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

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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.

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