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June 2021

Save-The-Date for the 2021 Conference
Join us for a JamborBEE at the WSU Bee Research Facility in Othello, Washington!
Ramblings from the President
By Kevin Oldenburg
The WASBA 2021 Conference is a GO!  Just got word from WSU that we can have our in-person conference at their Bee Research Facility in Othello, WA.  The plan is to have a JAMBORBEE on Oct 2-3.  There will be room for RVs, campers, and tents so you can come and stay right at the facility and talk bees all night!  

We have a great speaker list lined up.  Dr. Steve Sheppard will be our Keynote this year and will be talking about the past, present, and future of the WSU Bee Research Program and Facility.  Steve is the godfather of WSU bee research and has mentored many students over the years. We’re sure that this will be an informative and fascinating presentation.  

We also have speakers from all across the US!  Julia Mahood will be here from Atlanta, Georgia speaking on her work with Drones. The title of one of her talks is “The Game of Drones”.  I’ve seen her presentation, and, if you haven’t, be prepared to learn more than you thought you could about drone congregation areas and bee mating.  Dewey Caron will be back this year speaking about how to reduce winter losses and how to read brood frames.  Dewey is bringing Cheryl Wright with him.  Cheryl is the President of Portland Urban Beekeepers and will be talking about the challenges of keeping bees in the city.  Also from Oregon is Priya Chakrabarti.  Priya will be providing two presentations, the first on bee nutrition and the second on multistressors that affect pollination.  We have Dr. Judy Wu, who is one of Dr. Sheppard’s former students and now a professor of entomology at the University of Nebraska. Her research focuses on pesticide exposure and pest control strategies.  Dr. Boris Baer will be here from the University of CA, Riverside.  Dr. Baer is a professor of entomology whose research focuses on the study of molecules linked to bee health with an eye toward being able to breed bees that are better able to withstand chemical and nutritional stressors.  Dr. Ramesh Sagili from Oregon State University will be here presenting on sustainable apiculture and improved honeybee health.  We have several presenters from WSU – GO COUGS!  Dr. Brandon Hopkins, WSU will be presenting on strategies for overwintering of bees, Dr. Jennifer Han will be presenting on varroa control without chemical miticides, Dr. Nick Naeger will be presenting on his use of fungal extracts as a means to control varroa, and Dr. Timothy Lawrence will be presenting on honeybee health and stock improvement.  

Finally, we have the WASBA master beekeepers!  WASBA has 8 new master beekeepers as of this writing with more in the process.  As part of obtaining their masters certificate, they need to present their research at our yearly conference.  This year we’ll be hearing from several of them.  Sandy Fanara, a WASBA BOD member, will be presenting on plants for pollinators. Ted McFall will give us the best tips and tricks for catching swarm. Alan Woods will be presenting on Pest Management, and Bob Redmond will be talking about bees and their microbiome.  If these 20+ presentations are not enough to make you want to attend, consider the following as well.

WASBA has partnered with Hierophant Meadery for this year’s conference.  Hierophant will be making a special WASBA mead for this year’s conference which will only be available at the conference.  Tim Hiatt has graciously donated the honey for this special brew, and I’m sure you will be wowed by the incredible flavor.  As part of your attendance fee, you will receive a souvenir mead glass along with a free pour of our 2021 conference mead.  In addition, there will be several other Hierophant meads available by the glass or bottle for you to enjoy at the conference or to take home.  The social hour will run from 5-8PM on Saturday night and will take place in the vendor tent.  This will be a great time to visit our fabulous vendors and pick up any beekeeping items that you might need.

Don’t forget our auction.  As in years past, we have had a number of really great items up for auction.  Once again, Ellen Miller, our VP and Education chair has donated a handcrafted quilt hanging.  We’ll have more mead that was donated by the West Plains Beekeepers Association, an electric extractor, trips, and many more items.

If you don’t have an RV, camper, or don’t want to tent camp, just book your hotel in Othello, WA or in Moses Lake, a short 20 minute drive to Othello.  If you can’t be there in person, you can still attend via zoom.  The zoom conference was a big hit last year, so we are combining the two this year so that everyone can attend, whether or not you can be there in person.

This year’s conference promises to be our best yet, and don’t forget that ALL of the profits from the conference go to support the WSU Bee Research Facility!

