Sunday 15 April 2012

When one becomes two

After much discussion regarding the weather, Shane Goodhand, and myself decided to go-for-it and perform a 'split' on my TBH hive. A split is a method of artificially swarming a colony in order to control what happens to both halves; rather than possibly loosing the half that leaves. In principle I am not averse to swarms going feral as I think this is what underpins the whole ethos of natural beekeeping. On the other hand Shane was very keen to acquire bees for his numerous hives and I was more than willing to help him out. So this afternoon, having positioned both hives conveniently next to each other, we began the process of transferring two bars of brood and three bars of stores across to his recently made nuc box.  

Shane posing prior to the transfer
(note the old duvet cover beneath the nuc box that will
contain any stray bees during transit) 

As I was not intending to try and identify the queen we couldn't be sure which hive she would end up in, so it was important that both halves had provision to produce a new queen. The preparation for this was begun two week ago, during the spell of fine weather, when I introduced two new bars alternately between brood bars. On these new bars the workers produce new comb (see below) into which the queen lays eggs thus ensuring that there will be eggs or very young larvae available to be converted into a new queen in both hives. In the hive that still contains the original queen things will continue as before give or take a few thousand bees.

Recently drawn comb with eggs and young larvae
It was the first time Shane had been up close to a lots of flying bees and he, and the bees, were very well controlled. There were quite a few bees airborne during the latter stages of the procedure but their only outward sign of distress was minor bumping.

The transfer in progress

Closing-up the main hive
During the thirty minute process the weather, which had been changeable up until then, took a turn for the better and was pleasantly warm. The bees, as you would expect, were slightly aggrieved by the procedure but just a few minutes after it was all closed up everything was again serene in the garden. I hope I did all the right things and I'm fairly sure I saw all that I needed/expected to see. With any luck I will still retain my vibrant main colony and  Shane can enjoy its off spring, the small nucleus, in the suburbs of Nottingham. I advised Shane to position and unwrap the hive as soon as he gets back, and then leave alone for several weeks. No doubt he will post his on-going observations.  

Thanks again Shane for your support, the packing case nuc box and your photography skills.

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