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By mid-April the beekeeper should have determined the final winter survival or mortality rate of the bee depending upon whether he/she is an optimist or a pessimist.After some soul searching,the individual may decide to make up for the winter loss or perhaps increase the number of colonies above the "usual".

The key to making increases is not to overdo it. One should be able to produce additional colonies without significantly compromising honey yield. Also, one should ensure that the new hive is successful in population buildup and attaining stores for the winter.

Package Bees

Perhaps the easiest way to make increases is to purchase package bees. It is best to order bees in February for a delivery date near May 1st. Only buy package bees from commercial operations that are certified "disease and mite free". Packages should be feed continuously a 1:1(sugar/water) syrup until there is sufficient forage available (dandelion,fruit bloom). For rapid colony buildup and significant reduction of queen supercedure, give the package a frame or two of capped, emerging brood from one of your stronger colonies. The addition of emerging brood will prevent the normal decline of adult population that packages exhibit which often leads to supercedure. Be sure to place the additional brood next to the brood that the package has begun to rear in order to prevent "chilling".

Nuclei(nucs)

A nuc is a miniature hive. It has a queen, all stages of brood and stores. Usually a nuc consists of three to five frames. Nucs are usually not intended to produce surplus in the year they are established. Rather, the goal for the first season is to fill two brood chambers with a sufficient population and food reserve to survive the winter. Make nucs early in the month of June from strong parent colonies. A four or five frame nuc is best in Maine. The brood and bees are usually removed from one parent hive although they may be taken from two.

Each nuc should consist of one or two frames of honey and pollen, one or two frames of mostly capped brood and older larva, a frame of young larvae and a frame of eggs. Usually, a queen is introduced, but often the nuc is allowed to rear itís own queen. Other beekeepers prefer to remove the queen from the parent colony and put her in the nuc. If this is the case, then the frame of eggs is unnecessary. Instead, substitute an empty frame for the frame of eggs. In several weeks the nuc should be full of bees. At this time transfer the nuc into a hive body with a reduced entrance. When the bees completely fill the hive body add either a second brood chamber or a shallow depending upon the anticipated flow in your area.



Divisions/Splits


There are two basic types of divisions, the single hive or the multiple hive division. A single hive division is just that. A parent hive is divided into two relatively equal units. Usually, the new colony is moved to another yard so that its population is not depleted due to bees returning to the parent hive. Successful divisions may be made within the apiary with a little more effort. Divide the parent colony as stated above, however, shake additional bees from two or three frames into the "split". Place the split (with grass loosely stuffed in the entrance) next to the parent hive, facing the opposite direction. After a few days check the hives for strength. If the "split" appears to have lost bees, then shake nurse bees from the parent colony into it. Usually this is sufficient to even out the two hives. In a couple of weeks the new colony may be returned around so that the entrance faces the desired direction.

Multiple hive divisions are made up from two or more parent colonies. A frame or two of bees, brood and honey can be taken from as many as ten hives without the bees fighting. When making this sort of increase it is critical that the parent hives first be inspected for any disease. The new division must be balanced. There should be eggs, young larvae, older larvae, capped and emerging brood as well as sufficient honey and pollen. It is advantages to move the new hive to another yard, however, this type of split can be successful within the parent apiary. It doesnít hurt to shake additional bees into these colonies.

The beekeeper can successfully increase colony numbers by one or more of the methods described. The key to success is not to "push" the bees too hard. Only split strong colonies, don't attempt to make divisions too early in the season, and maintain a balance of brood stages and adult population in the new colony. Donít expect a surplus crop of honey the first year from newly established hives. If the new colony is slow to start due to weather, donít hesitate to supplement with pollen substitute and syrup. By August 20th, if the new colony will not have a sufficient population and honey stores to winter successfully, then unite it with another weak hive and try again next year.


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