Details of the Taranov split

The Olympia beekeeper who submitted the photos of splitting a Langstroth with a Taranov board, Dave Hurd, sent in some details based on reader questions. He did a nice job explaining his method, so I’m presenting it as today’s post. Once again thanks, Dave, for all your input and your great photos.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite


I can add a little more info about my split experience. On the afternoon of 4/28 (two weeks ago) we were having some usually warm weather and the bees were flying so I thought it would be a handy time to start a HopGuard treatment. I first installed the strips in my nuc and then moved onto my triple. I put strips in the top box, then as I lifted it off I saw a couple of capped swarm cells along the bottom of the frames. I carefully lowered the box back into place and closed the hive. That was probably around 2:30.

At that point I was sure that the hive had either already recently swarmed or was just about to, and decided to make the split immediately in case the girls hadn’t bolted yet. Having read Rusty’s excellent description of the Taranov method I knew what I needed to do (run back into the house to read it again), so I came up with the materials to fabricate my board and put it together, got a nice floral print sheet from my wife, and got set up.

As I was placing the board and sheet I noticed right away that through some adrenalin induced measurement error the lip of the board was about 1.5″ too high, so I slipped a couple of 2x4s under the hive to even them up. It was probably about 3:00 when the apparatus was assembled, in place, and ready for action.

I started shaking frames working from the top down, stacking the emptied boxes on the top cover. When I got to the bottom box I pulled, shook, and replaced the frames leaving the box in place.

Per the instructions I made sure to carefully brush the bees from frames with swarm cells to protect the new queen. For the other frames it only took one or two firm shakes to drop the bees onto the sheet. The whole process proceeded very quickly; after 20 minutes the hive was as empty. I spotted the marked queen midway through the middle box as she fell on the sheet.

At 5:00 all of the bees were either back in the hive, clustered under the board, or out foraging. By 5:05 the cluster was in a new home sipping sweet syrup. This was a brand new box, with brand new frames of brand new foundation; no queen cells added.

Today, two weeks later, the old marked queen is still in the new hive with quite a bit of eggs, brood, and capped brood. They seem to be doing well; in fact they seemed a little crowded so I added a second box on top of the first. I’ll check the old hive to make sure there are eggs next week, and if not I’ll requeen it from my nuc.

As far as needing help, I did this all on my own and it was, in hindsight, not a big deal work-wise. I will admit to being a little panicky during the process because, well, that was a lot of bees! I was much relieved when I saw the queen and knew that I had caught it in time. I don’t think it could have gone much faster if I’d have had help; but there would have been someone to hold the video camera . . .

Dave Hurd

Another take on Taranov

A beekeeper here in Olympia, Dave Hurd, sent me the following photos of splitting a hive with a Taranov board. His design for the ramp is slightly different than my own but the principle is the same. Because he split a Langstroth rather than a top-bar hive, I thought you might enjoy seeing his photos.

Based on these two examples, it’s hard to say if all bees are this smart or if Olympia bees are smarter than most. Hmm…

Anyway, in his comment, Dave wrote:

I’m an Olympia, WA beekeeper (well, I keep most of them) and today is my one-year bee anniversary! . . . I wanted to let you know that I detected impending swarmification (my word) a little over a week ago in my triple deep and so used this method to split the hive.

It was astonishing. It was also unnerving to be shaking sooo many bees out onto the sheet. The carpet of bees marched itself up the ramp and split just like clockwork. . . . My board prototype is a little different than yours but performed admirably. Both the triple and the new colony seem to be doing well, though I don’t think I’ll open them to snoop for eggs for a while yet. . . .

I crafted my board out of an 8-frame bottom board, plywood scraps for side stands, a chunk of 2×6 attached to the bottom for ballast, and 1.5″ wide piece of leather-backed fuzzy material that I cut off of an ice scraper cuff that I then stapled to a piece of 1×2. I figure by the time winter comes back my wife won’t recall exactly how long that ice scraper cuff was. . . .

Thanks, Dave, for your description and some really great photographs!

