Should I Split if I See Queen Cells on Three Frames?

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Matthew Willoughby asks

If I have queen cells on three different frames, and I know they are going to swarm. This is a new colony from a nuc. Could I make a split from this situation?

Rusty Burlew replies:

Before doing anything, make sure you have swarm cells and not supersedure cells. That’s important to know because if they are supersedure cells, you want to leave them in place so the colony can raise a new queen. It’s not always easy to tell the difference, so be cautious. If the cells are hanging off the bottom of the frames and grouped together, they are probably swarm cells, although it’s not a guarantee.

From a biological point of view, any queen cell can be used to make a split. But from a management point of view, I would be careful about splitting a first-year colony.  Make sure that both parts have plenty of nurse bees and plenty of brood. If you skimp on nurse bees, the colony may be slow to build up, or the workers may have to destroy some of the brood in order to have enough nurses to tend to it.

As a rule of thumb, I would hesitate to split a new first-year colony. Still, I’ve seen it done successfully. If you split, keep a close eye on the queen cells because they don’t always produce good queens. If the cells fail, you will need to keep adding brood until the bees manage to raise a viable queen on their own.

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