Learn more & stay up-to-date by visiting the Conference Info page on our website.

Kevin Oldenburg
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Legislative Report
By Tim Hiatt, WASBA Legislative Chair

Governor Signs Modified Pollinator Bill; Apiary Registration Not Dead Yet

In the recently ended legislative session, our voices were heard to remove apiary location mapping from being implemented in the bill. Instead, it was pushed back to the task force to reconsider. Soon the task force will start meeting again (via zoom) to guide the state on implementing the recommendations of the task force. A summary of the just-passed bill is here.

Apiary location registration will be reconsidered. The beekeepers I've spoken with are united in opposition to this idea. We will need to be active in the task force to assure this idea isn't a task force recommendation to the legislature again. Those who were involved in the task force, please continue. New people to participate should let me know and I'll get you added.

Remember, under current law, we are to register as beekeepers with the state Department of Agriculture with our name, address, and number of hives we expect to operate this year. All funds from registering are, by law, reserved to be spent on honey bee research. Registering our apiary locations is a new proposal by the pesticide industry. They say it's to help them prevent bee poisoning. In reality, it's to push the accountability for killing bees to beekeepers and away from pesticide applicators. Also, there's too many unintended consequences from an apiary location database, such as enabling theft, making your locations public so unscrupulous beekeepers can place their hives where another beekeeper has found good forage, and personal data privacy concerns.

Soon, WSDA will send a survey to all registered beekeepers. They will ask if you are in favor of a) apiary location registration and b) a state apiary inspector. Please respond to the survey. Apiary location registration is a bad idea, no matter how you look at it. A state apiary inspector could be good, depending on the person in the role. I've seen helpful, service-oriented state apiarists, and inflexible, regulatory-minded ones who've done more damage than good.

Many thanks to all who wrote/called/emailed their representatives and senators about bee issues this year. Even though we are a small group in terms of numbers, we have passionate and articulate people who make our concerns known. The quantity of comments on honey bee issues before the legislature always surprises them. Thanks to all for giving us a voice in Olympia.

Tim Hiatt
WASBA Education Report
By Ellen Miller, WASBA VP
This is a short report on the Education side of WASBA since our last newsletter.  We continue to have remote classes being offered by 7 of our local affiliates and once again my sincere appreciation for those who have taken on the challenge of offering on-line classes to help meet the needs of all those who are wanting to get started in beekeeping as well as those who are advancing their knowledge of beekeeping through the Apprentice and Journeyman courses.  So far this year we have awarded 310 Beginning Beekeeper certificates, 59 Apprentice certificates, 9 Journeyman certificates, and 2 Masters certificates with more in the pipeline.  Please read the experiences of one of our groups, the West Sound Beekeepers, in the article written by Sandy Fanara in this newsletter to learn more about what some of our committed beekeepers have done to meet the needs of new beekeepers during these challenging times.  

The Education Committee has been reviewing the option of providing for a continuation of education for our beekeeping students in the Sustainability in Prisons Program as well as others who may be interested.  We will be bringing forward a recommendation to the WASBA Board to approve a certification level between the current Journeyman and Master levels.  This program is intended for students interested in achieving a higher level of experience and knowledge beyond Journeyman which will be shared with other members of the beekeeping community and members of the public, as well as serving as documentation of accomplishment appropriate for a resume or job application.  This course is not a requirement for entering the Master level program but is seen as an option for those who are interested in furthering their knowledge and experience without the requirements of the Master level research component.  We are suggesting that this certification level be called Craftsman, following the trades naming structure already established of Apprentice/Journeyman/Master.  There will be more on this proposed level in our next newsletter. 

Ellen Miller
Teaching the WASBA Beginning Beekeeping Course during a Pandemic
by Sandy Fanara

Our Beginning Beekeeping Class of 2020 had already met for one of the three scheduled Saturday classes, when on March 15, 2020 Governor Inslee announced a statewide shutdown of public gatherings. At the first class, that past Saturday we had nearly 100 people- teachers, Beginning Beekeeping students, and administrative staff- in a large meeting hall in Silverdale, WA. We postponed the next class, and then the next not having any clue of how long the virus would affect our meeting practices. With so little information about the virus and shutdowns we needed to decide between somehow continuing or postponing the class, or even canceling the class and refunding the students. The big deciding factor for us was that most of the students had already ordered bee packages, and those were to be delivered in just a few weeks. We felt that we needed to give all those soon to be honeybee owners an opportunity to succeed. 