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Here is the Taranov board from the bottom, showing the fabric for the bees to grab onto.
Here is the Taranov board from the bottom, showing the fabric for the bees to grab onto.
As you can see from the photo, the ramp is a modified bottom board.
As you can see from the photo, the main ramp is a modified bottom board.
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Soon after all the frames were shook free of bees.
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The bees begin to climb the ramp.
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A few bees begin to look under the ramp.
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The process continues.
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Notice the four-inch gap between the ramp and the old hive.
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Eventually the bees cluster under the ramp or on the front of the old hive.
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The split is nearly complete.
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A beautiful cluster of bees.
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The split is ready for its new home.
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Home, sweet home.
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The new split gets a syrup feeder.

The great divide: a Taranov split

I recognized the cacophony coming from my top-bar hive. The insistent roar told me those bees were ready to swarm. They were milling about, climbing up the sides of the hive, flying but not foraging.

I had just returned from a week on the road and didn’t feel like messing with bees, but they were hard to ignore. I watched them for a long while, then asked them (nicely) not to swarm until tomorrow.

On Friday I got up early with the intention of taking a shook swarm from that hive. It’s my only top-bar hive, so I have nothing to split it into. But as I was getting ready, I recalled a conversation I had just had with Karessa of Nectar Bee Supply in Corvallis. She had read my post on the Taranov board and asked if I had ever tried it. Suddenly I knew I had perfect conditions for a test—a hive that was going to swarm any minute.

So I printed instructions from my own website and went through the steps one by one. By the time I was set up and ready to begin I decided there was no way this could possibly work. What on earth made me believe I could shake all the bees out of the hive and expect them to divide themselves into two camps: the swarmers and the stayers? This Russian guy was insane.

But at that point, I decided to keep going. One by one I took out every frame, inspected it for the queen (which I never found), and shook the bees onto the sheet. Like a scene from Harry Potter, all the bees marched up the ramp and divided into two groups. They behaved like a swarm, very gentle and completely non-aggressive.

Now, two days later, everyone seems well settled in. I saw no crossover between the two hives and both have good populations. All the swarming behavior ceased. I no longer think the Russian guy was nuts; I think he was a genius—and he certainly knew bee behavior. Have a look at the photos below . . . this split was too cool for words.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Measure-entrance
First I measured the width of the alighting board.
Connecting-boards-with-an-angle-bracket
My husband doesn’t like me to use his radial-arm saw because I might delete an important appendage. He wasn’t home however, so onward and upward. I cut an old piece of plywood the width of the alighting board and another as a brace. I couldn’t find a hinge, so I used an angle bracket.
Attach-a-cloth-for-bees-to-grap
I didn’t have a piece of carpet, so I used an old terrycloth towel. This gives the bees something to hang onto.

Ready-for-use
Once the angle bracket was attached, I just bent it to the right angle.

Four-inches-from-landing
I set up the Taranov board four inches from the alighting board.

Ramp-in-place
Here is the ramp in place. By now, the whole thing seemed ridiculous. After all, what self-respecting bee wouldn’t make the four-inch journey between ramp and home? And why would bees go looking for a rag under the ramp?

Sheet-taped-in-place
I taped the sheet to the ramp. If you try this at home, staple it. The tape eventually released under the weight of all the bees.

Randomness
I shook all 23 top-bar combs onto the sheet. What a mess! If this were a painting, I would call it “Seven Degrees of Randomness.”

Bees-accumulating-in-two-bunches
Within a few minutes, they began walking—not flying—toward home. They marched right up the ramp. Who would have thunk it?

The-great-divide
The great divide. Only four inches apart, two distinct groups began forming—the would-be swarmers and the regular foragers. They must have read the directions.

Bees-crawling-up-sheet
It took about 90 minutes for all the stragglers to come off the sheet.

Swarm-ready-to-dump
At this point, I picked up the ramp with the swarm attached and dumped it into an empty Langstroth. I found 20 capped queen cells, which I divided between the two hives. I never found the queen.

New-split
The new split. The top medium contains a feeder.

How to make an overnight split

The overnight split is a good choice if you are unable to find your queen but you want to know where she is after the split is complete. The downside is that it takes two days to complete.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Prepare a new brood box to hold the split. The new brood box needs to be the same size as the original hive; so if the original is in a deep, the split needs to be in a deep.
  2. Give the new box two frames of honey and pollen, in positions 3 and 8 (or if you are using 8-frame equipment, in positions 2 and 7).
  3. Fill the remaining empty slots with drawn-comb, foundation, or starter strips depending on your preference.

