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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:



  • Hi Rusty,
    Can the new location be close to the original hive? I’ve read conflicting advice on this all over the web: it can be next to the original hive; no, it has to be at least 2 miles away. One resource says to turn the new hive to face the opposite direction so the foragers will be less likely to return to the original hive.

    It’s a first year hive, but it was very strong at the end of fall and they’re already bringing in pollen again in early February, despite the unusual length of cold weather we’ve had in Central Texas this winter – in Texas, winter usually only lasts a couple of days at a time, in between weeks of mild and warm temps. I suspect the pollen is from juniper trees. I’d like to start a second hive this spring and use bees from the first hive rather than buying another box of bees.

    Laura Colburn

    • Laura,

      Whenever you do a split within an apiary, the foragers will return to the original hive. But that is why this method works so well–by splitting the brood and leaving them together overnight, the nurse bees will spread equally over the brood and you will have enough nurses in each box. Once you split them apart, the foragers will return to the old hive, but the nurse bees will stay with the split.

      You can put them side-by-side, a few feet apart, or wherever you want them. In the first few days it will look like there is nothing in the split because there are no foragers. But as brood hatches, the new bees become the nurses and the former nurses turn to foragers. Within a couple of weeks, the hive will begin to look more equal. At some point, however, you want to make sure you have a new queen so you don’t lose the split.

        • Chuck,

          I don’t know where you are, so it’s hard to say. But if you have enough stores (honey and pollen) for both halves, and you have a mated queen for both halves, you can probably do it. Most areas in North America lose their drones in August and early September, which is why I recommend a mated queen. However, if you’re in a place that still has active drone congregations areas, maybe you can get a virgin mated in time. There are several “ifs” so it depends on skill and a little luck.

  • In counting frame positions do you count from left or right from the front or back of the hive (Langstroth).

    • Larry,

      I never thought about it, but I don’t think it matters. 1=10, 2=9, 3=8, 4=7, 5=6. Whichever way is convenient for you to think about it.

  • I like the idea of the overnight split: I’m hoping this will solve my problem. I live in Coos Bay, Oregon and started out April 15th as a new beek with a 3 lb package. In my 8-frame hives, they grew to two full deep broods and now as we speak there are two western honey supers. They are over-crowded wanting to swarm. My question is can I use one of the brood frames with supersedure cells on it, and what about drones once the queen cell hatches?

    • Dave,

      If at all possible, you should use swarm cells rather than supersedure cells for the split. In fact, I would put all the swarm cells in the split and leave all the supersedure cells in the original hive. That way, if the original colony needs to supersede, it can still do it. Also, if all the swarm cells are in the split, it has a better chance of quickly raising a new queen.

      I don’t understand what you are asking about the drones. The drones won’t affect anything one way or the other.

      • Well, I made the first day procedure by taking the best frames from two brood boxes from a very healthy colony and left the supersedures. My swarm cells capped but were empty.

        Would it be best to introduce a new purchased queen to get this new hive a good start? Or should I wait a spell?
        Also, I love your site it is very helpful to me! Keep you informed on the second day procedure.

        • Dave,

          If you can get a queen quickly, it would speed things up. It’s getting late in the year to be building a small colony.

      • Thank you for the advice. I did the first procedure; it was a little tricky. I took 3 brood, larva, pollen, & nectar frames, but not many eggs to speak of, the best out of two healthy boxes. I found out my existing colony must have superseded a new queen; she is slot smaller! And no makings then before when I first started this adventure. I think I seen it happen yesterday when they swarmed for a few hours and returned back to the hive. There were thousands of the ladies bearding on the front of the two brood and two honey supers completely covering it. Very exciting to watch! But any way.

        Day two should be a piece of cake. The queen was in the bottom brood the first day with an excluder. I ordered a new queen since there were not many eggs which should help boost this new hive. I’ll be ready to feed 1:1, and pollen sub. if needed. Question: the queen looks small like she can squeeze through the excluder, is it possible? And should I maybe check the new box before button it up?

        Thanks again Rusty! May I keep you informed on the outcome of the second day?

        The new queen should be arriving Wed. to be installed Thurs. morning. She only be in transit 2 1/5 – 3 days at the most. And do you have any other suggestions that might help it along smoother, it is well appreciated.

        • Dave,

          The queen probably will not fit through the excluder, but you can check on her before you finish the split. Certainly you want to know her whereabouts before you add the new queen.

          • Great site with you Rusty, love it; it’s been a super help. May I send you a pic of a swarm that left and came back? I think you will be amazed.

  • Well the split went fine, except 2 hours after I removed the new brood from the colony the old colony swarmed and landed high in the pine tree. Oh well that’s nature. Maybe I should of left the new box on the hive. Live and learn.

