How to start multiple hives from a swarm-control split
Last time I wrote about a simple way to split a hive to prevent swarming. It is quick and easy and results in two fairly equal hives. However, if your original hive is loaded with swarm cells you may be able to raise a few extra queens or start more than one hive.
Let’s say your soon-to-swarm hive has four frames with swarm cells on them. You can:
- Find the queen and either confine her or keep track of her.
- Take each frame with swarm cells on it and put it in its own nuc. These frames must also have lots of brood that is covered with nurse bees.
- To each nuc add a frame of honey or a sugar syrup feeder and pollen patty. Remember, these nucs will have almost no foragers for the first few days and the nurse bees will need stores to feed themselves and the uncapped brood.
- Return the queen to the original hive. Since all the foragers will come back to this hive, you probably don’t have to add supplements.
- Start checking the nucs for eggs after about three weeks. If you find no eggs or no queen, the nuc may have failed to produce a viable queen or she may have disappeared on a mating flight. If the nuc has no queen you can combine the remaining bees with another hive.
This is a great method of raising queens if you need just a few. I have one of those Langstroth-size boxes that is divided into four two-frame sections with one entrance per side. I start four queens from swarm cells and, after they start laying, I transfer each one into a five-frame nuc.
Last summer I started with four swarm cells and three produced viable queens. By the end of the summer I had three well-populated nucs. In December after I found a dead queen on the landing board of one of my hives, I combined the queenless hive with one of the nucs. The other two nucs are doing fine and, if they make it till spring, I will set them up as new hives or use them to replace weak or failing queens.
It is comforting to keep a nuc on hand for those wintertime emergencies when there are no queens available. It is not difficult to do and you will feel really accomplished after you raise your first queen—even though the bees did all the work.