Even though there was a huge learning curve for us to get over, we decided to give teaching via an internet meeting site a try. After signing up for the meeting site, the next two Saturdays we kept the same schedule of presentations and presenters as what would have happened at the in-person classes. We had only had a couple of brief practice sessions to help our teachers learn how to do an online presentation. Sometimes the slideshow worked smoothly and sometimes the connection between the presenter and the meeting site was poor. To improve connectivity, the students were asked to mute and close their cameras which left the teachers feeling like they were presenting to themselves. Because of this, some teachers rushed through the material while others dragged on well past the scheduled time. For those of us administrating the meeting, it was hectic with readmitting dropped teachers and students, filling dead airtime when a teacher disconnected, or fixing one of our online mistakes (such as exiting from the entire meeting instead of just the shared screen mode). 

Some of the material was perfectly fine presented using PowerPoint on the Web meeting. For example, the presentations on Honeybee Biology, and Pest and Diseases went well.  The sections that are better suited to show and tell and the passing around of examples, however, did not. We knew the material was not well understood by the amount of clarification and repeat answers we had to give during the question-and-answer periods. 

Here in Kitsap County, Covid-19 kept us from meeting safely in any groups of more than a handful of people for all of 2020. Our Club teaching, mentor, and Apiary staff met with small groups of students all summer, each Saturday, in the apiary answering questions and teaching beekeeping. Our Facebook website and Education emails received hundreds of questions and requests for help. We did our very best to help, with many of our teaching/mentor members pitching in untold volunteer hours.  Sixty-seven members of the 2020 class passed their test and received the WASBA Beginning Beekeeper Certification. 

We didn’t pat ourselves on the back for too long! Changes needed to be made before the next Beginning Beekeeper class that was scheduled for February 2021. Of those changes, two took priority: better structure and scheduling periods for the online presentations (to be done by Apprentice Beekeepers working towards Journeyman points); and getting students in the club apiary if safely possible, for a more structured hands-on time with beekeeping supplies, tools, and hive management. To get it done the way we hoped, it was going to take a tweaking of the curriculum, extra scheduling, reservations and appointments, teacher training, safety protocol adherence; not to mention all the regular administrative operations.  

Starting in the late summer, armed with improvement notes the apiary staff, teachers, and I had taken, I designed a hybrid program using the WASBA teaching materials; for online presentations, hands-on classes, and individual class written handouts.

My final 2021 program outline looked like this:

  1. Register Students for Beginning Beekeeper Class
  2. February: Schedule and Email reservations for Stedman’s Beekeeping Supply Store/Club Apiary- 5 or less per group (masks and social distancing required) - 1 Hour
  3. Beekeeping Supply Store and Apiary Class – 1 Hour - in person/hands-on
    1. Distribute the WASBA Beginning Beekeeping Manual
    2. Handout- “Ordering Bees” 
    3. Handout- “Bee hive equipment, tools, hive stands and location” 
    4. ½ hour discussion in Store with equipment, 
    5. ½ hour discussion in Apiary
  4. Online Train the Trainer sessions for online classes
  5. February: Online Classes
    1. Two Saturdays - 8:30AM-12:30PM 
    2. Questions between chapters and 5-minute break between teachers.
    3. Using WASBA Slides
    4. Presentation max length of 20-30 minutes per section, except for Bee Biology and Pests/Diseases (60 min each)
  6. March: Train the Trainer for Apiary Experience (1 Journeyman teacher per station, Apprentice floaters)
  7. March: Continue Bee Supply/Apiary meetings as needed. 
  8. March-April: Schedule and email reservations to students for April Apiary Experience Day 
  9. April-Two Saturdays (before Package Day): Apiary Experience Day -  Hands-on Class – 2.5 hours
    1. Handout – “Did you see?”
    2. Handout – “Apiary Experience” listing the 5 stations and discussion points
    3. Hands-on Stations 
      1. Apiary Intro, shed, smoker practice
      2. Package and NUC Installation, feeding, first few weeks hive inspections
      3. Varroa Mite sampling, treatments 
      4. Langstroth Demonstration Hive – Hive management, adding space, etc.
      5. Live Hive Opening and inspection

10)    End scheduled Beginning Classes: Apiary Open each Saturday for ongoing help/instruction, and ongoing education at each club meeting.


