beekeeping equipment how to making increase swarming

How to prevent swarming with a Taranov board

The Taranov board is an ingenious system used to separate bees that are going to swarm from bees that will stay in the parent hive. Once separated, the swarming bees and old queen can be placed in a new hive while the old colony is left to raise a new queen.

The system was invented in 1947 by G. F. Taranov, a Russian beekeeper who recognized that swarms are composed primarily of very young nurse bees that haven’t yet secreted brood food or wax. All their energy is conserved for the task of starting a new colony from scratch. These young nurses have never taken orientation flights either, so they don’t know their way around the outside world. Taranov used this inexperience to separate the swarmers from the non-swarmers.

I don’t have a picture of a Taranov board so this description will test my writing skills and your patience, so bear with me here.

Although there are different ways of building a Taranov board, it is basically a ramp that slopes from the ground in front of the hive up to the hive entrance. Because hives vary in their distance from the ground, a Taranov board varies in length, but the slope is about 45 degrees. But here is the important point: the ramp does not meet with the hive entrance but falls short about 4 inches (10 cm).

The high side of the ramp is supported by two legs and the low side is supported by the ground. You build your ramp such that the high side is exactly the height and width of the entrance, then you pull it away from the entrance by four inches. The underside of the ramp is an empty space except for a piece of wood, burlap, or carpet affixed 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) below the top edge of the board—more on that later.

For now, look at this ramp from the point of view of the bee. You are foraging on white clover in the lawn. You are tired and have a heavy load. You decide you can walk up the ramp and get home easily. You walk up the ramp. Ugh! Steep! When you get to the top of the ramp you stop in amazement and look down into the crevasse in front of you. “Some idiot,” you say in bee, “forgot to finish the darn ramp!” Being a bee, however, you just fly over the four-inch opening and you’re home. Annoyed, perhaps, but home.

Okay, as a human, you now have a picture of what the ramp looks like. Now, here’s how to use it.[list icon=”sign-in”]

  • You have a colony that you know is going to swarm. Queen cells are being capped, the queen has ceased laying, the natives are restless. You decide to split the hive to avoid losing the swarm.
  • You set up your Taranov board on the ground in front of the hive. Over the top of the board you lay a large piece of fabric or a sheet. The sheet covers the ramp about two-thirds of the way up and extends to both sides and behind the ramp.
  • You open the hive and, one-by-one, shake all the frames such that the bees land on the sheet. The only exception is that frames with ripe queen cells should be brushed free of bees, not shaken. The sheet prevents the bees from getting lost in the grass.
  • Return the empty frames to the hive and close it up.
  • Now you wait. The whole process will take 1 or 2 hours.
  • This is what happens: The foragers will walk up the ramp, mutter, then fly across the 4-inch opening and enter the hive. The ready-to-swarm bees and the queen (none of which are used to flying) will walk up the ramp, peer over the precipice, then turn around and take cover in the shadows under the Taranov board.
  • Remember that piece of wood, burlap, or carpet you attached to the underside of the Taranov board? The young bees—along with the queen—will form a cluster and hang from that easy-to-grasp object.
  • After all the bees have sorted themselves into two groups, you remove the Taranov board and install the cluster in a new hive—preferably far enough away that the queen scent is not detected by the old colony.
  • [/list]

The Taranov method is more commonly used in Europe than in the United States, but many beekeepers find it to be a reliable and easy way to split a hive and prevent a swarm. It can be used with many types of hives, including Langstroths, top-bars, and Warrés.

Note: The original Taranov board was built with two boards that were hinged at one end. One board was placed flat on the ground and the other was raised to form the ramp. Two posts held it open like a lean-to. This original system works fine if all your hives are an equal distance above ground, but a single board works better for variable heights.

Note #2: Photos now available at The Great Divide: a Taranov split.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

32 Comments

  • Peter,

    Excellent! Thank you! Those bees must have read the instruction manual–they’re doing it just right.

  • Hey Rusty, your website is getting huge! A wealth of information. So . . . I have a question about this Taranov shook swarm method. Should one wait until the swarm cells are completely capped, almost capped, or at any time in the capping process?

