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When to Split a Hive

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to bees. This article will help you decide when is the best time to split your hive, or when you NEED to split your hive to avoid losing a swarm.


If Splitting is Part of the Plan

The best timing for splits coincides with the earliest spring nectar flow. In our area, it begins with the dandelions.


If you aren't sure about your spring nectar flow, here are some signs that it is happening:

  • Lots of visible flowers

  • Hive smells sweet

  • Bees are happy during inspections

  • Bees fanning entrance in the evening

  • Fresh nectar (wet) in frames



Around this time, we also start to see our first walking drones. We call them walking drones because they are actually moving around on the frames - not just drone brood.


Although your queen will be mating with drones from a different hive, their presence in your hive should hopefully mean that the beekeeper down the road also has some drones!



If the timing is right, the next step is to determine if a particular hive is ready to be split. We like to see 8 frames of brood in a hive before we consider splitting it.


To make a regular split, you would take 4 frames of brood for the split and leave 4 behind, also sharing out the food (pollen and honey) frames.


If you are selling a nuc, you would usually give only 3 frames of brood and a food frame.



Splitting to Avoid Swarm Loss


If splitting and apiary growth was not part of your plan, you could still find yourself at a point where it is necessary to split so as not to lose a swarm. We find that once a hive has capped a swarm cell (or 10, as they seem to often do), no amount of pinching queen cells seems to stop them.

In this case, you are going to need to make a split or your bees will end up in a tree.


If there are already swarm cells when you make your split, then you need to remove the old queen and place her in the split.


This will simulate a swarm and the bees will all calm down again, their impulse having been satisfied.



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