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

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.

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