Skip to content


Every beekeeper should learn how to make successful splits! There are three excellent reasons to be able to make splits:

  • Swarm control: A hive’s natural tendency is to grow as fast as possible in the spring, then swarm! It’s how they reproduce in nature. As beekeepers, we would prefer they don’t since we lose half of our bees. See “How to Prevent Swarms” for more info on swarm prevention. One of the best ways to prevent swarms is to split a hive before they prepare to swarm.
  • Replace lost hives or expand your number of hives: We all lose bees every year. Sometimes it’s 20%; sometimes it’s 50% or far more. It’s common to lose many or all of your hives in your first year or two as you learn beekeeping. Assuming you made it through winter with a few good hives, there is no more cost-effective way to recoup losses or grow than making a split! Your only cost is essentially a queen for your new split.
  • Increase your number of hives!

Is My Hive Ready to Split?

Your hive should meet the following conditions before you try to make a split:

  • No brood diseases.
  • At least six full frames of brood (eggs, larvae, and capped brood all count as brood) and more than six frames covered front and back with bees. A “full frame of brood” would be considered a deep frame that is at least two-thirds full on both sides with eggs, larvae, or capped brood or a combination of all stages. Generally you want to have a mixture of all stages in a split.
  • At least four frames of honey, or you are feeding heavily.
  • Varroa mites under control and no infestation starting to spiral out of control.
  • Generally healthy and growing with no apparent issues.
  • At least one cumulative frame worth of stored pollen.

What Time of Year Should I Split?

Most splits are made in the spring, typically once nights are generally above freezing, early spring flowers have begun to bloom, and daytime temperatures are generally in the 50s, 60s, or above. The earlier in the year you make your split, the faster the hive will grow and the more honey you should be able to make. However, you are limited by queen availability, temperatures, and hive strength. Let’s quickly discuss each one of those early spring limiting factors.

  • Queen availability: Queens become available for purchase around the last week of March in most years. However, they can be very difficult to get that early since every beekeeper wants early queens. In general, queens become much more widely available by mid-April, assuming you booked early in the year.
  • Temperatures: If you are in the Deep South, you can often begin making splits as early as you can get queens. If you are farther north, you often can’t make splits until mid-April or even early May depending on the temperatures. Nights should be generally above freezing. An occasional freeze is fine as long as there are sufficient bees in the splits to cover all the brood. The general rule of thumb is to make splits around the time of the average last freeze in your area or when at least routine freezes are over.
  • Hive strength: As stated before, your hive should have a minimum of six frames of brood and more than six frames covered front and back with bees to make a split.

You can also make splits in the summer or, really, anytime between the start of spring and a month or so before temperatures fall routinely below freezing. See “How to Make a Summer Split” for more detailed information on how to do a split in the summer. If you are new to beekeeping, start with spring splits. If you make a mistake, your hive has several months to recover. Summer or fall splits are much more tricky since bees are naturally shutting down or at least not growing much. Winter is approaching, leaving little room for mistakes. The advantage of making splits later in the year is that your bees are not doing anything else. It can be a great way to make a significant honey crop and then grow your hive count in the same year. If you do choose to make summer splits, I recommend doing it as soon as you finish harvesting honey—the earlier in the year, the better so that the bees will have as much time as possible to grow before winter.

FACT: Making splits creates a brood break, which is a natural method of Varroa control!


FOOD FOR THOUGHT Letting a hive raise their own queen versus requeening with a purchased mated queen—both have their place in beekeeping. Listen as I explain the pros and cons of both.

Next article Proactively Managing Bee Hive Expansion