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A toast to Taranov and his split

I am fascinated by the Taranov split, at least partially because it defies logic. Until I tried it, I was not convinced: What’s this? I’m supposed to believe that nurse bees dumped from their hive will not cross a four-inch air moat to get back home? What gives? Bees have wings, last I checked.

I was talking about the Taranov split this morning at breakfast. I was saying what a brilliant beekeeper Mr. Taranov must have been. My husband, ever the skeptic, said Taranov must have been in a vodka-induced stupor and only thought he put the ramp up against his hive, not realizing he left a four-inch gap between the two. When he sobered up and went back to check his colony, the bees were in two discrete groups and he was instantly famous. Time to celebrate with more vodka!

Carol’s split

But I digress. My thoughts were on Taranov because Wisconsin beekeeper Carol Nelson just completed such a split to prevent a September swarm. As I mentioned earlier, this seems to be the year of the late swarm, and every day I get more reports of this odd behavior.

In Carol’s case, she already had a late July swarm and an early August swarm. On a recent inspection of the hive that swarmed in July, she found a bottom-of-the-frame sealed queen cell and other signs of an impending swarm. Unsure of what to do, she performed a spur-of-the-moment Taranov split.

After shaking and brushing fifty bee-laden frames, she was surprised that the cluster under the ramp was so small. But at this time of the year, when the brood nest is shrinking, it makes sense. A smaller brood nest means fewer nurse bees, which means the number of crevice-fearing bees is reduced. Late swarms are usually tiny, and this is one of the primary reasons.

In spite of its size, Carol set up another hive with the split, added some frames of brood and stores, and is feeding like crazy to build it up. All signs of swarming are gone and she intends to introduce a new queen to the queenless hive.

Truth be told, I would have never thought of—or considered doing—a Taranov split at this time of year. But now I think it was a brilliant idea and I’m eager to know how it turns out. So here’s a toast to Carol as well.


Nelson Taranov Split 9-5-13

A Taranov split in September. Photo © Carol Nelson.


  • I looked up Taranov biography – seems like he was an upstanding scientist. He had a PhD in biology, worked in the state beekeeping research institute and wrote a whole mess of beekeeping books and scientific research articles. That being said, your husband’s theory about scientific methodology of discovery in Russia is right on the money and might be very well the case here.

    Here is a link to his biography but it is in Russian.

    • Hafiz,

      Just scrape it off. The bees built there because the space under the feeder is greater than bee space, which is roughly 1/4 to 3/8 inches. Whenever the space is greater than that, they will build comb. To fix it, you could cut off the bottom of the box that holds the feeder. Otherwise, just scrape it from time to time.

  • Hi Rusty,
    I have a thought about the Taranov method that I would like to check with you please. When a natural swarm occurs the queen leaves with bees of different ages and skills. This ensures that there are bees in the new home to do all necessary tasks. Ok this is clear. Now with the Taranov method the bees that stay on the sheet have no flying experience. So the queen starts in the new hive with a family that cannot do all the things that a swarmed family can do. Foraging, guarding, wax producing, etc. perhaps they are only able to nurse and at that moment there will not yet be brood in the new hive or do you place combs of BRIAS into the newly started hive? Have I got this right? If so, does the situation resolve it self very quickly? Because I hope to be able to try this method this year. Just all of a sudden I wondered about all the ‘unknowingness’ of these bees

    • Lindy Lou,

      Honey bees have a marvelous ability to adapt. Within hours of splitting the hive, some of the nurses will become foragers, some will become guards, undertakers, whatever is needed. Usually a recently split hive looks a little quiet for a few days because it starts off with just a few foragers, but it soon builds up. In fact, when the need arises, honey bees have been known to go backward in the progression. In other words, if the colony is in a tight spot, foragers have been known to become nurses. Some foragers have even been know to re-establish their wax-secreting ability. Whatever it is the bees need, they will accomplish, so please don’t worry about that aspect. Many people have done Taranov splits quite successfully.

  • Have you heard from anyone who tried this and had the new colony abscond?

    Dave Cushman recommended doing it in the late afternoon/ early evening, so they’d stay overnight, since it would be too late to fly off.

    He also recommended giving the new hive a partial frame of open brood, as an enticement to stay.

    The frame of brood would also give them a head start on build up but I’m not sure if it will still satisfy the swarm instinct?

    • Craig,

      No, I’ve never heard of colony absconding after this and I know quite a few people who have tried it. I always put them on drawn comb with lots of honey, so maybe that helps.

      The reasons for absconding are not the same as those for swarming, so I’m not sure what you mean in the last sentence.

      • The last sentence was probably a bit silly, in hindsight.

        My thinking was that you were basically doing an artificial swarm, to satisfy the swarm instinct.

        I was thinking that if the instinct to swarm wasn’t satisfied, it might cause an absconsion.

        It made a lot more sense, until the second after I hit the send button. 🙂

          • Certainly looks cool.

            These should be demonstrated in every beekeeping class. The novelty, alone, would be inspiring to new bee keepers.

            It’s often said that success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration… but few people will work up a sweat, if they aren’t inspired.

  • Rusty, and/or Dave Hurd,

    May I seek your thoughts on one aspect of the Taranov method? It concerns the dimensions of the board in relation to the hive entrance. My hive entrance is some 350mm (13.8”) above ground. With the end of Taranov board at this height, will this provide enough room for the swarm to cluster underneath? Or should I raise the hive first? Dave’s pictures show hives fairly close to the ground, without any problem for the cluster.



    • Greg,

      I think it will work just fine. My guess is anything greater than 10-12 inches should give them plenty of room. If you try it, be sure to report back.

  • Hi Rusty,

    This is all fascinating and valuable information. Many, many thanks.

    I live in Victoria, Australia where we are now into spring and due to good rains there is plenty of bee fodder. I currently have four hives and plenty of space in which to keep them. Someone has recently given me a long hive, which takes regular Langstroth frames and is divided into 3 sections that each take 10 frames. I am keen to populate this hive by splitting one or more of my other hives, but don’t think the Taranov split would work as the long hive is very heavy and the owner of the property wants it in a specific position, which is about 25 meters from the closest Langstroth. I’m confused as to how I go about this, due to the permanent position of the long hive.

    Can I take frames, containing potential swarm cells, from each of the other hives and put them in the long hive after shaking the bees off? Due to the COVIDSafe lockdown in our state, I can’t travel to get a new queen and the post is hugely disrupted at the moment, so I’ll need the bees to raise a new queen.

    Thank you in advance for your assistance.


    • Julia,

      I can’t see a single reason why the two hives would need to be close to each other. Once the bees assemble under the ramp, just drop them in a cardboard box or something and carry them to the new location.

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