When to split my first hive

I started my first flow hive by transferring a nuc of 5 frames with queen into the brood box, about two months ago. Spring was just barely getting started in the mountains of North Carolina. I added the honey super three weeks ago because all nine frames of the brood box were either filled in completely or getting close. I also did this because they were bearding at the entrance.
Today I did a hive inspection and they are capping honey in the honey super. It’s about 40-50% full. But in the brood box I noticed that it’s jam packed with bees, and there is one queen egg being formed at the bottom of a frame. Sorry, I forget what that large mass is called. So I’m assuming they could swarm soon? Thoughts? I’m just wondering if I should split the hive and get a second Flow Hive. We are still in spring and most flowers are just starting to bloom. Thanks.

Yes, if the bees are making a queen cell with royal jelly in it and larva then you need to act quickly as they are getting ready to swarm.
You don’t need a second flow hive. A nucleus box will work for the time being. Later you can decide what you want to do with the new colony - keep it as a second hive, sell it or re-unite it with the original hive.

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You could probably open the brood up by taking a 3 frame split, however you would need a second brood box, not necessarily a second Flow hive.

Did that queen cell contain an egg or larvae? If so, that would indicate that the colony is preparing to swarm, so therefore you could expect to see more of them in the coming days. If not, it could be a play cup that bees build in readiness for when they do decide to swarm…

If you do decide to split the hive as a swarm prevention measure, take the split far enough away so that no bees return to the parent hive. This only needs to be for one week to 10 days max. Otherwise leave it there for at least one month.

Just wanted to ask about this because Flows are the same size as Langstroth boxes, that fit either 8 or 10 frames.

I agree with Jim’s and Jeff’s advice except for the part about using a nucleus box for a split and taking the split far away. I would encourage you to buy some extra Langstroth boxes that are the same size as your Flow, to have on hand for dealing with colony expansion time aka swarm season.

I would plan on keeping the split because two hives are better than one, and use a full size brood box rather than a nucleus box. With peak flow not quite on yet you risk them swarming from the nuc box because they know they need much more space. Nuc boxes are still very useful for temporary housing, transport of a split to sell or relocate, and overwintering a small colony.

If you have a good place that’s far away as Jeff suggested, you can follow that plan so the foragers don’t all return to the parent hive. I don’t have that option, but the method that Michael Bush uses has worked well for me - I lean branches across the front of the split hive for a few days so the foragers have to reorient as soon as they exit. It’s still possible that some will drift back if the hives are close enough, but not so many that the split is weakened.

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Thanks for your advice Eva. I said 9 frames because early on I found that 10 frames seemed very tight. I had difficulty removing the first frame during hive inspection in the first couple of weeks, and it seemed like I was rolling or crushing bees when I tried fitting the last of the 10 frames in place. So I slid the 9 frames together, leaving a little more of a gap on the ends. If you think this is wrong, I’m happy to add another blank frame for the bees to build out.

I do have a friend that lives 20 miles away, and has lots of land. So I have the potential to move a second brood box temporarily, or for an extended period.


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I didn’t check the queen cell for larva. I had just run out of smoke, and the bees were not happy. So I closed everything up.

If I get a second brood box, and move 3 full frames, and some empty frames to the new brood box, would I also need to get a second queen for the new brood box? I realized that I would have to be 100% sure that the existing queen stays in the first brood box.

I’m not quite sure how that all works. Thanks,


Many people use 9 frames in a 10 frame box. 10 frames seems even tighter when they are covered with bees and propolis!

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As long as both boxes have a frame with eggs & very young larvae, it won’t matter where your existing queen ends up because the bees in the box where she isn’t will soon realize that and make a new one :wink:

So do you only re-queen when you have to replace her due to an aggressive hive population, or because there isn’t new larva and presumably she died or is otherwise gone? This part is confusing to me. Thanks Eva!

Yes, you’ve got the gist! Two other reasons people will buy a new mated queen that relate to regional nectar flows & climates are to speed up colony growth or stabilize the colony for overwintering. When you let the bees make their own new queen from an egg or young larva, it takes several weeks before she’s ready to lay her eggs:

Queen development/time to emergence = 16 days
Hardening/flight readiness = 4-5 days
Mating flights = a few more days, or more when bad weather interferes

Then you wait 21 days for the first batch of worker eggs she lays to emerge & allow a cadre of house bees to graduate to foragers. Meanwhile the existing population drops a bit as older foragers die off.

