How to Split a Beehive

May 7, 2014
The split will now live in this nuc box until the new queen begins to lay and their numbers increase.

 This week. I wanted to share how I split a beehive. All beehives that overwinter should be split come spring. This helps to prevent swarming .

Once you begin researching about splitting beehives, you will soon come to realize that there are several techniques that can be quite successful. Out of my three hives that went into winter, only one survived. The lone survivor is now bursting at the seams with bees! This hive needed to be split or I would run the risk of losing half of its population to swarming. When hives are this large and robust, often they will swarm in spring. When this happens, the queen and half the population will leave the hive to make a new home. The bees left behind will continue to survive and raise a new queen from the babies left behind. This week, the weather finally warmed up enough and I could do the split.

Warm weather is always a very important thing to consider, especially paying attention to nighttime temperatures. Young brood (bee babies) can easily chill and you must keep this in mind when you are disrupting the populations in the “mother” hive. Chilled brood can cause the entire new hive to fail.

To make a split you will need:

1 nuc box
2 empty frames with foundation
1 frame of honey (optimal) or a feeder
2 frames of brood from the “mother hive”
Extra bees
1 smoker

On a warm sunny day during the late morning, most of the hive’s population will be out foraging. This is the best time to work. In the nuc box, arrange the frames so that the honey filled frame is in slot number 1 and the two frames with foundation are in positions 2 and 5. The two brood filled frames that you take from the “mother” hive will go in slots 3 and 4.

Once you have the nuc box arranged as so, open the hive and smoke the bees.

Healthy brood pattern

Begin inspecting the hive for eggs, larvae and capped brood. You will need to take two frames full of brood. However, first you must locate the queen. You do not want to inadvertently take her. (Sometimes, queens are taken but that is usually when they are older or aging. If she is healthy, robust, and laying let her stay.)

Once you locate the queen, return the frame she is on and take two other brood filled frames and place them in slots 3 and 4. Then take two more frame without the queen and shake the bees off those frames into the nuc box, taking only the bees only. You will need enough bees to work this nuc.  Then quickly close up the nuc and block off the entrance until the hive is situated in its new location.

It is optimal to move this new nuc to a location at least 2 miles away. However, sometimes that is not always possible. That is okay. Whether you relocate the hive or place it next to the old “mother” hive, place a leafed branch in front of the entrances. This way it forces the bees to re-orient themselves to this new hive as their home. When the hives are placed next to one another, you may see some drifting of the nuc bees back to the “mother” hive. It is important to realize that the nurse bees that you took who were on those two frames of brood, will remain with the brood not matter what.

Leave the nuc alone for two weeks. Then in two weeks time check the nuc for signs of a new queen- specifically queen cells. If there are no queen cells, then swap out another frame of brood from the “mother” hive into the nuc and recheck again in two weeks.

Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest


Author/Blogger/Freelancer-Sharing adventures with backyard chickens, beekeeping, gardening, crafting, cooking and more.



12 thoughts on “How to Split a Beehive”

  1. Happy Hump Day Melissa! Stopping by the hop today with my May Sewing party linky and a wonderful Mother's Day Giveaway by MaryJane Butters! She's offering a signed copy of her latest book " Milk Cow Kitchen". Now, that's down home! Thanks for hosting this great hop! Hope to see you soon! Deb

  2. Good morning. Splitting your beehive is so interesting! I have a couple of questions. You said you closed off the entrance to the nuc… so are the bees captive inside? How do they get food and water? Also, do you know why your other hives died? I hope you will do another post when it comes time to checking to see if you have a new queen, this is all very interesting to me! My hubby and I were planning to get bees this year, but circumstances got in the way and now we have to wait another year. That's okay, because I like reading about how others take care of their bees, which I am sure will be an advantage when we finally get ours.
    Oh, and thanks for hosting the blog hopping party!

    • Hi there, yes, once the bees are placed in the new location the entrances can be re-opened. As for the other hives, the queens were older. They should have been requeened last fall but there was a queen shortage and you don't want to requeen your own hives in the fall by having them make their own. We also had a very harsh winter and in early spring severe temperature fluctuations. All these certainly played a role.

  3. Tilly, Thank you so much for featuring my post "Mother's Days Made Simple," it was a nice surprise!

    We just got down splitting our bee hives and are hoping for a new queen as well.

  4. You have learned so much about bees in such a short time. Thank you for passing on the good information to us future bee keepers!
    Thanks for featuring Maple Hill 101 on today's post!

  5. would it be possible to do this with a regular medium 10 frame hive body and just leave empty frames in the box other than the 2 brood and honey frames?

    • Glad you asked! Yes, it would be fine to do it that one. There are lots of ways to split hives. Some folks also make a split by dividing the hive consisting of 2 deeps into 1 old deep plus a new deep added. The main thing is that you are sure to get a couple beautiful frames full of brood and enough bees too.

  6. Thanks for the helpful read. Not sure if this thread is still active, but what would you do differently if you just wanted to split and transplant into an 8 frame hive?
    Or split from an 8 to a 10?

    • Hi there, yes, still active. I try to read and respond to each and every comment. For an 8 frame hive, you would be working with 4 vs 5 frames. Just continue the same methods as the 10 frame Lang. So, still use a 5 frame nuc box to split. Take 2 frames of brood, 2 frames of food/nectar/honey and a frame of comb. When ready to put that in an 8 frame- put those five frames into the center of a deep and then just add in 3 more frames split 1 and 2 on the outer edges- so those new frames would be put into spaces 1, 7, 8. Does that make sense?


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.