Over-night beehive splits – what a difference a day makes this spring

Spring is in the air, but so is snow, sleet, hail and rain.   Not the best of all times to make splits to install queens.  My best idea is to work fast so the bees are exposed as little as possible to the elements.  I ordered some queens back in November.  Mid-April seemed a safe delivery date. In 2010, the Big Leaf Maples had been in bloom for over three weeks by this time.  This year is a bit different.


When I install queens or have the bees make their own queens, I always start off with what I call an over-night-split.   My friend Bruce Bowen does the same.  I dropped by his place on a sunnier day as his crew created over 100 splits (in the end he would make over 500)

Beekeepers make bee hive "splits" at Bruce Bowen's Bee Yard

Nucs Can Be Made In The Sun

Bruce Bowen making bee hive splits

Bruce & helpers make nucs

Big operations (Bruce) or small (mine) often use the same general plan.

Here’s what I do:


1) I prepare new brood boxes with: 3 frames of foundation in the center.  A frame of drawn comb on one side of those three frames, followed by 2 foundation frames. On the other side of the center three foundation frames I place:  A frame of honey and pollen (if available) on the other side of those three frames, then 2 frames of foundation.  A diagram would be:


2) Head out to the bee yard with the new boxes and queen excluders.

3) Remove the 3 empty foundations

3) From each strong hives I want to split, I take 3 frames of brood (sealed or larvae).

If I’m having the bees create their own queen, one of those frames will contain eggs.

4) One by one, I shake all of the bees off these frames back into the original hive

5) Then place these brood frames, one by one, in the center of the new box: the nucleus hive or “nuc”

It winds up looking something like this:


There are no bees (or maybe just a few) in the new box.  But NOT the queen.

6) Place the queen excluder over the original, “parent”, box (which has the queen in it)

7) Put the Nuc over the queen excluder

8) Put the nuc on top and put on a top.

The nurse bees will move up overnight to cover the brood.


9) Come back with a bottom screen (no bottom boards on my bees) for each nuc.

Put this on the ground next to the hive off of which I’m pulling the split off.

10) Pick up the top box, the one on top of the queen excluder, and put it on the bottom screen.  The nurse bees, and some foragers will travel with it.

11) Put the top on. Voila: you have a complete nuc.

12) Move this to a new place in the bee yard or in another bee yard.

13) Put in the new queen in her cage and leave it for a week then make sure the queen’s out.  OR  If I’ve added eggs for the bees to raise their own, I check it in about 2 weeks to see if the bees are building queen cells.  If not, then more eggs go into that nuc.

If I hope to keep some foragers, it’s off to another bee yard.

If I keep it within 2 miles (or 2 feet) of the parent hive, I’ll lose the foragers back to the parent hive.

Sometimes I keep the new hive (the nucleus or nuc) on top of a full hive with a queen excluder between the bottom, full, hive and the young nuc.  You do not want these to touch because the queens will try to kill each other if they get within stinging range.

That’s the news, somewhat belated – it’s been a busy 2 weeks, from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, in Maple Falls, Washington.

What’s your wildest story about making splits – there’s always something unexpected.

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