How soon can I split a new package of bees?

You have just gotten your bees, either in the mail or you have gone and picked them up in person. Now what do you do? Covers from installation in your hive until the end of the first winter and the first blooms of spring.
Carlos Zavala
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How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby Carlos Zavala » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:02 am

I want to follow the expansion model of beekeeping. I stated with 3 packages of bees and want to make somewhere around a dozen hives to aim on having about six survive for next year. I am wondering when I should start to split the hives. I'm in northern Illinois. Near Chicago. First year as a beekeeper.

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Dustymunky
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Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby Dustymunky » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:44 pm

Package bees starting out with no resources have a hard road. Did u start out with any drawn comb or capped honey? I would be reluctant to split them until they are strong, like booming double deeps. They need to have plenty of resources to survive northern winters.

Another question: Are you doing walk away splits or splitting and adding caged queens to splits? The longer your bees are queenless, the less opportunity they have to build up. Im guessing your main nectar flow is now and strong hives are needed to take advantage of the flow.

I would aim for 100% survival and try to overwinter colonies with plenty of resources. I believe in the expansion model too. If u split i would do 3 max and make sure they arent queenless too long. I tried what u suggested last year as a first year beekeeper. Turned 3 package/nucs into 8 hives/nucs. They all died over winter. I think my chances of survival would have been better with 4 or 5 stronger colonies. They need lots of capped honey for cold winters. Good luck!


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Nordak
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Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby Nordak » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:20 pm

I agree with Dusty, though if you were to split, having mated queens ready to go for the queenless parts of your splits would be better than letting them make queens given it's your first year and the bees are in build up phase. If you can find local, TF mite resistant queens that would be better than treated local. If you can't find local TF, I've had great luck with BWeaver, Frost Apiary and Anarchy Apiary queens. All of these will ship queens. Good luck and let us know your plans.

Carlos Zavala
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Re: RE: Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby Carlos Zavala » Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:42 pm

Dustymunky wrote:Package bees starting out with no resources have a hard road. Did u start out with any drawn comb or capped honey? I would be reluctant to split them until they are strong, like booming double deeps. They need to have plenty of resources to survive northern winters.

Another question: Are you doing walk away splits or splitting and adding caged queens to splits? The longer your bees are queenless, the less opportunity they have to build up. Im guessing your main nectar flow is now and strong hives are needed to take advantage of the flow.

I would aim for 100% survival and try to overwinter colonies with plenty of resources. I believe in the expansion model too. If u split i would do 3 max and make sure they arent queenless too long. I tried what u suggested last year as a first year beekeeper. Turned 3 package/nucs into 8 hives/nucs. They all died over winter. I think my chances of survival would have been better with 4 or 5 stronger colonies. They need lots of capped honey for cold winters. Good luck!


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I stated with no built comb. I would do walk away splits and/or make some double nucs (2 nucs over a dividend 8 frame deep, hiving two colonies) to overwinter. I would try to get local TF queens for splits.

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Carlos Zavala
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Re: RE: Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby Carlos Zavala » Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:44 pm

Nordak wrote:I agree with Dusty, though if you were to split, having mated queens ready to go for the queenless parts of your splits would be better than letting them make queens given it's your first year and the bees are in build up phase. If you can find local, TF mite resistant queens that would be better than treated local. If you can't find local TF, I've had great luck with BWeaver, Frost Apiary and Anarchy Apiary queens. All of these will ship queens. Good luck and let us know your plans.

I'll contact those providers ASP thanks.

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GregV
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Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby GregV » Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:49 pm

You will need to clarify - how strong (how many frames of bees) is each package right now.
Until then, no one can give you a good answer.

Another point - do not think that splitting means doubling the population.
You can produce just one additional nuc/split out of the three you have on hand (just steal as much resources from each hive as they can spare - say a frame from each). This will result in four hives.
Or go for five hives, if you can afford it. You can stagger the splits (do one now; do another in few weeks).
Six hives out of the three packages? Maybe if every package is booming.

One advantage to split now what you have - you will produce a locally mated queen at the best possible time (a really good thing).
Maybe you will produce more queens - even better.

So, I would not go crazy about it, but would definitely split now even if adding only one additional hive.
One additional hive is pretty affordable regardless of your details.
The entire summer is ahead. Not much to lose, everything to gain.