Our ‘take away’ from teaching this year: This program took a lot of volunteer hours to make happen. For instance, we presented the 1 hour Bee Supply Store/Apiary class, eleven times to safely, and with social distancing, accommodate small groups of the 65 member class. Because of the extraordinary circumstance regarding the Pandemic, we think the extra time was worth it. We also found that doing a hands-on, structured, multi-station apiary class improved the students understanding, technique, and confidence for getting their own bees. However, many of our teachers, apiary staff, and mentors both this year and last year were not working (regular schedules) due to Covid-19. This gave us an unprecedented amount of availability to teach and schedule students. I am hoping we will not need the extravagant amount of time we have had when larger group meetings are again aloud allowed. 

We are proud of the 40 students that passed the Beginning Beekeeper test and will be receiving their WASBA certification. From the class members we received two confirmed reports of people coming down with Covid-19. Neither of those class members attended class, but it still caused me to pause and be thankful we had maintained a vigilant virus safety protocol.

Sandy Fanara
WASBA Master Beekeeper,
Education Chair of West Sound Beekeepers Association
NEW! Notes from the WSU Bee Program
By Walter S. Sheppard
With the blessing of the Washington State Beekeepers Association, this article represents the first installment of what we all hope will become a regular communication from the WSU Bee Team to the WASBA membership. 

As many of you are now aware, the WSU Bee Program has grown and the Bee Team now consists of four faculty members, several postdoctoral researchers, an apiary research manager and a dedicated group of graduate students.  The research underway at WSU includes a suite of projects dedicated to honey bee health, honey bee breeding, understanding honey bee reproduction and immune function, and the importance of landscape ecology and forage diversity on pollinators.  You will hear from a number of these folks in the WASBA newsletter issues to come…stay tuned!

With Summer 2021 just around the corner, this is a time of year where WSU graduate students, staff, postdocs and faculty are often called on to join together to deal with the basic issues of managing what at first might seem to be an excessively large number of colonies for research and breeding.  The first instance of an “all hands on deck” event each year often centers around preparations to acquire, house and install package bees.  This year, we purchased 150 packages of honey bees, each headed by a daughter from one of our own WSU breeder queens that had been supplied to the queen producer.  While one team drove the bees back from CA to Pullman, the rest of the group made sure we had 150 “set-ups” of single deep boxes with frames, bottom boards and lids, set out into locations around Pullman and Moscow.  After getting the bees from California to Pullman, the WSU Bee Team took one day to install them into our various yards and feed them.      

A picture containing grass, outdoor, sky, tree

Description automatically generatedPostdoctoral researcher Rae Olsson and graduate student Em Redeleman install packages at a WSU out yard

Why so many hives?  Many University bee programs maintain 20-30 or fewer honey bee colonies with which to conduct research.  Depending on the type of research being conducted, a small number of hives can be entirely adequate. For example – if the research was to examine a basic physiological function, such as ovary maturation, many virgin queens could be produced for study from only a few hives.  However, if the research interest is to conduct a large-scale test of the efficacy of a new potential biological pesticide, then dozens or hundreds of colonies would provide the number of control and test colonies better suited for statistical verification. Likewise, using many colonies allows us to more fully evaluate genetic differences in breeding lines of bees.  As many of you are aware, we have been taking our WSU bees to California for a number of years to both have a chance for early evaluation (in almond pollination) and to get a “jump on the season” for the breeding program. 

