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.

Comments

Frank Wilson
Reply

This is awesome!!! I wish I would have found this last season as I started out with Warre hives and found myself in the same situation. I wound up using plastic zip ties to hook the warre bars to a langstroth length bar. This year it is turning into a bit of a mess trying to frankenstein together mismatched equipment. This technique would have solved my dilemma.

In the langstroth are you using foundation or going foundationless?

I’m going to stay tuned to your blog and put a link on mine.

Thank you!!
Frank

Rusty
Reply

Frank,

The Langstroth in the photo is made of old mediums that have drawn comb on foundation. I don’t use foundation so much anymore, but I still have some in use.

Tom
Reply

Geat post!! Can you please say a bit more about the “cacophony” and other indications to anticipate a swarm? I have experienced the noise of swarms but never heard of one before they left. Are there other indications?
Thanks
Tom

Rusty
Reply

Tom,

I will try to do a post on your question; I have to think about it for a while.

alia
Reply

How did you put the queen cells from the top bar into the Langstroth? Cutting out comb and tying it to Langstroth frames?

Rusty
Reply

Exactly.

alia
Reply

Also, did the swarm ever collect in an easy to grab mass on the towel as described in the other post? Or is the picture above the most clustered they got while on the board?

Rusty
Reply

Alia,

The directions said to wait for 2 hours and I only waited 90 minutes. Maybe if I had left them longer they would have all collected on the towel, but I didn’t wait because it was convenient for me to dump them in as they were.

Tom
Reply

Now that is very cool! If only I could know when my bees are about to swarm. Is it necessary to be in your hives a lot in the spring?

I am always a day late and a dollar short on doing something before they swarm, mainly because I don’t want to be in the hives agitating my bees.

My best and largest hive swarmed this spring – on the very day that I was walking out to do a hive inspection! They ended up in a pine tree about 50′, and I was unable to get them.

I really like this method. What if your Langstroths are on 6-inch blocks? That’s not going to give you much length for a ramp.

Rusty
Reply

Tom,

That’s one down-side that I see. Your hives would have to be higher, I think.

ScoobyDoBee
Reply

Holy cow, Beeman! That’s amazing. Is that only for top bars? And you divided up 20 queen cells into 2 hives. So the queen will hatch and hopefully kill the other potential heirs? Sooooo kewl!

Rusty
Reply

SDB,

You could use it on any type of hive, the principle is the same.

Mark Nofsinger
Reply

THIS is why I keep bees, not for the honey, but because they are simply fascinating creatures. Thank you for documenting the process and I’m so glad it worked.

WesternWilson
Reply

Rusty, that was so interesting! Thanks for the photos or I would never have understood what this method is all about. I am running a tbh this year just to see how they work and will split it soon. Thankyou for this timely lesson!

Kitty Cunningham
Reply

That is just genius. I have 2 TBHs that I started with last year. Both swarmed within 2 days of each other. Then, they absconded in the fall. I have a new package coming in today. I have been hoping that when that colony decides to swarm (whenever) that they will swarm into the other hive. I will use this trick to try to make it happen.

Thanks for posting.

karessa
Reply

Sweet post! So exciting that this actually worked. Thanks for sharing!

Rusty
Reply

Karessa,

Thanks for asking, otherwise I would have forgotten all about it!

Dave
Reply

Rusty,

I’m an Oly, WA beekeeper (well, I keep most of them) and today is my 1 year bee anniversary! I’ve been lurking here for just shy of a year absorbing all the info I can and I really appreciate your site. 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. I have a few pictures if you’re interested; 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.

Then today I got a call from my wife that a hive swarmed! I somehow made it home in time to catch the swarm and put it into a box; now I’m wondering if it is a swarm from my nuc, or maybe an afterswarm from the triple? I should be able to tell when I can inspect it because the nuc queen was marked.

A couple weeks ago I had a triple deep hive and a nuc. Now a triple, two singles, and the nuc!

Thanks again for your help!

Another Anon
Reply

So where did the queen end up? My guess–the towel portion of the split?

Rusty
Reply

I don’t know where the queen ended up, but I suspect the towel portion. Having done shook swarms, I know the queen dislodges fairly easily with a good shake.

Leah
Reply

How do you shake bees from a top-bar hive? Ive seen videos of it done on a Langstroth but I’d worry about breaking the comb from the top bar. Thanks! I’m new to bees and have my first TBH in Seattle. I got a shaken swarm from a local beekeeper; I hope they stay with me!

Rusty
Reply

I shake Langstroths and top-bars the same way and have never had a problem with it. As long as you hold the ends of the bars and keep the comb vertical, you won’t have a problem. The thing to remember is you can’t hold a top-bar comb sideways.

Sean
Reply

We use this method a lot in England, still amazed every time it works! Great article.

Lindy Lou
Reply

Hi Rusty, I have been reading and re-reading your Tarranov pieces and other sites with similar instructions too. I have a question about your last words were you write that you found 20 capped queen cells which you split between the two hives. Suppose you wanted to make increases in your apiary or nucs for your own or someone else’s future winter problems, would it be a good idea at this point to make 6 or 3 frame nucs with all those capped queen cells with some of the nurse bees to care for them? Or would this cause a general weakening of otherwise good young hive stock? I enjoyed both your Tarranov stories, you write in a way that is enjoyable as well as helpful and instructive.

Rusty
Reply

Sure, Lindy, you can make as many nucs as you want with all the capped queen cells. As long as you have nurse bees to cover all the brood in each nuc, you should be fine. The spring is the best time to do it because the bees are building up rapidly. Brood completely covered with nurses is the key to a successful split.

Darwin Deming
Reply

Rusty,

I’ve been trying to read all your posts on the Taranov split because I would like to attempt it. Perhaps I missed this in the posts and comments, but from everything I’ve seen, this procedure is done only when there are swarm cells present. I was wondering if it is possible to do a Taranov split simply to split the hive and then add a pre-mated queen to the hive left without the original queen. Or is there a more preferred method of splitting a Langstroth hive? Thanks!

Darwin Deming
Springville, UT

Rusty
Reply

Darwin,

I’ve been thinking about your question. As you know, a Taranov split is used as a last ditch effort to prevent a swarm from a hive that is ready to swarm. I think one of the other types of split would be easier on the bees and easier on you if you were doing a split proactively. Did you look under the Splits tab? There are eight or ten different methods described there. A Tananov split would probably work, but you may not need to be so disruptive.

Mike F
Reply

Rusty,

I too have a top-bar hive and may wish to try this Taranov system BUT how did you shake bees off the comb without busting the comb off the top bar? Mine always seem very fragile and the last thing I want to do is drop a comb onto the sheet as well. Or did you use a brush/feather?

Mike
Gloucester UK

Rusty
Reply

Mike,

You can brush them off. In fact, if there are queen cells attached, you must use a brush/feather. My combs are several years old and fairly tough. I keep them vertical and just shake straight down. If you jerk the bar to a stop, all the bees will fly off. I usually kneel down near the sheet and let my wrist hit my knee on the downward shake. I’ve never damaged a comb this way.

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