This is one of the easiest ways to split a colony and, if things go wrong, it is easy to undo. I call it a vertical split, but some call it a top split, an over/under split, or a top-and-bottom split. Like all the other splits I have described, it is just a variation on the basic principles of splitting a hive.
Here are the steps for making a vertical split:
- Remove two to three frames of brood from the colony you want to split and place these frames in the center of an empty brood box. As with any split, the brood frames should contain eggs, newly hatched larvae, and capped brood—all of it covered with nurse bees.
- Next to the brood frames, add at least one frame containing pollen and one containing honey.
- Fill out the rest of the box with frames of drawn comb or foundation.
- Also backfill the original brood box with frames of drawn comb or foundation.
- Place a double-screened board on top of the original brood box.
- Put the opening of the double-screen board on the back side of the original hive, and make sure the opening leads to the upper brood box.
- Place the new split on top of the double-screen board.
- Place the hive cover on top of the new split.
If you are going to introduce a queen to the new split, wait a few hours or overnight before introducing the queen in her cage. Don’t introduce a queen to the split unless you are certain the original queen is not in the split.
If you are expecting the split to produce its own queen, look for queen cells in three or four days. If there are no queen cells, you may add another frame of eggs and newly-hatched larvae to the center of the brood nest.
As with any split, feeding is optional and depends on how many frames of honey the split has, the weather, the availability of forage, and the size of the split.
Once the new queen (either introduced or natural) begins laying, you can move the split off the parent hive to its final location.
Advantages of the vertical split:
- The double-screen board allows heat to move from the established colony into the split. This means splits can be done earlier in the year.
- This type of split can be done quickly with little planning. If during a hive inspection you find queen cells, you can put them in a box above the double-screen board and leave the original queen below. You will have a new queen in days.
- If the split doesn’t take for some reason, you can smoke the hive and remove the double screen. The hive will reunite quickly with little disruption.