Doing a pre-winter split to keep Flow hive at two boxes

I have five Flow hives and want no more than two boxes (1 brood + 1 super, for each, in season (Spring/Summer). In packing up and getting ready for winter (when this comes around), I am sure that 2-3 of these hives will be full of bees in both the super and brood boxes. I am therefore, thinking that when I take the super off for winter storage, there will be too many bees to be housed in the brood box. So, should I or can I, split the brood box and start up a 5 framed nuc box to overwinter and thus reduce the manageable numbers in the parent hive? Other considerations are of course, the need to purchase a queen to go in the nuc hive (or do I give them eggs at split time and have them produce their own emergency queen?), and ensuring that both hives have sufficient honey stores to get them through winter. This poses another dilemma, in order to ensure the parent hive has 3-4 frames of honey and the nuc 2 frames, should I do the split during summer, so the bees in both boxes (parent colony + nuc) have time to build up their honey supplies before winter? The nuc hive which will become surplus to my needs, I’m thinking I could sell going into next season (Spring).

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Hi Simon,
I’m not far from you. The colony population will significantly reduce for winter, so it shouldn’t be an issue. As the days get shorter, the queen will start to slow down her laying and the population will fall as a result. Perhaps the issue for you is if your hives become over-populated to the point that they swarm before then. It’s something to keep an eye on. In this area, I run with a brood box and an ideal on my hives over winter. It’s a bit annoying but so far no problems with them getting through winter.


Oh, OK. Thanks for that ‘Outbeck’. This is now the third winter I’m going into - the first one I had NO idea, the second (last year) was probably only moderately better. Now, thanks to your contribution, I feel more comfortable knowing that the current populations will fall as the bees themselves, get ready for winter and I don’t have to worry about having too many bees in the one brood box.

Recently, I built a long-lang, which I have now housed x2 swarm hives. To assist these hives, I ‘stole’ some brood frames from my stronger hives, so I’m relatively confident those hives will not/should not, swarm before summer is out.

I did have another very strong hive that I had managed to harvest two boxes of honey from over November and December, and just when I thought I was close to a third harvest, they swarmed and numbers completely dropped from the super. This swarm is one that I now have rehoused in the long-lang.

Can you tell me please, why you add an ideal box over winter and to what purpose this serves? Are the frames empty foundation frames when you add the box?

Thanks again for your feedback. ST

I added the ideals as I wasn’t 100% sure the bees would get through winter with a single brood box. So, before I put the flow super on I put the QX and an ideal (with foundation) and let the bees fill it up. It just gives them that extra store of wall-to-wall honey. You can either take it off before adding the super, leave it there or put it above the super to encourage the bees up into the flow super. In autumn, the flow super comes off as does the QX and the ideal full of honey goes back over the brood box. That was the first year I did it. Now the ideals are more of a permanent fixture and the QX goes above it when the flow super goes on.

In hindsight, it’s been a good move in terms of extra honey storage, but it’s annoying as the bees will try and join the ideal frames vertically to the brood box frames below. It might mean more of a spring clean-up, but I haven’t had to feed the bees with this set-up. Last winter, I had a weaker hive in a single brood box and was regularly feeding it just before the start of spring. The other single brood boxes I’ve had in the past have also limped a little to the line after winet. Having said that, your climate would be a bit warmer than here and I suspect spring hits a smidge earlier. My mentor lives 15 minutes away in Barrabool and the trees we have in common flower noticeably earlier there than here (I’m closer to Modewarre).

Just to throw a spanner in the works of what’s above, I also have a long lang flow hive and have a second in the pipeline (it has been under construction for way too long). All things being equal, I much prefer those but am no authority on the subject. The first one I built (with help) is a ripper apart from one thing - I didn’t leave enough space between the frames and the base. I couldn’t work out why the bees were so savage when I did inspections. As it turns out, while there was room for the bees to move about, I was lifting frames away from the neighbouring frame and then up. This was inadvertently causing carnage in the space between the underside of the frame and the base as I squashed bees left, right and centre. It took a while to figure it out, but now the frames are lifted straight up and the bees are more relaxed. I’ll get around to a permanent fix one day by adding 5mm to the frame rests.
I love the long langs though and hope to convert all my hives to them over time - I’m way past lifting laden boxes. @AdamMaskew is the resident LL and LLF expert/enthusiast. A recent very useful tip from him was to just run with a few flow frames (if that’s your LL set-up). I put in six flow frames and the bees just don’t use the outside ones. So, my eternally under-construction LL, will only house 3 or 4 flow frames.

I hope this helps and all the best!

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Thanks again ‘Outbeck’. You have given me some wonderful tips and ideas in your responses. I am grateful. I’m guessing your Barrabool Hills mentor is Stan? I have fond memories of Modewarre, having played many cricket games there as a kid whilst growing up in Barwon Heads.

Last year my hives did pretty well with the honey I left for them in the brood boxes, but this is something I will monitor closely over the years to come, and I’m sure at some point I will add ideals as you have done.

I’m in Bannockburn and would happily share with you my set up if you were interested at any time. I clearly have lots to learn from you and would be most pleased to continue dialogue outside of this forum, on occasion when I’m seeking feedback.

I have 5 Flow hives and now a LL which is divided into two hives. I put an entrance into the Flow frames as well, so bees can go directly into the super and bypass having to go through the QX. However, I won’t know how successfully my bees take up into the Flow frames until next year. I have built my LL to accommodate 7 Flow frames, but I could reduce this down if this proves to be too many as you suggest.

I have attached to this text, a pic of the LL I just built (I was only able to upload the one photo). Both sides of the box now house bees. The Flow frames are yet to be inserted. To keep the bees contained within the brood chamber until next Spring/Summer, I have boarded over the QX for now.

If you felt able to communicate on things ‘bees’ outside of this forum, can you let me know. Also, how we go about sharing contact details without revealing to all on this Forum.

Thanks again, Simon


You might want to remove that and PM/DM @Outbeck. We have spammers and bots that trawl this forum and they might misuse your contact info…


OK. Thanks for that Dawn. ST

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The general rule of thumb in my climate is that for every brood frame we leave a frame of stores going into winter. I leave some with a bit of space as occasionally we’ll get a winter flow and need the space. There will be a similar rule of thumb for your locations too.

@Outbeck I’ve been thinking about your lifting comment and how you run a FD and an ideal. Given you can’t rotate the flow frames conveniently you may wish to run 3 x ideal supers. Same brood space and stores, but you would then be able to rotate your ideal frames into all the supers and only hold a single frame size for spares and they would be easier to lift and manipulate.

Thank you Adam. I’ll keep that in mind.

Hi Simon,
Yep it’s Stan - he’s a ripper and probably the closest I’ll get to a mentor, but for the record, I’ve only been beekeeping for 5 or 6 years and still making plenty of mistakes. There’s some great advice in this forum and as always, plenty of different opinions on how to do things or help with your issue. You just have to decide which works for your situation - it may be a little from column A and a little from column B.
I have your email address as your post was also emailed to me (before being deleted) so happy to chat outside the forum.
You’re long lang looks great and I look forward to discussing the permutations and combinations :smiley:
Mine is straight from the Maskew School of Long Langs. I love it but it has shortcomings that are entirely due to my (lack of) wood-working skills/execution. The bees seem to be happy though and the hive is super strong.

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Thanks Adam! It’s something I continue to nut through. The frame rotation is an issue with this set-up and all things being equal, I’d probably prefer two manleys than three ideals but that’s a different path and a box of manley frames is still pretty hefty! In an ideal world, I would have an LL of manleys with flow frames - but that’s a whole new design challenge in itself! :thinking:

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