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Combining Swarm With Hive

I have a small swarm WITH a queen- however I am afraid they will not make it through the winter as they are small in size and she is laying accordingly to their size. My thought was to grab a super from another hive and combine the two. The swarm is in a nuc currently, so couldn’t do the newspaper method. Would I cage the queen, then replace a could of the super frames with frames from the nuc and let them all acclimate? Would I move the hives elsewhere or leave where the nuc currently is?

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Hiya and welcome to the Flow forum!

You could actually, but you would still have to decide which queen to keep. It is probably better to decide and dispatch one before you merge than to let the queens fight it out. Too much disruption if they fight. You then just put the 5 frame nuc into a full size box, then put that on top of the newspaper. Two days later, remove the box above the newspaper (they should be through it by then) and pick the best frames from each box to overwinter in the merged hive. The leftovers can be wrapped in cling wrap and frozen for next year.

If you wanted to cage the queen outside the merged hive until you knew that the merge had worked, that might be a good idea. Quite a lot of extra work though, as the caged queen will need attendants, and you will need a week or so to be sure that the remaining queen is laying.

Just my thoughts. I am sure that others will disagree. :blush:

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I agree with Dawn’s suggestion, combine the two colonies by the newspaper method as it the best way to do it. Providing the swarm has some stores to get by till they have merged it is a simple process but if they don’t have stores you could add a frame into the box that the swarm is on.

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My thoughts are probably controversial. Oklahoma is still in summer? So probably 4 weeks to go till autumn.

If there is a flow of food the queen could keep laying. You could heavily feed the hive with sugar syrup. That’s 2lbs sugar to one pint water. You could give queen a boost with a small amount of pollen feed as it gets her laying.

You could take a frame of capped brood from another hive within the apiary. And if you have access to friends strong hives take one from them too. Note the word strong please. I have just done this and all is well. I also transferred a few bees too that’s those that didnt shake off.

This way you stand a chance of keeping 2 hives and 2 queens. That’s the upside. You will need to keep feeding!

Down side is it doesn’t work. You get something wrong. You took bad advice! Well that means you still have one hive. If you combine now you will only have 1 hive. And I would rapid feed that combined hive now and put fondant on for the winter.

Nucs are over wintered. Very successfully. You can buy over wintered nucs in spring.

I wish you luck.

I don’t know @TiffanyJ 's climate but as you are in Oklahoma it might be similar to yours. But I do wonder if a strong merged colony will make a better start in the Spring and doing a split then might be a better option. Is your option cost effective to feed the hives leading up to and possibly over Winter?
My climate is totally different so I would like to hear your thoughts.

I think the starting New Year with one combined hive is good. But combining at this stage will mean feeding with syrup and then fondant. A big hive is hungry.

But then starting spring with 2 healthy queens and 2 healthy hives I find an attractive option.

I have to disagree with your thinking, yes a big hive consumes more food but each individual bees food needs is the same regardless of being in a small or large colony.

Sorry about this. Having to lay reasoning out in simple terms because the reasoning flows.

During winter the weather is cold more often below 10 c, bees don’t fly, they don’t use much energy so don’t each much. Also it’s a period during which there is no nectar. This continues till about end of February early March.

We expect winter to have consistent weather. Cold wet damp. The bees are not active.

But we get waves of unexpected significant temp increases. Add to that we feed pollen substitute in February. Which gets the queen busy laying. And so the workers are busy so they consume more. These result in feed being consumed rapidly. At a time when no natural nectar exists.

Therefore we feed sugar until it isn’t taken anymore. Then add in a pack of fondant right above the bee cluster.

If there is a spike in the weather the fondant is the reserve. As a side issue it also helps to check if they are in need of feeding because you can see the consumption without opening up the hive during a cold spell. In the area I am winter weather norm is -2 but goes down with wind chill to -15 and maybe lower. In the midlands the norm is less and in Scotland even worse.

I still think it’s a toss up between combine hive now and kill the spare queen or artificially boost a hive.

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It is definitely still summer here- 100 degree days for weeks now. I feel the queen in the nuc is a strong queen, just needs a bit of help. She’s laying, I see new bees emerging, The are forging, but I know definitely not enough to get them through winter. I put in two frames of brood when I put them in the nuc. I really hate the idea of having to feed, but see in this case, either overwintering them in the nuc or combing, they will need fed. I would really like to see her make through the winter- not too many below freezing days here. Would another option be to put them in a medium over winter or just keep them in the nuc?

Hi. Feeding solid fondant is what happens here and it lasts some time particularly in the case of a nuc. but I note in US you use straight sugar from the packet although that was an NY beekeeper.

Feeding syrup from a large feeder keeps the job simple. The U.K. bee inspectors advocate feeding until they stop. But it’s down to your equipment.

If you think you can fill your nuc hive with brood then put it into a full size brood box. Use blank board at each end to reduce workload for bees but be prepared to exchange for drawn frames if need be.

The remaining frames you add to the existing nuc frames need to be drawn. Now I use drawn frames from within my apiary so I would use frames drawn from my other hives.

As long as you queen has a flow of food and pollen she will lay. If she detects food supply dropping off she responds with a drop off in laying.

When you inspect the frames in the nuc you should see brood, stores and pollen. If little or no pollen then give the hive a pollen substitute.

I think based on how you have described you active queen and also your climate, that your nuc will prosper.

Good luck

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If you have enough time before the weather turns too cold then by all means transfer the nuc into a brood box and see how it goes. Maybe you have a couple of months for the colony to build up. As I have said I don’t know your climate so maybe seek out a local bee group for their advice is a good option.
If there is enough time for the colony to build up and get enough stores to help carry them well into winter it could be worth thinking about.
@MrTF Obviously climatic conditions will change the amount of food a colony needs, but I feel you have missed my point Tony. Do you not feel that a bee in a colony will have the same need for food regardless of the size of the colony it is in? Of course a large colony will consume more than a small colony, I agree with that. But a big hive will only consume proportionately more food in the same conditions depending on the number of bees…
My thinking of course is what I would do and my priority would be to get the colony thru Winter in the strongest condition possible and split it in the Spring.
Interesting reading about your climate in Oxfordshire, it is so very different to my sub tropical climate here where it doesn’t get under 23C in ‘Winter’ and the bees forage all of the year.