    • If I recall you had capped swarm cells. It is really hard to stop a colony from swarming when they are that far along. One of the best ways is the Taranov split.

  • (about queen sent) How far would you have to locate the new have after the Taranov split? And would you have to shake honey super frames as well? Looks challenging, but I could be up to it for my #2 hive if the distance isn”t too far. It also looks like it could be getting close to swarming.

    • Dave,

      I did a Taranov split earlier this year and the new hive is about 20 feet from the old one. If you have the old queen in the split, the distance doesn’t much matter. And no, you don’t have to mess with the honey supers, just the brood frames because that is where the nurse bees are.

      • Perfect, that’s great! It looks like I’m on a mission, fast pace hive component building, and of course the ramp. Thanks again for the advice!
        Hopefully I can save a swarm this time, without requeening.

  • Rusty, today was the day to make the taranov split, work and all, but first I decided to check on the hive that swarmed earlier, before the overnite split. Got the queen in place in today, great! We’ll see what happens with that later.

    Today the hive that I wanted to do the taranov split decided to swarm while I was checking the hive that I did the overnite split on. I noticed the hive that I was going to do the taranov split on this evening, and guessed that they were starting to swarm. This was not good at this point. I hurried up and closed the other hive I was working on and watched the swarm materialized in the apple tree behind my apiary. I waited till they all landed and clipped the branch and put them in new hive boxes (15,000-20,000 plus). That goes to show you never know what will happen and what they are thinking.

    Question now, is this swarm going to be OK in their new home, or is there intention still another home somewhere else?

    Question, is it a good idea to close the hive up for a few days with a feeder above and let them settle down? I’m not a mile away, just about 20 feet?

    Most exciting week for a new beek! Thanks to you! Rusty

    • Dave,

      That does sound exciting. It is hard to tell if the swarm will stay or not. When I took my last swarm out of a tree, I put it in a hive about 50 feet away. It is still there and doing fine. It’s not the distance that’s important, it is whether they like the new hive. Certainly giving them some syrup will help them stay, but if you can give them a frame of brood to care for, that is even better. They are unlikely to leave brood behind. In addition, the hatching brood will give a boost to the new colony until their queen gets going.

      I don’t think locking them up is necessary, but do keep a reduced entrance because they are vulnerable to robbers and predators. My strategy would be reduced entrance, frame of brood (make sure there is not queen on the frame), and either honey or syrup.

  • Will still keep you informed on overnite split I did. I just re-queened today. I guess I’ll switch now to swarming techs.

  • Well, I installed the new queen July 2. She wasn’t released until yesterday, July 11. Needed to add a second brood box. After checking the syrup feeder, I noticed my queen laying on the ground in front of the hive. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s her. Question? What went wrong here with the acceptance, laying worker possible, no signs of double egg laying, I checked very closely that there was no other queen in the hive at the time I installed the cage. Question: Now what? Is this colony doomed I suspect.

    • Dave,

      My guess is you’ve had a queen all along. Why else would you need to add an extra brood box? If you didn’t have a queen, the brood nest would be getting smaller, not bigger. The same goes for laying workers; although there may be lots of drone brood, the nest doesn’t expand because there are no new workers.

      Nine days is plenty of time for acceptance, if they needed a queen. For future reference, you can release the queen by hand and watch how the bees treat her. If they start attacking her or balling her, pull her out in a hurry. I have saved more than one queen by doing that.

  • Had to do an overnight split today, concerned about it though I’ve done it three times last year. This year came early, lots and lots of bees overwintered. Took frames as needed, put in new box. Followed steps but never did see or find her, but heard her squeaking or chirping. However it’s called I’ve experienced it before. I think I’ve left her on the frame in the original hive.

    So my question is will the the original hive survive with swarm cells intact if I made a mistake on the original queen in the spit hive.

    I’ve got a good feeling the original hive is going to swarm anyway soon. Hopefully will be able to catch it and make three from one early in the season hopefully.

    However it’s called so I think I left her in the existing hive. I had to leave some swarm cells, because they were spread out over so many frames. So my question is if I made the right discussion by leaving swarm cells behind.

    • Dave,

      Basically, there are two schools of thought. Some people say you must get every swarm cell and some say it’s okay to leave some. If the existing queen is strong, she will kill the new queens before they hatch. If she is weak, she may get replaced by one of them. I tend to leave cells and let the best queen take over. I feel that if I kill all the cells, I’m limiting their options. I figure the bees know more than I do about the health and acceptability of their queen.

      • Thank you! Love this type of splits; it’s so easy. Even without swarm cells you my have to wait a little longer but early April will be fine for build up.

        Split went fine, just waiting time to inspect after approximately six day capped swarm cells hatch.

        Question: will the queen venture out on a overcast 55 degree day with some wind? I’ve noticed guard bees at the reduced entrance, but no pollen or returning nectar.

