Making and Moving Bee Hive Splits

Every year I raise and purchase queen bees, each of which requires her own hive.  Thus every year I make and move splits (also known as artificial swarms).   I use the “over night split” method to make the splits.  The move is pretty standard, except that I use my screened beehive bottoms, turned upside down, as the base during the move.


My favorite time to make these is when the bees are bringing in lots of honey and pollen.  That’s because 1) the bees ignore me when they’re busy and 2) I have a good variety of frames to pull for the split.

Basic Overnight Spilt for a hive where a queen will be introduced:

Get out queen excluders and tops : one per each split
Fill new boxes with foundation or drawn comb : one per each split
Take them to the hives

Equipment for making over night splits

Loading the Gear











In bee yard :

Empty the new frames on ground next to parent hive – the hive frames come from.

Set empty box on top of an upturned top on one side of the parent hive.

Take frames from parent hive, shaking off all, or most of the bees as you pull them out.  Making sure there is no queen on the frames removed.

I take:
2 Frames of capped brood

Honeybee Brood

Capped Brood











The more completely capped the better

Try to avoid those with any eggs or young larvae

These will soon bee empty frames and there will be lots of new workers

1 Frame of Nectar

Frame of Nectar with bees

Frame of Nectar











1 Frame of Pollen

Honeybees on a frame of pollen

A frame of pollen











1 or more Drawn, but unfilled foundation (ok a little filled is ok)
I usually use one from a previous year, but I had this image.

Honeybees on drawn bee hive foundation

Drawn Comb











1 or more sealed frames of honey if available.

I’ve done this with one brood frame, one pollen frame, and one nectar frame, but results are better if I give the split some nice materials to work with.

Split Frame Set Up

Brood in the center (positions 5 and 6)

Pollen to one side brood

Nectar to other side of brood

Drawn, but empty next

Honey next

Then I fill in the rest with either drawn comb or foundation – depends on what I have available.

Parent Hive frame replacement

Brood is pushed together so the brood nest is not broken up.

Foundation or drawn comb replacements are put in depending on how the hive looks.  I might checker board a honey-packed hive, or put the frames in positions 2 and 9 in two different boxes.  It really is a spur of the moment decision based on what’s happening in the parent hive.

Of Queen Excluders

I don’t use queen excluders on my hives, except during splits.

Once I’ve got the parent hive filled in with replacement frames:

I place the queen excluder on top of that hive.

The split, without bees because they were all shaken before they were put in the split, is now put on top of the queen excluder.

The “Over-Night” Of Over-Night Splits

I leave them for 24 hours or more.  If I’ve done this in the morning, I come back early the next morning.  If it has gotten on in the day by the time I’m doing the splits, I come back the evening of the next day.

During the night nurse bees will come up to cover the brood.  Honey-working bees will come up to work the honey.  Pollen packers head for the pollen.  Even foragers will come up.

The foragers are why I return in the early morning or evening.  I want those foragers to travel with the split.  Mind you, if the bees are only moving to a new spot in the same bee yard, or to a bee yard within two miles of the parent hive.  I move the split at any time after the 24 hours.  That’s because any foragers I pick up will most likely fly back to the parent hive.


When I return to pull the splits I carry bottom screens for every hive, plus one extra screen – why the extra in a moment.

I use bottom screens on my hives; no solid bottoms anywhere.  I find this helps keeps the hives dry (have I mentioned it rains quite a lot here in western Washington?).  Even in winter the bees live above screens – they can deal with cold; they can’t deal with wet.  The bottoms are 1/8 inch hardware cloth.

Bee hive bottom screen

A Brookfield Farm Bottom Screen











My husband makes the bottom screens – he normally makes fabulous handcrafted furniture – but he’s willing to put his skills to work for the bees as well.

The design is based on bottom screens that came with my first two hives : from Roy Nettlebeck of Tahuya River Apiaries.  He used solid bottoms below the screens.  I just eliminated the solid bottoms.

The base, below the screen is a 2-inch high rectangle.  Which, when the screen is flipped over makes it the perfect moving platform.  Two tie down straps make it ready for the new split to be pulled, covered, and moved.

Bee hive moving screen

Reversed bottom screen with moving straps in place











The bees have plenty of ventilation and cannot escape during the drive to the new location.

Bee hive splits loaded in truck

Loaded To Roll











That’s why I carry one extra screen : One screen has to be put down before the first hive is lifted off of its bottom screen / moving base.

All Tucked In

The bees moved in these images are all tucked into their new locations, including this little lady who decided to ride “free” during the move.

Honeybee on bee box

A Not So Easy Rider













As of this time, they have had new queens installed.  The queens came from Strachan Apiaries in California as they have both New World Carniolan and some Caucasian genes – both of which I like.  Normally I’d be out today checking to see if the queens were released and releasing those still in cages, but it is pouring rain.  Hopefully tomorrow will see some sun.

Spring is busy here with splits, queen making, opening new bee yards, markets and festivals, and thinking : “when will the rain stop long enough for me to paint my wooden ware?” How are things going in your bee yards?  If you have other ways of making splits, do share – we only learn by pooling our knowledge.






About Bean

I am the beekeeper at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, near Maple Falls, Washington. My bees fly from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives in the foothills of Mt. Baker (the second most glaciated volcano in Washington). I sell the raw honey my bees make, as well as honey produced by Washington beekeepers who are friends - the emphasis is on raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives. I also make and sell Raw Honey Infusions (Ginger, Lavender, and Vanilla Bean; Raw Honey Infused Organic Vinegars; and Beeswas Salves. You can find me or my husband at Seattle's Fremont Market and at Bellingham's Farmers Market. When not with the bees, you'll most likely meet me up some mountain trail, pinhole camera and digital camera slung over my shoulders, and my pack goats trailing behind me.
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2 Responses to Making and Moving Bee Hive Splits

  1. Ike says:

    I enjoy reading your blogs. Do you always buy the queens or do you sometimes utilize a queen cell from an existing hive? Also, I thought your article on your experience with different foundation types was excellent and spot on. Ike Harbuck – Wiggins, MS

    • Bean says:

      I buy some queens every year, and I raise my own as well. I have two queen breeders who have genetics that I like, so I want those in my operation – I want to keep the hybrid vigor in my hives. I open mate my queens. If I find some nice swarm cells in a hive and I’ve got the gear with me to create a nuc on the spot, I’ll do that (I have a number of bee yards and often don’t have an extra box with me…I should, but I don’t). I’m glad you like the blog.

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