    After two years with bees, I’ve in the past, just let them do their thing, by putting up swarm traps to catch them, and keeping a close eye on them. This year however, I am geared up to raise queens, using two strong double deep hives and Cloake boards. From the looks of them right now, they will be huge and overflowing by the first of June, and I want to control their swarming impulse, just in case. Coupled with the fact that I will have bees spread out 100 miles around, I might not be here when they decide to fly.
    Wouldn’t it be flirting with disaster to wait until they are completely capped? Yes? No?

    Thank you, Doug

    • I think that just before they are completely capped is the best time. Capping is usually the very last thing that happens before the swarm leaves, so if you wait until capping is complete, you might lose them.

      The other side of the coin is that you don’t want to be too early–you want them ready to go. But I think any time after the capping process begins (or just before it begins) is ideal.

      Let me know how this works for you. Perhaps I’m too picky on the time frame. I usually wait until capping begins, but I don’t have to drive 100 miles. Maybe earlier (during cell building) will work as well.

  • “Queen cells are being capped”

    “The ready-to-swarm bees and the queen (none of which are used to flying) will walk up the ramp …”

    “Capping is usually the very last thing that happens before the swarm leaves”

    I get the idea behind the process but I don’t get the very first step, identifying when to start based on the capped queen cells. If the queen cell is “capped” (the term commonly referred to be closed with a dome of wax) there is no new queen yet to walk up the ramp. Queen cells are capped on day 7 and queen emerges on day 17. So if you see a capped queen cell there is no new queen in your hive and not going to be for quite some time is it has just been capped.

  • I had some time to think about it. The confusion came from not understanding the “physics” of swarming. I was under the impression that when the new queen emerges from its cell it “takes” half of the bees with it and leaves. In reality, the old queen leaves with a swarm and it can be as soon as the first swarm cell is capped.

    So, when you see a capped swarm cell and do a Taranov split, you basically jump the gun and make the old queen leave and form the swarm on your board. The old hive is left with a queen cell and older nurse and foraging bees. The only shortcoming of the method I can see is that if you miss the swarm leaving and then try to do the split after you find the queen cell, it will result in all the bees either marching back to the hive or just taking flight after you shake them off on the sheet.

  • Thank you very much for sharing this knowledge, it certainly is a method
    I would attempt with great interest.
    Regards
    R.Kelly

  • I keep coming back to this and reading it with great fascination. Thanks for all the details! One of these days I’m going to be brave enough to try it.

    • Cindi,

      It’s addictive. I was afraid to try it at first too. It’s eerie. It’s like the bees read the book and rehearsed in advance. As I’ve said before, Taranov was a genius.

  • How would you do the Taranov board if you hive is sitting on the ground? I have a Langstroth hive that is really strong. ( The bees currently in them take up a brood box and a half.) They are going to run out of room at some point and want to swarm. I would like to split that hive into a top bar hive. Any suggestions?
    PS I love your site.

    • Stormie,

      To do a Taranov split, you would have to set the hive on top of something. Otherwise, if you are moving the bees into different equipment, why not use a shook swarm? Generally, that’s how I move bees from my top-bar hive to a Langstroth hive.

  • So heres my problem, my hive has swarmed twice and came back to the hive. So they have flew, would they go right back in the hive or do they do the taranov walk?

    • Charlotte,

      I think the Taranov would still work, but I don’t know for sure. You can always do another kind of split, like shaking the frames over an empty box.

  • I live in eastern Washington 2 miles from Canada. Around 10.30 it looked real nice no wind so I took a chance and went head and did it. Believe or not this was the first time I was in the hive. We have had it for a year and the person that we bought was suppose to help us, but not heard a word. So I am jamming as much info as I can. Thank for getting back with me.

  • Rusty
    We’re taught split hives thus:
    – move existing box with Q cell(s) to a new site.
    – new box, with the old queen on the original site.
    – the older flying bees return to the original site with the old queen.
    The Taranov seems t contradict that?
    What’s you view?
    Kind regards

    • David,

      There are dozens of ways to do a split, each one having advantages and disadvantages. I always pick the method that best suits the particular situation. Sometimes the Taranov is the best choice and sometimes it’s not.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Firstly I’d like to say thanks for the work you put into this website it has been a great resource for me becoming a beekeeper.

