Here's what we did...
The original hive has sat on a north facing shelf under the eaves of the patio for around the four year mark. We have split it every year using the traditional method of cutting it in half and replacing the top and bottom halves with fresh empty hives. We move the bottom half with its new top to an off site location and leave the new bottom with the original top in place. Full hive bottoms with new tops travel better than the full top which may collapse into the empty bottom during transit. The bees then spend the next year building into the empty half and then we do it to them again.
This is a much slower way of creating new hives. We don't think we will have full two hives in under a year. When you split full hives you have the basic infrastructure in place. They have honey and pollen stored. They have babies in the cells growing and they have paths, roads and plenty of building material. It seems easy enough for them to rebuild the damage and to build straight into the empty part of the hive.
We did this duplication near the end of winter and will leave them alone this summer (2015) but will open the tops in the summer of 2016 and see how they are going. We can separate them then into two single hives or we can do a traditional split then if we want to.
When we separate them, we will move one hive out the area - more than 5km away- for over six to eight weeks and then we can bring them home and find a new spot for them. Native bees have a life span of about six weeks and so after this time the new generation will only know this hive as home. In the meantime, the old hive will use the original entrance and get on with running a single hive again.
Once they are in the same yard again, they will not know the other hive was once part of their home and will get on with building their own hive and generally leave each other alone.
Hive duplication (also called hive eduction) is slower but a surer way of splitting hives. Sometimes a split doesn't go well or the weather isn't good and the hive cant repair the damage, grow a new queen or replenish the workers quickly enough and can die.
To see the way a traditional split is done have a look at this link to one of my posts about hive splitting.
There are some great native bee websites around to have a look at:
- Aussie Bee
- Kin Kin Native Bees
- Steves Native Bees
- Zabels Native Bees
- Australian Native Bees
- Amazing Bees
Native bees are a lot of fun to have as well as essential for pollination of native plants that have flowers that are too small for the Italian honey bee to get into. If you have tried eduction or a hive duplication - post a link to your efforts in the comments section and show us how you do it.
Green-ness: 5/5 for having native bees and for splitting them harmlessly
Frugal-ness: There is no difference in cost between a split and eduction - just one is quicker than the other.
Time cost: About half an hour to set the hive up. A year to see any results.
Skill level: Standard bee keepers and the skills to prop up a second hive in a way it can stay secure for a year or so.
Fun-ness: Great fun to have in the back yard!