The dandelion flow is a great time to split and or re-queen your colonies if you haven’t done it already! By now, your colonies should be strong and resilient, your brood nests are growing exponentially, and the food available to your bees is blossoming! So, get your bees to become plentiful! If you have decided that your goal with beekeeping this year is to expand your apiary, or to replace colonies lost, or to just get your colony growing quickly, here are some tips.
This is the time of year that you should be considering your hives size and potential for swarming to happen this June/July. So, now is a great time to make room , split, or grow your colonies.
Expanding your brood nest
Top Bar Hives (TBH’s)
Top bar management is very different than that of a Lang this time of year because you don’t have to be concerned with heat loss in the brood nest because of the linear hive design. The heat is evenly dispersed across the whole hive because the heat rises to fill the whole top of the extending hive body. So, here are some steps that you can take to encourage wax production in a TBH and therefore more bees.
- Make sure the brood nest is pushed toward the entrance of your hive. If it is currently in the middle or the back, push it forward. Always have 2 empty bars at the front of your hive, the bees will daisy chain from the 3rd bar to the entrance for the movement of nectar forcing them to build comb, as well, it will offer ventilation space for the bees to keep hive temperature down. This is done all year long.
- Once the brood nest is moved to the front of the hive with 2 empty bars in place, you are going to inspect the brood, and the bars that have capped brood on them (over 60%) you are going to place empty bars in between. This will not only encourage your bees to continue to build straight comb between the 2 drawn bars, but as the bees emerge from the capped cells, they will build comb quickly in between so the nurse bees can feed the newly lain eggs in the recently vacated combs. It is important that you do the checkerboarding between capped cells because temperature changes in the brood nest from the separating of combs will not effect the brood in a negative way.
If you are a second year beekeeper, you may not have frames of comb available to you, or you are looking to pull from foundation or foundationless frames so that you can not only increase your bee production, but the comb that you are going to use for honey production in July (sweet clover nectar flow). You have a few options.
TO DO: Close the inner cover so the bees are forced to use the bottom board entrance if you haven’t already. This will force the queen brood nest lower as the heat in the colony increases, and also force the bees to festoon down to get the nectar from the foraging bees to storage.
Here are some considerations on how your hive should/can look.
You currently only have 1 brood box of bees with 10 frames- With foundation or existing combs
You are going to want to add another brood box below your bees this flow, even if your brood nest is only 5 frames large. You are going to want to be smart about how you do this though. Make sure that the day and night forecast temperatures are warmer than 9 degrees Celsius for 7 days after this manipulation.
Take the open brood frames of the brood nest and move them to the middle of your new brood box, which will be placed above the currently populated hive box (new bottom box). I do this when I move from 2 boxes to 3 boxes, without use of the queen excluder.
Why move open brood up?
- Heat moves up, open brood requires more heat than capped brood.
- Open brood contains young nurse bees and young bees are wax producing bees
- Wax production in colonies requires an internal temperature of a minimum 28 degrees Celsius. Therefore, wax production is best done in the brood nest or top box.
- The young brood above means that the combs in the upper boxes will have a no vacancy for two weeks or more. This encourages the queen to maintain the brood nest in the bottom box(es) without the use of queen excluders.
Place honey frames on the outsides of all boxes, checker boarding new frames (foundation or foundationless) between honey and other pulled combs. Do your best to maintain the brood nest, and not split up the capped brood at this time. Doing both supering and checkerboarding capped brood in the same week can cause undue stress on the colony. Pace your wax production and potentially move a new frame between frames of capped brood, but only do this if you feel you have enough bee/cluster to cover the expanding area of the brood nest. If you’re close, wait a week for brood to hatch, increase the cluster size, then checkerboard.
This keeps the brood nest together and also offers the insulating properties of the remaining periphery honey stores to keep the colony warm. The bees will build comb fast this way but you can have the inner cover closed to reduce heat loss.
MAKING A SPLIT
If you are going to have your bees raise their own queen, be prepared to see queen cells produced in the split within 48 hours, then do not inspect again for 11 days. You don’t want to disturb your queen cells during development until they are on their final stages of pupation. When you get in there 14 days after making the split, you will see many capped queen cells. You can cage these cells and save the virgins for members of the community. If not, you will have your queens fight it out and have a queen right colony and ideally, a mated queen between 20-26 days after the split was made. More information about Queen Rearing here.
If you are going to add a mated queen acquired from another beekeeper, you will need to leave the colony queenless for a minimum of 24 hours. Then you are going to remove the nurse bees with the queen in the cage and set the queen in your split within her cage, let the bees eat the candy to release her. Inspect your colony 4 days after you inserted her in to be sure that she has been released and accepted. Look closely for emergency cells. If they are found, your colony didn’t accept your new queen and you are in need of a new one or a frame of eggs from your parent colony.
Same action as a Lang Split, but with 2 empty bars in front of the added brood nest.