Spring is a busy time in the apiary. Beginning in mid April, we are doing spring clean up. What that entails is breaking the hive down, cleaning the bottom boards, and reversing the hive boxes so that the brood box that was on top of the hive is now on the bottom. What this allows is room for the Queen to lay. During the winter the cluster moves up into the second brood box to access honey stores. So the bottom brood box now has multiple empty frames. Thus we take advantage of those empty frames and reverse the two boxes.
Once the reversing is done, the Queen will start to lay in the upper box. In our area, we are just reaching the end of the willow, marsh marigold, coltsfoot and soft maple pollen. Cherry, Apple and Pear blossoms are looking like they are going to open this week. We now have dandelions as well. On very strong hives, we will put a queen excluder and one super. Day time temps have been unusually warm, with temps ranging from 16-25 degrees Celsius most days.
The hives that made it through winter are now booming. In these hives, one can consider completing a split. That is the act of taking one of the two brood boxes and setting it up with a new bottom board and covers. The new colony will be queenless and either raise their own queen or if you ordered your queens early, you can give this hive a new queen. Either way, some thought should go into the splitting of these two brood boxes.
The first thing to do is inspect the two boxes, find the queen and isolate her on the frame you find her on. I use a nuc box to temporarily hold her while I work a hive. Set up the new colony on its own bottom board and place about half the brood from the original hive into an empty brood box. Add at least half of the honey and pollen. Shake in some extra bees from an uncapped brood frame. If you don’t have a Queen to introduce (done 24 hours after setting this up) then give the queenless hive a frame of fresh eggs and larva. The bees will draw out emergency Queen Cells .
If you have a Queen introduce her (leaving her in the cage she came in for at least 3-4 days so the bees get to know her). She can be released after four day. Once released, watch how the bees treat her, if they are at all aggressive toward her, put her back in the cage and keep her in there for a few more days. Hopefully the bees will accept her the second time she is released. If the bees still behave aggressively, they may already have a queen you missed if you did not find her when you set up the split.
As noted in the last post, I am posting a few more picks of these amazing brood boxes the students at CIS in Cobourg painted for us.