions turned ugly real fast.
I think time and experience make all the difference for these types of beekeeping firsts, because this time the effort was simple and flawless. The merge was bee-utiful and the two hives are now thriving as one.
Yellow Hive Reveals Laying Workers
That left me with the Yellow Hive split. I gave this split a bit more time because they appeared to be doing well, and again, because of the rain, I thought the queen might bee taking longer to become mated and to start laying. By the time I realized that wasn’t the case, I had laying workers and no queen. Ugh!
Yet another beekeeping first that I shall save for the next post.