How to make a walkaway split

In contrast to a swarm-control split where you need to know the whereabouts of your queen, a walkaway split can be made without having to find the queen. The steps for setting up a walkaway split are easy:

The queenless portion will soon begin to raise a queen of their own from very young larvae. Since eggs will be hatching over the next three days, they will have many new larvae to choose from and several days to get it all done. The queenright portion of the split will continue on as before.

The downside of this type of split is that it takes a long time to establish. Rather than raising a queen from a maturing queen cell, the workers are raising her from a newly hatched larva. You have to wait an additional week before you start looking for fresh eggs. So instead of checking for eggs after three weeks, you should start checking after four weeks.

This type of split can be done before you see any swarm cells. However, if you start too early in the season the split could fail for the following reasons:

If you see swarm cells in any of your hives you usually don’t have to worry about the temperature or the drones because the bees don’t start building swarm cells until conditions are right for swarming. If you are unsure of your timing, let the bees guide you.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

DDR
Reply

It says to close up the hive and walk away. For how long till I can open the hive up? I did a split and know one of the hives does not have a queen.

Rusty
Reply

You should be able to find your queen after about three weeks. At the end of four weeks you should see eggs. If you don’t see any eggs after four or five weeks, the split probably failed to produce a fertile queen. Remember, though, bad weather can prevent the queen from mating. So if you have a spate of rain and wind, you may want to wait a little longer before giving up.

Gus
Reply

Rusty, what do you consider, “Nighttime temperatures may be too cold for a tiny split. Remember, you have a relatively small number of adult bees and a large number of brood cells. Nighttime temperatures must be fairly moderate to avoid chilled brood.”

Rusty
Reply

Gus,

It depends on the size of the split. Really tiny, and I think you’d want nighttime temperatures at 60 F or above. A little bigger and 50s might be okay. It depends on a lot of things including humidity, wind, rain. It also depends on the length of time they are cold. An hour or two is different than 12 or 14 hours. I can’t really give you a specific number.

Gerry
Reply

In the spring or early part of summer, if a person has a 2x deep super, brood chamber and eggs, larva, and capped brood, and nurse bees are distributed equally, can’t that person simply split the supers and place one on its own bottom board…take it about five miles away for a week or two so the foragers don’t return to their original home and let the colony with no queen raise a new one or have a purchased queen introduced? That way the new hive will still have some foragers to continue bringing in some pollen and nectar supplies while the nurse bees do their thing. Am I over simplifying this or missing something?

Rusty
Reply

Gerry,

I simplify things even more than that. I take the brood box with the queen, plop it down on its own bottom board about six inches from the original hive, and walk away. That’s it. Works like a charm.

Sure the foragers go back to the original hive, but the box with the queen will have new brood in three weeks. Meanwhile, some of the nurses become foragers, but it doesn’t need a lot of foragers right away because the number of larvae to feed decreases for those three weeks.

The other box needs to raise a queen, but it has enough nurses and foragers to get through.

Seriously, we make splits a lot more complicated than they have to be, put people like to have “formulas” or “recipes” to follow, so I’ve provided a bunch.

For myself, I prefer the KISS method.

Gerry
Reply

I totally agree with the KISS method…I use to tell folks that when I was in the Air Force. That “walk away” method you describe is well named! BTW, I’m just getting back into beekeeping after a 30-year hiatus due to my military stint.

I hail from Pennsylvania where I first began keeping bees at the ripe ole age of 13 and before entering the Air Force was up to 50 hives, now I’m retired from the USAF and living in South Carolina. Only thing I had to worry about in the early 70’s in PA was Nosema, AFB, wax moth and the occasional skunk or bear damage. No wonder why the poor honeybee is struggling to survive today with the same old problems we were use to, and now with the variety of mites and this dang SHB which South Carolina seems to be a haven for! I don’t know how a commercial beekeeper can deal with it like a hobbyist can. Anyway, you have a terrific site and I’m glad I stumbled upon it. Tons of information and love reading about your experiences in the beeyard. Take Care and thanks again!

Rusty
Reply

Gerry,

Thanks for the compliment and thanks for your years of service. I appreciate what you guys do for us.

Phillip
Reply

I performed an artificial swarm yesterday as explained in this video. Short version: I moved every frame with swarm cells to a new location and kept the queen (with no swarm cells) in the original hive and location. Finding a slimmed down, unmarked queen wasn’t easy, but I do appreciate the simplicity of the move, at least theoretically. I’ll be incredibly pleased if it actually fools the bees into thinking they’ve swarmed.

