Bee Report — Splitting Hives and Raising Queens (Part II)

This is the second and final part of a short discussion of splitting hives using ideas found in Mel Disselkoen’s On-The-Spot (OTS) queen rearing method and the Coweta Beekeeping Method. In this post, I’ll go over how to finish the split by making hives for honey production or population increase. Check out the first post, where I describe how to split an existing hive and encourage the growth of new queens.

Some queen cells won’t be full sized. A good queen cell should look like a hanging peanut. Sometimes the “emergency” queen cells are noticeably smaller. These should be cut out, leaving only the largest queen cells. This is a chance to see the queens in their larvae stage.

Cutting out small queen cell. Note the mostly full-sized ones to the left and the best-looking one to the right.

Honey or Population Increases?

After seven days, you should have capped queen cells in the queenless hive. At this point you have a decision to make: do you want to grow your population or have a big honey harvest? If you want to grow your population, split up the original hive into as many nucs or hives as you can, as long as each new hive has two queen cells, two frames of brood, one empty frame, and two frames of honey (and make sure some frames have pollen as well). That means if you have six frames of brood and six queen cells, you can make three new colonies, with the rest of the resources (honey, pollen, frames, etc.) divided among them. These hives must then be moved at least two miles away to retain the field bees, or, the new colonies can be installed in the same bee yard as described above for removing the queen: they’ll need pollen and syrup to supplement what is not coming in because all the field bees will fly back to the original hive.

Too many queen cells.
Queen cell close-up.

Sometimes the bees raise the queen cells on a single frame of brood so you must carry out some surgery. Pick another frame with brood and cut out a 2-×-2-in square (avoiding brood if possible). Then go to the frame with many cells and cut out a 2-×-2-in square including a queen cell. I use a sharp knife and cut all the way through to the other side (this only works with fully wax or wired wax comb, not plastic). Then, very, very carefully take the cut comb with the cell and wedge it into the other frame’s opening. Queens are susceptible to death by shaking, so slow and steady wins this particular race. Squish the comb edges together to hold in the transplant. Don’t forget to refill the square in the donor frame with the non-queen-cell cut comb.

If you want a large honey harvest instead of increases, simply cut down all but the largest two queen cells in the original hive and then put on supers to collect honey. Over the next three weeks, the queen will emerge, mate, and start laying, but the workers will have less and less brood to support so they’ll start bringing in large amounts of honey.


Supers on top of the long Langstroth hive.

In both cases, check back a month later to be sure the new queen is laying.

This is just a brief outline of a system used to raise one’s own queens. Avail yourself to the resources linked at the beginning of the post to get a more in-depth look at this type of splitting.

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