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Combining Hives

Hello, it seems I am here quite often as of late! :astonished:

Trying to keep this short, we had a hive swarm, which we caught (will call his Swarm 1). A few weeks later, something happened and the original hive (will call this Hive 1) became queenless. Hive 1 has two brood boxes and is fairly strong and both boxes are nearly filled with pollen and honey. The swarm has a laying queen and is extremely small. Therefore, we want to combine the two. Could someone please tell me if my plan seems sound?

The queenless Hive 1 is in the original spot, the tiny Swarm 1 is about 2 meters away. I am thinking of locking in Swarm 1 for a day, then in the evening, moving it BELOW the queenless Hive 1, placing a sheet of newspaper between them. After about 24 hours, I thought I would reopen the hive.

Some people seem to close up for 3 days, others don’t at all. Most say to move the weak hive to the spot where the strong hive is, which is what we will do. I want to put the weak Swarm 1 box underneath the other hive since that is where the queen is laying. Does this seem reasonable? Any issues? Thanks as always!

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Yes, considering Sweden’s winters, it is very logical.

I am not quite clear what you are proposing, but here is what I would do with the situation you describe.

  1. I would inspect queenless Hive 1 for queen cells. If any queen cells are present, the rest of this method is on hold and ask more questions. If no queen cells, proceed as below.
  2. No locking in of any hive is required. I would actually wait until the warmest part of the day, when most foragers are about and pheromones float around more easily.
  3. Open queenless Hive 1 and put newspaper on top. Two layers of standard newspaper is plenty - one may work, but I like two. Do not use thick brown paper (like paper bags).
  4. Put the box from Swarm 1 on top of Hive 1. The reason for doing it this way around is less confusion for the foragers. If Hive 1 has 10x the forager population of Swarm 1, you are better off using that hive location for the merge, as you suggest. However, when you merge a hive, it can be more successful if you do it when fewer host (receiving colony) bees are in the hive, so that is why I would choose earlier in the day. If you put Swarm 1 below Hive 1, they may get decimated the next day as the strong hive bees move down, so I wouldn’t do that.

Then don’t disturb the merged hive for 2 weeks.

Assuming that you can find (and like) the swarm queen, there is another method, known as a Snelgrove introduction of a queen, but I would only do that in a colony which has been queenless for a week or so. More than that, and the colony will probably reject the new queen.

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Wow, that makes a lot of sense, thank you! I will definitely inspect for queen cells one more time. However they don’t even have capped brood or larvae so I think it is really unlikely.

I hadn’t thought of that about midday instead, what great info! So glad we don’t need to lockdown. But one more question, the swarm hive is so tiny, with only 4 semi built frames and a half frame or so of food stores. Will they be ok while “holed up” in their box above the newspaper? How long are they generally confined before they chew through and start to mingle?
Also, will it be weird to have the queen laying in a box above what is basically now two supers? How would I get her brood box down once they are combined?

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when you put the newspaper in make some small 1 inch cuts in the paper to give the bees a astart chewing threw. Just slits- not holes. Make 4 or 5 of them. The bees should have chewed through and merged after 1 or two days.

Maybe 3 or 4 days after the merge you will probably want to re-arrange the boxes- putting the top box that has brood in it on the bottom- or removing some honey frames and placing the brood frames down below. keep the frames with brood tight together as they were in the top box so they stay warm.

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@Dawn_SD and @Semaphore have given you great advice and there is no tips that I can add to what they have covered. Give the bees uninterrupted time to merge and become a single colony and it will all go well.
Cheers

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Follow the advice given above. It is sound and solid.

Cheers
Rob.

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A frame of food will last a full hive about a week. If they only have half a frame, you may want to consider putting a feeder on top of the swarm hive box.

Depends on the strength of each colony. Somewhere between 6 hours and 2 days is average.

It might be weird for the beekeeper, but the bees won’t care. :blush: However, what I would do is after 2 weeks, check how things are going and consider moving the frames of brood down and condensing the hive to 2 brood boxes again. If you have a major nectar flow, you may want to add a super later, but it is better to have a strong hive than one with too much space.

To move the brood frames down, I would take out some lower frames of capped honey or pollen and either freeze them to give back to the bees later, or extract them if capped honey. Keep the brood frames together though, to minimize the work the bees have to do. Then just take off the third brood box and unused frames until next year. Easy! :wink:

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