This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Fruit Bloom and Spring Divides

Wild Plums in bloom. I love to stand out in the thicket of Plum trees and smell the fragrant flowers and listen and watch the bees work the blooms. A simple pleasure.
The fruit bloom has started around the Mpls and St Paul area. I was driving down Hwy 36 today and noticed Wild Plum trees in bloom. I have Wild Plums at my place and they have not started to bloom yet. The Wild Plum trees on Hwy 36 were south facing and in full sun. Perfect ingredients for an early bloom. This is the beginning of what I call Ice Cream time for the bees. There soon will be an explosion of flowering trees and bushes. This will last about three weeks, then there will be a dearth of pollen for about two weeks. So, pollen patties should go on the hives around May 21st.
 This is also the time when spring divides happen. Some beekeepers have been dividing their colonies already. But for most of us, spring divides usually happen during the fruit bloom. The timing is perfect if your hive is ready to split. Ample pollen coming in and a nectar flow from all of the flowering plants.
 If you are unfamiliar or need a refresher on how to do a split, here is a great link to Gary's home page. He has a nice graphic and describes the divide process.
How to do a divide
Things to remember about doing a divide
  • Do not let the bees try to make their own queen. It is too early in the spring for honeybees to make a queen reliably. You can't make queens reliably in MN or WI until about June 10th. 
  • Do not do a walkaway split. All that is, is a waste of good brood this time of year.
  • Use the queen excluder method and wait four days to divide,  that is how Gary explains in his How to Do a Divide pdf. 
  • Shaking the bees off the frames and let them crawl up through the queen excluder would not be your best method this year. The weather may be too cold for this method. The bees may be clustered if it remains cool. The bees may not move to cover the brood quick enough. The brood may get chilled and die. 
Spring divides are necessary on strong overwintered colonies. If the bees are strong today, they will swarm in the near future and you can look at your surplus honey hanging in the tree. There are people that will buy divides if you have too many bees. Nature's Nectar LLC buys divides.
 If you have a strong overwintered colony and a spring package that you started. A great strategy is to do the divide, leave it by itself overnight. We want all the field bees to fly back to the parent hive.  Set a single sheet of newspaper across the top bars of the new package of bees. Put a 1/4" slit in the newspaper. Put the queenless divide on top of the newspaper. Put the covers on the hive. After a few days the hives will merge together and be one happy family. This new hive will become a powerhouse and swarm control will be needed in June. But if the nectar flow is strong, the hive will be a bin buster.