Well it is that time of year, that if I am too lazy, I will lose some bees to swarms. So I dove in today to do some work.
I started in hive #2. At this time of year typically the bottom box is empty because the bees have moved up during the winter. So, I wanted to get down to the bottom box and remove it. The top box surprised me because it now had brood all the way up to this box. The next two boxes down also had healthy amounts of brood including drone cells. The bottom box was indeed empty. So, in real time, I decided to make a split from this colony. I took the second box from the top, put it on a new base and put a cover on it on the other side of my yard (I'll call it hive #5). I took the bottom box (the empty one) and put it on top of the original stack. So for hive #2 I have two boxes with brood topped off by an empty brood box. I also did some checkerboarding, which means interspersing some empty brood comb into the brood area.
So, what does all this mean? There is only one queen between these two hives. I do not know where she ended up. She may be in hive #2 or in the split hive. My hope is that wherever the queen is NOT, that those bees will produce a new queen from the eggs that are in it. This is the same method that I used to produce what is now hive #3. It takes some time, because the bees have to realize that there is no queen, that they need to produce a new one, then wait for the queen to mature, mate and then begin breeding. It means that for one of these hives, they will not produce much if any honey this year, and to be honest, may not make it through this much effort. Most beekeepers would buy a new queen and insert her into the split hive - but remember, I am a lazy beekeeper :)
Hive #3 was in essentially the same condition as hive #2 - so I did the same thing - another split (I'll call it hive #6). This time, I took the empty brood box from the bottom and put it on top of the single brood box of the split, so this one is two boxes high. I took an empty brood box from Hive #4 to put on top of Hive #3, so it is now standing three boxes high, two brood boxes and an empty comb box.
Hive #4 was a little different. It had two empty boxes at the bottom. So, I simply removed them and put one of them on top and one of them I used to top off hive #3 as mentioned above. I also moved this hive about two feet and put it up on concrete blocks.
So, in summary, my original three hives are now three boxes high with two brood boxes and one empty box. I have two splits, one one box high and one two boxes high.
I set out some honey comb boxes that I had put up over the winter so they could air out. I will put these on top of the hives tomorrow to allow the bees to start putting up some stores.
Well, if I did not kill all of the queens and at least one of the splits worked, it could be a good year!