I have spent the better part of two days watching videos on splitting hives. There are so many out there that it is mind numbing.
The videos that I have watched are Tim from Barnyard Bees, from the National Bee Company in England and one from Ireland. Those are the three videos are the most informative. There are more but I didn't feel like they gave you enough information that is needed to be know to do a split the way they are doing them.
For a new beekeeper in say their second or third year walk away splits are not advisable. It leaves to much to change with the newly created hive or the old queen less hive dependent upon which video you follow.
The most common thread is the weather and time of they year. Also determining the location, condition and age of the existing queen. This is important since while you have the hive open and the brood chambers are accessible check out the brood patterns. This will give you insight into the health and well being of the queen. You will catch a problem before it becomes an issue and you can solve it then.
Lets get back to the new beekeeper. The new beekeeper in their third year should still have contact with a mentor or a knowledgeable beekeeper that they can ask questions too. Their splits should be done by having a fresh queen ready(by fresh I mean already mated). Whether you are doing splits into NUCs or larger hives they are done much the same way. If you are splitting into NUCs instead of one hive you will be able to do two. Just thinking in terms of relative expansion you will make one hive grow into three.
Lets start with the NUC splits. You will need to do pre-inspection of the hive that you will be using for this split. The first thing is that there should be plenty of uncapped eggs and larva, along with capped brood. Also during this pre-inspection make note of the number of bees in the hive, the more bees the better to do splits. Look at the laying patterns and make sure that the queen is healthy.
Equipment that you will need to do a split:
NUC Boxes preferably deep boxes (if you have deep equipment)
Frames of drawn comb
Robbing screens that can be closed
A top or Frame feeder
By using a new queen it is only necessary to move the new hive to a new location in the same apiary. Walk away splits are different. Once you have all your equipment and tools, and you have done your pre-inspection and picked the hive or hives you want to split we can begin.
The first thing that will be done is to remove an edge frame of honey/pollen/brood and check for queen location if she is not on the frame place this frame on the frame holder to have room to work in the hive. REMEMBER This is a slow process!!!!! You will repeat this process until you reach the brood chamber in the center of the brood box. When you find the queen very gently capture her in the queen clip or cage and put her aside where she will not be damaged in any way. Once you find and cage her then you can pick and choose the frames that you want to use for your split. A good mix of brood, capped and eggs/larva in each of the split boxes but you will also need to leave a mixed brood in the donor hive as well. The new hive will need pollen on the frames as well. The new hives will be locked down for at least three days to let the new queen out. Also drawn comb so she can start right away laying eggs.
Once you have split up the frames to make 3 strong hives then you can release the queen back in to the original hive from where she came. The new queens should be placed into the new hives and the new hives placed in different locations in your apiary. This will allow the bee to re-orient to their new location. Also by placing some greenery over the front of the robbing screen it created an issue once it is open for the bees to just rush out and it resets their minds to re-orientation after they figure out how to get through the greenery, cedar branches or pine branches are best for this.
I am not going into walk away splits in this BLOG since it is more difficult to do and it is on a strict time table of events. Lets just stick with the basics for now.