Does the “artificial swarm” technique make sense to you?

Rusty
Reply

Not really. I like to move the old queen to a new location because that replicates what happens in an actual swarm. I find it easy to do, uncomplicated, not fussy, and it works all the time. But, hey, if that system works for you, go for it.

Phillip
Reply

I did it for the first time two days ago. I’ll let you know if it works.

Phillip
Reply

I don’t think I ever got back to you, but I performed (is that the right word for it?) two artificial swarms last year, more or less following the directions in the video I linked to, and they worked.

In fact, I just performed (because I’m performance artist) a walk away split with a colony started from a swarm cell last year. Most of my colonies took a hard hit this past winter and have been slow to build up this spring — except for the colonies started from swarm cells.

Peter Prins
Reply

I have a bee colony in a wine vessel. They swarm moved in there about 3 weeks ago. How to get them into a normal brood chamber in a regular beehive?

I am thinking about making a hole in the top of the vessel and the bottom of the new hive and place the box on top of the vessel.

When I find the queen and brood in the box I’d think I should place a queen excluder between the two. Do you have better suggestions?

Rusty
Reply

Peter,

What do you mean by “vessel?” Do you mean a wooden barrel? Or something else? Can you e-mail a photo? rusty[at]honeybeesuite[dot]com.

Peter Prins
Reply

It is a old wooden wine barrel.

Rusty
Reply

Peter,

That should work, as long as she moves up in a reasonable amount of time. If she waits too long, all the winter resources will be in the barrel. But short of taking the barrel apart and moving the comb yourself, I don’t know of a better idea.

Peter Prins
Reply

Thanks,
I will have to return the barrel to the owner. One hole is allowed.
I’ll keep you posted.

Peter Prins
Reply

What do you think? Should I keep the original opening open or close it? The worker bees will be searching for the regular opening, but when they fail …?

New workers are expected to fly out in another six weeks; that’s a long time waiting …

Dave
Reply

Rusty,

I’m doing a split without queen cells. Should I leave the split settle a day before introducing a purchased queen, and does there need to be brood, eggs, & larvae? Can I just use comb foundation? I’m hoping the new mated queen will start laying once she is accepted.

Rusty
Reply

Dave,

Sure, it’s probably a good idea for them to settle and be queenless overnight before introducing a new queen; they will be much more receptive. With a purchased queen, you don’t need brood to get started. However, open brood in the hive keeps the bees from absconding during the period before the queen is introduced. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to put a frame of it in there, but it is not necessary. Yes, you can use drawn comb or foundation.

Dave
Reply

That is good news
I love your experience, I can do that with comfort knowing that is the right choice.
Thank you for getting back to me right away!
and you have never been wrong on giving advise on splitting hives.
Its been a few years beekeeping for me and I’ve tried practically all the splits, it’s been a little stressing but they all have worked very well.
The best one I prefer is the overnight, so simple and fool proof.

Chrissy
Reply

Hi Rusty,
I have a package that lost its queen right after installation, creating another laying worker problem (second year running…puke) I combined my laying worker hive with a queen right hive that over wintered awesomely (mainly thanks to honeybeesuite.com by the way 😉 and I plan to let them mingle together for a week or two then do a walk away split. Since I live in one of the coldest parts of Idaho I am thinking that if I wait for the newly split hive to raise its own queen they wont have the stores to make it through the winter so I’m going to buy one.
My question for you is – When I do my split should I leave the entrance open or should I close them in there overnight before introducing my purchased queen? Also, the other hive is booming so I was planning to move two or three frames of brood to give the split a better start. Is the pheromone from the brood going to lower the chances that the split will accept the queen?
I seem to have a knack for creating laying worker hives and am a little worried about spending the money for a queen (since I have rotten luck…or maybe Godzilla-like beekeeping skills) so any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for all you do!
Chrissy

Rusty
Reply

Chrissy,

I don’t think closing them up for one night will make any difference. The foragers will return home in any case, so you will be left with just nurses and brood. The nurses are more accepting of a new queen than the foragers, so it should be an easy transition. No, the brood from your larger hive will not cause a problem, in fact, it’s a good way to give your split an extra boost.

