Hive Split Questions

I know there are lots of split methods. We are brand new beekeepers so it’s pretty confusing. We purchased a very healthy double deep hive and moved it to our location about 12 days ago. Today we opened it and it was VERY full.

In the top box we identified everything we thought we wanted to see to do the split: (1) lots of drones walking around (2) lots of capped drone cells (3) plenty of capped brood cells (4) about 12 queen cups in various locations toward the bottom half of the frame, (5) one queen cup with a larvae in it that was not capped (6) cells that appeared to have a cloudy jelly in them, but we weren’t sure what eggs looked like so we don’t really know if they were eggs, (7) various cells with larvae in them at various stages, and (8) about three frames worth of honey. We did not see the queen in the top box and inspected every frame.

Because we thought these were signs that a swarm was imminent, we separated the two boxes into two different hives, placing the top box in a new location nearby, hoping that they would make their own new queen based on the evidence of the queen cup with the larvae that we saw there.

Because we are about to hit a major nectar flow here (blackberries) we added a deep with ten frames on top of each of the hives, both new and old, with pollen, honey and empty honeycomb in them, so they’d have plenty of resources and plenty of work to do to encourage them to stay. We also placed branches outside of both entrances. We did this in the middle of a sunny day, so I suspect the foraging bees will return to the original hive and their populations will not be even. However, the newly split hive had a lot of capped brood and every frame was COVERED with bees.

Our big question is, if that queen cup we think we saw with a larvae in it was a “swarm cell,” will the top box that we split to form a new hive swarm anyway? Or did we effectively create an artificial split? Could the old box still swarm?

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Good effort Lori, sounds to me like you did everything correctly. It may still swarm and there is probably nothing you can do to stop it. Even if you were to manually tear down the queen cell, they could still rebuild in a matter of days and swarm down the track. Just have to wait and see.

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Thanks Rodderick! Can you (or anyone) tell me if this is a queen cell forming or just an enlarged drone cell?

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Hmm… it does look like a queen cell, however queen cells usually are facing downwards. These are from a hive we opened yesterday. They are facing upwards but that is just how the frame is being held.

Yeah that’s what we were looking for but this one confused us! It was sticking straight out. On the other hand we did see the queen cup with a larvae in it so our fingers are crossed! Here it is. Thanks for your help.

Nice! … cross your fingers, thats the best you can do I think and have another look in a weeks time to see if it has been capped.

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Wow! This is a great skill and the key to successfully growing your hive numbers! Best of luck!

No worries - I’m not worried about negative comments. I’m a 12-day old beekeeper and I don’t know what I’m doing! I will take all the advice I can get.

As to your question about moving them, I was under the impression that if we split the boxes and gave each one an entirely new box (deep) on top of each one, they’d have room to stay and would not swarm. Is this incorrect?

As to your question about not finding the queen, we owned the box for only 12 days, so we are confident there is at least one queen. We assumed if we did not find her in the top box, she was in the bottom box?

I don’t think it was an artificial swarm as much as it was just a hopeful split. We did not move any frames between boxes, just separated the boxes. I do think we left it with one or two swarm cells, but at the very least we left it with some eggs.

Does that make sense?

If I understand your description you did a walk-away split which is what I do. You dont need to find the queen but rather make sure there are eggs in each split so they may make there own queens. There are examples of walk-away splits on YouTube.
You are doing fantastic for only 12 days into a lifetime adventure :smile:


There ARE known and trusted methods of doing an artificial swarm without finding the queen.

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I over wintered one hive full of 5 supers of bees. They had started swarm cells and that hive was HOT. There were so many bees pinging off my veil it was hard to see. The smoke meant nothing to them! As soon as I split them into 3 hives and walked away they were gentle again. Two of the hives created their own queens and all 3 are thriving. Two of the splits are up to 3 brood boxes already. I am hoping the honey flow will focus them on storing rather than multiplying.
If I didn’t quickly split that hot hive I would have had swarms on my hands. If I stayed in the hive inspecting I am sure they would have swarmed. I feel lucky to have caught them barely in time to keep all 3.
I believe that there are different splitting techniques for the various circumstances the bees are in. It is in the bees nature to do what they want, to confound us. We have to keep an arsenal of optional methods to keep up with them!


If you do not make the split even, i.e. biased in favour of the Q-less box you are much less likely to lose your queen that year.

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Lori, Would you check back in a few days to let us know how your hives are doing?

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Can anyone comment, please, on whether or not splitting a hive and keeping the second hive next to the original hive would work? I have been told that the split hive needs to be moved at least 2 miles away from the “mother” hive so the bees will not just return to that one instead of the split. I’ve never attempted a split, personally, but am thinking of it. I’d prefer NOT to have to move my split hive.

My 3 split hives are side by side and absolutely no problems. Ever hear the quote “Ask ten beekeepers the same question and you get 12 answers”? Split away :slight_smile:

We did a split into the nuc last night. We set the nuc up with brood, uncapped queen cell, and plenty of Drones and Nurse (new) bees, some nectar/honey and pollen and some partially drawn comb. No Eggs or Larvae.

When we finished then stuffed the entrance with grass - apparently they lose the the Hive smell and by the time the virgin has emerged, the grass has dried and falls out and the nurse bees take first flight - they only know the smell of the new hive, orient to the entrance they have just left, the drones will die off after mating flight - so won’t be back.

All in all the Nuc was next to the old hive it was split from and they will return to the nuc as it is now home.

In 4 weeks when they are up and running they will get transferred into a brood box on the same site with plenty of Frames to draw and a super on top.

If the comb are drawn, eggs are laid and there are more bees - it will have been a successful split.

We expect the Virgin to be emerged in 3 or 4 days