Stingless Bee Intermediate – Hive split
Performing a hive split is not something that I do often. However, it is an important thing to know how to do successfully. An unsuccessful hive split with leave you with one of two things.
A) A hive that appears to be working for the first 3-6 months and then fails
B) A hive that becomes over run with maggots
To prevent this from happening you need to understand about how the queen works in a hive and also how pests enter a hive and gain the upper hand over the bees.
What’s needed for a hive split to work
Here is a picture of a complete brood structure of Tetragonula Carbonaria.
-Green arrows point to emergency queen cells (there are 5 in this picture)
-Blue to the advancing front
-Red to the mature brood
When performing a split, BOTH halves of the split will need to have:
- Half the nest structure – this includes the honey pots, pollen pots and brood
- 2 undamaged queen cells – IT WILL FAIL WITHOUT THESE
In the absence of a queen cell you will need to provide some advancing front material.
Why provide advancing front? The simple answer is, a hive without a queen is no hive at all and will fail. The undamaged queen cells guarantee that both halves of the split will have a queen, yet if these are not available, the advancing front can provide this too. Contrary to some people’s belief, native bees can extend the walls of a freshly made cell and add more food to create a queen cell in the event of a queen being absent from a hive. This will become your queen.
Here is a video I made of what it looks like: Native bees making queen cells
Splitting the hive
Watch the video on how I perform a split and I will explain about pests further down.
Pests post hive split
After your split is completed the defense pheromones of the bees mixed with the smell of honey and pollen calls the attention of many ugly pests.
The most common are:
Wasp-mimic Hoverflies – Ceriana ornata
These go to work laying their eggs in the cracks and joins of your native bee hive. The eggs turn into a tiny grub which crawls into your hive and feeds on the native bee stores. Using some of Deans syrphid defender or taping your box will help defend from encountering these.
Phorid fly- Dohrniphora trigonae
These enter the hive by distracting the guard bees for a split second and then circling around to enter the hive. Once in the hive they go to work laying eggs on the honey and pollen that is damaged. Mixed honey and pollen is their preference. These flies release a pheromone that draws more flies to the hive. If you do not act fast these flies can destroy a healthy hive in a couple of days. Making sure you split is absolutely clean and reducing the size of the entrance hole post split are two good preventives. Deans Phorid fly defender really works to deter these guys a lot of testing was undertaken by me because these guys are such a problem where I live.
South African hive beetle –Aethina tumida
These most commonly fly in on dusk to the smell of honey. While I class these as the least harmful to my native bees they are not to be underestimated. If your bee numbers are low they enter through cracks or the entrance of the hive and lay larva all over the nest structure. The maggots release a slime that contains a toxic formula for bees. By the time maggots are everywhere the bees are mostly all deceased. Native bees normally handle these guys fine on their own by dabbing them with resin. Again clean splits with minimal damage to the nest and a 3 day quarantine is my advice.