I would not worry much about them not harvesting much honey (they will some for sure).
Expansion is your first priority right now, not the honey crop.
If some colonies will go into winter light - make sure to use dry sugar on the top (do it anyway, regardless) as well as insulate really well.
Should work.

Carlos Zavala
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Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby Carlos Zavala » Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:50 pm

What if I have them build a big brood nest; 3 or 4 boxes deep and split once they reach those goals and split with mates queens?
Doy you think they would grow that much in my area?

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GregV
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Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby GregV » Tue Jun 06, 2017 6:00 pm

Carlos Zavala wrote:What if I have them build a big brood nest; 3 or 4 boxes deep and split once they reach those goals and split with mates queens?
Doy you think they would grow that much in my area?

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If they don't now have 3/4 deep boxes of bees, you pretty much already missed that goal.
Main point to have such large hives it to generate lots of honey (which is happening right now in WI/IL areas).
For this year you have a different goal - expansion; not honey harvest.
Colonies equivalent to just 1 deep will winter fine.
As for me, I would rather have more 1 deep hives than fewer 3/4 deep hives - better odds of survival into the next year.

PS: I am in a similar case as you are; out of just one, but very strong, nuc this spring I already have 3 hives and might even go for 4 (thanks to an extra queen I got from someone on this forum - really helpful!).
I am doing this in asymmetric way - one strong hive/many weak hives.
The original strong nuc will be my honey harvester and will harvest as much honey as they can so I can steal honey from them to share among the weaker nucs. The rest of the fleet - I just want to have as many as I can before the summer end (one deep in size - plenty).

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GregV
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Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby GregV » Tue Jun 06, 2017 6:38 pm

PS: yes - if willing and able to spend some money, sure - get some helper queens from those good sources suggested above.
I was NOT against the ideas the guys suggested.
Just clarifying.
Good luck.

moebees
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Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby moebees » Tue Jun 06, 2017 9:48 pm

It depends on your packages and how well they are doing. I am in almost the exact situation. I am in northern Illinois and started with 6 packages this year with no drawn comb. I got them in early april. Right now have two that are in big trouble because they had queen problems. I have 4 that are doing very well. One is ready to swarm. Probably in a day or two. I took frames of brood off three of the 4 today to may two nucs. I may split the hive that is ready to swarm tomorrow. The fourth hive I could easily split too but probably won't. So if you have hives strong enough to do it you want to do it now and not later than a week or two from now. We are in the main flow and they need time to build up for winter. That is the best I can do without knowing more specifics about your hives.
Sam Droege, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey—“bees are not optional."

Carlos Zavala
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Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2016 8:44 pm
Location: Blue Island, IL

Re: RE: Re: How soon can I split a new package of bees?

Postby Carlos Zavala » Wed Jun 07, 2017 2:01 am

GregV wrote:You will need to clarify - how strong (how many frames of bees) is each package right now.
Until then, no one can give you a good answer.

Another point - do not think that splitting means doubling the population.
You can produce just one additional nuc/split out of the three you have on hand (just steal as much resources from each hive as they can spare - say a frame from each). This will result in four hives.
Or go for five hives, if you can afford it. You can stagger the splits (do one now; do another in few weeks).
Six hives out of the three packages? Maybe if every package is booming.

One advantage to split now what you have - you will produce a locally mated queen at the best possible time (a really good thing).
Maybe you will produce more queens - even better.

So, I would not go crazy about it, but would definitely split now even if adding only one additional hive.
One additional hive is pretty affordable regardless of your details.
The entire summer is ahead. Not much to lose, everything to gain.

I would not worry much about them not harvesting much honey (they will some for sure).
Expansion is your first priority right now, not the honey crop.
If some colonies will go into winter light - make sure to use dry sugar on the top (do it anyway, regardless) as well as insulate really well.
Should work.

I'll make 1 split now. As you recomend, using resources from all 3 packages and if I can I'll requeen the California commercial package. The other two are supposed to be TF small cell raised bees from Tennessee. I'll take the eggs from one of those. I'll do an inspection tomorrow and take note of available resources so you all can advice more adequately.
Thank you.

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