OK, clarification may be needed here. Technically, my bees didn't split. I split them on purpose. I had one double deep hive that seemed to be overflowing with bees. Every evening there were lots of bees on the outside of the hive.
This bee "bearding" happened to me last year when it got really hot and humid about this same time of year. There are too many bees for the hive and there is too much heat inside, so they go outside to cool down.
Since I lost a hive last year, I wanted to be more prepared this year with a few more hives just in case another string of bad luck came my way. So the decision was made to split the hive. I haven't done this myself before, so it was going to be interesting.
First I ordered two new queens from a queen breeder here in Virginia. He said that he ships on Mondays, and that I should have the queens on Tuesday since we only live a few hours apart. Notification was given to the local Post Office that my queen bees were on their way, and would they be kind enough to call me when they arrived. Being a small town, the lady at the Post Office was more than happy to give me a call when they arrived in the morning.
Tuesday, no call and no bees. Wednesday, no call and no bees. Both the breeder and I checked the tracking number but no luck. Showed it had left, but nothing else. Thursday, nothing. Friday, nothing. We had arranged for the breeder to ship two new queens to me the next Monday, since it looked like the first shipment was lost in the mail. Saturday, the queens arrived. Kind of.
One of the queens was DOA (Dead on Arrival). The other queen didn't look too good and wasn't moving too much. Over half of her attendant bees in the shipment were dead. After quickly giving them a few drops of water, I headed out the nuc that was from Possum's hive. It appeared that they didn't raise a queen after the last separation and I wanted to get a queen in there before I had another laying worker situation. Done.
The new queens were still going to be coming for the original hive split. Monday, the queens shipped. Tuesday, nothing. Tuesday afternoon a call from the post office, the queens had just arrived. The Good Wife headed down to the Post Office and picked them up. It was time to make a split.
Before I could head home from work, the clouds opened up and the rains began to fall. And fall, and fall, and fall. But not at my home. The clouds just kept threatening, and the bees seemed a bit disturbed by the quickly changing weather. It was postponed until the next morning.
A cool morning with some dew on the ground. The bee wagon had been loaded up for the better part of a week, ready for the split.
All the equipment ready to go and out to the apiary. A game plan had been made and was written down. Trying to think of what to do next while messing with a hive of bees isn't the best strategy, so I came prepared. A chart of what frames go in which position in which hive. All I had to do was sort the hives and install the queens. (That is the list making engineer in me coming out!)
Everything went well for the most part. However, for the technically inclined, I'll give a brief overview of what I found in the hive. Lots of bees, no eggs, what looked like a lot of queen cells, both swarm and supercedure, quite a bit of brood with some coming out and no queen. This caused a bit of a dilemma. Was the hive preparing to swarm? But where was the queen? Did it already swarm and the queens were about to hatch out? But there were lots, and I mean lots of bees in the hive.
Time for Plan B. Continue to make the splits, try to keep as many queen cells in the original hive as possible and hope for the best. Not the most technical strategy, but seems to work most of the time for me, or course except when it comes to bees.
I was able to put frames of honey, pollen and brood into both a nuc and a new deep box. Four frames total in the nuc, and nine frames total in the split. I had three frames left over from the wax moth debacle. The nuc and split got a new queen in a queen cage. I made sure there were no queen cells in either of those boxes and closed them up. Put them in their new positions and then gave them some sugar syrup.
As I was putting the last hive back together, there seemed to be one bee that was really upset with me. It kept buzzing right at my face. I had my jacket and veil on, so it didn't bother me. This had happened before and I didn't worry about it. But this bee was persistent. It kept buzzing and going right in front of my face. I tried brushing it away but no luck. Finally, it was so annoying, I took the time to actually focus on the bee and figure out what was going on. As my eyes focused on the bee, my legs started moving. This bee was INSIDE my veil!
The reason bees can't get into your veil, is that it is all zipped up closed up with Velcro. This is the same reason that when you try to pull off your veil, it won't come off. I started running around the apiary, trying to get the veil off my head. Coming to my senses, I realized I needed to unzip the veil first. Finally getting one zipper open and then the second one, I was able to get the veil off my head. But it was still attached to my jacket, and the bee wasn't coming out of the veil. I continued to run away from the bee, that was in my veil that was stuck to my jacket. I'm sure at this point you can see the comical situation here. Michael Flatley had nothing on me. I was the "Lord of the Dance" this morning!
After getting exhausted from running around the apiary, trying to escape from the one bee that was probably as afraid of me as I was of it, I was finally able to get the bee out of my veil. Exhausted with the final hive still to be assembled, I had to get my veil back on and one of the zippers had come completely undone on my back. The Good Wife happened to be leaving the house heading with the Middle Son and Youngest Son to Busch Gardens for the day, and I signaled for some assistance. She came over and zipped me back up so I could finish my task. I figured the bee must have gotten inside my jacket when I lifted it up to get my Leatherman tool out. (Note to self, keep it out to start with or don't put it on my belt when working with bees.)
With all the hives assembled and fed, my split was done. The double deep had become a single double deep and a nuc, and the original double deep was still a double deep with some new frames.
The apiary now consists of two nucs, a single deep and two double deeps, of which one is questionable on the queen situation. I'll have to follow up with that one in the next week or so to see if a queen hatches/arrives or does whatever it should do. Oh yeah, and I have a double deep still at Possum's garden.
That makes six total hives or nucs. That was my goal, although they could be stronger than they are. Overall, I believe I am in good shape heading into fall. Time will tell.