Navigate / search

How to prevent swarming with a Taranov board

The Taranov board is an ingenious system used to separate bees that are going to swarm from bees that will stay in the parent hive. Once separated, the swarming bees and old queen can be placed in a new hive while the old colony is left to raise a new queen.

The system was invented in 1947 by G. F. Taranov, a Russian beekeeper who recognized that swarms are composed primarily of very young nurse bees that haven’t yet secreted brood food or wax. All their energy is conserved for the task of starting a new colony from scratch. These young nurses have never taken orientation flights either, so they don’t know their way around the outside world. Taranov used this inexperience to separate the swarmers from the non-swarmers.

I don’t have a picture of a Taranov board so this description will test my writing skills and your patience, so bear with me here.

Although there are different ways of building a Taranov board, it is basically a ramp that slopes from the ground in front of the hive up to the hive entrance. Because hives vary in their distance from the ground, a Taranov board varies in length, but the slope is about 45 degrees. But here is the important point: the ramp does not meet with the hive entrance but falls short about 4 inches (10 cm).

The high side of the ramp is supported by two legs and the low side is supported by the ground. You build your ramp such that the high side is exactly the height and width of the entrance, then you pull it away from the entrance by four inches. The underside of the ramp is an empty space except for a piece of wood, burlap, or carpet affixed 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) below the top edge of the board—more on that later.

For now, look at this ramp from the point of view of the bee. You are foraging on white clover in the lawn. You are tired and have a heavy load. You decide you can walk up the ramp and get home easily. You walk up the ramp. Ugh! Steep! When you get to the top of the ramp you stop in amazement and look down into the crevasse in front of you. “Some idiot,” you say in bee, “forgot to finish the darn ramp!” Being a bee, however, you just fly over the four-inch opening and you’re home. Annoyed, perhaps, but home.

Okay, as a human, you now have a picture of what the ramp looks like. Now, here’s how to use it.

The Taranov method is more commonly used in Europe than in the United States, but many beekeepers find it to be a reliable and easy way to split a hive and prevent a swarm. It can be used with many types of hives, including Langstroths, top-bars, and Warrés.

Note: The original Taranov board was built with two boards that were hinged at one end. One board was placed flat on the ground and the other was raised to form the ramp. Two posts held it open like a lean-to. This original system works fine if all your hives are an equal distance above ground, but a single board works better for variable heights.

Note #2: Photos now available at The Great Divide: a Taranov split.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Rusty
Reply

Peter,

Excellent! Thank you! Those bees must have read the instruction manual–they’re doing it just right.

Doug
Reply

Hey Rusty, your website is getting huge! A wealth of information. So . . . I have a question about this Taranov shook swarm method. Should one wait until the swarm cells are completely capped, almost capped, or at any time in the capping process?

After two years with bees, I’ve in the past, just let them do their thing, by putting up swarm traps to catch them, and keeping a close eye on them. This year however, I am geared up to raise queens, using two strong double deep hives and Cloake boards. From the looks of them right now, they will be huge and overflowing by the first of June, and I want to control their swarming impulse, just in case. Coupled with the fact that I will have bees spread out 100 miles around, I might not be here when they decide to fly.
Wouldn’t it be flirting with disaster to wait until they are completely capped? Yes? No?

Thank you, Doug

Rusty
Reply

I think that just before they are completely capped is the best time. Capping is usually the very last thing that happens before the swarm leaves, so if you wait until capping is complete, you might lose them.

The other side of the coin is that you don’t want to be too early–you want them ready to go. But I think any time after the capping process begins (or just before it begins) is ideal.

Let me know how this works for you. Perhaps I’m too picky on the time frame. I usually wait until capping begins, but I don’t have to drive 100 miles. Maybe earlier (during cell building) will work as well.

Cassie Pen
Reply

This is genius! Thank you for sharing.

Art
Reply

“Queen cells are being capped”

“The ready-to-swarm bees and the queen (none of which are used to flying) will walk up the ramp …”

“Capping is usually the very last thing that happens before the swarm leaves”

I get the idea behind the process but I don’t get the very first step, identifying when to start based on the capped queen cells. If the queen cell is “capped” (the term commonly referred to be closed with a dome of wax) there is no new queen yet to walk up the ramp. Queen cells are capped on day 7 and queen emerges on day 17. So if you see a capped queen cell there is no new queen in your hive and not going to be for quite some time is it has just been capped.

