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Doing a Split in the Nectar Dearth?

Hello all,
I live in central Maryland, and I believe we’re approaching the nectar dearth here, if it hasn’t already come. Here’s a brief review of the past few months/weeks:

  • In May, my colony of Carniolans with an Italian queen swarmed a month after being established from a nuc into one, then two 8-frame deep supers. Note: I put a medium super on top as well, and it’s now completely filled with capped honey.
  • There were several capped queen cells left, and after hatching, I never found her. For weeks (as I thought I was waiting for a queen to develop) my bees were very irritated.
  • I went and got a Saskatraz Queen from a breeder, and a week later both brood boxes were filled with her healthy larvae and eggs…she’s awesome!
  • This week I have several frames of capped brood (solid, beautiful pattern!), but it’s starting to look a bit crowded…

Okay, here’s the question: I don’t want them swarming again, so should I split them? I’ve got the equipment to do so, but I just don’t want to end up with two weak colonies because we’re most likely in a dearth. I’m going to plant a lot of bee balm soon, so hopefully that’ll help. Also, I want to treat them for mites soon (I have ApiLife-Var, wanted something ‘natural’, and I’m going to drone cull). If I were to do a split, how would you recommend a setup so that they both make it through the winter? I currently have one colony in two deeps, one medium.

I want to keep that medium super of honey for them so they can make it through the winter (at this point, I just want them to survive, since I lost last year’s colony due to low stores). I don’t really plan on harvesting it, and maybe if I split, I can use some honey frames to boost the two smaller colonies.

One more thing, since it’s June nearing July…because it will take two weeks for the bees to make a queen, should I just go buy one so that they can get started right away if I do end up splitting them? Thanks in advance for your suggestions. :slight_smile:

One thing to remember about splits. They don’t have to be permanent! :blush: I have split in the past, and then remerged later in the season, choosing the best queen to survive and dispatching the other(s).

So, if you think you need to split, why not do it. If it isn’t looking good in a month’s time, just recombine them. If you have the equipment, it really isn’t hard, and it means you don’t lose a swarm and a load of honey. :wink:


Thanks Dawn! Would you recommend letting them make their own queen this time of year, or not? I look forward to doing my first split! :smile:

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If you are mentally prepared to recombine, you have not much to lose by letting them make their own queen. After all, you can always recombine if they end up queen less! I would give them a chance to do it themselves if:

  1. Your hives have plenty of drones in them and some capped drone brood (showing that the hive is still willing to support drones). This will mean that any virgin queen will likely have a choice of drones from other hives. After all, if your hives are supporting drones, probably many local hives are too. :wink:
  2. You don’t have nasty Africanized bees around. I can’t make my own queens, because their offspring are 80%+ obnoxious, and my hives are very urban. However, if you can, local vigor can be excellent.

Hope that helps. :blush:

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Yes, this helped a lot! I did some research and found something called the “Doolittle Method” of splitting, where you need to have your colony in two brood boxes, both filled with brood and stores. First you exclude the queen to the bottom box, and while there are nurse bees in the top box taking care of the brood, you take that upper box and place it on another bottom board as another hive. Since most of the bees in the ‘new’ hive are nurse bees that have never foraged yet, they’re supposed to be easily reoriented to their new spot and won’t fly back to the mother hive. I hope this works!

I have some capped drone brood (I’ll also be putting in the drone frames), as well as some drones running around when I inspect them.

I’m glad I don’t have any Africanized bees around here! I’ve read about how nasty they are in many places… :grimacing:

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Over the last few years I’ve adopted splitting n recombining as my form of swarm control as Dawn has written… it’s really worked for me. Go for it. Plus you learn more techniques trying new Beekeeping skills… Good write up as always Dawn … I just second what you wrote.



I prefer walk-away (simple) splits or even better, a modified Snelgrove as described on page 17 onwards of this leaflet (big document, you may need to be patient while it downloads):


Thank you, this was very informative! I think I’ll do a walk-away split in a few days (as soon as possible). I’ll keep you posted! :wink: