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Abandoned split?

Hi there, last week I did a hive inspection and found it was time to split my hive, lots of drone brood and tons of bees in the hive…

I took a 2 frames full of brood (identified lots of small eggs freshly laid) and other 2 full of honey and pollen and placed them in an empty box about 2 meters away from the parent colony. I left all the bees on the frames and even shook in a few more from the super as I couldn’t switch the colonies around for the returning bees to come back.

I could not find the queen but was pretty certain she was left in the parent colony and the split colony was queenless. My plan was to check about 8 days later for capped queencells to conform this.

Any ways about three days later I peaked open the lid to find basically 95 percent of the bees from the split were gone leaving about only 30 bees left!
I’m assuming they all returned back to the parent colony? And ideas of tips on what to do next would be appreciated!


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Working on the assumption that most of the bees returned to the parent hive & you want to know how to avoid this next time, my advice is to take the split far enough away so that the bees can’t make their way back to the parent hive, which is what I do.

Your split must have consisted mainly of older bees. It’s a good idea to include a lot of nurse bees, as well as a lot of emerging bees in the brood frames. It takes about 200 nurse bees to produce one queen. Therefore if you want the split to produce a good queen through natural selection, you’d need at least a thousand nurse bees included in the split.


Nice suggestions and recommendations, Jeff.

Hey Jeff… Thanks for your reply

What do you think is an acceptable distance to place between the split?


Hi Anthony, it needs to be a few k’s away, so that the foraging bees don’t get into familiar country, which will make them go back to the original hive.

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I have successfully split within my apiary without the need to be 2km away. Here are some subtle points I’ve noted in your method, and worth considering.

This will be an issue. Nurse bees don’t hang out in the super. Shake bees from the brood box, that’s where the nurse bees are. Jeff has a great technique for this. Having checked the queen is not on the brood frame, shake the bees onto a temporary cover on the split - the forages will fly off and the nurse bees will climb down to attend to the brood.

Did you have brood in all stages or just eggs? Bees that are close to emerging will boost the population and stay. Open brood (larvae) will entice nurse bees to stay (and the queen if you accidently miss her - just ensure both colonies have enough resources to create a queen).

Your issues now is that the eggs and larvae won’t have enough of a population to regulate the temperature and the new brood are at risk of chilling.

I suggest you put the frames back into the parent hive for the colony to clean out and start again and replenish the split with new frames of brood and nurse bees.

All the best.


Hey there thanks for taking the time to reply! Makes sense what you said about the older bees being in the super.

As for the two frames of brood I placed in the split…

I had identified all stages from eggs, to larvee and capped brooded being present.

Being about four days now I would assume that any capped brood in the split would be dead?

Should I be trying to save the split with only a handful of bees in there ?

Thanks again

Thanks mate makes sense need to try and organise a second location I think ahaha

Hi Anthony,

Depends on what your goal is. A handful of bees will not be able to sustain, defend the nuc you currently have.

If you are wanting to expand your apiary, now is a good time to do it a. Otherwise fate of this nuc has already been dictated…


Hi Anthony, being in Sydney, you should be aware of hive beetles. They will take advantage of poorly protected brood, not to mention that the brood will chill with not enough bees to keep it warm. I was going to say something earlier, however I thought you would have returned them to the parent hive earlier. At this stage, you could place them above the QE to see if any of the brood can be salvaged by the bees, provided that beetles haven’t got to them first.

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