Rusty
Reply

Art,

It’s the old queen that will walk up the ramp, the queen that will head the swarm.

Art
Reply

I had some time to think about it. The confusion came from not understanding the “physics” of swarming. I was under the impression that when the new queen emerges from its cell it “takes” half of the bees with it and leaves. In reality, the old queen leaves with a swarm and it can be as soon as the first swarm cell is capped.

So, when you see a capped swarm cell and do a Taranov split, you basically jump the gun and make the old queen leave and form the swarm on your board. The old hive is left with a queen cell and older nurse and foraging bees. The only shortcoming of the method I can see is that if you miss the swarm leaving and then try to do the split after you find the queen cell, it will result in all the bees either marching back to the hive or just taking flight after you shake them off on the sheet.

Rich Kelly
Reply

Thank you very much for sharing this knowledge, it certainly is a method
I would attempt with great interest.
Regards
R.Kelly

Cindi
Reply

I keep coming back to this and reading it with great fascination. Thanks for all the details! One of these days I’m going to be brave enough to try it.

Rusty
Reply

Cindi,

It’s addictive. I was afraid to try it at first too. It’s eerie. It’s like the bees read the book and rehearsed in advance. As I’ve said before, Taranov was a genius.

Stormie
Reply

How would you do the Taranov board if you hive is sitting on the ground? I have a Langstroth hive that is really strong. ( The bees currently in them take up a brood box and a half.) They are going to run out of room at some point and want to swarm. I would like to split that hive into a top bar hive. Any suggestions?
PS I love your site.

Rusty
Reply

Stormie,

To do a Taranov split, you would have to set the hive on top of something. Otherwise, if you are moving the bees into different equipment, why not use a shook swarm? Generally, that’s how I move bees from my top-bar hive to a Langstroth hive.

charlotte
Reply

So heres my problem, my hive has swarmed twice and came back to the hive. So they have flew, would they go right back in the hive or do they do the taranov walk?

Rusty
Reply

Charlotte,

I think the Taranov would still work, but I don’t know for sure. You can always do another kind of split, like shaking the frames over an empty box.

charlotte
Reply

I live in eastern Washington 2 miles from Canada. Around 10.30 it looked real nice no wind so I took a chance and went head and did it. Believe or not this was the first time I was in the hive. We have had it for a year and the person that we bought was suppose to help us, but not heard a word. So I am jamming as much info as I can. Thank for getting back with me.

David
Reply

Rusty
We’re taught split hives thus:
– move existing box with Q cell(s) to a new site.
– new box, with the old queen on the original site.
– the older flying bees return to the original site with the old queen.
The Taranov seems t contradict that?
What’s you view?
Kind regards

Rusty
Reply

David,

There are dozens of ways to do a split, each one having advantages and disadvantages. I always pick the method that best suits the particular situation. Sometimes the Taranov is the best choice and sometimes it’s not.

Scott Neville
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Firstly I’d like to say thanks for the work you put into this website it has been a great resource for me becoming a beekeeper.

I was just wondering if you use smoke on your bees before you do a Taranov split? I’m looking forward to trying out this method it sounds like so much fun.

Rusty
Reply

Scott,

Interesting question. I have never used smoke before doing a Taranov, but I don’t see why you couldn’t. With this split you get bees all over the place. It might actually help to smoke them first. I don’t know why I never did.

Scott Neville
Reply

Hi Rusty,

The reason I asked Is that I was wondering if you smoke the bees and they gorge on honey before you empty them all onto the sheet, would the bees that want to get back into the hive have trouble making it up the ramp and flying across the gap? Being new to bee keeping I haven’t tried a split yet, the Taranov method sounds like a great way to split my Langstrough into my top bar.

Rusty
Reply

Scott,

I really don’t think it will cause a problem. The whole procedure takes about two hours, so any food ingested before you start will probably be digested before you are finished.

Kelly
Reply

What time of day would you do this? Or does it not matter?

Rusty
Reply

Kelly,

My preference is to do it in the middle of the day when the foragers are gone. It’s a little easier with fewer bees around, and the foragers will return to the original hive in any case.

Naomi
Reply

Very informative! I look forward to more like this.

Leave a comment

name*

email* (not published)

website

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.