How to make small splits or nucs
Making up small splits/nucs
Make sure it is at a point in the season when a virgin queen can successfully mate – meaning late enough for there to be an adequate drone population, but not so late that the drones are waning. Many successful queen breeders say the best queens are produced during honey flow when there are a lot of resources coming into the hive. It also makes sense that the best success would come during natural swarm season, May and June.
Start with a strong hive that can afford to give up a few frames of brood. If you can find the queen, that is good, isolate the frame she is on so you don’t accidentally remove her from the hive. Then find one frame with very young brood and eggs in it. Make doubly sure the queen is not on that frame. Place that frame in the center of the box that will be the new split or nuc. Identify three different cells that have eggs or larva younger than three days old. Gently break the bottom cell wall of the three cells with a hive tool. Put two more frames of brood with the frame, they can be capped brood. The rest of the box can be empty comb or empty frames. Move the “mother” hive to a new location. It can be right next door. Make sure the queen is back inside that hive and that the brood nest is back together with no breaks. Add empty frames on the outside, not in the brood nest. Put the little split on the former location of the “mother” hive, so the returning foragers go into that hive. It takes 16 days for the bees to make a new queen. It takes another 3-4 days for her to go out and get mated and begin to lay. You can open the hive in 21 days to see if there are eggs yet. If you wait a full month, you can see the brood more easily and see if you have successfully raised a new queen.
Another method I plan to try this year:
Start with a strong hive. Place a queen excluder over the brood chamber. Put an empty box over the queen excluder. Find one frame of very young brood from this hive or another hive. Make absolutely sure the queen is not on the frame. Find three cells with eggs or larva under three days of age. Gently break the bottom cell wall of each of the three cells. Place this frame in the middle of the empty box. Place empty comb or empty frames around the frame to fill out the box. Before starting this, make sure the empty box has an exit hole in the back, but plug it. Check after two weeks to see if the bees have decided to make a queen up there. If they have, leave them alone for 15 or 16 days. At that point, open the back entrance hole so the virgin queen can go out to mate. Leave the hole open for 3 – 4 days. Check at that point to see if there is a laying queen in the hive. If you have successfully raised a queen, put her in a nuc with two more frames of brood besides the one she has and a frame of honey. Keep her there for a few days to make sure all is well, then the nuc is ready for sale. You can repeat the process again with the same hive and raise another queen in this manner, making one or two nucs per strong hive without sacrificing any honey or bees.