Hive Rebecca, on the double brood, is getting quite large. I decided that the weather forecast for Sunday was good enough to try to start the splitting process. I have two reasons to try to split the hive, firstly as a swarm prevention and secondly, as a means of increasing my stock by producing a new colony.
I decided to use the ‘Snelgrove’ technique to do this. Having attended a demonstration of the technique a while ago, I chatted it through with my beekeeping friend Fraser, thought it through myself, worked out a plan, looked out the relevant equipment and persuaded Stuart he really did have time to help me even although there was more Gala stuff to sort out (people of the village – you’ll know what I’m talking about!).
This technique relies on you finding the queen, containing her in the bottom brood box, adding one frame of brood and filling the rest of the box with fresh frames. On top of this, a queen excluder, two supers and the Snelgrove board are added and then the remaining brood, now queenless, is put on top. The flying bees, leave the top brood box by the Snelgrove side door and, after foraging, return to the usual entrance and thus the bottom brood box with the queen. As the bottom box is virtually empty and broodless, they think they have swarmed and set about making a new home. The top box, emptying of flying bees, is left with house bees who tend the brood. They realise they’re queenless and raise a new queen from the tiny eggs I’ve ensured they have available to them. The queen hopefully gets mated and a new colony is established which can be moved from the top position to a new position within the apiary. All sounds reasonable!
Stuart and I set up the equipment and got started. Within 2 frames, I found the queen, caught her, marked her and kept her safe. To cut a long, and quite stressful story short, we moved the relevant frames about, stacked it all back together again and congratulated ourselves on a great job! Awesome!
A few hours later, I decided to go through the photos to have a look at the queen again only to discover it wasn’t the queen at all but a drone! In my inexperience, I’d caught and marked a drone – idiot! Now feeling totally devastated, I phoned Stuart (who was at the Community Hall sorting out Gala stuff!) to say we had to go back and find the queen. So, instead of the hive being in a nice, logical Snelgrove state, I’d created chaos! The bottom brood could be queenless, full of foraging bees with no eggs to make a new queen. The top box, teaming with house bees and brood, could have the queen and therefore be too full and want to swarm. Or by some miracle, Stuart kept going on about ‘probability’, the queen is in the bottom box and all is well.
We returned and when through the busy top box twice and couldn’t find the queen. She’s either very good at hiding or is, indeed, in the bottom box. Only time will tell. According the the Snelgrove technique instructions, I’ve to inspect on day 5 to see if there are any queen cells in the top box. The perfect scenario would be eggs in the bottom box, proving the queen is there and a queen cell in the top box, proving she is not there. If that’s not the case, and I can’t find the queen, I think I’ll have to re-merge and try again another time. Ho hum! I’ll let you know what I find.