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Why a summer split can be risky

Looking for the queenDuring my last inspection I discovered 2 queen cells on on one of the frames. These usually occur in spring when the colony wants to swarm, but since I had some capped queen cells I decided to try a split, even though it is the middle of summner . 

This split is a little more risky than a spring split. Here’s some background information: Bees create queen cells for 3 reasons:To swarm: In that case the colony creates swarm cells:

1. These are nose like structures usually at the bottom of a frame. The old queen leaves the hive with a swarm of bees that have a belly full of honey and they find a suitable location to start a new colony. The swarm bees are ready to make new comb and to nurse any new eggs and larvae that are created in their new home. 

In the meantime, the old home has been left with lots of eggs and brood so that when the new queen hatches she has enough time (up to 3 or four weeks – and I’ve experienced even longer) during which she mates and gets ready to lay eggs to continue the colony. 

2. To supersede a failing or old queen:

Supersedure cells are the same shape but usually hang in the middle of the comb as they did in my case. 

In this case, as soon as the queen hatches, she will kill the old queen (or vice versa) and the colony continues, hopefully with young and effective queen. 

3. An emergency queen:

This is usually a cell that gets created if something happens to the existing queen. The bees will feed a hatched egg with royal jelly and create a new queen. This queen cell is usually smaller and not as elongated as a planned queen. 

In my case the queen cells were elongated and towards the centre of the frame, therefore most likely either swarm cells or supersedure cells. 

I checked that there were some eggs, so that if my plan failed, the colony could make an emergency queen and continue, but my hope is that the newly hatched queen will mate and be productive. 

When we do the split, we imitate a swarm. In our case we found the queen (not always easy) and put that frame in a new hive, along with two other frames that contained capped brood and nurse bees. We also added a frame of honey. 

That new box we then move to a new location, just as would happen when the colony swarms. 

I said that this split is a little more risky than a spring split. Here’s why: Since this is a summer split, it’s more likely that the queen cells were supersedure cells than if it were spring, when bees naturally swarm. 

The risk to the original colony is that I’m leaving the hive without a queen. This risk is no different than a spring split, other than that there may not be as many eggs as there would be in spring. In the next few days I’ll inspect every day to make sure that the queen cells (there were two) hatch and then inspect for the next few weeks to ensure that there are eggs which develop into bees (and not drones.) Only then do I know that I have a healthy queen. 

The risk to the newly formed colony is that, if the queen cells were supersedure cells, then that colony is likely to have a failing queen. My hope is that the queen is actually healthy and will continue to lay eggs or that she will lay sufficient eggs for the colony to make a new queen. 

In either case, I have to inspect the hives frequently. I’ll do it every two days. If all else fails I will have to buy a queen to ensure that my two colonies continue. 

Comments

admin

I can finally report back after doing an inspection on both hives two days ago. (Three days after the split). The original queen is laying well in the new hive and the two queen cells in the original hive have both hatched. Hopefully the windy weather does not blow my queen away on her mating flight. Uli