By Leigh Knott
NOTE: Beekeeper and host of the podcast Beekeeping on Five Apple Farm Leigh Knott was our guest speaker at the club meeting on Tuesday. Below is the supplemental information she promised with links on how to do many different splits. The links include articles and videos. Those methods highlighted in purple are the ones she uses the most often and work well in her apiary.
Vertical Spit Using Double Screen Board / Snelgrove Board
Pros: only requires one stand, one bottom board, one top cover. Good for splits when weather could be chilly at night. Cons: requires a specialized board but that board is handy for many things.
- Article from Better Bee on using the double-screen board.
- Article from The Apiarist. Note: he is using a ‘split-board’ which only has door on one side, so this means turning the hive around (as opposed to just opening/closing the various doors on the snelgrove)
- Video from Bob Binne, using yet another slightly different board.
I’ve not done this one but quite a feat. It’s a way to create essentially a swarm of nurse bees and the queen on the board. They can then be shaken into their own hive – seems a good way to move bees between types of hives (Lang to topbar, Layens to Lang, Topbar to Lang, etc)
- Article from the Blythewood Bee Co. on how to create an artificial swarm with the Taranov Split.
- Article from the Honeybee Suite Blog. This website is a great resource for solid bee info of all kinds
Shook Swarm/ Shakedown Split
Based on what they do in Europe where antibiotics cannot be used in hives, I used this to clean a colony with European Foul Brood one time and it worked! Also another way to move bees from one type of hive (or frame size) to another.
- Article from David A. Cushman’s website. This is a British site, so terms can vary from ours. It is an amazing repository of bee info tho. I’ve gotten lost in here many times…
- Article from the The Bee Supply. Includes two accompanying videos.
The Demaree (Swarm Prevention)
Throwing this one in here because a bee friend mentioned it – This one enables swarm prevention without making increase using a snelgrove board. (I love to make increase so have never used this one. 😉 For swarm prevention on a hive I’m not splitting, I tend to use techniques of opening the brood nest and/or removing nurse bees via a shook swarm method or overnight split method below.
The Nucleus Split Method
I use this one a lot because it’s simple and easy once you have found the queen. To be clear, I pull the queen to the little nucleus, and let the original colony (big, with plenty of resources and flying bees) make the new queen (or multiple queen cells) The 2nd link is my own version of the recipe that will eventually appear in the splits guidebook I’m writing….
- Again, a post from one of my all time favorite bee blogs, The Apiarist (Scotland).
- This is a PDF of my recipe for the nucleus split.
Flyback Split (Lauri Miller) or Runaway Split (Ang Roell and Sam Comfort) or Reverse Doolittle Split (Tina Sebestyen)
This is another one I use a LOT now for its simplicity and flexibility! Can be used to make multiple queen cells too, with the variation of multiple frames of eggs in the original spot. I shake lots of nurse bees in if I’m doing it for multiple cells. But the true beauty of it is you can do all that needs to be done in ONE easy trip to the bee yard if you are just using it to raise one new queen! It is so much better in every way the old dang walkaway…
- Video of Sam Comfort doing a Runaway split on a Box hive (aka Comfort Hive)
- This is the how-to handout (also a PDF) that Ang Roell and team created about the Runaway Split for their SARE grant. Note at the bottom their research on how age of comb affects mating success – newer comb will give you better results with ANY split method where the bees raise so-called ‘emergency’ queens on the frame (aka frame based queen rearing). And as long as there is young comb, there’s not a lot of difference in quality between an emergency queen and a grafted queen from the same stock
An article on the Reverse Doolittle technique by Tina Sebastyen of the Colorado Beekeepers Association
The Cutdown Split
This one has a lot of moving parts and steps – it’s not for the beginner (or faint of heart), but I’ve used it many times to make lots of queen cells and lots of honey from just one big booming hive. It’s trick-riding at it’s finest 😉
- This article is where I first read about it, then ignored it for years till it dawned on me what it could do even if I don’t need it for comb honey production! Michael Bush’s website was my go-to online resource for the first few years I kept bees, and it helped immensely.
- This PDF is the hand-drawn diagram (I’m not artist!) I made for a presentation I gave on it years ago.
The Mississippi Split
The Mississippi Split is a simple way to make fast increase by using queen cells (from your own frame-based or grafted queen rearing or with purchased queens or queen cells). Since a capped queen cell doesn’t need to be fed, it doesn’t take many bees to support her at first during her mating and establishing a brood nest. This is one you would want to do early in the season and you would want to feed syrup at first.
Overnight Split or Doolittle Split
This is the method I use to get a queenless box of nurse bees without finding the queen. You can then move the “doolittle” box to a new stand the next morning. Since it will only have nurse bees and brood, it’s a great place to add a valuable caged mated queen or a virgin queen (since if it’s left in the same yard, it won’t have any foragers who are more likely kill her).
The added benefit of this split is it thins nurse bees out in the original hive thus reducing swarm pressure.
I believe I also recall Michael Palmer removing the top box of brood/nurse bees to add to another hive to dramatically increase the population of that hive (via newspaper combine). I think he calls it a ‘bee bomb.’ This would be an equalizing or boosting method.
- See this article from the Honeybee Suite for details on how to make an overnight split. Note: While I tend to prefer that the bigger/original hive (with the flying bees) to make the new queen in splitting, I’ve tried it the way she describes below in letting the doolittle box make a queen, and it worked too as long as there are lots of nurse bees AND resources in that box (ie honey, pollen and a feeder with light syrup).
Final Notes on Specialty Splits to Make Increase
I hope you will study and explore making different kinds of splits in your own yard. Using specialty splits has helped me easily expand my apiary anytime (and usually have some nucs to sell) using just frame-based queen rearing. In my own experience, these queens rival most any grafted queen I’ve made or bought.** I’m glad because frame-based queen rearing (aka specialty splits) is so much less complicated and more flexible for me than the whole grafting/ cell raiser process since I only need a handful of new queens at any given time.
**as long as they have lots of resources, good flow or feeding, low stress and light young comb to work with.
Online Resources you can Trust
There’s an incredible amount of inaccurate or misleading beekeeping info online. I urge newer beekeepers to learn from reliable sources who are real beekeepers and not just trying to get views or attention. Here are some of my faves:
- The Honeybee Suite. This site has always delivered short, to the point, and reliable info. Rusty is a real beekeeper (and biologist) I trust for good info.
- The Apiarist. I apparently love a Scottish sense of humor because the humor on his site gets me. He was a beekeeping researcher by day and beekeeper for fun the rest of the time till he retired recently. Very helpful and entertaining site but also some deep dives! Only requires a little bit of translation re beekeeping terms US vs UK.
- Bob Binnie on YouTube. Great info from a great guy. Gives a glimpse into stationary commercial beekeeping quite near us. While the commercial methods may or may not be needed for backyard beekeepers the bee info he shares while working the yards is GREAT. Also the presentations he gives to bee clubs, which are also on his channel, are great methods for us hobbyists.
- Kamon Renolds on YouTube. Another great YouTuber next door in TN. Fun to watch and very reliable. I admire the way he tries out new things and is willing to change his mind over time. The banter between him and his wife, the camerawoman, is also wonderful.
I hope you have FUN exploring the incredible number of great ways to make more bees for your own apiary and for our community of beekeepers!