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Dying hive, what to do?


Hello everyone,

Basically, my question is: what do you do with a queen-less hive that is emptying out, to keep it/ the conditions suitable for re-population?

One of my hives is slowly dying out because of lack of a queen. We tried to re-queen it one time already by merging the existing queen-less colony with another colony. The merged seemed to have been successful, but it has become clear that the hive was again queen-less. (Did the original colony kill her, after all? Was she accidentally squashed during the merge? We don’t know…).

The number of remaining bees in the queen-less hive is now getting so low that I wonder if they will be able to fight of robbers. We might repopulate the hive at some point early this month (September, northern hemisphere) with a surplus colony (caught swarm) of a beekeeper-friend of ours. I am worrying that should robbing start at the hive, that this might cause problems should we repopulate the hive. There is quite a lot of honey and pollen in the brood-box.



I think one of the more experienced Beekeepers should/will answer but from other posts & my own reading etc., if you have other hives you could give them a frame of brood & let raise a new queen? But…depends on time of year & always specifics/variables for your location, hive, season.


Thanks for the reply, Kirsten.

I think it is too late for them to raise a new queen. I have to start thinking about getting them ready for the winter. It’ll take a week or three before a new queen is emerged and ready to start laying eggs. By then there are probably not even drones left to fertilize her. And after that, the colony needs to become stronger (more bees), and that’ll take several more weeks / a couple of months. We’ll be well into the cold season by then, I’m afraid.


A queen can lay 3,000 eggs a day. This is more than most colonies can raise. Stealing a frame of eggs from another colony every week will do little to harm the donor colony and a lot to help the queenless colony. It will postpone laying workers because of the open brood pheromone and it will give them the wherewithal to raise a queen. It will also give them some new young bees to keep them going.



well whatever you decide to try, good luck & let us know the outcome?


Have you got other hives?
If it’s too late to be raising new queens you could shake them out. Smoke well and let them beg their way in. Take the old hive away completely


I would increase the hives population with bees from away from your hives. What I’d do is take a super & tape 2 pieces of newspaper to the bottom, then tape some cardboard over that so that when you untape the cardboard, the newspaper stays in place. On the other location place as many frames with bees & stores (no brood at this stage) as your friend is willing to share. Fill the rest of the box with empty frames so they don’t wobble during transport. Tape a vented lid to the super. On arrival at your site, untape the cardboard & place the super on top of the weak colony so that they chew through the newspaper to unite as one. If you do this with bees from your other hives, the bees will return to the old hive after uniting. The cardboard is just a protector of the newspaper during transit. I only did this 4 days ago myself. In my case, I took 1 frame of bees from 4 separate hives & united them in a 4 frame nuc. Then united them with a weak colony. That worked well.

Start giving the colony frames of brood after the bees have united.

Good luck with that, cheers


That’s a good tip, Jeff.
I’ll file it away for the future.
It’s Autumn in France and hives are closing down with winter in mind. I hope it works.
Let us know, please


Next time you do it, @JeffH, is there any chance you could make a video please? Your videos are so helpful in showing how it all works. Thank you (and Wilma!) :blush:


Thank you Dawn, we’ll do that. It’s certainly an easy way to strengthen a weak hive. Especially if you have bees spread out on two locations far enough away so the bees don’t return to their original hive. The last time was good, the time before was a disaster. It was a combination of the bees chewing through too early, a few showers around, the receiving colony was fairly strong & the giving colony had a longer rougher trip on the back of my truck. I wish I knew which one it was. Another time I had some brood in the giving colony, that didn’t work very well. It’s all trial & error. One time I combined bees from the same yard & locked them in for 3 days & used the branch in front of the entrance trick, that worked fantastic. The next time I tried that, it was a disaster.

With the one where the bees chewed through quickly, the newspaper got wet & I let it dry out, maybe I didn’t let it dry out enough. Then the bees after their bumpy trip were keen to get out, so the receiving colony probably viewed them as threatening, & then coupled with a few showers around. It was on for young and old. It wasn’t like the giving colony was out of stores, they had heaps of honey to offer. I’ll ttyl, bye:)


Thanks for all the replies, appreciated!

