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Jacqueline, split or swarm?

Posts: 53
Location: USDA Climate Zone 9, Central Florida
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Do you split hives during swarm season to stop swarming in some hives?

I have had a TBH for a year now. I caught a swarm a year ago and this is the time of the year for swarming. I could create another second hive if I wanted to with a split of my existing hive. Some research I did suggests that letting them swarm may actually help them break pest cycles.

Do you normally do any splits or do you let all the hives swarm? If you let them swarm, do you have failures of the hive left behind because they are weakened by the swarm?

I don't really need 2 hives but I would like to maintain the one I have. A swarming would give me a new queen, which I believe would keep my hive vitality strong but I am concerned it could also spell the end for the hive if the hive beetle population rises too highly during the break in brood that happens during the transition of royalty.

We have lots of hive beetle issues in FL. They only cause an issue, though, when the hives are weak. Otherwise, the bees dispatch them or imprison them.

Tim Eastham
Mountain Tranquility Farm
Clermont, FL
Posts: 88
Location: southwest Washington state
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Most of my recommendations about what to do in beekeeping stem from learning what bees do on their own. We have a responsibility when keeping them to keep them the most similar way to how Nature does it. If you want healthy bees, that is.

I don't normally do splits. I know plenty of people who do and they seem to do well at it, but it doesn't fit my model. I prefer to let them swarm.

I know swarming can be problematic in the city, but there is a fallback. Be sure you've got desirable bait hives placed around your neighborhood and you'll probably pickup your own swarms when they find and accept your offer of a new home (in the bait box). It's sooo much fun to go out checking your bait boxes and find a swarm happily ensconced in one, already making comb. There is more info on bait boxes in other threads so I'll stick to answering your questions.

Swarms are what Nature tells colonies to do. I rarely find a hive weakened by a swarm leaving. I think that happened to me once and it was with a hive that had 2 or 3 swarm departures which was unusual and not normal. The others thrive once they rebuild their population back up.

You mentioned another reason I like swarming -- because it breaks the pest cycle. Once again, Nature has a solution to a problem, we just have to get out of our heads long enough to let that work. Same with hive beetles -- on their own a healthy hive can deal with them.

One thing I wish I could convince more people is that letting a weak hive die is perfectly okay. Yes, it's sad for the beekeeper, but this is how Nature weeds out weakness in the gene pool. Don't prop them up; let them die. More healthy bees will be the result of letting the weak bees die off. Be in service to the gene pool and work the way Nature is asking us to.

Florida has its own specific issues, like hive beetles. I'd suggest you keep your bees as healthy as possible with the parts of beekeeping you can control, like healthy organic flowers nearby, good water (Let a bit of seaweed float in it for the minerals), shade during the heat of summer, letting the colony direct its own mating and activity. Bees are smarter than we humans are on how to best raise bees so I let them do as much of it as possible and mostly try to follow their lead.


Native Bee Guide by Crown Bees
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