Thursday, May 8, 2014

Colony Multiplication

Last week we had quite a bee day.  Our two top bar hives were teaming with bees. Both colonies were pushing their way to the very back end of the hives so we knew we needed to (and wanted to) make divides (also called splits).

Bees filled to the back of the hive. 

We were able to find both queens so we moved them out into new homes with additional brood, honey and nurse bees.  In one of the original hives there was a queen cup with an egg already in it so we added a few empty bars to the back for them to expand and closed it up.

The other main hive had queen cups built but they were empty.  Our beekeeper friend gifted us some plastic queen cell cups (Thanks, Jim!) so Jamey grafted very young larva into 5 plastic cups and pressed them into comb.  See detailed pictures of our first grafting experience here.  We added some empty comb to the back of this hive, too, and closed it up.

It's a little hard to see because it's almost the same color as the comb (on purpose), but under Jamey's thumb is the plastic queen cell cup.  The green stick in his hand is torn off at the end to make a fine point- this is used to lift the larva out of a cell and into the plastic cup.

Above, a queen cup is pressed into the comb with the larva inside.  With their queen removed (and placed in a new start-up colony) the remaining bees will hopefully rear a new queen in one of these larger queen cells. The bees with their heads in cells are feeding little larva.

These two hives we'll leave alone for about a month.  This will give the bees time to raise their queens, give the queens time to take their mating flights and get all filled up with fertilized eggs.  It will therefore be awhile until new bees hatch out.  Thankfully, the hives are currently full of brood at all stages.

It's always rather nerve-racking to move your queens around, hope that they stay where you put them and will have enough bees, brood and stores to build up a new colonies.  To keep them in their new homes long enough to "nest", we stuffed some green grass into the openings. The bees will either work it out of the way or the grass will wilt and dry up giving them room to pass in a day or two.

The bees were very buzzy that day.  They didn't want us there.  I was glad I had my veil on and made many little walks away from the hives to be rid of honeybees that were unhappy with me.  Jamey got stung on the wrist.  He hasn't been stung while inspecting hives since last spring.  I spent more time watching from a distance than normal because of this.

We started the day with two hives and ended with four.  Now we keep our fingers crossed that the bees will settle into their new homes and tasks.  I keep having to remind myself that they know what they're doing. Why?  Probably because there are still many times that we're not sure we know what we're doing! :-)

It's fun to think that last year at this time we didn't even have our two starter colonies yet.  Now we have lots of bees, lots of built comb and (hopefully!) lots of potential for honey this summer. Pin It

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