JT
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I also live in the Pacific NW and have 9 hives (two overwintered and 7 new nucs installed in late April). One of my overwintered hives is turning into a real boomer with a deep and (now) four mediums. The queen is a great layer and well behaved. I’d like to reproduce this hive with a walk away split and let them re-queen but it is coming up on June 1st…what is the latest you would do this kind of a split? I could also do a cut-down as we are just ahead of the main flow starting here too…suggestions?

Rusty
Reply

JT,

You can do just about anything as long as there is nectar coming in. I’ve done walkaways in July with no problem. Go ahead a try it.

Larry D
Reply

Good afternoon Rusty

I live in California and I recently did a walk away split on March 8. I have two brood boxes and two supers and this is my 3rd year (first time doing a brood inspection). I am not sure if I screwed up but upon inspection I noticed queen cells were already open and tons of larvae, I think they were drones everywhere. I split the hive with every other frame into the same amount of deeps.

I did a quick inspection just open the top and notice plenty of bees in the new hive and the original hive was normal. Did I screw up?
Thanks Rusty

Rusty
Reply

Larry,

No, I don’t think you screwed up. When you say the queen cells were already open, do you mean that queens already hatched? Did you move any of the unhatched cells into the new box? Do you know where your old queen is? If there are no queen cells, the bees can raise a queen from the very young larvae, but it would speed things up if you could move an unhatched queen cell into the box without a queen. Do you copy? If not, let me know.

Evan
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I live on Vancouver Island and had a hive that was extremely strong, so I performed a walkaway split.
I had examined it last week and there were swarm cells, but no eggs laid in them. I peformed the walkaway split last weekend.

I had a look in the queenless hive tonight, and sure enough, the bees are raising a whole ton of emergency queen cells – my question is, should I leave all the queen cells be, or shall I destroy all of them except one? I am very intent on doing what I can to prevent my bees from swarming.

Thanks so much for your informative website, it is a really helpful resource.

Rusty
Reply

Evan,

Suppose you destroy all but one queen and that one is defective, or never emerges, or is weak? Or maybe she goes on a mating flight and gets eaten by a bird. Then you have nothing. I leave them in place, or move them to a different hive, or put them in a nuc, or set up a queen castle, or give them away, but I never destroy queen cells. Too valuable.

Evan
Reply

Thank you, and yes I hear what you are saying. I guess what I am asking is, that if I leave more than one queen cell in the hive, I am risking them swarming multiple times – is that correct?

Rusty
Reply

Evan,

The first and/or strongest queen will destroy the other virgin queens. If the colony wants to swarm again, it will raise another batch of queen cells. All in all, monitoring queen cells is not a very effective way to control swarming because by the time they build them, the decision to swarm has already been made.

bob
Reply

Hello, very glad and excited to have stumbled up on this site. I am a newbee to this all, however I managed to get my hands on a couple hives. The first I caught in my backyard back in April was a small to mid-medium swarm with queen etc. I cut it from the tree and borrowed an old box from a friend. No frames in it currently and I just placed a piece of ply on the top for the cover. They are doing fine. I checked a couple times and realized they had comb hanging from the plyboard etc. They have been in the same spot in the box since then this year.

I did a bit of research, like the beekeeping idea, and luckily made a few connections and got 3 official hives with frames and a few empty boxes. These are all 10-frame one deep hive. No honey supers, just single boxes, my suit, hive tool, and smoker. Wow now great. I’ve never been in these boxes which I have gotten a few days ago. But this morning being so excited I visit every morning. I notice a couple dead bee the larger ones and a few walking around looking like they are about to die. I picked up a few, did some search and realized mite infestation Varroa. I compared the bees found to Google results. I am living in the Caribbean, Jamaica to be exact. And would like to know the best method for treating this. I’ve read about a couple including the one I prefer most because of no chemical which is powder sugar dusting. Can you give your take sir rusty.