The first day:

  1. Place your prepared brood box next to the strong hive you want to split.
  2. Remove two or three empty frames from the middle of the new brood box and set these aside.
  3. Select two or three frames of brood from the strong colony. Ideally these frames should contain capped brood, larvae, and eggs.
  4. Shake all the bees from the brood frames back into the strong hive. It is best to shake rather than brush because you don’t want to injure the queen.
  5. Place the frames of brood in the center of the new brood box.
  6. In the strong hive, push the remaining brood toward the center and place the empty frames at the edge of the brood nest.
  7. Place a queen excluder on top of the strong hive.
  8. Place the new brood box on top of the queen excluder.
  9. Put the telescoping lid on top of the whole thing.

The second day:

  1. During the night, nurse bees from the strong hive will have moved up to tend the brood, so now your nurse bees are spread evenly over the brood and your queen is below the excluder. Now you return to the hive with a bottom board (solid or screened) and a second telescoping lid.
  2. Place the bottom board where you want your new hive.
  3. Take the new brood box containing the frames of brood, nurse bees, and foragers and place it on the new bottom board in the new location and cover it with a lid. The foragers will return to the original hive but the nurse bees will remain with the brood.
  4. Reduce the entrance of the new hive to protect it from predators and robbers.
  5. Remove the queen excluder from the original hive and replace the cover.

You now have the original colony with its original queen in addition to a queenless split. At this point you can introduce a caged queen to the split or, if there are eggs in the split, you can let the bees raise their own queen. In either case, check the brood nest occasionally until you know you have a laying queen.

For other types of splits, see:

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

How to make a cut-down split

A cut-down split is a special technique often used by comb honey producers. The purpose of a cut-down split is to maximize the number of foragers that are bringing in nectar by minimizing the amount of brood a colony has to care for.

With little brood to feed, foragers concentrate on bringing home nectar rather than pollen, and nurse bees without brood responsibility soon become foragers as well. The result is lots of honey in a short period of time.

Timing of a cut-down split it important. To be effective, the cut-down should be completed just before the start of a main nectar flow. No matter how well you organize the split, it won’t produce more honey if there is no nectar to collect.

To make a cut-down split:

  • Find the queen.
  • Place the queen and nearly all the open brood, honey, and pollen in a new hive. Make sure these frames are covered with nurse bees to care for the open brood.
  • Leave the capped brood, one frame of eggs, and a small amount of honey and pollen in the old hive. At the same time reduce the number of brood boxes in this old hive by one and add empty honey supers. (So if there were three brood boxes, cut back to two. If there were two brood boxes, cut back to one. Add supers after cutting back the brood boxes.)
  • Place the new hive in a different location so all of the foragers return to the old hive.

I know this is confusing, so try this:

Old Hive in Original Location: New Hive in New Location:
No queen Old queen
Capped brood Uncapped brood
One frame of eggs Remainder of eggs
Nurse bees to cover Nurse bees to cover
Small amount of pollen Most of pollen
Small amount of honey Most of honey
All the foragers No foragers
Reduced number of brood boxes Normal number of brood boxes
Increased number of honey supers Normal number of supers

After you are set up, this is what happens:

  • The old hive won’t swarm because it doesn’t have a queen or young brood.  The colony will raise a new queen from the eggs, but by the time the colony is strong, swarm season will be mostly over.

o   This old hive has many more foragers and nurses than are needed to care for the one frame of eggs. In addition, all the capped brood will soon hatch and replace the nurse bees.

o   Because the hive is now crowded (due to the reduced number of brood boxes) many of the newly hatched nurse bees will move into the supers and start building comb—even in comb honey supers.

o   The old nurse bees will also become foragers, but since there is little brood to care for, pollen needs will be low. So the huge crop of foragers will collect nectar like crazy and make a lot of honey in a very short time—which they will store in the newly build comb.

  • The new hive won’t swarm because there are no foragers. It will take several weeks to build up a foraging force.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite