What a season... so far
It's been an exceptional beekeeping season so far! We came out of winter with 26 hives, a 52% loss from last fall and since starting early splits using the OTS (On-the-Spot) queen rearing method, we have nearly tripled total amount of nucs and operating hives. Like farmers, when the weather cooperates, you must make the most of the opportunity as drought or too much rain influences hive strength and honey yields. I'm on my third round of OTS splits this season and I believe I becoming a believer in OTS. I've never been very good at grafting and the OTS method of making queen cells is fairly easy. If you're unfamiliar with the OTS method, basically you are creating an artificial swarm impulse by removing the queen and portion of the capped brood and bees. You then identify three day old or younger larva, preferably located on newly drawn out comb, and you scrap off the comb down to the foundation with you hive tool. This act saves the effort of the worker bees from having to tear down this comb to draw out a larger cell for the development of queen larva. So in a sense, you are organizing the queen cells in one central location to harvest in 12 days and saving them time and energy expending time and energy to cut down existing comb to draw out again for a queen cell. If you didn't do this legwork, you would have to search the hive for where the make the cells and in the process, possibly damage them when searching for them prior to them hatching.
Another added benefit of the OTS method is that when you remove the queen, you cease the bees breeding cycle and the varroa mite breeding cycle as well. Without uncapped honey bee brood for the female varroa mite to lay her eggs in she is unable to reproduce. During a nectar flow and during the summer months, a well breed queen can lay over 1500 eggs a day. The best a female varroa mite can do if there is uncapped brood is to lay 6-7 eggs within a 11-14 day period. So, the math alone shows that if you can halt the varroa breeding cycle several time a season, you are tipping the scales in favor of the bees.
Since August seldom bring in much nectar in our part of Maryland, this will be the finial splits I will conduct. Now is the time to make up sugar water and get these nuts bulked up for the fall.
How are your hives doing this year? I'd enjoy hearing other you season has been.