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To split or not to split- that is my question. Spring swarm prevention


OK- just helped inspect my mums hive and it came through winter beautifully. We left the flow box on onver winter and it still has a full frame of capped honey that it had in autumn. All the other flow frames have very nice wet nectar in them- I have a feelign they will fill fast.

The brood box looks great: all the frames are very clean and covered in grand patches of capped brood and entire fields of fresh laid eggs. Virtually no drone cells except for one foundationless unwired frame that has a huge face of pure drone cells covering one half of the frame. The wired foundation frames are solid worker brood. bee numbers are very high- and clearly there are a lot of bees soon to be born. Not a queen cup to be seen.

Now- given the health and all that capped brood- one might be worried about swarming in a few weeks. I would rather not split the hive if I don’t have to.

Is it likely that adding an ideal foundationless super above the flow box now will give the bees enough work and space to stop them swarming in a month or two? It seems like a split will set them back a bit- and it would be nicer to let the numbers boom and let them catch the spring flow with a large workforce. We have taken splits from the hive the last two years and it has never swarmed yet after 3 full seasons. However from memory the first season when it wasn’t split was the most productive.


I agree. Wait a bit longer. Trust, but verify though - don’t let them go too long between inspections, because eventually they will get those natural urges… :blush:


Hi @Semaphore I did an inspection on the 22nd August and found the over wintered flow super still with capped honey but reduced by about half compared to what it started autumn with.

Same here, lots of bees, eggs and larvae and capped brood across 6 frames, two outside frames have capped honey and wet nectar.

I have tried opening the brood as preventative swarm control, on the 26th July (due to early spring like weather) I removed frame 2 which was open cells (now wrapped in plastic and in freezer) and replaced it with foundation less frame, that frame has now been completely built out and filled with capped honey in arch at top, capped worker and some capped drone cells.
So on the 22nd August I inspected and replaced frame 7, which was capped honey and wet uncapped nectar, I also placed this in the freezer after wrapping in plastic.
Now do I remove another frame in 3 weeks, I’m guessing that by then most of the brood box should have the honey moved up to flow super or consumed. Can I then use the frame of empty cells and the frame of capped honey and uncapped nectar from the freezer plus frame of brood to start a nuc colony?

Will this be enough swarm control of existing colony without weakening it?

I plan to do this as well, just wondering on the timing?


With hive like you describe if nights are not cold I like to harvest a couple frames of brood and eggs with bees for a nuc. Early queens are valuable and having a queen bank is very handy. The queen you have has genetic that I like and is good candidate to make some queens from. That being said I do not like taking resources from the same hive very often so timing for success is important. Letting them draw out some comb first is a good option. I do not consider harvesting a few frames of brood a split. If you had more then one hive to harvest brood from I would make nuc now. I like making bees as much as I like making honey. Good luck whatever way you go.


Jack, I would split the hive. I told someone the other day that it’s best to split a hive a little bit too early rather than a little bit too late. Especially at the start of spring.

I can only please one person today, & your that person. cheers

PS. don’t do a 50/50 split, just take a nuc off it with those sealed brood combs. That way the colony will postpone swarming as well as produce honey for you. That’s what I’m finding.


I plan to add that ideal in the next ten days. I had planned to rotate out any full frames of honey but there were none- there was brood all the way through. If your not planning a split then add that extra box ASAP as the spring build up seems to be big.

@JeffH thanks- I had a feeling you’d say ‘split’. I hate going against your advice but part of me wants to see how powerful they will get if they have all their brood and can focus exclusively on the top boxes.When I add the ideal and if they build it out fast the idea will be to remove the combs the very second they are ready- cut everything out as cut comb and replace. Building foundationless combs and then replacing them will hopefully keep the bees busy. I’ll add the ideal now and then keep a very close eye of the next month.


Hey Jack, when you put an ideal box on top of the flow super can it just go straight on? No need for any extra frame above it between the boxes? Just thinking that the removable skinny piece goes right up to the top of the super. Then the inner cover above that and then the flow roof?


yep- you can just put it on top or underneath.In this photo I have in underneath- but before that I had it on top. The little removable piece isn’t a problem- though it can fall off quite easily…


You’re welcome Jack. My advice comes from trying to think like bees. When you say “focus exclusively on the top boxes”, Jack, it’s spring!!!. I find it hard to imagine a colony focusing exclusively on honey supers when there’s reproducing to be done.

You already picked up a swarm. That should be an indicator that your own bees will be thinking about the same thing, it is for me.

You can only go with your own gut feelings to see what works & doesn’t work. cheers for now,


Hi Jack,
All experienced beekeepers say split now (in Australia). If all brood frames are full and the queen wants to lay more, they must swarm. I noticed the bees get even busier when you take some brood frames, without slowing down honey production.
In any case, nucs build up way faster now than in summer.
I also didn’t want to slow down activity in the supers, so I just took 1 or 2 frames from really full hives and bingo, put them together for a full 8 frame colony. Gave them a queen cell ready to emerge.
Where I replaced the brood frames with a foundationless 3 days ago, the comb is already built.


Ok- so I was pondering all this yesterday- and I went to youtube to educate myself further. I found two GREAT videos- with two theories/methodologies:

Thought’s on this video. One: do they have amazing non-aggressive placid bees in canada, or is this beekeeper a Bee Whisperer?? I can’t believe what this guy does with bare hands and no veil? I wish I could work like that but I think I would cop 1000000 stings to the face.

Two: this is sort of what I was hoping to do with my mums hive this year: add supers to create space- and then perhaps kill off queen cups/cells- should the bees start making them. I watched a few other videos that had the same concept: get the bees over the swarm impulse period until they get onto a big flow- at which time they switch all their energies towards that.

The idea with this method is that it it is primarily congestion that causes the queen pheromone to spread too thin- leading the bees to start making queen cells- by adding lots of space/supers- you reduce the congestion enough in the brood and the queen is able to move all around spreading her scent- stopping the swarm urge. By this time the spring flow starts.

Thoughts on this video: One: it’s a ripper! Nice one Jeff and Wilma! :wink:Two: it all makes perfect sense, and has me rethinking the video one strategy.