Can I split a hive without finding the queen?

by Flow Hive 5 min read

Pete shows how to make a vertical split - which is a type of split that doesn’t require you to find the queen.



Vertical split 

This is a way of splitting the hive where you don't need to find the queen. We can call it a vertical split, using another brood box and a queen excluder. So basically what happens is you pull frames out of this brood nest here and you shake all the bees off the brood so that all the bees and the queen just stay in that box. Then you take your new brood box, put those brood frames in there and stick it above the queen excluder and below your super. All the nurse bees will smell that brood and they'll go up through the queen excluder and take care of the brood, because that's their instinct. And then the queen won't be able to pass through and you can leave it for 5, 8, or 24 hours. Then come back and just take the box off, put it on your new bottom board in its new location. And as long as you've got eggs in the split, that split will make a new queen. So it's just a handy way of not having to find the queen.

Busy hive

There's lots of honey in this box. You can see the bees are pretty packed in here, so it's probably a good one to split. You can see the landing boards looking fairly busy, lots of bees coming and going. And that's the good thing about having a Flow super is you can look at the landing board check how busy they are and then you can look in the windows and see what the population's like. We can pull this side window off too and get an idea and see they're pretty packed in there.

I can see the bees are running out of room. When they start running out of room, they just start stashing honey everywhere. 

Choosing frames for the split

So we'll just pull this frame out and see what's on it. So on this side, I can see lots of drone cells and they are these bulbous cappings here. So we're still looking for the queen and if we see her, that's great, that'll speed everything up. But if we don't see her, then that's fine too. So this frame, we're gonna just make a call that it's not gonna go in the split for now, just because there's a lot of drone comb on it and we don't necessarily want the drone cells in our split. It's okay to have them, but just better to have worker brood and nurse bees.

So you can just see a couple of bees left here and see these guys are really brand new. They've just emerged. They're really fluffy and cute and they're kind of a little bit uncoordinated, they don't know where they're going And here we can see some pollen, so that's some nice food for our split to have. I can't see the queen, which is good. So that can go in our split box.

Here we go. This is a good frame. Just trying to look for some eggs. It's important to get eggs in our split as well. So those bees will make a new queen. I couldn't see them in that side, but it's definitely a good frame for our split because it's got lots of capped brood again. So we'll put that in our split, making sure the queen's not on there.

This is a good frame, it's got some eggs in there. And I can definitely see some young brood up in here, some larvae. The bees will make a new queen cell out of larvae that are just hatched out of an egg. So the reason we say you want eggs in your split is because they will hatch out and then the bees will make a queen from that very, very young larvae. But if you've got very young larvae in your split, then the bees will just jump straight on to that and make a queen out of it, if it's all they've got.

Closing the hive

It's probably a good idea to get these guys buttoned up, because they're pretty feisty. I'll put this frame back where it was, but we might keep these together in the middle and put our blank ones in between. So because these edge ones are honey frames, I'm not worried about splitting up the brood nest at the moment. Just jiggling that frame so that there's no bees underneath.

So we've got our queen excluder up above our brood nest as usual. And now we want to put our split box on top. I try not to squash bees. It's very difficult. And so what'll happen now is all those nurse bees that are in the nest will come up through the excluder and start covering this brood. And if we did this in the early morning, we could come back in the afternoon and pull it off and put it on its own bottom board. And all we'd get in there would be our brood and nurse bees. And as long as there's eggs or very young larvae in the split box, those nurse bees will start making a queen. And then we can put our super back on top. If you put your split box up above your super there's a chance that the nurse bees won't actually smell that brood and won't actually make it up. So it's good to just put them straight above the brood nest, where they can easily access it.

Can the drones in the second box get through the queen excluder?

They can't get through it, no. And if we were leaving that brood box on there, then that would be a big problem. So we'd have to crack the top above the super and let them out because they want to fly every day. But because we're coming back either this afternoon or tomorrow to pull that box off and make it into a new split, then it's not such a big issue. Because they'll be a new hive and they'll be able to go out in and out as normal. What will probably happen is they'll fly out of the split and go back to their old hive. Well, that's a vertical split.

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