The Walk-Away Split Pros and Cons

| 6/17/2015 9:46:00 AM

Tags: honeybees, beehivesFive Feline Farm, Illinois, Julia Miller,

Facing Split Hives

A walk away split is exactly what it sounds like. Split the hive in half and walk away. Let the bees do what bees naturally do. Honeybees are predisposed to maintain the species by swarming. A beekeeper can take advantage of this instinct and control the swarming action by creating a split. This keeps the bees in the apiary and increases the number of colonies for the beekeeper.

To set up a walk away split, set a new bottom board a few feet in front of the existing hive. Take the top brood box and place it on the new bottom board facing the old hive. Add a new inner cover and outer cover, add some sugar syrup if you choose. The only thing you need to make note of is that there is open brood in both boxes.

You do not need to worry about where the queen is to make this type of split. The brood box with the old queen will continue on as before. The bees in the box without a queen will quickly realize the need to raise up a new queen. They will choose a 1 to 3 day old egg to raise up as a queen.


Cost savings is the number one advantage. Starting new honeybee colonies from packages or nucs (short for nucleus) can be expensive. Packages of bees in my area go for about $115 including the queen. When you split your own hive, your cost for bees is $0.

Continuing queen traits is another bonus. When you have a colony with a quality that you like, this is a way to maintain that trait without delving too far into bee genetics. For example, we have one colony that has an exceptionally calm disposition. They rarely alarm when we are working the hive. I hope to perpetuate this trait, so have chosen this hive to split. When you find a trait in your bees and can have that colony raise up their own queen, there is a good chance that quality is carried over to the new hive.

Another advantage is ease. This type of split is the easiest to do. There is no search for the queen, no buying of a new queen or introducing a new queen to the colony. Most likely you will not need to transfer bees and brood from box to box.

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