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The Basics of Making A Split

Updated: Apr 30

Making splits can be a strategy to grow your apiary, a way to earn back a bit of the small fortune you've spent on bees (if you sell the split), or a strategy to prevent swarming. While you might get away without making a split for a couple years as a new beekeeper, it will eventually become a necessity whether it was part of your original plan or not.

The Principles

No matter which method you choose for making a split, there are a few principles that must be applied:

1. Your split needs enough open brood, capped brood, and food (both pollen and honey) to sustain itself as it builds up. This is usually a minimum of three frames of brood and one solid frame of food.

2. Your split need enough bees to keep the brood warm while it develops. Usually the bees you place in your split are full of bees and that will suffice, BUT if you don't move the split far from the original hive (if they stay in the same yard), your foragers will fly back home so you want to make sure that most of the bees in your split are nurse bees. A good way to do this is to choose more open brood for your split.

3. Your split needs a queen. You can choose whether to buy a mated queen (quick buy costly) or give them what they need to raise themselves a queen (free but time-consuming).

Setting both hives up for success

Usually, when you make a split, your hive will already be in two boxes, or they will be completely filling (overflowing?) one box. You're going to take up to half of them and give them a new home, while leaving the other half in the original hive. Then you're going to make sure the new hive gets a queen.

Making a split is probably the most disruptive thing you'll do with your bees all year and it's important that you set up both the original hive and the split properly after all the rearranging.

This is what both your split and your original hive should look like after you are done:

The Easy Way

The simplest way of making a split is to go through your existing hive and divvy everything up 50/50. Split the food frames, then split the capped brood, then split the open brood, and then split the 'extra' frames.

Set both up as shown above.

If your split is staying in the same yard, cover the entrance with some tree branches/boughs to cue the bees to reorient to the new hive (you want them to be able to get out but to notice the obstacle and realize that something has changed).

Didn't find your queen? No problem. Check back in 5 days and the hive with queen cells is the one that ended up queenless. The other hive has your queen. The queenless hive will need a month from the day you split to raise their queen. Mark your calendar and check for eggs. If they have not successfully raised themselves a queen at the one-month mark, it's time to buy a queen.

Take a Deep Breath and Just Do It!

Making a split can seem daunting to a beginning beekeeper. Rehearse your plan, take a deep breath, suit up, and get in there. You can do this!

Looking for more?

Looking for more beekeeping education? You can find my virtual, on-demand beginner and intermediate courses at

Or if you'd prefer a more tailored experience, you can join my mentorship group at

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