Beekeeping is an excellent hobby with great benefits. Not only will you enjoy tasty honey, but you’ll also help to protect and increase the bee population. Whether you’re buying bees for the first time or looking to expand your hives, you’ll need to know how to establish new honeybee colonies in warm climates.
The Best Time To Establish a New Colony
No matter how you decide to create a new bee colony, the best time to do it is early- to mid-spring. However, you can also establish a new one during the summer months with extra precautions. Just because you miss the prime time to start doesn’t mean you have to skip it for another year. Whenever you’re ready, check out nuc beehives for sale and start your beekeeping journey!
Buying New Bees
You typically have two options when you buy new bees: a package or a nuc. Depending on your specific needs, one or the other might be best for you. However, understanding the key differences is the first step in making an informed decision.
A bee package is a wooden box with mesh screening for ventilation. Many retailers use this method to transport bees to a new hive, and they sell them by the pound. One pound consists of approximately 4,000 bees, and the most common package is three pounds.
A small box suspended from the top of the package contains the queen and a few workers tending to her needs during the trip. Additionally, there is a feeding can of a syrup substance to feed the bees during transport.
A bee package is typically the cheaper option, and it’s a learning experience. You get to see a colony grow and develop from the ground up.
A bee nuc usually consists of two frames of capped honey for feeding, two frames of brood to expand the hive, and an established queen. While nucs are generally more expensive than packages, the bees in a nuc are all related, and it gives you a head start on honey production.
Since there is honey already available within a nuc, there’s no need to feed them while they build their hive. Nucs are usually the best route because there’s less stress for you and the bees, and you can expect the best results.
Dividing Your Existing Colony
If you already have one colony but want two, you can potentially divide your existing one. Colonies will naturally divide through swarming, but you can aid in the process and avoid losing your bees.
When To Split
When you decide to split the hives, you must be sure that both groups have good chances of building their resources quickly. Therefore, both groups need to have access to foraging resources and enough time to build up their hive before winter. Splitting mid-spring is a good option because it gives both groups the whole summer to thrive and stock resources before the cooler months.
Requirements for a Successful Split
Although it would make dividing much easier, you can’t split a colony and expect it to result in two strong colonies. Both need a few things to succeed.
- Use an overwintered hive. You should never split a first-year hive, as it needs all the resources it can get.
- Two queens are necessary. Each hive needs its own queen; therefore, you’ll need to introduce a mated queen to the second colony or let them create their own.
- Protection. A split results in two smaller, weaker colonies. Since robbing is more likely to occur in warmer weather, consider using an entrance reducer at first.
Even though splitting the hive is necessary to increase the bee population, it can still present potential challenges for the smaller colonies. Monitor them closely and react accordingly.
Hive robbing is most likely to occur when a large, strong colony locates a smaller one. Additionally, the warmer weather can cause the aroma of honey to be stronger. Be sure to separate your new colonies from any other solid colonies and use entrance reducers until your colonies are strong enough to defend the hive against robbers.
Not having a queen in the hive poses an issue, and your bees will know they’re queenless after a few days. Without a queen, the colony’s population won’t grow. You can either introduce a mated queen or let them create their own.
Resources Your New Colony Needs
Your new colony will need several resources to start growing and producing honey. The key is ensuring they have enough to survive.
Unfortunately, most beekeepers underestimate the amount of food their new colony needs to survive. While all hives need food to survive, new colonies need extra food to grow. Although bees prefer to get their food on their own, sometimes they can’t. In that case, it’s your job as their keeper to provide supplemental food.
Bees need water to survive, and they use it to make honey and keep their hives cool in the warmer months. Provide them with a container of water with stones at the bottom so they can land and drink without getting wet.
Wax is the building material for everything inside the hive. With that in mind, putting bees into a hive with no wax forces them to build comb before they can do anything else. Queens lay their eggs inside wax brood cells, and workers store honey inside wax combs. Without wax, the new colony can’t grow.
Optimal Conditions for Colony Growth
The main goal of creating a new colony is to assist bee population growth. However, that’s not possible unless the conditions inside the hive are optimal.
Although venting a new hive is a risk, it may be necessary to protect your bees. Bees keep the hive between 93 and 95 degrees at all times because of the larvae. In extreme temperatures, the brood can die, which halts colony growth. Cut a hole in the hive’s top and cover it with mesh screening so no intruders can get in, but the heat rises out.
Bees will raise only as much brood as they can feed. As a result, their numbers won’t grow unless they have excess food. If you notice a lack of eggs and larvae in the hive, you might need to provide a supplemental food supply.
Understanding how to establish new honeybee colonies in warm climates is imperative for increasing your local bee population. While hot weather poses some potential challenges for a new colony, you can protect your bees by taking extra precautions.