March 11, 2012

My third spring without treating my bees for ANYTHING and they are still going strong. I've read where other beekeepers have gone 7-10 years without mite treatment and their bees did just fine so I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best. Since both hives survived the winter I have to decide what I'm going to do about the splits. I cannot have four hives. 

My neighbors were really patient with me when the hives swarmed last year but I fear that patience runs thin. I know that if a swarm of bees attached itself to our home back when I knew nothing about bees I wouldn't have been a very nice neighbor so... I have to "do unto others...." Since splitting hives in two is a swarm management system and I don't want four hives I decided to split both hives and give the bees away. The good thing is, there is no shortage of those who want bees. After posting that I wanted to give the bees away on beesource I received a bunch of private messages from people who wanted them. Problem is, most of the requests came from people who do not have an established presence on the forum, therefore it made me a little nervous. My nervousness comes from my wanting the one retrieving the bees to do the split for me. I figure if I'm giving them away and not selling them, the least they can do is the split. But... I'm nervous about letting someone dig into my hives when I have no idea how much they know about beekeeping. Luckily, one of the very experienced beekeepers on the beesource contacted me. He happens to live one state over and is willing to take the bees if no one else will. He suggested I look locally first so I contacted Natures Nectar (my bee supplier), and Jim (the owner) said he'd take them if they are still going strong at the end of April. I haven't heard back yet on whether he'll do the split though. I've been told I should do the split, create nucs and just sell the bees myself but honestly, I have no idea how much to sell them for or how I even go about marketing that. I've never even seen a nuc before other than in a supply catalog. How do they work exactly? Can they be transported once the bees are inside? Well... I have at least a month to sort it all out. Right now the bees are doing great! These warm days should make them happy.
Teresa Robeson said...

Oh my goodness, I never realized one would have to do splits! I mean, it makes sense: new queens need new hives, but for some reason I thought the old queen was queen for a number of years before she allowed a new queen to be "born". it sounds like more and more work. I mean, I guess it's not so bad because we do have 27 acres so we have plenty of room to spread them out all over, but wow...again. LOL!

Good luck!

Sam Smith said...

Hi, I am so glad your bees made it very exciting!! I would be happy to do your splits/nucs but I might be some distance away. A nuc is only a very small hive usually 3 frames (depends) one with bees and uncapped brood (the reason for the uncapped brood is to keep the nurse bees in the hive), one with honey and one with foundation/empty comb or semi filled ect. When making nucs you can breed queens and add them when ready or move the current queen into the new nuc leaving the old large hive queen-less for them to make another queen. this is nice because the small nuc gets the momentum of a queen and the large hive can continue to produce honey while it makes a new queen.

Have you gone foundation-less yet?


Michelle said...


The split isn't really for the queen. It is to prevent swarming. If the hive gets too crowded the bees want to leave and find a new home. They take off with their queen and what is left behind raises a new queen. It is true, the queen can live a few years but we were also told in our beekeeping class that we should never keep a queen more than two years (we are suppose to pinch her (kill her) and order a new queen). I won't kill the queen, it just isn't my thing. I like that they swarm naturally and the remaining bees raise their own new queen but I'm not sure my neighbors will put up with the swarming year to year. They seemed a little put off by it last year. Also, the queen doesn't determine if a new queen is born, her offspring does. The queen lays eggs but the workers decide whether or not to feed one enough royal jelly to make it a queen (jelly laced with royalactin caused the larvae to become queens). I believe the age/health of the queen plays a role in the hive choosing to replace her.

I think a lot of beekeepers maintain the number of hives by using other swarm management techniques and avoiding swarming or else creating nucs and selling them. All this is new to me. We just learned about splitting and nothing else.

Your 27 acres would be plenty to allow natural swarming or expansion. I believe my hives have done so well without treatment because of the swarming and them making new queens. I'm worried that if I split and introduce a purchased queen that I'm messing with the natural order of things :(

Michelle said...


"move the current queen into the new nuc leaving the old large hive queen-less for them to make another queen."

That is exactly what I'd like to do. Send the old queen on her way and let the hive raise a newbie. My problem is I don't have a marked queen and I'm not the best at finding her :(

So let me make sure I understood the process. One frame of uncapped brood, one frame of honey and one frame of drawn comb that hasn't been filled with honey goes into the nuc? Can the nut be transported?

We haven't gone foundation-less yet. I'm going to do that this year. Maybe swap out frames and add foundation-less a little at a time... is that a bad idea? Should it be done soon?

Anonymous said...

M, every time I think I have the hang of the idea of beekeeping, you freak me out with another fact...LOL! :) I'm so bummed you're not my neighbor since 1) we don't mind swarming bees, and 2) you could teach me so much!

