To the tune of Makin Whoopee with the usual apologies:
Another hive, another May
Another sunny, warm Tuesday
Another season, another reason
For making increase1
Tuesday of last week, with warmth and sun at last, under the expert guidance of Dr. Meghan Milbrath and the curious eyes of our beekeeping niece, we split a colony for the first time.
Working from the brood end of Beatrix we lifted each comb, deciding whether to keep it or transfer it to the empty and waiting Clarissa. The bees were exceptionally mellow, ignoring us and dutifully driving the cycle of life in a hive. Young bees were hatching, cracking away at their cappings. Undertaker bees took advantage of the absence of roof to awkwardly carry off the dead. Dr. Milbrath spotted some exposed larvae in the red-eyed stage, evidence of hygienic behavior.
In the end Clarissa received two combs of brood, on one of which rode the still-marked queen, some empty bars, and three full honeycomb. She will not starve even though she lacks foragers. Her biggest problem is a lack of space to lay eggs. Having the empty bars between the brood and food along with the syrup we are feeding her should address that by encouraging the bees to fill the space with comb. The immigrant nurse bees will become foragers and their current charges will hatch to take up house duties until it is their turn to forage. And the queen shall lay and lay. We have assisted in starting another cycle of life.
But we have also interrupted the cycle for Beatrix, now queenless but retaining ample food and brood including the all-important eggs. Within hours she would discover the royal kidnapping and begin taking steps to raise a new queen. We, meanwhile, have been told to stay out of the hive for the three weeks it should take to raise a queen and get her mated. But we can still peek through the window in the hopes of seeing queen cells.
And that leaves Dorcas awaiting delivery of her new nuc. With luck we shall soon be back to three colonies.
1An archaic-sounding term of art for dividing colonies into a greater number of colonies.