So you can see how this decreases chances of a strong harvest in areas where nectar flow is scarce or stops for periods of time. Or, if a queen is lost late in the season where brood rearing stops in a cold winter, you might buy a mated queen because even if the colony could make one, there’s a low chance of her getting well-mated and then a diminishing period of favorable temps for brood production.


I would never order a new queen if I don’t see eggs or presume that the old queen has died etc. If I have any doubts, I will always give the colony a frame of brood that contains worker eggs & or very young worker larvae. Then check it in 4 days, to see if the colony is raising new queens.

What if it’s September and everyone’s drones have been kicked out of the hives to die :flushed:? The clock is ticking for colonies in our region to raise winter bees.

I think I need to split the hive today. I have a brood box and frames ready. Question is what part of the day. I was told that you should do this during the warmer part of the day when most of the bees are out foraging, but then when should I pack up and move the new brood box to it’s new (temporary) location? Right away, or wait until the evening when all the bees have returned? Thanks,

I’ve never moved a split off my property, but I’d think you’re best off taking it away ASAP. I would also think you could make the split in the morning, and potentially retain more foragers that way. I’ve always heard that it’s best to open the hive for inspection at peak foraging time too, but I assumed this was so you don’t have as many bees “in your way” as you inspect. I don’t let that idea stop me if there’s something that really needs to get done and starting earlier or later works better for me.

Just checking - you mentioned brood box & frames, and you have a bottom board, inner cover & lid too right? If not, and you don’t have time to wait to get them, you can rig something temporary. Asking because I was short once and had to scrounge my house & shed for usable items, like a plywood scrap that I mailed an entrance reducer to for a bottom & a serving tray for a lid :rofl:

That’s what the guy was telling me yesterday, when I picked up a brood box. He also doesn’t move them off his property. I think he puts the new hive next to the old one. I thought I’ve heard that many of the bees will revert back to the old hive, making it harder to start a new one.

I do have all the parts, with the box. He also highly recommended plastic foundation, rather then letting them build out on empty frames.

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This is what I do, no other choice really. But - if you lean a leafy branch on the front of the hive so you basically obstruct the entrance without totally blocking it, it forces the bees to reorient upon exit that day and the next. (Credit goes to Michael Bush for that trick). I suppose if you worked on this later in the day, closer to dusk, there would be fewer bees still out that would be likely to go back to their original hive.

If they have some honey & pollen stores and there’s a good flow on, fewer foragers won’t be as big of an issue.

Hi Eva, I never thought of that. That would certainly be a reason to order a new queen.

In my world, only a few days before winter officially start, I’m finding drones as well as drone brood in brood frames.

I have a fresh split after a customer took a colony, that I’m expecting the new queen to get mated.

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Quick update. I opened up the brood box and didn’t find the queen. There was some honey in the cells in the outside frames, which some bees appeared to be eating (in the cell head first). The middle frames had some brood cells, but I didn’t find any eggs, and no larva. I’m assuming that hive is now queenless? The 2-3 queen eggs on the bottoms of the frames were open.

I split the hive anyway because it must be overcrowded. I put some honey frames and brood frames in the new brood box. Do I get two new queens, one for each brood box? Or one queen for the new brood box? Or do I wait it out? I have no idea what I should do at this point.

I put the new brood box about 5 feet away from the original one.

If your colony was indeed queenless then the overcrowded situation would soon lose population, so splitting is not really the solution to that. But, it’s possible that you have an imminent swarm, and the queen is there but hasn’t been laying recently because the bees are preparing her to be light enough to fly with them, by hustling her around to lose weight :flushed:

For a split to work in this situation, meaning that both the parent colony and the split colony end up viable/queenright, you would have to make sure your queen and mostly swarm-ready workers went into the split. The queen cells would have to be well-developed and not too numerous, and remain in the parent hive with enough nurse bees and food on hand.

I’m still learning and have had my share of errors with splitting at different stages of colony buildup/swarm prep, so I’d love to hear what others would say. I’m going to also look for the wonderful (and very detailed) booklet that @Dawn_SD has often posted.

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Voila! Essential reading :+1:

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