We did a transfer into this new design from a traditional Felhaber last year (link here) and this year it seemed full and so we decided to have a go at splitting it.
Nick from Australian Native Bees came to have a look and give us a hand.
Here's what we did...
This is an empty FROTH design Hockingsii hive. It has the same split design as the Felhaber - ie vertical rather than the horizontal split of the OATH hive - but incorporates OATH design elements such as the vertical size, width, and volume. It has the same type of honey box as the OATH. It's also painted white like the traditional OATH hives.
This is the front of the FROTH hive. It is attached the floor of the hive and the hive entrance is on the front just above the landing board. The plastic insert stops the bees from building up into the honey box.
Nick sealed it in with softened wax from another hive on the inside and the outside. The long downward curving pipe stops phorid flies from entering the hive as they don't like to fly upwards in the dark. Note that these hives are painted white like other native Australian bee hives to help keep them cool in our tropical summers...
First the honey box is lifted off the box - it takes a bit of force. Those bees might be small, but they sure know how to protect themselves!
Then comes the main split of the FROTH hive. See how the bees have gummed up the area between the plastic on the top of the hive and where the bit on the bottom of the honey box has been removed? This hive got wet on one side and has warped a but - that's why there is an uneven sticky-out part at the top there. John has reinforced the new ones in the hope of stopping the warping in future.
Like I said earlier - they don't muck around those bees. Giving up on my best kitchen knife - he resorted to the chisel and mallet system of getting into a hive!
The split is very neat and the brood gently gave way at the stress points as we had hoped. the mesh keeps the brood in place very securely and allows a very neat break in the brood mass. Hockingsii is normally split vertically - this is just a lot more mass to get through than the smaller Felhaber hive design.
Nick pointed out a queen cell for us and we made sure it went in with the weakest side (the newest half) when we put them with their new halves.
Here we are scraping a bit of the wax and resin off the edges to make sure the hive fits neatly on to its new half. This was where the hive got wet on one side and warped and expanded a bit.
Here is the brand new empty half going onto the back of the original front. Note the plastic on the bottom to allow an easy split next time as the knife will go between the wooden floor and the plastic without damaging any bee structures.
The new back fits neatly onto the old front. We weigh all our empty hive halves and note that on the hive so that we can weigh a full box and determine if there is enough mass inside to do a split without having to open them.
And on goes the honey box and tropical lid. Another advantage of the FROTH design is that the tropical lids and honey boxes are interchangeable with the OATH hive. The hive dimensions are the same. The hole at the back is a small escape hatch for the bees in case something goes horribly wrong inside the hive for them. They can also use it for an air conditioning duct. If they don't need it they can block it up with resin. It looks like these guys were using it!
The hive is then taped up to ensure the bees have as much protection as possible from marauding predators that will be attracted to the spilt honey and bee casualties.
Can you see the recently hatched bee in the middle of the picture? She is a much lighter colour and can't fly yet. Poor little critter - what a start to the world!
You can see the swarm of bees that was forming around the hives original site as they came back from foraging or escaped the hive when we opened it and came home to find there was no hive. Within minutes of putting the hive back the swarm was heading straight inside - for a well deserved cuppa I imagine!!
A quick pic before the hive was lifted back into its original position and you can see the bees have found it already and are crawling all over it checking on their home. We repeated the same putting back together process with the other hive halves and taped up the entrance and took it a friend's place more than 5km away to settle for 6-8 weeks over summer.
As you can see, it looks like a traditional OATH hive at first glance. It's a lot easier to put in a temporary position as it sits nicely and is in no danger of splitting inadvertently across the middle in transit or on site due to its length.
These guys will sit here until the New Year sorting themselves out and replenishing their stores. (Thanks Kassy and Dallas!) As these bees only have a six to eight week life span, the new generation will not know about the other hive and when we move this hive back into our back yard they will not migrate back to the original hive and we can have all our hives on site.
We happen to live quite close to a large nature reserve that has acres and acres of gumtrees that these guys will be harvesting all their resources from. If we lived in the middle of a big city there may not be enough resources nearby to have a large number of hives on site.
If you are interested in Native Bees there are some great websites around.
If you have any bee splitting experience or know of resources for others to use - post 'em in the comments!
Green-ness: 5/5 for helping increase the population of native bees!
Frugal-ness: 2/5 Hmmmm, Native bee keeping is not very frugal at all...
Time cost: 15 minutes to split the hive and another 15 to drive to our friends place.
Skill level: Bee keeping is much easier than a lot of things you could do!
Fun-ness: Amazing amount of fun! You can waste a huge amount of time watching bees zooming in and out of their home.