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.


First I measured the width of the alighting board.
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.
I didn’t have a piece of carpet, so I used an old terrycloth towel. This gives the bees something to hang onto.

Once the angle bracket was attached, I just bent it to the right angle.

I set up the Taranov board four inches from the alighting board.

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?

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.

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.”

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

It took about 90 minutes for all the stragglers to come off the sheet.

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.

The new split. The top medium contains a feeder.


Darwin Deming


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



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.

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