Also for the couple of empty boxes I have the backyard space etc so I’m looking to get at least 5 more hives from the current 4 that I have. Is this a good time to do this and can the mite spread from box to box. Or hive to hive. The one I caught I roughly 80ft away from the 3 I got last week. The one I caught I was thinking of using as my observation and breeding since they were originally caught from the wild and seems to be doing perfect in a large box and may have a better yield and resistance what do you think . for this box I was thinking to do a top bar type hive but with the top boards the length of a regular frame incasr needed to use in a regular hive as well as the depth of the regular frame. I think this may be of my choice base on what I’ve read thus far correct me if wrong. Next do I need to add a super on top of all the other 3 boxes with excluder or just allow the queen to access and build into brood chamber as well in the event I need to expand my colony. Finally if splitting do you recommend breeding a Queen and what is the simpliest method . I am so sorry for posting all these question at once especially in the wrong place. But I have been searching for so many other answers and you get them across easiest.. Again I have never looked in these boxes since I got then just have a plan and high hopes

Rusty
Reply

Bob,

Thank you for your letter. You are right, your question is too long and involved for me to answer: it would require hours and hours of writing and all of these questions are already answered here on the site. Briefly, powdered sugar will work on the Varroa as long as you coat all your frames twice a week for most of the year. Yes, mites will spread from box to box and hive to hive. A queen excluder is completely optional. If you are mostly interested in raising bees, and not so interested in honey, you don’t need one. The simplest method of raising a queen is letting the bees do it themselves.

Anubis Bard
Reply

Rusty, I have a vigorous hive that is showing signs of swarming. They are bearding quite lumpily at the entrance – and I haven’t done a brood chamber inspection in over a month. I’m in Rhode Island. Is it possible to do a walk away split with a strong hive in June if it seems ready to swarm?

Rusty
Reply

Andy,

I don’t see why not. But if you can move the old queen to the split (which more closely simulates an actual swarm) I think you have a better chance of averting a secondary or tertiary swarm that could happen very soon after the split.

bob
Reply

Thank you for the response I appreciate it. And my apologies Madam rusty…Could you direct me to what my brood comb should look like. A healthy one. I took a peak on Sunday and notice that the combs of two. Of the hives were fairly dark and somewhat incomplete is that good or bad. Also I read that powder sugar can be made from regular granulated sugar by means of whipping in a blender I think. Is this ok. And for the back yard hive I notice those combs are much whiter what do u suppose is the difference

Rusty
Reply

Bob,

Brood is usually in the center of the comb with an arc of pollen surrounding it and honey stored above that. The brood cells should be solid, with very few empties scattered around inside. I will look for a photo.

Brood comb gets dark with age. The darkness comes from layers of pupal cocoons and debris, but the bees seem to prefer that way. The bees polish and smooth the surfaces before they re-use it.

Yes, I believe you can grind regular sugar in a blender to make powdered sugar. I have never tried it, so I don’t know how long it takes.

Comb is very white when it is new and darkens with age. I believe there is some genetic variability as well. Some seem to make whiter comb than others. It certainly isn’t a problem one way or the other.

bob
Reply

Ok, thank you for the response. I will be taking a look inside sometime today and may just attempt a split of the box I caught. Do you suppose since that box does not have frames I could just find brood and the eggs as well as the pollen etc on the necessary comb, cut it out, and strap with elastic band between 3 or so frame, shake some bees in and, that’s fine?

Rusty
Reply

Bob,

That should work.

Craig
Reply

How late in the year can you make a walk away split? I’m new to this but I have a hive I took out of a house in the spring and it’s two hive body’s deep and a super half full of honey already. I’m afraid it getting to big, both boxes are plum full of bees. I think it needs split but it’s almost July.

Rusty
Reply

Craig,

You can split now, but the limiting factor is whether they will have enough stores by fall. I don’t know where you are, but in most places in North America, the amount of available nectar drastically drops off in the summer. If they have more than enough stores, you could divide it between the two hives. Watch out for robbers, though, especially in the split.

bob
Reply

Hello madam Rusty. Hope you and the family are in good health. Well today marks the one week point since I had split my hive which I had caught back in April. Looks great thus far. What I did was to put the new box less than 3 feet away from the old box. I placed the queen in the new box and cut 5 frames of honey, larvae, etc from the old top box and used elastic bands to secure them in each frame. I never moved the old box at all. Now they both look ok. When I took a peek earlier today, did not disturb them much. But I feel they are ok. How can I upload a picture of What I have?

tony
Reply

It’s July 6. I live in Kentucky and have 2 very large plots of wildflowers in full bloom. I would like to make a split, got 4 full frames of capped brood eggs and larvae. They also have 3 supers of honey. Is it possible to make a split now? It stays warm till oct and nov.

Rusty
Reply

Tony,

Yes. It is still possible to make splits now. You will probably have to feed them before winter.

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