Michelle said...


Trust me, I am just as freaked out. It is all a learning process, so much more than I imagined. It took me a while to understand that the queen isn't really the dictator of all things. Why call her queen then, right? Plus, just when I think I am understanding the colony mentality they go and do something wonky. Wonky to me but totally in the realm of normal for them I suppose.

I am sure you could teach me so much about chickens as well. I would toss a few chickens in the yard amd think they were good to go. Lol! Why does livestock have to be so finicky? Lol!

Sam Smith said...

Yea about nuc's, it depends on the size of box you are using some are 5 frames the guy down the road from me uses 3 frames and charges about 160.00+ per nuc, the important thing is to give them some brood some honey and a bit of room to expand, so if you have a 5 frame box you could try 2 honey 2 brood and 1 empty/drawn. The nuc CAN be transported I would give it a few days to settle (ideally) depends how much honey you give them longer trips more honey ect. I would wait until about 20 days before the earliest swarms start showing up (around my place thats some-ware in the middle of may although this year it might be in the beginning of may, if in doubt over estimate so the queen will have a good chance to find good mating stock) this will give the old hive a chance to make a queen that will be able to mate when you have lots of drones for her (hopefully)

For foundationless I would suggest replacing a couple frames at a time with empty ones this will make nice straight comb eg. full - empty - full - full - empty - full, if they make drone comb move it so it is the outside most frame, a lot of beeks get discouraged when their bees just make drone comb when trying foundationless, give them time they make what they need and foundation "suppresses" drone comb so they make that first. As to when, wait till you have a solid flow going usually dandelions since they will not make wax without nectar.

If you have any questions you can reach me at

Mil said...

I don't buy bees, but I was curious how much bees cost and it seems a package runs about $100 here in these parts. I live in California. What do you think about charging some money to sort out the people who really want the bees and will take care of them?

Michelle said...

Sam, thank you for always being so helpful! I have printed up the info you shared on nics and have placed my order with Mann. I am excited to give this a try. Can't wait to see how foundation-less turns out also.

Michelle said...

I hate autocorrect. That is suppose to say NUCS not NICS.

Bees here cost about $70 for a 2 lb package.

Sam Smith said...

Lol Was wondering why nucs kept turning into something else :) "resisting smart-ass temptations". You are most welcome for the info, bees are more expensive here probably 150 for a package and 180 for a nuc, I heard one guy say that it cost him 700.00 to start one hive (bees + boxs ect) I'm so glad I can build stuff with wood :)

Another option for going foundationless is to add an empty box (full of frames/top bars but no comb) and let them move into it, the queen like to lay in new wax, this is how comb renewal is done with a warre hive.

Epicure68 said...

I'm so glad your bees survived the winter. Splitting hives, who would've thought you needed to do that. It's good that you've got good resources to help you out.

Are you sure you're not going to convert your neighbours into bee lovers as well? Oh wait, that'll happen after you do your hippie dance for them right? ;D Your neighbours would probably like your bees if they could see the benefit of them.

Carrie Garvin said...

Say what? Splitting the hive? I can only imagine! You've really done well being the "Mother Bee"- or queen that is.

Was the winter good or bad for your hive this year? I love reading your updates about your bees.

Mil said...

I want to do some splits this year. I attended the Bee Symposium where one beekeeper contended that queens from August took well to the coming winter. I realize this might be a locale thing, but have you heard this before?

Michelle said...

Hi Mil,

I have heard that the younger the queen the better chance of winter survival for the hive. We were told to pinch our queen when she reaches 2 years old (2 springs) because the older she is the less healthy the hive will be (apparently). Is that similar to what you learned at the Bee Symposium? I now have this sort of superstition that the hive needs to requeen in July to make it through the winter without treatment. It is probably a crazy idea but that is what ours did last summer and it worked so I just go with that. LOL!

Are you thinking of requeening in August? I hope when we do our split that the queen is taken away and what is left behind and requeen itself. We may have to order some queens. Not sure yet.

Sam Smith said...

August is to late here (depends on number of drones and drone flying days), July sounds about right for the best mating drones (hottest time of the year with a nice flow, around my region), the old hive should re-queen since this is what nature does (swarm = re-queen), as to the life expectancy some queens will be healthy for up to five years if given new foundatonless comb (some people suspect foundation reduces queen health due to the build up of chemicals ect) but most wild colonies will swarm at least once a year most often more then once. I wouldn't pinch the old queen unless she is not laying well, I would make a nuc with her, and if the nuc does well then you have more bees if it doesn't then your queen problem is solved (natural selection).