        The hive that I split from is still overcrowded. It’s so funny, they all can’t fit in the double brood box, they’re packed. Can I split it again if there are more swarm cells developed?

        Rusty, all my hives are overcrowded, I’ve got too many bees this year, all four overwintered like there was no winter at all. I’m just a new beek!

        Thank you! Again for all your expertise, if it wasn’t for your site I don’t think it would have happened.

        By the way, if you get another post approximately the same comment or questions disregard the worse. I’m on a small mobile, can’t figure out why I can’t send through my home pc at this time.

        • Hi Dave,

          An overcast 55-degree day is not ideal, but if it’s not raining and not terribly windy, she may go for it. I can’t say for sure.

          Yes, you can split again. You don’t even have to wait for swarm cells. As long as you have plenty of eggs and plenty of nurses in the split, they will make a queen.

          It’s great to hear you overwintered so well. Very cool!

  • Rusty,

    I made an overnight split and could not find the queen. I tried to shake off the bees on selected frames but was unsuccessful, lost two swarm cells in the process. But a good thing happened; I heard a queen piping on the existing frames under the excluder. So my question is since there are so many bees throughout the frames in two full brood boxes, should I go ahead with the split anyway and hopefully the one or two capped queen cell frame be enough. Or should I go back and go through the process again.

    • Dave,

      Sorry I haven’t gotten to all my mail this past week. You will have to tell me what you ended up doing. I would have gone ahead with the split. Even one cell is usually enough.

  • Hello Rusty. Thanks for all you post – I read a lot from your site (normally my first stop for info). I realize this is an older post, but I have a question regarding the overnight splits. My current hive overwintered very well and I’d like to try an overnight split when the time comes. But I’m a bit confused – my current hive has a 2 deep brood nest and one medium super (full of honey). Once I make the new deep from my current hive, does the queen excluder and new deep go on top of the medium super for the night? Or does the medium super go somewhere else? And yes, I’d like them to make their own queen in the queenless hive. Thanks 🙂

    • Karen,

      I would take the honey super off until you’ve done the split, and then put it back on. In other words, just leave it off overnight and return it after you remove the split, otherwise it’s just in the way.

  • Thank you. So basically, remove the super and leave it out to allow the bees to abandon it and return to the hive in the night. Then once all the bees are in the hive, “hide” the super until I’ve completed the split, then put it back on the original hive. Question – can I use some of those frames of honey to put a partially filled super on the new split (along with some empty frames)? Or is that too much room for the new split to keep up with?

    • Karen,

      How do you normally remove supers? I would use an escape board or something similar. I would use the escape board to empty the super of bees a day or two before I did the split. Once off, I’d put the super in a safe place away from bees while I did the split. Afterward, you can add the honey back to the original hive or divide it between hives. A ready supply of honey would help the split get a good start.

      If you don’t have a way to conveniently empty the super, you can just leave it on the original hive. The queen excluder can go above or below the super as long as the queen can’t get into the new split.

      If you have bees in the super because you didn’t clear it, recognize that the queen could be in there as well. If you split the honey, you don’t want to accidentally move the queen. To me, it’s easier to have the super empty and out of the way, but there’s no harm done by leaving it in place as long as you keep track of the queen.

  • Sorry Rusty, guess I didn’t mention that I’m a first year. This is my first hive with the set up they over wintered in. So no, I’ve never removed a super before. I didn’t realize removing the super was that involved. If you already have a post on removing supers, I’d be glad to read up – just let me know the link. Thank you for your time and patience.

  • Hello again, Rusty. Writing to let you know I did proceed with the overnight split – I tried to find the queen first so I could do a swarm preventing split, but could not find her – but she was definitely there somewhere. So plan B was the overnight which seems successful at this point. I found queen cells and put those in with the split. I’m three days out from removing the split and placing in the new location, and I have foragers coming and going from both hives now. My question – how long should I wait to enter and inspect the newest hive?

    • Karen,

      Know the purpose for your inspection, then you can plan when to do it. If you want to figure out where the queen is, you can do three days after the split: find the colony with eggs, and you will know where they queen is. If you are just waiting to see if a virgin gets mated, that will take a while—five or six weeks. If you want to check for sufficient brood in the split, I would wait a week or so. Don’t start your inspection unless you know what you are inspecting for. See Beekeeping with a purpose.

      • Yes, sorry. I do understand that I need a purpose. My purpose would be to see if the new split has hatched a queen from the queen cells. I know the queen is in the original hive. So from your statement, I should wait 5 or 6 weeks to see if a new queen has emerged and mated, correct?

