Doing the Mississippi splits
I’ve described many types of splits in the past, including:
But now, of course, someone wants to know about Mississippi splits. I have to say, I just love that phrase. It has rhythm. To me it sounds like a dance, an ice skating trick, or a dessert. I want to do the Mississippi splits just so I can hear myself say it.
So what is it really? Like any of the splits listed above, a Mississippi split is the division of a colony. It is a way to increase the number of colonies you have by selecting a large colony and dividing it into smaller nucleus colonies.
Besides increasing your colony count or replacing winter losses, splitting also provides a measure of swarm control, interferes with the Varroa mite reproductive cycle, and encourages queen production. It provides an opportunity to rotate bees onto fresh foundation and a means to accumulate fresh comb for replacement. In addition, it creates easy-to-move units for sale or for transfer to other bee yards.
How many kinds of splits exist? I’d say the number is limited only by the number of beekeepers making them. Each beekeeper has a unique method that uses slightly different population criteria, timing, equipment, or philosophy. Inevitably, some of these techniques become so popular or so publicized that they get named. However, it is important to remember that honey bees, adaptable creatures that they are, can pretty much handle any type of split—the named variations are much more important to the keeper than to the bee.
The name Mississippi split was given to a technique developed by commercial beekeeper Richard Adee who overwintered his bees in that state. Adee divided each of his mature two-box colonies into four nucs, giving each one equal parts of the brood, honey, and pollen, then filling the extra space with empty frames. Each unit was then given a queen cell and left alone until the new queen was mated. This technique is also referred to as an “equal split” or a “poor man’s split.”
But again, don’t put too much stock in the name. After all, this is not much different from any other popular split and the names are interchangeable depending on the person. Remember that the principles of colony division and population increase remain the same in spite of variations in technique.
But still, I can’t get it out of my mind. The idea of a Mississippi split makes me feel like dancing . . .