The Sage Split

Next week, a Master Beekeeper and Bee School teacher from my local club is coming to administer my practical examination, so I can become a North Carolina Beekeepers Association Certified Beekeeper. Because of this, I had not planned on going in to the hives at all this weekend. But then I remembered – since I put in that green drone frame, I really need to be at least opening it up and looking every two weeks. If I wait three weeks, and they do have a bunch of capped drones, I’m pretty much inviting the varroa mite population to expand even faster. Not what we are trying to accomplish here, right?

So, that was the plan. Quick peek, pull the drone frame, see if there is capped brood to remove, close it back up, easy day.

The best laid plans, y’know.

Partially drawn comb on drone-sized green plastic foundation.
Well, they ARE building the frame out. Slowly. That’s most beekeepers’ biggest complaint about plastic foundation, that the bees are slow to draw it out. But they are working on it. Slow and steady wins the race, right? By the time they get this full, the timing should be pretty good to start really trapping mites as they begin to build their populations.

 

Bee larva being capped on drone comb frame
There was ONE almost-capped larva in the drone comb. Just the one. So far. There may have been eggs and uncapped larva in a few other cells – it was pretty cloudy today so I couldn’t see any. I have a hard time seeing eggs unless the sun is very bright.

 

Single empty swarm cell at bottom of drawn frame.
So after checking the green frame, I tipped up the boxes to take a “quick peek” at the bottoms of all the frames. Just to make sure their weren’t any swarm cells yet. But there were. We saw at least seven, maybe eight, swarm cells on the bottom of at least two frames. And the bees were crowded. Really, really crowded.

 

At this point the hubs set down his camera and started helping me, because it was just suddenly a really great time to have four hands!

We basically did what I think most beekeepers call a “walk-away split.”

We left:

  • all the queen cells
  • about half of the bees
  • some open brood, including very young brood
  • some closed brood
  • a few empty frames to grow into, and
  • about half the pollen and nectar

in the old location. I *hope* that I left them some eggs, too, but as noted above – I can’t see eggs on cloudy days. I am reasonably confident that I left them what they need to make a new queen.

This is now designated as “Sage” hive.

We looked and looked and we finally found Queen Rosemary. She was in the very top box. The almost-empty box that I put on two weeks ago. If they had not been so crowded, this box would have probably been all food storage. But since they were crowded, she had, in human terms, gone into the pantry to lay eggs because there was not enough room left in the nursery.

Then we moved:

  • Queen Rosemary,
  • lots of nurse bees
  • a lot of closed brood
  • a little bit of open brood
  • a few empty frames, and
  • a second box containing mostly nectar and pollen, with a lot of wax-making bees

to a new box on a new bottom board, then put a feeder on top of it to keep them going until some of the newly-moved nurse bees graduate to “forager” status. According to the experts, all of the “old” foragers should wind up staying with the original location, so the hive in the new spot may need some feeding support for a little bit until they are ready to go and fetch their own meals.

If this works the way the books and the experts say it should, in a day or two the colony in the original location will realize that they are queenless and then behave exactly as if they had swarmed, raise up a new queen, and proceed with other honey flow/springtime operations just as they planned. If I did it right, they won’t feel like they need to swarm because they should feel like they already did.

*Fingers crossed*

SageAndRose
So, rather unexpectedly, we are back to two colonies again. Yay!

 

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