Frame-Swap Split for Beehives Doubles Your Hive Numbers!

by Texas Homesteader ~

Around the end of March RancherMan & I start thinking about splitting our beehives. Splitting a hive accomplishes 2 things – it expands the number of hives in your apiary. (yea!) But it also gives the bees a little elbow room by putting empty frames in each hive allowing for expansion.

You see, if the bees get to thinking things are too cramped, they’ll swarm looking for more space. And that’s something no beekeeper wants since there’s been lots of time & effort into managing their apiary. We did our splits by swapping empty frames for full ones. It was easy!

We did a hive split by swapping frames - then two hives came from just one! We find this frame-swap method helps both hives to recover quicker. #TexasHomesteader

I wrote about the ‘Walk-Away Split’  we did in our hives last year. That time we did a Half-n-Half split.

Back then we simply took the top box of our 2-box beehive & placed it atop a new bottom board next to the existing hive. Then we put an empty deep hive box filled with empty frames on top of each hive and added a new lid to the new split hive & walked away.

Of course one of the hives will contain the existing queen. The other hive will simply make a new queen with one of the eggs contained in a frame.

But on this occasion we’re doing a Frame-Swap Split instead. We feel it’s not quite as hard on the hives.

Deciding Which Hives To Split

First we decided which hives would be split. We wanted to look at strong hives that could take the pressure of being split and still bounce back & provide a honey harvest. This Frame-Swap Split seems to make it easier for the hives to recover. On this day we chose 3 of our hives for a split. This will increase our apiary hive numbers by 3!

Locating The Queen… or Not!

So we pull the top & inner cover and inspect the frames in the top box of our strongest hive.  RancherMan’s looking for a good mix of frames to move to the new hive.

He wants some frames of honey & pollen, some of capped & uncapped brood and some with eggs.

We did a hive split by swapping frames - then two hives came from just one! We find this frame-swap method helps both hives to recover quicker. #TexasHomesteader

As he chooses the frames to move to the new hive box he keeps as many worker bees on the frames as he can, but he’s looking for the queen.

He’d really like to keep her in the existing hive if possible.

We did a hive split by swapping frames - then two hives came from just one! We find this frame-swap method helps both hives to recover quicker. #TexasHomesteader

But since the existing hive is two-deep-boxes high, it’s really not the end of the world if he doesn’t lay eyes on her.

He just wants to see that he’s not moving her to the new hive.

Splitting The Hives – 1 Into 2!

So after he’s moved the 4 frames to the new empty deep hive box, he’ll replace the frames he removed with empty frames.

And to the new hive box he’ll add 4 empty frames and a feeder.  He’ll be feeding 1 part sugar dissolved into 1 part water to help the new hive along.

We did a hive split by swapping frames - then two hives came from just one! We find this frame-swap method helps both hives to recover quicker. #TexasHomesteader

But we expect both the existing hive as well as the new split should be able to bounce back quickly & start filling the empty frames with brood and honey.

Follow-Up Care

We’ll check the new hives in about 4 weeks to see if both contain a queen. One will contain the original queen of course, and the other should have hatched a new queen.

The new split hive probably won’t be ready for a honey super box expansion yet. But we’ll put honey super boxes on the existing hives so they can begin filling it with honey for our harvest. In this part of NE Texas our honey harvest is usually the first week of July.



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10 thoughts on “Frame-Swap Split for Beehives Doubles Your Hive Numbers!

  1. Greg Hill

    Very Cool ~ TMH ~ Very Cool

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      🙂 Thanks Greg. We’re up to 11 hives now and hoping to catch more swarms this spring to bring it up to what we consider our max at 12-15 hives. Fingers crossed! ~TxH~

      1. Greg Hill

        I think that’s very cool Tammy,
        Not for me.. but still very cool that you are doing this. If we didn’t have bees there would be no Life on this earth…. 100 %

        1. Texas Homesteader Post author

          Ya know Greg, I’ve been afraid of bees all my life. I just assumed that if you saw one, they were out searching for someone to sting. When RancherMan mentioned he’d like to get into bees I assured him I would support him but I would NOT be involved!

          But a funny thing happened – I discovered they typically couldn’t care less about us, they were out searching for POLLEN, not someone to sting. I learned that a sting actually means the end of the bee’s life, so it’s reserved only for necessity such as a defense from something attacking them or their hive. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always dressed in full protective garb when I accompany RancherMan to the hives because although I’ve come a long way in eliminating my fear of them, I’m not quite ready to go out there with only a veil to protect my eyes and bare arms from a light-weight t-shirt as other beekeepers often do. But dang it’s been fascinating learning about them! And, you know, fresh, local, raw honey! LOL ~TxH~

  2. candace

    Last year we had a small group of bees move into a hole in a tree we had been meaning to cut down. Must have been small because before they moved in The Bird Man Who Lives With me had his largish hand in the hole and it was quite tight. I watched them all summer and fall and am still watching them, and talking to them telling them how grateful we are that they are there and that they should not go to the place across the road because they SPRAY. We don’t mind messy fence lines so we don’t spray. I keep saying we need to get a hive box and set it in front of the tree to see if they might like a roomier abode. So far we haven’t done that. I saw some very interesting hive configurations at the mother earth news fair last year. We also have friends who have lots of bees and sell honey, and zillions of chickens which they raise both for meat and for eggs. Our barn is practically done and chickens are soon to come fight bugs and weeds for us. Just waiting for things to dry out a bit so we can move dirt and such. I wish you all could come out to Oregon and visit!!!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      We’ve found 3 swarms just in the last couple of weeks – one was way too small, one we captured and one was a mammoth swarm that we just weren’t prepared for with fill-sized hive boxes – they weren’t happy with the nuc box we offered. LOL The chore list for the immediate future includes painting up our new hive boxes so we’re not caught unprepared again. I’m so excited about your barn project nearing its end – you GO girl!! ~TxH~

  3. Brenda

    Well done! Your bee posts are so encouraging for beginning beekeepers! Just split one of mine yesterday, it was a boomer–4 med boxes of bees. I usually put my old queen in new hive, but just could not find her, so ended up doing a walkaway. Crazy how they multiply this time of year!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Isn’t it Brenda??? I’m also so amazed that there’s so much to learn. Unlike other endeavors you can’t just study up on raising bees & go. It seems to be an ever-evolving life-long learning project into what does best for your particular hives in your location. But I love it! ~TxH~

  4. Nancy

    I’ve always wanted to have bees but I worry that they’re high maintenance. I hear about diseases and stuff. So I’ve always stuck with chickens. They are a piece of cake.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I love raising chickens too. With bees or chickens, each have their own benefits. Fresh eggs and pest control from the chickens & that local honey I crave and of course the pollination of all my garden plants from the bees. It’s been a very fun venture for us. ~TxH~


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