As of this writing, WSU has approximately 320 full-sized bee colonies and over 140 mating nucleus colonies (nucs) in the field.  By late June, we expect to have closer to mating 300 nucs in the field.  Our overwintering goal for 2021 is approximately 450 full-sized colonies...and by winter of 2022, we hope to have around 550.  Again…why?  The answer is both simple and somewhat complex.  We have historically maintained around 120-150 hives for our bee breeding operation. In recent years, WSU has provided Caucasian breeder queens and New World Carniolan breeder queens to commercial queen producers, who produce tens of thousands of daughters for sale.  While these hives are required for the breeding program, we have also placed many of these colonies into multiple service when needed.  Thus, some have been used for testing fungal biopesticides and fungal extracts (Drs. Han and Naeger), or for developing indoor wintering and cold storage strategies (Dr. Hopkins and students).  In addition, we have often been able to include hundreds of hives from commercial beekeeper collaborators for these larger field projects.  With the acquisition of the new WSU Pollinator facility in Othello, the decision was made to set up and run a small, palletized operation (eventually around 400 hives) that would allow us full control and long term tracking over large -scale field trials, provide a testing ground for our breeding program and (potentially) provide some income to help support the beekeeping technical staff.

Breeding Program Update

As a result of the Covid-19 situation in WA and worldwide, no international travel for germplasm collection was undertaken in 2020 nor is planned for 2021.  However, we continue to breed and select honey bees for our region and to assist queen producers to meet national demands for both New World Carniolan (NWC) and WSU Caucasian strain honey bees. One of our team, Susan Cobey (and her husband Tim Lawrence) of Whidbey Island are the progenitors and brain trust behind the well-known selected Carniolan strain, “New World Carniolan”.  Susan and Tim initiated this strain more than 35 years ago and for about the past decade, have provided NWC to the queen production industry through WSU with “breeder queen” sales made to queen producers.  (“breeder queens” in this context are specially selected instrumentally inseminated queens that commercial queen producers use to produce up to tens of thousands of naturally mated daughter “production queens” for sale.  The typical queen you purchase from a queen producer is a “production queen”.) 

This Spring, WSU signed an agreement with two queen producers in California to transfer the production of instrumentally inseminated NWC “breeder queens” to the producers, with WSU and Susan maintaining a role in breeding and providing the genetic material to help maintain the stock. Susan will also continue to share expertise in instrumental insemination to assure success in the transfer of the lines.  These queen producers will then have the role to supply all other NWC queen producers with certified NWC breeder queens.  Returns from the partnership will provide funds to help continue Susan’s work and to transition the production of NWC breeder queens to industry.  We are excited to follow the NWC story as it “graduates” from WSU to industry and recognize that it may serve as a model for further germplasm/stock agreements.  Meanwhile, WSU continues to provide instrumentally-inseminated breeder queens of the Caucasian honey bee (another cold climate adapted strain) to a number of queen producers in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Florida.  
A picture containing grass, outdoor, park, lawn

Description automatically generated

Nucleus colonies each containing an instrumentally-inseminated queen derived from A. m caucasica ancestry with the potential to be a future breeder queen.  Notice the CO2 cylinder used to “gas” the queens upon “release” into the nucs, to stimulate egg-laying following instrumental insemination. 

To give you an idea of the scale and scope required to produce a large number of instrumentally -inseminated queens, our most recent “all hands on deck moment” took place last week, when Bee Team students, staff and faculty joined in the effort to set up more than 100 5-frame nucs, collected drones and semen from our Caucasian breeders and then supported Susan as she did a marathon two-day insemination event in Pullman to produce 81 instrumentally-inseminated queens that each have special requirements for introduction and care.  However, those are details are for another time.  Until then…bee well.

Steve Sheppard
Thurber Professor, Department of Entomology
Washington State University
Agility - Navigating the Waters of a Rapidly Changing Environment 
By Dr. Jennifer Short, DVM

Agility is that concept of having the ability to move with the circumstances that present  themselves. Sometimes the circumstances change abruptly (like our pandemic event) and  sometimes it’s a subtle change in current that nudges but doesn’t pull you under. Each has its  challenges – one requires the reactive reflexes of a cat, the other discernment - and the ability  to change course with the flow. It also requires the discipline to avoid the “escalation of  commitment” syndrome, which I admit I’m guilty of, once on a bone it’s hard to remove it from  my focus. 

