How do I make a split / Make up a nuc?

We make up splits or nucleus for various reasons. It may be that you want to increase your colony numbers and making your own splits, if you have strong healthy colonies is a good cost-effective way of doing this. Depending on the time of the year you do the splits it may affect your honey harvest from the colony. Splits are also made as part of swarm control /prevention.

There are a couple of things you need to take in to account when making up splits. Firstly, if you are to keep the new colony in the same apiary as the parent colony the flying bees will return home. You must therefore ensure you shake extra bees into the nuc to mitigate this.

If you have several colonies, but none that are exceptionally strong, you can make a split up by taking frames from multiple colonies. It would be best practice to take bees from 3 colonies not 2 as it is said that bees from 2 colonies will fight but from 3 or more, they will not as there will be confusion with the different pheromones.

And lastly, you need to make sure that the colony/colonies you are splitting from, are strong and disease free.

Equipment you will need is a nucleus hive, these usually take 5 or 6 frames. These are available in both wood and polystyrene; the advantage of the polystyrene is that they are lighter, which makes moving them much easier.

A rule of thumb is that a split is made up with 2 frames of brood and 1 frame of food. You can of course put in an extra frame of brood but ensure that you have enough bees to cover all the brood. So, all frames of brood that go into the nuc should be covered with bees. Make sure these brood frames have plenty of sealed brood rather than wet brood on them, this will ensure you have young bees quickly which will help the nuc to grow.

If you are making up a split from a colony that is throwing up queen cells and plan to use one of the cells as your new queen, make sure you remove all other queen cells on the frames and only leave one. If you are leaving the nuc on the same site as the parent colony you will also need to shake in 3 frames of bees to compensate for the flying bees that will return home! Do make sure you don’t accidentally shake the queen in from the parent colony!!

Fill the rest of the Nuc box up with new frames and foundation. If you are adding a new queen, you can do this at the same time but do observe the reaction that the bees have to the queen. You may need to leave them for an hour or two before adding her. Some beekeepers will leave the bees for a few days before adding her. The bees will of course start to make queen cells in this situation so, if you do this, ensure you go back through the frames and remove any queen cells they start before putting the queen cage in. Leave the tab on the cage and then check the frames again 2 days later for more queen cells. Remove them all and remove the tab on the queen cage at the same time. Ensure the small nuc has plenty of food, offering them syrup will help them with the new foundation they have to pull, make sure you give them enough food to last them until at least your next inspection. We recommend leaving then for 10 days now before you check to see if the queen has taken.

If you are making up a nuc using a queen cell, select a queen cell that is not sealed. This will allow you to estimate when your new queen will emerge; it will be 8 days after the cell has been sealed. The queen will hopefully mate successfully and start to lay anywhere between 2 to 3 weeks, the weather may affect this. I leave my colonies for 3 weeks before I check them for eggs. Do however, keep an eye on this colonies food stores and offer them syrup if they need feed.

Replace the frames that you have taken from the parent colony/colonies with new frames and foundation.

If it’s in the earlier part of the season that you make your nuc up, you will need to keep an eye on space and make sure you have a full hive ready for when it’s needed. If you are making your splits late in the season, they overwinter well in the nuc box.


  • Ensure parent colony is strong and free from disease
  • If you are letting bees make their own queen, make sure you select an unsealed queen cell
  • Ensure the new colony has sufficient food to last until at least the next inspection
  • Make sure you have enough bees to cover the brood in the nuc
  • If you are leaving the bees on the same is site as the parent, shake in an extra 3 frames of bees to compensate for the bees that will fly home
  • Don’t make a nuc up from 2 colonies as the bees will fight, make it up with bees from 1 or 3 colonies

This Nuc is 2 weeks old. It was made from a single colony taking 2 frames brood, 1 frame food and adding 3 new frames with new foundation. Fed with Ambrosia Syrup.

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