I apologize in advance to Michael Bush, Kirk Webster and others for not properly accrediting them with the following cut-and-paste. These are my (somewhat disorganized) personal notes about making summer splits after reading and listening to them:
After the longest day, towards the end of swarm season, find the queen and put her in a nuc with 2 frames of brood, 1 frame of honey and extra bees, and feed them.
The queen-less hive will then raise queen-cells.
10 days later, make nucs with 2 frames brood and 2 frames food each.
Be sure each nuc gets a queen cell.
3 weeks later, check each nuc for a laying queen, and feed them until they're full.
Divide any queen-less nucs into the others to make 5-frame nucs.
Keep a few nucs small by mining them for brood, so you'll always have spare queens.
Keep feeding empty frames between drawn brood comb. If you keep them busy drawing comb where they can't get it wrong, you get a lot of good comb.
Metamorphosis of the queen bee
hatches on Day 3
Larva (several moltings)
Day 3 to Day 8½
Queen cell capped
~ Day 7½
~ Day 8 until emergence
~Day 15½ - Day 17
~Day 20 - 24
~Day 23 and up
The best time for producing queens and nucs here is during June and July.
Summer nucs are made up with the smallest amount of bees and brood that will make a healthy, viable colony. By waiting until summer to do this, you optimize the process. Warm weather is finally here to stay, so fewer bees are needed for each nuc. Also, the colonies supplying the brood and bees are now at the optimum size for splitting. Once you get into the second week of June, each good frame of sealed brood will start a new colony. A donor colony that could be made into three or four new colonies in May can be made into 6-10 colonies in late June—if you’re planning to winter those new colonies as nucs occupying one box or less. Days are long during mid-summer, allowing more opportunities for mating flights; and drones are abundant in areas with lots of honey producing colonies.
Each nuc is made up of four frames as follows; starting next to the feeder: One frame of honey with bees; a good frame of sealed brood with bees; and then either a frame of pollen or unsealed brood with bees. The fourth frame will be either a frame of foundation or another frame of honey—depending on whether the nuc will be set out in a good honey area or where nectar resources are poor.
Queen cells or mated queens are put into the nucs one, two, or three days later. The early nucs will grow onto eight frames later in the season. The later nucs will remain on four combs until the following spring.
The clover honey flow starts during the nuc making process.
The goal is to provide early spring strong nucleus colonies from hearty stock at a low cost. This is the direction New England beekeeping is going. Our northern climate prohibits raising queens in the spring, but northern-raised queens are available in the summer. Also we face a nectar dearth in August. This technique takes advantage of these conditions to produce inexpensive but robust colonies.
In July make up nucleus colonies that will grow and establish themselves during the months of August and September so they are strong enough to survive the winter. The best time to make nucs is July.
August is too late because the bees don’t have enough time to organize their hive the way they need for winter and build up the appropriate number of bees for winter.
You can do it sooner, but the bees build up and may either swarm or become crowded. If you are in this situation, take a frame of brood and bees from the nuc to reduce the population. You can also put another hive body on top to handle the extra bees.
Suit-up well and make sure your smoker is going strong. You want to use minimum smoke so the bees don’t run off the frames, but you have to go deep into the brood chamber. Try to work smoothly without banging things around. If the bees get really angry, blow some smoke in the air. Make sure you are organized before you start. Nuc boxes out and on the bottom board, the entrances screened. Know where you are going to place the frames, have the replacement frames ready. Lightly smoke the hive, but put a lot of smoke in the air. If you have honey supers on the donor hive, take them off and leave the inner cover on top to help keep the bees inside. Place the supers on top of the upturned outer cover. Go slowly taking the bees with the frames and make sure the queen is not on the frame. If you are not going to move the nuc boxes to a new location, shake an additional frame of bees into the nuc. Remember to look for the queen first. The reason for the additional bees is because the older bees will fly back to the donor hive.
Add open comb frames to backfill the donor hive and fill up the nuc box. Close-up the nuc box and the donor hive.
Rehearse this process in your mind before you start.
Move the nucs a few miles away so the bees don’t fly back to the donor hive. Then you can remove the screened opening.
For each colony add the following: One frame of honey
One frame of pollen
One frame of wall to wall brood. If the frame is not solid brood, take a second frame of brood Two frames of drawn comb (one frame if you used two frames of brood.
You can take these frames from a strong colony, realizing you are going to set that colony back a bit. That may be OK, since this is the summer death.
Place the nucs on their bottom board somewhere where they are out of the afternoon sun. It is hard for bees to keep a nuc cool in the hot sun. Get them up off the ground away from predators. For the first four weeks feed 1:1 sugar syrup, to stimulate the bees. This is important because there will be nectar dearth during August.
Peek in the hive every week to see how they are doing. You will find the nucs are easier to work than full sized hives making them excellent learning tools. Look for a failed queen or the opposite, a hive has built up rapidly and is ready to swarm. If the nuc looks swarmy you can add another nuc box on top or you can remove a frame of brood (make sure you do not remove the queen). You should see a nice frame of new brood by mid-August.
Once the cool weather of September sets in they should not swarm. You do want a lot of bees though. Each box needs about two frames of honey for the winter. The cluster size should be about the size of a football. In mid-September, if the box looks light, feed 2:1 syrup. Use either a rim board and plastic bags, or add a second super and use an inverted pail feeder. Assuming a normal fall, there should be plenty of Goldenrod pollen.