How to Split a Beehive

There’s really only one correct way to split a beehive, and it takes a lot of work and dedication. Splitting the beehive is a great way to stop them from swarming. It also means that you get an extra hive!

If you’re thinking of splitting your hive, then you need to make sure that you have the right conditions for them. Is it the correct time of year? Do you have the right protective gear to make sure you don’t get hurt? Do you have spare nucs to make a hive?

Steps to Split a Hive 

What You Will Need 

When splitting a beehive, make sure you have the correct tools to do so. Protective gear is one of the most important things if you don’t want to be stung. 

Other equipment includes:

  • Empty hive 
  • Smoker
  • Hive tools
  • A thriving colony 

If you already have a queen that you want to relocate to a new hive, go for it. If you don’t, you’re still able to create a new colony as long as you can identify comb containing eggs.

Step 1: Have an Empty Hive Box

Get an empty hive or Nuc so that the new colony has somewhere safe and secure to brood new bees. Be careful if moving an older beehive into a new position.

Step 2: Find The Queen 

You need to increase the chances of a new hive forming by mirroring what would happen in nature. The old queen would exit the colony, taking some of the bees with her to look for a new home. 

When you notice swarm cells, the bees have already begun the preparation, and you just need to keep an eye on the queen. This can either be by confinement or watching her. 

Step 3: Stock the New Hive 

Make sure you stock the new hive with some brood and eggs, as they’ll be able to transition into nurse bees when formed. 

The original nurse bees will be able to transition into forager bees, ensuring the colony’s survival. 

Step 4: Nurse Bees 

When you lift the frames out to inspect your hive, nurse bees are more than likely to stay attached, as they don’t venture outside. If you brush them lightly into the new hive, you’ll also get some larvae from the cells. 

Don’t shake the frame, as it could damage cells. It’s important to make sure you get a large number of nurse bees since they’ll help create your new colony. 

Step 5: Placing the Old Queen 

When placing the old queen in the new hive, make sure that you haven’t left any swarm cells on the frames. If you have, don’t worry — they’re easy to spot. Simply cut off the cells from the frames. 

Step 6: Stock the New Colony 

Finally, make sure the colony is fully stocked with lots of honey and pollen. Eggs should go in the middle, surrounded by pollen on either end, then honey and then the spare frame. 

The colonies won’t have foragers to start with, so you’ll notice that it’s quiet around the hive for the first week. This is why it’s important to make sure that you add lots of honey and pollen to the hive before you close it.

Keep an eye on the hive and check the queen after three to four weeks to see if she’s laying eggs. 

It may fail. The new queen may have been eaten when on her mating flight. If, after four weeks, there aren’t any signs of eggs or the queen, it’s time to start the whole process again. If you have a nuc, start from step two.

Why Do We Split a Colony? 

There are three main reasons why beekeepers decide the time is right to split their colonies: 

  • Swarm prevention 
  • Queen rearing 
  • Regrowth of lost colonies 

Swarm Prevention 

Bees, much like humans, get an itch to move sometimes. With bees, it’s noticeable with the telltale signs of a swarm cell. 

The swarm cells and usually found near the bottom of your box or frames and are easy to spot. When you find these, make the split of the beehive as soon as possible. 

Queen Rearing

Sometimes you may need to rear your own queen if you’re making a completely new hive and want to keep your older one with the same queen.

If you decide to rear a queen, you need to have a lot of bees available to adopt the virgin queen before you find her a home.

Your virgin queen will be taken care of in a smaller hive consisting of eggs, nurse bees, honey and pollen. 

Empty Beehives and Lost Colonies

Even though there’s a decline in bees in the U.S. at the moment, the bee population is slowly on the rise. This is because beekeepers can populate their empty hives by splitting their original ones. 

Splits can be risky, and you may not be able to produce a new colony. The success rate of splitting varies each year, but primarily it’s up to the bees. 

Give it a Go 

Always remember that when you’re attempting to split a beehive, it may not work the first time. Take time and care when doing it. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again, and don’t give up.

Splitting a beehive is a great way to increase the bee population in your area. It’s also a good way to increase your bees’ productivity. After all, a happy working bee is a sign of a healthy bee and healthy beehive.

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