    I was just wondering if you use smoke on your bees before you do a Taranov split? I’m looking forward to trying out this method it sounds like so much fun.

    • Scott,

      Interesting question. I have never used smoke before doing a Taranov, but I don’t see why you couldn’t. With this split you get bees all over the place. It might actually help to smoke them first. I don’t know why I never did.

      • Hi Rusty,

        The reason I asked Is that I was wondering if you smoke the bees and they gorge on honey before you empty them all onto the sheet, would the bees that want to get back into the hive have trouble making it up the ramp and flying across the gap? Being new to bee keeping I haven’t tried a split yet, the Taranov method sounds like a great way to split my Langstrough into my top bar.

        • Scott,

          I really don’t think it will cause a problem. The whole procedure takes about two hours, so any food ingested before you start will probably be digested before you are finished.

    • Kelly,

      My preference is to do it in the middle of the day when the foragers are gone. It’s a little easier with fewer bees around, and the foragers will return to the original hive in any case.

  • Hi Rusty, We live on 14 acres of land and I have built 10 hives and the wild bees come to them on a daily, about 5-6 thousand or so. I suspect that there’s some hives in some trees somewhere because there’s no beekeepers within 40 miles of our land. The little guys gorge themselves on bee syrup and water and then leave at dusk. I have frames in the boxes and always put the feeders inside them and I use an attractant. Do you have any thoughts on what may be the problem as to why they’re not staying? I started doing all this about a week ago, do I need to give the bees more time to adjust to the hives?

    • Jay,

      What is happening is they found an easy source of food. They will continue to take it as long as you continue to supply it. You don’t say where you are living, but if it’s not swarm season in your area, no swarms are going to move in. Syrup generally does not attract swarms, just hungry bees. If you are in North America, swarm season was back in April, May, and June. Maybe a few in July.

  • Hi Rusty,
    Do you think the Taranov will work for a colony that swarmed within the last week and there are many more queen cells and bees? I’m thinking they’re ready for secondary swarming. Without the old queen to lead them up the ramp, will the nurse bees head up anyway? Could I put a frame with capped queen cells in the new box?

    • Mike,

      A Taranov split is just another kind of split, so it should work wherever you want to make a split. The queen doesn’t “lead them up the ramp,” she’s just one of many who go up the ramp. There is no particular order. As soon as bees remaining in the hive start to fan, the rest will follow the scent. Yes, you can put capped queen cells inside a new box.

  • This sounds (and looks) very cool, and it obviously works, but I’m confused by a couple of things.

    1. A couple of assertions: “These young nurses have never taken orientation flights . . .” and “The ready-to-swarm bees and the queen (none of which are used to flying). . .”
    So how do swarms even form, if they consist of bees that arent’ used to flying or may never have flown?

    2. The process here is to shake ALL – at least, as many bees as possible – off ALL the frames. Then they self-separate into column A and column B, where all the nurse bees go off with the swarm because they don’t want to fly across the gap, leaving virtually none in the old hive. Yet in all other discussions of splits, or moving frames of brood between hives, there’s always an emphasis on making sure the brood frames are covered with nurse bees. They’re the ones that keep the brood temperature constant, feed the larvae, and oh, make a new queen if they’ve been left queenless. So how can this process work?

    I’m a one-year keeper, still a rank new-bee 🙂 Found your site a few months ago, and have been enjoying your stories, and your common sense. I bought a working hive last year which has made it thru the winter quite strong. I plan to split it this spring, installing a new, locally-raised queen in one half, so I’ve been working my way thru a lot of your posts on splits. This particular type seems to contradict a lot of other guidance.

    • Georgia,

      I never try to talk people into anything, I only offer alternatives. If you are uncomfortable with this, don’t try it.

      1. In a swarm, some bees haven’t flown before and some have not. The new ones will follow the lead of the scout bees and the travel as a group. The queen gets slimmed down by the workers until she is agile enough to fly again.

      2. Plenty of the nurse bees will return to the original hive. More than enough to do the job.

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