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How to Create an Artificial Swarm with the Taranov Split

How to Create an Artificial Swarm with the Taranov Split

There are several reasons why a beekeeper may choose to split a hive. Discouraging swarming activities is one such reason. In the case of the Taranov Split, the beekeeper is actually creating a “controlled” or artificial swarm.

As you find yourself in the middle of swarming season, the Taranov Split could be the perfect tool to add to your toolbox and may be just what’s needed to stop an imminent swarm.

Why create an artificial swarm?

As you perform a hive inspection, you may see signs that a swarm could happen at any moment:

  • Swarm cells are present (capped queen cells)
  • The bees are antsy
  • The bees are flying around the hive, but they are not foraging

If you see these signs, it’s time to do something immediately, or you could lose a substantial portion of your hive ... taking with them as much honey as they can carry.

The Premises of the Taranov Split

The Taranov Split, which is just one of many split variations, was developed in 1947 by a Russian beekeeper named G.F. Taranov. He believed that swarms were mainly made up of young nurse bees that had not yet secreted wax or brood food. Taranov also believed that the younger bees could not find their way back home if separated from the hive because they had never made an orientation flight.

Taranov felt that if he could separate these young bees from the older bees, and do so while also separating the bees from the hive, that he could prevent the development of a swarm while also starting a new colony.

Using these premises, Taranov came up with his signature split ... a split whose main feature is a four-inch span of air. Yep, four inches of nothing but thin air.

The Taranov Board

The main feature of this split is the Taranov Board — a ramp comprised of two boards separated by two struts. One board lies on the ground, the other is propped up by the struts on one side to the height of the existing hive’s entrance. The boards are as wide as the current hive’s entrance. The boards are as long as is needed to create a 45-degree ramp where the two boards meet on the ground.

The struts should be strong enough to take the weight of the cluster of bees that forms on them. The weight of an average swarm of bees is ten pounds.

On the underside of the ramp board, affix a piece of carpet, burlap, terry cloth or screen (something with texture that the bees can easily hold onto) two to three inches from the uppermost edge of the board.

The Taranov Split

  • Be sure to wear safety gear — hat/veil, jacket/suit and gloves.
  • Align the front lip of the ramp board so that it is the same height as the current entrance with a four-inch gap between the two.
  • Place a sheet or large piece of fabric over the bottom two-thirds of the ramp. It should extend over the sides, down the ramp and over the ground leading up to the ramp.
  • Open the hive, removing the frames one at a time. Shake the bees from the frames onto the sheet or large piece of fabric positioned over the ramp. Use a quick but gentle, up and down motion. You don’t want to shake so hard that you displace larvae or tear the comb. Do not shake frames that contain swarm cells; instead, carefully brush the bees from these frames onto the sheet.
  • Once all the frames are empty of bees, return the frames back to their original positions in the hive. Close the hive back up.

Now, wait and watch with wonder as the bees separate into two different groups. If the premises that Taranov made are true, the older bees come to the gap and fly over the last four inches. When the queen and the younger bees, those he believed were ready to swarm came to the front edge of the ramp, they climbed over it and formed a cluster under the Taranov board on the screen, carpet or burlap surface provided. This will generally take one to two hours.

When the bees have separated themselves into two distinct groups, one under the Taranov board and one in the hive, the Taranov board is moved to the entrance of a new hive. The new hive should be far enough away from the existing colony that the queen scent doesn’t draw them back to the original hive. Place the ramp against the entrance of the new hive (with no gap).

Click here for a sequence of pictures depicting the Taranov Split.

In closing ...

If you do a Google search, the Taranov Split is just one of many split methods you’ll find. As in any method of splitting a hive, the Taranov Split has its proponents and those who don’t like it. It may not be for everyone; however, when the frames cannot be moved from one hive to another to make the split — e.g. going from a top-bar hive to a Langstroth hive, it works very well.

As in any swarm prevention method, it may not always work. The bees may decide to abscond despite your best efforts. Therefore, it’s always wise to have swarm traps set up and ready to catch swarms that happen to form in the area ... yours and others.

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