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.
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
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.
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
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.