The Educational Gaps

So it’s been quite a while since some of our beekeeping clubs and organizations have had  physical meetings or hands-on educational events. Although some are starting to break the ice  with full on field learning events, it still doesn’t seem to be the norm. Classes have morphed to  zoom meetings, personal conversations are now Facebook discussions, and YouTube videos are  the go to for “expert" advice. It’s amazing as organisms how adaptable we are to filling a void.  Speaking only for myself, I’m well aware that the path of least resistance doesn’t always  produce the best results. It’s the mistakes I make that provide the best and longest lasting  learning experience. This year, I’ve continued to make just enough. The learning experience is  still challenging, but not so many that it becomes disappointing and frustrating. Lots of hours  go into expertise – especially in livestock management and animal health/welfare, which at the  fundamental level is what we’re doing as beekeepers. So try to find either a mentor, a club, or resources that are in line with your learning style so you can keep up with the latest hints, tips and tricks in managing your bees.  The WASBA site has a great resource page and I encourage everyone to get familiar with what the state has to offer for beginning beeks!!

The Twists and Turns of the Seasonal Flow 

Already this year has been quite a ride! The spring minor flow came early here, and came all at  once. Brood chambers were plugged with pollen. With that came huge population explosions, turning all that pollen into bees. Huge populations of bees meant they went through that nectar flow pretty fast once it disappeared in the post flow dearth. If you were behind on feeding it got ugly!! Bees were “hangry"!! If you didn’t super early you missed it. If your colonies came out of winter lagging a little, you missed it. If you weren’t watching the forage carefully this year and just doing what you normally do when you normally do it, well, yup, you missed it!! 

<--Camano Island Forage Chart 

Early Solutions

Of course, by now supers should be on, and quite frankly, I’ve had supers on since early April for a couple of reasons. One not so strategic, but just plain workflow necessity. I was slammed early in the season. Getting the supers on the units seemed like a harmless way to not only get the stored wet frame boxes out of my extraction room, it also fed them during the early season before the minor flow started. It was a blessing in disguise, since the spring flow was so big that if I hadn’t had them on, I’m sure I would have lost bees to swarms, and also had to feed earlier in the post spring flow dearth due to poor reserves in the units. My swarm numbers last year were 8 (5 recaptured – 3 lost), and this year I had 1 (recaptured) – out of 200, not bad. So dodged multiple bullets there, thank God!! 

Late Solutions

I’m still pulling frames of brood and bees off some of the units even now just to keep them in 3 or 4 boxes. Prepping for the honey flow is a balancing act this year (blackberry crown buds just popped on the north end, south end is still lagging, and shady areas haven’t relaxed their clusters yet). Last year, for me, honey capping didn’t happen very quickly. I don’t know if it was poor ventilation because I went to a different inner cover system, or that the nectar was just “wetter’ last year and they didn’t dry it out as fast. Keeping honey off their heads is one useful technique for swarm mitigation (Walt Wright’s series on the Swarm Impulse is a great resource – you can find it here. So getting that honey out of the center of the box above the brood chamber for me is one way to keep them on their toes and not thinking about leaving. Under-supering is another way to put space between them and the honey over their heads. That means placing the next honey super you put on just over the brood nest, and under the first box with nectar/honey.  

Crossing our T’s and Dotting our I’s 

Finally, as if we didn’t have enough to do as beekeepers, there’s the administrative side of our issues. As always, the government grinds on in various ways that affect us as beekeepers and it’s important to remain vigilant and aware of issues that are on the horizon. One of them is the Pollinator Task Force that was implemented last year. I have no doubt Tim Hiatt will have a lot of info coming to you in his legislative updates – he quietly does a tremendous job protecting our beekeepers!! I’ve been invited back to participate this year (don’t know why exactly, speaking my mind wasn’t very popular last session!!). Know that I will continue to protect the rights and privacy of beekeepers without hesitation no matter what.  

So, in the immortal words of Princess Leia, “may the flow be with you!!” Lol!!

Good luck to all!! 

Dr. J
NEW! The Master Beekeeper's Corner
Splitting Colonies
by Dorothy McFall
Splitting bee colonies is an essential part of beekeeping.  A split is basically a man-made swarm, so a split can help fulfill a colony’s desire to swarm.  The reasons why a beekeeper might want to split varies.  What one might consider the best method is always debatable, because splitting depends on what outcome or apiary goal you desire.  One must determine if they are trying to create more hives, prevent swarms, get more queens, control mites etc...  The reason for splitting will often dictate the technique of split.  

