Bees reproduce by swarming. In nature and in apiaries, sooner or later a strong hive of bees will run out of room, and will feel the urge to swarm. A swarm generally has the old queen with it, who will accompany a large group of foragers and nurse bees to a new location a scout finds for them.
The hive left behind will have newly laid eggs, from which they will hatch a new queen. Every egg laid by a queen bee has the potential to be a queen, it is the nurse bees who decide when to create a new one, either to supersede a queen which doesn't live up to their standards, or to replace one that has been injured or has died.
|A strong hive booming with bees|
Making a split allows a hive to grow without going through the swarming process. Beekeepers who are paying attention in the spring know that splitting a hive will both a) give the bees the space they need and b) give them yet another free hive of bees!
It's a pretty simple process, but you do have to pay attention. The way my friend N does it is to start by inspecting a hive to ensure it's healthy and has a booming population.
|Choose four frames with|
newly laid eggs and brood
Once she moves the four frames, N uses sliding dividers in the hive to close the frames up, which ensures the bees don't have too much space to try to keep warm, which can be problematic. Brood needs to be kept warm, and if the bees have to protect too much space as they're doing so, the brood might suffer and the new queen not hatch.
In a week or so N will check the new split to ensure they've made a new queen, and take other steps if they haven't. Simple and effective, making splits is a skill every beekeeper should know how to do.
|A finished split|