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Hive Splitting: Hail to the Queen

 

Spring has arrived, albeit a little greyer and wetter than we would have preferred. But our honeybees are buzzing and we need to give them all the help they can get, so it’s time to split the hives.

Bees are a vital part of our farm’s ecosystem. They are active pollinators and grow the honey we use for Rogue Farms kolsch, braggot and sodas. The best way to grow your hives is to split them, creating new hives and expanding on the old ones.

What is a hive split?

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Hives are split in half and half the bees are transferred to a new hive.

Hive splitting is exactly what it sounds like: we split the hives, taking about half the bees. Hives are kept in areas known as apiaries, and require splitting to prevent overcrowding and maintain healthy hives.

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A beekeeper carefully removes a frame.

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Overcrowding affects the hive’s well-being. Splitting them helps keep bees healthy.

Why do we do it?

The queen is an egg-laying machine whose sole purpose is to make more honeybees. Once a hive is overcrowded, we split hives to create new ones, giving bees room to grow and produce more of that sweet, sweet honey.

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Smoke is applied to calm the bees.

How is it done?

It takes an average of 45 minutes to split one hive, being careful not to harm or startle the bees. To do so, our intrepid beekeepers suit up in big, thick outfits so they don’t get stung. Bees are relatively mellow, but can become aggressive if agitated. In order to make things easier, beekeepers smoke the honeybees to help calm them and interferes with bee’s ability to send warning signals to one another.

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Can you spot the queen? (Hint: she’s longer, wider, and commands a certain reverence.)

Requeening

Once hives are split, the queen is then identified. There are several ways to identify her—she is longer and wider, has a pointed abdomen, and other bees gather around her. She really stands out in the crowd.

Beekeepers want to make sure that the queen is still active, healthy, and laying eggs. If she’s healthy, she’s moved to a new hive. If not, she’s removed and a new queen is introduced.

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A hard day’s work.

The End Results

After all this hard work, our beekeeper, George, was able to split 15 hives. It’s hard work out in the field, but worth it for the bees.

Honeybees have been under threat for a while and every season presents new challenges. At Rogue Farms, we plant a diverse variety of crops and wildflowers for our bees to pollinate, offering them a wide selection of pollen and nectar to help keep them happy and healthy.

All of the honey our bees produce goes into our beers and sodas. We take good care of our bees so they take good care of us in return. Come grab a drink at Rogue Farms and take a tour to meet the bees that help us Grow The Revolution.

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