        • Karen,

          Now it’s my turn to be confused. I thought that you said you did not know where the queen was. In any case, you can look to see if a virgin queen has hatched, but a virgin won’t be of much use if she can’t get mated, and that’s often iffy. Queens can get eaten by birds, hit by cars, or caught in storms for example. From egg to mated queen can take 5 or 6 weeks; it should be less if you are starting from capped cells or even less if those cells have hatched. After hatching the queen usually spends a few days maturing. Mating flights are next. If the weather is good, she may mate right away; if not, it could take a couple weeks. After mating she usually needs another few days before egg laying begins. Since you are beginning with capped cells, the total time will probably be more like three weeks instead of 5 or 6.

          • Sorry. I understand your confusion. What I should have said was I was almost positive she was in the old hive, not the split, because I reinspected the frames I put in the new hive to verify she wasn’t on those. And I also saw some bees leaving the new split to rejoin the parent hive – as a novice I saw that as a sign the queen was in there. So yes, I’ll be waiting a few weeks to inspect that hive. I’m also seeing something else odd now – drones being kicked out of mother hive? I know this happens in fall, but in spring? If you already have an info page on this, please let me know.

            • Karen,

              Foraging bees will return to the old hive, even if you move the queen. I don’t know why the drones are being kicked out unless the hive is short on honey. Good question.

  • Good morning Rusty.

    I am an outdoor enthusiast and live in the Waterberg area of South Africa. Wow, What a stunning and informative page you have. Recently I acquired some hives and have them almost half and half in unspoilt bushveld and citrus.

    Did my first split yesterday, did two hives. One an overnight split, the other an even split.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thank you

    Best regards

  • Hi Rusty,

    On my current hive I have 1 deep brood box, 1 half deep brood box, then flow hive 8 frames then, 1 half deep honey frames. I am wanting to do an overnight split using your method, what do you suggest.

    • Julio,

      One way would be to take the two deep brood boxes and divide the brood evenly between them. Make sure that the part without the queen has lots of eggs and young larvae. Or, if you can’t find the queen, make sure each part has eggs and young larvae. Then put the flow frames on one brood box and the box with regular honey frames on the other.

  • I want an original hive with 1 deep brood box and two honey supers
    and start my flow hive with 1 deep brood box and 1 deep honey supers.

  • I’m a little confused as to where to locate a split. From what I’ve read you are supposed to move a split miles away for a while. I am creating an overnight split with a queen cell. Therefore since it is just nurse bees I am moving and they will stay with the brood. Why do I need to move them so far away?

    • Sandy,

      I don’t know what you’ve been reading, but I always set the split next to the original hive, or anywhere really.

  • O.k. thanks for clearing that up for me. That makes it so much easier for me. As always I appreciate your advice.

  • I learn so much from you. I’m a fairly new beekeeper and would like to try an overnight split. I seem to have a lot of bees from the winter. If there is enough brood, pollen, and honey for two boxes, can this overnight split be done in early spring or is it better to wait until later. I’m in Colorado so it is still pretty cold, and nothing much in bloom yet. I’ve been giving my hive pollen patties, and syrup for a couple of weeks. They seem to be thriving. Thanks.

    • Carin,

      The most important issue is warmth. You want to make sure there are enough nurses in each half to keep all the brood warm. If not, the brood will chill and die, so don’t rush it unless you’re sure.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Just a question on this article, please. You say to move the new brood box to the new site; I understand the process.

    The question is: would moving the old brood box with the queen to the new site instead, not assist with simulating the ‘fact’ that swarming has taken place.

    Many thanks!

    • Pete,

      Unless you move the old brood box at least two miles away, the foragers will return to the old location, leaving the queen, nurses, and brood without any foraging force. You can do this if you want, but it’s a bit trickier.

  • Ah, of course. It is the difference in composition of the two groups, not just which one has the queen.

    Thanks, Rusty!

  • Rusty,
    Can you do a split by simply taking an upper brood box off a double deep hive and giving it its own top cover and bottom board? So literally dividing a colony in half. As long as you know you have eggs, pollen, and nectar in both boxes then you should end up with the queen in one and eggs in the other that can become a new queen.

    • Kelly,

      Yes, that should work as long as drones are flying in your area. Your new queen will need to get mated asap.

  • I have a national frame hive and have made some top bars the same length as my national frames. I have put three of my top bars into my national framed hive hoping that the queen will have eggs and larvae on them when I look later on in ten days time. If the top bars have eggs on them, can I take the three top bars with eggs/larvae on and remove them to my empty top bar hive with pollen and sugar syrup and the nurse bees on them. Will they then make queen cells and start a new colony?

    • Freddie,

      Yes, that should work. Just don’t spread your workers too thin. All the brood needs to be covered with nurse bees and it’s easy to steal so many that the original hive runs short. Just be cautious and don’t try to make too many splits in one day. Allow some time for more workers to emerge.

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