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Combining Nuc to a Laying Worker hive

Hello - my single deep hive went queenless almost a month ago. It still has ok numbers, but they failed to requeen. There is some drone brood in the hive, so looks like laying workers have taken over.
I’ve purchased a Nuc which i get at the end of the week. I want to combine the two. I’ve searched on the internet how to do this, and I’m more confused than ever.
I was thinking of doing the following:

  1. Shake out bees from LW hive
  2. Add a frame of uncapped brood from Nuc into LW hive. Keep doing this until they create a queen cell
  3. Put Nuc into a new deep, which I place on top of the old LW hive, with two sheets of newspaper as separation
  4. Let them combine naturally

Please let me know thoughts.


Does the nuc you’re purchasing come with queen?

Have you found any opened queen cells in the hive that have ragged edges that would indicate an emerged queen? After almost a month I think you looking for a laying queen too soon. I sometimes find that a calendar month I don’t see eggs and larvae when another week there is the is eggs and larvae even if I don’t see the queen.
Cheers David

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Hi Peter - thanks for this. I’m pretty sure i found an emerged queen about two weeks ago. There were queen cells about a month ago when I first noticed the queen was missing. However, I cannot see her now. Instead I find irregular drone brood, and an uncapped queen cell with multiple grubs in it.
I’ve ordered a Nuc, which comes next weekend. There are still plenty of bees left in the original hive, so I’m trying to salvage what I can

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Hi ffffred - yes it does

The method you suggest appears to be in line with Rusty:

But sounds like a slow going process (3 weeks approx). I wonder if you’ll have enough resources in a nuc. Last thing you want is the LW hive to ball your new queen or take away too much resources from a nuc.

All the best and keep us posted.

Thanks ffffred. Yes - looks like it will be a slow uncertain process. But good learning experience in my first year of this.

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I wouldn’t bother to try to unite them at all.
Two reasons - as Peter says you may still have a queen in the old hive. Four weeks is too short to assume the hive is queenless. I would consider 6 weeks a better indicator. New queens are very difficult to spot and the presence of patchy drone brood may simply be because the worker brood has hatched leaving some drone brood behind. If the drone brood in the hive is capped (i assume it is) then that would mean that laying workers took over after only 2.5 weeks without the queen, which seems very short.
The second reason is that the bees in the orignal hive are all getting old now, and are not really worth alot to the new nuc, especially at this time of year.
So, I would not consider that the risks of the uniting procedure are worthwhile.
I woud leave the old hive absolutely alone for another three weeks and then have another look. You might have a pleasant surprise.
Meanwhile I suggest you allow the new nuc build up as your main 2020/21 hive.


considering that drone brood is the slowest to develop- there is always a point in a hive that has swarmed or gone queen-less when you open it and all you see left of brood is capped drone cells. A better indicator of a laying worker would be if you see multiple eggs in cells- and eggs on the cell walls rather than at the bottom of the cells. Also the location of the drone brood is an inducator- if it’s at the edges where you expect it to be in a normal hive - it’s more likely it is just the last of the brood from the queen that went. If it’s all over and spotty it could be a laying worker.

Uniting two poor hives often works very well to make one good strong hive in my experience. I use the newspaper method with great success. It’s especially good towards the end of a season so you have one strong hive over winter rather than two weak ones.

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