Last weekend we moved one of my dad’s native bee hives (T. carbonaria) to our place because it was getting constantly harassed by (presumably) a local hive.
After settling in for a week, dad came over to check on it this morning and he decided to have a look inside to see if it could actually be two hives in the one tower (brief history: this hive had originally been the standard 3 layers with an entrance hole in the lower level, but the bees had broken through the floor of their hive and honey had been leaking out, so dad had put another centre and base box on the bottom thinking that they may use it as extra honey storage space (as the brood was confined to the upper hive). This gave him a tower of 5 layers for this hive). There had been debate whether the bees would just use the extra layers as storage, or whether the hive would ‘bud’ and create a new brood in the lower levels, and if it did that, whether the one queen would be servicing both broods or whether one of her daughters would take over the lower levels. All of the experts that dad spoke to had not seen this happen before in a man-made hive, and said that we are ‘breaking new ground’ in native beekeeping.
So this morning was experiment time. Firstly see if there was a second brood, and if it was sufficient enough to do so, put a new roof on the bottom two layers and plug the hole in the floor of the upper three layers to give two separate hives. Then hope that the lower level would either already have its own queen, or have a few queen cells to hatch their own quickly.
(Dad carefully separating the lower two levels from the upper three. Not an easy task as I’m fairly sure that bee ‘glue’ is one of the strongest glues in the natural world)
(Its a bit difficult to see, but there is a new brood mass at the back of the box, hanging from the roof)
We have a new brood! Now to carefully detach it from the roof without killing too many bees…
Success! You can’t really see it very well (I should have gone and gotten my macro lens) but the brood at the top is covered in bees and had quite a few queen cells, so fingers crossed both sections of this hive will live :)
(The brood is at the top of the pic, hidden below a layer of propolis that had stuck it to the roof. The honey pots are at the bottom of the pic, and yes, we couldn’t resist and stole just a little honey from the pots that had ruptured during the split – and WOW you really can’t beat that taste!)
Finally, a new roof for the open two-layered hive and a bit of tape over the hole in the bottom of the top hive. Then to put them back exactly as they were (height-wise so that the navigation system of the bees doesn’t get confused too much), hope for the best (ie two healthy hives) and monitor activity.
Fingers crossed! :D