The “tear ’em off” split
On Saturday, the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association held their annual Field Day at the Washington Park Arboretum. The event was well-attended, expertly organized, and truly fun. The featured speaker, Dr. Zachary Huang of Michigan State University, is a wealth of information and a great photographer. During the long day he displayed a pleasing combination of intellectual, charming, and funny.
After a morning of lectures about pheromones, Nosema, and Varroa mites, the participants were divided into groups. While one group inspected hives with Zachary in the apiary, the others rotated among several learning stations, which included queen rearing, mason bees, honey tasting, and building apiary tools. My own station was for general beekeeping Q&A.
At one point—I think it was the third group to enter my station—someone asked how to split a top-bar hive into a Langstroth. I immediately began explaining the Taranov split, one of my favorites. The people to my right were listening attentively, while the people on my left were nearly rolling in the grass with laughter.
I kept explaining and they kept laughing. Distracted, I tried to figure out what was so funny. After another minute, I couldn’t bear it any longer. I felt like a first grader with her skirt caught in her underwear—that ghastly feeling that you’ve done something unforgettably gauche.
So I finally demanded, “What is it that I don’t get? Please tell me!”
They all said, “Taranov split!” Or so I thought, so I still didn’t get it.
Then someone used her hands to demonstrate ripping something in two. At last it occurred to me: they thought I was saying “tear ’em off” split. At that point, I giggled too.
“No, no, not tear-em-off!” I said. “Taranov. He was some crazy Russian guy!”
Meanwhile, rumor from the apiary was that Zachary had opened one hive and found 12 or 15 capped swarm cells. People began arriving at my station displaying their newly acquired cells and asking how best to handle them. It occurred to me that Zachary was over there just tearing ’em off. (In all fairness, he was gently excising, but that’s a minor detail.)
At the end of the day I was given two of the cells to take home. I had them in my fist, and as I stood near the hives talking to someone my hand began to vibrate. I took a peek, only to see a virgin half way out of her cell. “Oh no!”
I didn’t know what to do with her, but I was soon rescued by Maureen Sullivan who was running the “how to make useful stuff” station. She grabbed a plastic bait cup for my loose queen and quickly fashioned a cage from a piece of hardware cloth and a broomstick for the other. I was good to go for the long drive home.
The next morning I split a hive in order to prepare a mating nuc. Now comes the hard part, because introducing a virgin is trickier than introducing a ripe cell, so we’ll see how it goes.
Thanks to the PSBA, Zachary Huang, and a handful of giggly beekeepers, we now have an “official” name for a split made from a torn off swarm cell. So beekeepers, remember where you heard it first!