A very well-known way of splitting is known as a “walk away split”.  All that is needed to perform a split is an extra bottom board and an extra cover. To use this technique, you simply separate two brood boxes and create two colonies from your double brood box into two colonies of single brood boxes with their own lids and bottom boards.  Before splitting, make sure both boxes have eggs, as that is the essential part.  It does not matter which box has the queen, as the queen-less colony will raise its own queen.  This technique is often popular with newer or less experienced beekeepers.

A “cut down split” is a type of splitting that boosts foraging.  In order for this technique to be successful, timing is paramount.  This split must be performed immediately before the honey flow.  This technique takes almost all the honey, brood, pollen, and queen into a new hive.  The old hive will only have capped brood, some honey, and a frame of eggs.  The old hive can have only one brood box and several supers.  There is no risk of the new hive swarming, since the workforce all returned to the old hive.  The old hive also will not swarm since it has no queen, nor any open brood.  The old hive will produce a great deal of honey, since there is no brood to care for.  After a few weeks, the old hive will requeen itself, and the “cut down split” is complete.

Splits may be performed when a colony has an adequate number of bees.  A colony must be able to perform the necessary daily tasks, such as keeping brood properly warm.  A typical nucleus colony usually requires five frames of bees, frames of brood, pollen and honey.  A split at least this size will help ensure survival of the split.  Some colonies seem to never grow sufficiently strong, and some colonies can be split a handful of times each season.  The number of splits that you can perform varies from colony to colony and from year to year.  When the year has excellent nectar flows, the number of splits can increase from years of poor nectar flows.  Charles Dadant, the father of modern beekeeping, frequently warned that beginner beekeepers frequently split colonies too many times because they forget that only strong colonies are able to accomplish anything.

Every year I personally feel pressure to produce nucleus colonies as early in the spring as possible since my customers are eager to get hold of their bees.  Because of this, I find myself seeking to aggressively split at first opportunity, yet I am limited to the availability of enough drones to mate queens.  Splits may be performed when sexually mature drones are widely available, or else a beekeeper will need to attain a queen from some other source.

The best time to split may be after the honey flow if you happen to seek a large honey crop.  If your main objective is more colonies, a split before the honey flow is helpful, since the honey flow is helpful for the new colony to get established.  Alternatively, if you wish to follow the natural instincts of bees as closely as possible, you may consider splitting during a honey flow, since bees tend to swarm during a honey flow.

Splitting slows varroa mite reproduction, which is a huge advantage since a high mite load will likely doom a colony.  Ironically, newer beekeepers who are very conscientious often have dead-outs while less conscientious beekeepers often have their bees survive.  If a conscientious beekeeper successfully keeps their colony strong, while keeping it from swarming, the beekeeper may have a difficult time keeping Varroa Mite load under control.  However, a lackadaisical beekeeper might allow his bees to swarm, which will offer a brood break; thus reducing the varroa mite load in the colony.  Recent swarming studies reveal that about 75% of workers departed when a colony swarms.  So, 75% of his phoretic mites disappeared, and the brood break put a road block on the aggressive varroa mite replication.

A question that virtually every new beekeeper asks is “How far way from the mother hive can I put a split?”  Drift is a concern with splits if the two new hives have not been moved at least a couple miles from each other.  If a beekeeper is not interested in moving the hives such far distances apart, there is always the option of facing the two colonies evenly toward the spot of the old hive.  This way the bees choose which one to into, without a bias for one side or the other.  If one side seemed to be stronger than the other, the locations could always be swapped.  In general, just shaking extra bees into the new colony that is not in the original location helps keep ensure the new split has a sufficient population of bees.

Splitting colonies is a beautiful and enjoyable part of beekeeping.  Splitting colonies and creating a whole new bee society using my own hands is one of my favorite parts of beekeeping.  Split away beekeepers!
Master Biography
 Dorothy McFall is a 1st generation immigrant from El Salvador.  Dorothy lives in Custer, Washington, but still mentors many beekeepers in Latin America via video calls.

Before moving to Washington, Dorothy completed her Masters Degree at the University of Texas, and became a High School Math teacher. Dorothy married an American beekeeper and changed her surname from Hernandez to McFall.  Dorothy is now a Master Beekeeper and loves the magic of beekeeping.  She can often be seen chatting with the public while selling honey at farmers markets.

Dorothy McFall is currently the proud mother of 4 energetic children and stays busy juggling home demands with apiary duties.
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