My other half wanted to try to split a colony of bees which we'd found in the wild and brought home ages ago but never managed to persuade off their wild comb, which we'd wired roughly into frames. The boys had a go at tackling the job this morning. It turned out to be a bit like playing 'Towers of Hanoi' with bee hives...
That tall bee-hive has wild comb in the bottom segment and, hopefully, lots of babies in the green segment above it. Those two segments are 'brood chambers' where the queen can lay her eggs.
We want to split the colony, giving each part one of the smaller 'supers' above to store honey in, and a new brood chamber below for the queen to spread into. There's one new brood chamber, complete with waxed frames, to the left of the photo, and the boys are bringing in another one over the fence.
The two smaller bee-hives have young colonies in.
We're going to need a few spare bits and pieces, and we're running out of space. It's going to take a lot of juggling!
First take off the lid and the top super, which is just there to hold a feeder - we've been feeding them up in the hope of getting the queen to lay plenty of eggs and raise lots of babies so the colony is big enough to split.
There's a crown board to come off next, which stops the bees filling up the top chamber - there's a pluggable hole to let them into the feeder when it's fitted.
The top 'real' super is removed.
And put over on one side.
Then the next one is removed and placed on top of the first one.
Then there's a queen excluder - it has gaps big enough to let the workers through, but the queen has to stay below. That way she can't lay eggs in the comb in the supers, so we don't get maggots in our honey!
There's one of the brood chambers.
Not much brood on the comb.
There's some older brood, in the process of hatching. But no eggs. Bugger. Without eggs or very young larvae the bees won't be able to raise a new queen, so if this brood chamber isn't the one with the queen in, then it's doomed.
Hmmm. What to do.
We decide to carry on as normal, and then raid a comb with a load of eggs from one of the other hives tomorrow. We fit a crown board ready for a feeder. They're going to need lots of help if they have to suddenly raise more queens.
That brood chamber is lifted away and placed on top of the new, blue brood chamber.
We put a sheet over the bottom brood chamber to keep the bees in place.
Then lift it out of the way.
And place it down here for a minute.
The brood chamber was sitting on a fine mesh frame which lets any varroa mites fall through. It needs a bit of a clean up...
Varroa mesh back in place, new brood chamber placed on top.
Original brood chamber on top of that.
Then a queen excluder to keep her out of the honey stores.
Right - that's two small hives, each with a new split colony. Now they need a super each. This blue one had been fitted with ready waxed frames, but the bees hadn't moved up to it to build honey cells on the comb. The cells would have made the wax much more stable - without them, the wax has begun to melt and it's no longer any good for the bees to build on. No point putting this super on!
Alright, we'll put that blue one back down and put this one on instead!
And a little mini-super-thingie. Normally the lid would fit over the feeder, but Les has put polystyrene insulation in and now there's not enough room, so he's using one of these to raise the lid a bit.
And finally a roof!
Hmmm. They really *are* a bit wobbly...
See? All wibbly...
We'll forget about a ready-framed-and-waxed super for now and just use this empty one to house a feeder, 'cos we're out of the special small ones.
Now the feeder.
And finally the lid!
And it's all done.
Til tomorrow when we have to make up some more waxed frames, put them in the super, raid one of the other hives for a frame of brood, put some syrup in the feeders...
I don't think it actually took very long - maybe twenty minutes or a half hour. It's a job that's been sitting there for about two years waiting for us to have the time (I was stuck on 24 hour nursing for ages and we were all pretty stressed out and exhausted) and also, as it was the only colony we had, we didn't want to mess with it too much until we had some 'spares' in case anything went wrong, and it took us this long to find someone willing and able to take a couple of splits for us. As it was, we needed to raid a frame of brood to keep one of the new splits going, so we're glad we waited.
I think the thing that took most time was getting our heads around how on earth we were going to juggle it all, and making sure we had *all* the required bits and pieces on hand, and room to juggle. We're up to six colonies now, and nearly ready to take another split and try to get them into one of the new top-bar hives.
I think my other half enjoys his little games and experiments...
You hives appear to be Langstroth, not Warre. They are managed differently.
I don't know what your financial situation is, but if you want to preserve your bees in the move you might find it helpful to invest in a few polynuc boxes. I bought a dozen a few years back and they were fantastic. Each summer I make splits from my colonies - a few frames of stores, bees and larvae into each, letting them raise replacement queens. Poly nucs are easily portable in a normal car, and you can take your time setting up permanent bases for your full sized (empty) hives. They can be a good investment as well - approx £40 for the kit, and you can sell an established nuc in spring for around £150.
Michael Palmer has done a great talk which outlines in essence how I use them in my beekeeping. It's a bit of a long watch, but might give you some ideas for how to tame your towers!