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Making Spring Splits

Spring Splits

When One Plus One Does Not Equal Two

By Jeff Gabric

Making splits in early spring is a little different than making June and July splits.  A good strategy in the spring is to take an overwintered colony, that has grown too large, and take a split off before it swarms.  Creating a second colony and reducing its bees and brood at the right time will suppress the swarming urge.  But, in the spring if it is not done right; “one plus one does not always equal two”

One strong colony will out produce 2 weak colonies.  Out produce in what way?  Out produce in the buildup of bees.  If you take a weak or medium strength colony and split it too early in the spring, you will end up with 2 colonies that when added together will not build up as fast as if left as one colony and split when it is stronger.  Why?  There are 2 queens laying?  A queen can lay 2000 eggs a day, but the strength of the colony determines how many they can manage.  For instance, a weak colony may only be able to manage 100 to 200 eggs a day.  But a strong colony could be laying and managing 800 to 1000 eggs a day in the spring.

Also, a colony needs a set number of bees to perform the hive house functions and then excess bees will forage.  When you make a split, you need 2 sets of bees to preform house functions.  This means you have a lot more bees performing house functions and less bees to forage.  Brood area may ultimately shrink in these two weak colonies instead of expanding.

Splitting in early spring, (in my experience the first half of April) can leave not enough bees on one side of the split and the ultimate result will be chilled brood and loss of brood.  It is a very tricky process to get the number of bees right on each side of the split to accommodate the amount of brood present.  The later you get in the spring the lower the environmental stresses (cold weather) and more bees will be present to cover brood and keep it warm.

Bottom line in our area, bees can be split in the first and second week of April but in my opinion its hard to find a colony strong enough at that time.  Generally, the second half of April and the first couple weeks of May are better times to make splits on those big colonies that need to be split to keep them from swarming.  Bee Patient!!!