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How to make a vertical split

This is one of the easiest ways to split a colony and, if things go wrong, it is easy to undo. I call it a vertical split, but some call it a top split, an over/under split, or a top-and-bottom split. Like all the other splits I have described, it is just a variation on the basic principles of splitting a hive.

Here are the steps for making a vertical split:

  1. Remove two to three frames of brood from the colony you want to split and place these frames in the center of an empty brood box. As with any split, the brood frames should contain eggs, newly hatched larvae, and capped brood—all of it covered with nurse bees.
  2. Next to the brood frames, add at least one frame containing pollen and one containing honey.
  3. Fill out the rest of the box with frames of drawn comb or foundation.
  4. Also backfill the original brood box with frames of drawn comb or foundation.
  5. Place a double-screened board on top of the original brood box.
  6. Put the opening of the double-screen board on the back side of the original hive, and make sure the opening leads to the upper brood box.
  7. Place the new split on top of the double-screen board.
  8. Place the hive cover on top of the new split.

Other considerations:

lightbulbIf you are going to introduce a queen to the new split, wait a few hours or overnight before introducing the queen in her cage. Don’t introduce a queen to the split unless you are certain the original queen is not in the split. lightbulbIf you are expecting the split to produce its own queen, look for queen cells in three or four days. If there are no queen cells, you may add another frame of eggs and newly-hatched larvae to the center of the brood nest.

lightbulbAs with any split, feeding is optional and depends on how many frames of honey the split has, the weather, the availability of forage, and the size of the split.

lightbulbOnce the new queen (either introduced or natural) begins laying, you can move the split off the parent hive to its final location.

Advantages of the vertical split:

  • The double-screen board allows heat to move from the established colony into the split. This means splits can be done earlier in the year.
  • This type of split can be done quickly with little planning. If during a hive inspection you find queen cells, you can put them in a box above the double-screen board and leave the original queen below. You will have a new queen in days.
  • If the split doesn’t take for some reason, you can smoke the hive and remove the double screen. The hive will reunite quickly with little disruption.



Bill Castro

Great topic!!! I would encourage every beekeeper who wants to stay with bees to make sure and make splits every single season. This is one option to freeing oneself from the wasteful practice of relying on replacing dead colonies with highly unreliable packaged bees and queens from far away places.

Many breeders raise queens while feeding HFCS or the like resulting in poor queens that are superseded or just plain fail due to poor nutrition during development or poor mating situations. Our packages come with ZERO guarantees as to quality or vitality…we may as well gamble at a casino.

Another great way to ensure better vitality and longevity is to form teams of beekeepers who are able to allow others to make splits and place developing hives at other apiaries to open mate during spring and early summer. I suggest 2 times of year are the best times to make these splits, mid spring during our main nectar flows and mid summer as the main flow tapers out and most colonies are bursting with massive populations of bees and the queens are at the height of laying huge brood nests. These splits not only can help maintain an apiary longevity and colony count, but breaking the brood cycle by making splits is a fantastic way to ensure colonies enter fall/winter clustering with low mite counts.

Bees also can tend to swarm during mid to late summer when mite counts are high when their survival instincts kick in…but as bee managers, we can use easy techniques to not only maintain our apiaries, but also have a secondary way to make a few bucks the following spring by selling any unwanted splits to local clubs.

Remember, honey is only one aspect to being a beekeeper…but raising our own quality colonies to trade or sell can be one of the greatest accomplishments a beekeeper can do.

Hope everyone has a successful year!!!

Ron Whaley


Any suggestions for splitting topbars? This is my 1st year and I started with a Tanzanian hive (and a nuc with 5 medium frames.) to be able to use foundationless deep frames to which I attached the topbars.. I built a 48″ with screened bottom (which I did not close off this winter) that will support about 30 frames. Going into winter, 18 frames were pretty much filled. I did not take off any honey to allow them a better chance of survival for the winter. I have contacted Bee associations and several clubs in NW Ohio and been unable to get any information on topbars. Except they won’t work…. I do have a friend who has Langstroth hives, and he has helped with general information and several inspections but is not familiar with topbars.

There is still room to expand, but my thoughts are sooner or later, to help prevent swarming, or start a new hive, I’m going to have to make a split. I would greatly appreciate any information or comments you could provide.



So Ron, I can’t tell if you want to split into another tbh or into a nuc. In any case, the easiest way is to make a shook swarm. Did you read my post on that?
Splitting the top-bar with a shook swarm. You just shake all the frames from the old tbh over you new tbh or nuc. Don’t worry about shaking too many because the foragers will all go back into the old hive.

When I do this I shake the queen into the new box as well. When you’re done, put the lids back on and you’re done. The old tbh will hatch a new queen and your new hive has the old queen. I don’t know why someone would say it doesn’t work. It’s easy.

Ron Whaley

I keep getting an error message, hope this gets through.


Yep, they’re good.

Stephen Heape

Do you foresee any reason this wouldn’t work to do two splits off one strong hive at the same time? To better clarify my question, would it work to stack the splits (ie. original hive super -> double screen board ->split super ->double screen board ->split super ->cover). I have one hive that I would like to split twice in spring and prefer not to split it consecutively. Thanks.



There’s no reason you can’t do multiple splits at once, as long as the hive is strong enough to support it.

Scott Sailors

Question from a Novice: I like the idea of a Vertical Split, that makes a lot of sense to me. However, here’s my question: Why would the queen-less bees in the box above the double screen board make a new queen when they can smell the existing queen in the box below the double screen board? I thought it was the lack of the queen pheromone that kicked-in their queen-making instinct.



It is the scent, but the scent is largely spread around by the bees rubbing against the queen and then rubbing against each other. The double-screen board prevents them from touching, which is why it is a double and not asingle screen.


Okay, got it. That makes sense now. I didn’t realize that they spread the scent of the queen by rubbing against her and then each other. I thought it was just in the air.

If the new hive makes a queen, and she starts laying, how soon can I pull the upper split off and set it on its own bottom board? And, can I set those hives next to each other?

Thanks again for the help! I love everything about beekeeeping! (Except the varroa mites, of course. They appeared, and now I’m researching that problem.)



As soon as the new virgin has finished mating, you could move it over (wait until she’s mated because you wouldn’t want her to get lost on the way home). So by the time you’re seeing eggs, you’re good to go.


Got it. Thank you. I’ve already purchased a double-screen board. So, if my bees don’t succumb to the Varroa mites, and make it through the winter in good shape, I’m planning to do a vertical split this coming spring.


Hi Rusty

Thanks for a great website, for a newbie such as myself it’s rapidly becoming one of my primary sources of info.

I did have a question regarding the orientation of the entrance on the top split, is it strictly necessary to turn it to the back? My present 2 hives are in such a position that doing this would potentially send the bees flight path through areas I wasn’t keen on. (I didn’t know about this issue when I chose the spot in out relatively small garden.)




I would say it is not absolutely necessary, but you will get more crossover and more drift. Just be aware of that. You may have to equalize the populations at some point.