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How to make a cut-down split

A cut-down split is a special technique often used by comb honey producers. The purpose of a cut-down split is to maximize the number of foragers that are bringing in nectar by minimizing the amount of brood a colony has to care for.

With little brood to feed, foragers concentrate on bringing home nectar rather than pollen, and nurse bees without brood responsibility soon become foragers as well. The result is lots of honey in a short period of time.

Timing of a cut-down split it important. To be effective, the cut-down should be completed just before the start of a main nectar flow. No matter how well you organize the split, it won’t produce more honey if there is no nectar to collect.

To make a cut-down split:

  • Find the queen.
  • Place the queen and nearly all the open brood, honey, and pollen in a new hive. Make sure these frames are covered with nurse bees to care for the open brood.
  • Leave the capped brood, one frame of eggs, and a small amount of honey and pollen in the old hive. At the same time reduce the number of brood boxes in this old hive by one and add empty honey supers. (So if there were three brood boxes, cut back to two. If there were two brood boxes, cut back to one. Add supers after cutting back the brood boxes.)
  • Place the new hive in a different location so all of the foragers return to the old hive.

I know this is confusing, so try this:

Old Hive in Original Location: New Hive in New Location:
No queen Old queen
Capped brood Uncapped brood
One frame of eggs Remainder of eggs
Nurse bees to cover Nurse bees to cover
Small amount of pollen Most of pollen
Small amount of honey Most of honey
All the foragers No foragers
Reduced number of brood boxes Normal number of brood boxes
Increased number of honey supers Normal number of supers

After you are set up, this is what happens:

  • The old hive won’t swarm because it doesn’t have a queen or young brood.  The colony will raise a new queen from the eggs, but by the time the colony is strong, swarm season will be mostly over.

o   This old hive has many more foragers and nurses than are needed to care for the one frame of eggs. In addition, all the capped brood will soon hatch and replace the nurse bees.

o   Because the hive is now crowded (due to the reduced number of brood boxes) many of the newly hatched nurse bees will move into the supers and start building comb—even in comb honey supers.

o   The old nurse bees will also become foragers, but since there is little brood to care for, pollen needs will be low. So the huge crop of foragers will collect nectar like crazy and make a lot of honey in a very short time—which they will store in the newly build comb.

  • The new hive won’t swarm because there are no foragers. It will take several weeks to build up a foraging force.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Monex
Reply

I transferred one frame of brood from my strong hive to the weak hive. I also added a patty of Dadant brood builder to each last weekend, laid across the top of the frames in the second super. Where I am now: one hive is very strong and I recently added the 2nd deep super for brood stores.

Leigh
Reply

In the cut-down split instructions, does “new location” mean somewhere else in the bee yard or a new bee yard altogether? THANKS for all the wonderful info you share on your site!

Rusty
Reply

Hi Leigh,

I mean a new hive close by, in the same apiary. Sorry for the confusion.

Aram
Reply

Rusty,

I noticed that whenever the bees are lacking brood of different ages, I have almost no traffic at the landing board. It is as if they are in the “save energy” mode. They don’t add, they don’t spend. They are just demoralized. Should I add 2 frames of brood, or a laying queen, and 3 hours to a day later they are back to work like you won’t believe.

Is it just my perception, or you notice that in the queenless cut down hive too? Maybe the key is a bunch of hatching brood, I don’t know. It seems I get better crop with unaltered colonies.

I guess my question is what is the key difference that makes cutdown split actively forage compared to a normal queenless hive with reduced brood volume.

Jeffrey
Reply

Can the new hive be located a good distance away as long as it is within the range of the apiary? In my situation I would like the new hive located a few hundred yards away. I imagine the foragers would still return to the original hive, correct?

Rusty
Reply

Jeffrey,

The foragers will return, but otherwise it should be no problem.

Stan
Reply

In regards to the cutdown split, after everything is done what do you do with the extra brood box that was taken away after reducing. If they were both full of brood and eggs what do you do?

Rusty
Reply

Stan,

The extra box and/or frames can be put on the new hive in the new location.

Nathan C
Reply

Making splits soon and replacing the old queens with new purchased queens, can I use the cut-down split for honey production and use new queens in the old and new hives?

Rusty
Reply

Sure, Nathan. It should work great.

Jason
Reply

Any reason why their two colonies could not be recombined after the flow to maintain number of colonies and be stronger for winter?

Rusty
Reply

No, no reason.

Jason
Reply

Ok, so I made a cut down split but could not find my queen. I’m planning on going back into both hives to look for eggs in 3 days. My question is this. If she is in the original hive, is 3 days of egg laying going to ruin the effect of the cut down?

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