@Michael_Bush - I have two other colonies, one of which is pretty strong. All three hives consist of one brood box each, and one super each. (The strong one had the flow frames on it, which they filled up nicely. The queenless hive unsurprisingly did not do anything with their super. The other colony also did literally nothing with the super, this summer. After all these weeks, the wax foundation is still only that: a wax foundation. This last colony has been recovering [well I might add!] from having lost more than half of the bees to swarming in the spring).

I’m kind of hesitant to take frames from the strong one, since I’d like to keep it strong and although we can have really nice and warm Indian summers here in the middle of France, it is not a given. So, I think I cannot necessarily count on the circumstances being well enough for a lot of raising of new brood, still, in the fall.

@Kirsten_Redlich - will do!

@Dee - That sounds like a good option. I did not know shaken out bees (and smoked) will try to enter a strange hive, if their own is taken away.

@JeffH - Thanks a lot, Jeff! I’m not sure if my beekeeper friend will still have the colony available, but I think that would be the best option, to try a final merge. Quick follow up question about your method, though…you wrote: “Start giving the colony frames of brood after the bees have united.” How does that work in the case of using (only) the colony of my friend? The brood cannot be left unattended for a day, right?


When you shake out bees don’t take them too far. 10 yards is plenty. I shake them into an upturned hive roof. They are usually gone in half an hour. Do it on a sunny flying day when the other bees are out foraging. It’s a good way to get rid of a laying worker colony or a drone laying queen you can’t find as well. The laying workers will all beg their way onto other hives where brood pheromone suppresses their laying and where it doesn’t the resident house bees eat the eggs. The queen will not be allowed into any hive.
Ps the reason for the good smoking is to get the bees to gorge on honey so they have a bribe to take to their new home. The guard bees will let them in.


Eggs are very little investment and a good queen can lay 3,000 eggs a day, which is more than the colony can take care of. The hive you take the eggs from will quickly replace them. The one without eggs, however is in dire need of them. It will not set the strong hive back any noticeable amount.


Yes the brood will surely die if left unattended. When you said “One of my hives is slowly dying out”, I figured you could take brood from one of your other hives.

PS, I just finished reading your reply to @Michael_Bush,… this would be a good opportunity to rid your stronger hives of brood frames that possibly need replacing. Any frames with a low % of worker brood. One at a time, replace them with fully drawn worker comb, if you have any available, even if they are half full of honey, the bees will move the honey out for the queen to lay in. With the frames that have a low % of worker brood, I’d cut the drone comb out before putting it into the weaker hive.


We consulted with our beekeeper friend and he thinks it is too late to start rearing a new queen. Given that autumn is on the doorstep, and the new queen will probably not be laying many eggs, we would be basically in the same situation as we are in now, right?

Our beekeeper friend has got a new colony for us which we will merge in the spring with what is left of the current queenless colony.

B.t.w. when I did another hive inspection, I found that the number of bees was still a lot higher than I suspected (and they were rather aggressive). There is a lot of honey in the hive, but of course, most bees in there are quite old, by now.


Why not merge the colonies before winter? You don’t want to end up with laying workers.


Gooday this is the captain ,
I agree to merging all weak hives with strong hives at winter onset - the newspaper trick . Just put the weak hive on top . The bees will eat through the paper and merge with the strong hive below . This makes the strong hive stronger - good for winter prep . leave the old super on top till all old eggs have hatched from weak hive , then for another 24-48 hrs . Place an escape board between old weak hive and strong hive for 24-48 hrs then remove old super and escape board . replace the lid .
Brush off any stubborn bees from old hive and spin out honey or freeze the frames and stack the old super for spring - give it a clean and a fresh coat of paint - then store . If you spin out your honey , you can replace frames to old box and replace above strong hive . The bees will clean it up in 24-48 hrs .replace your escape board ,repeat as above but then store your cleaned drawn comb in a bug free container .
Then in spring , Split your strong hive with 8 x frames in your split -stores and brood and away you go with two strong hives ready to go next season . Buy a queen or make your own and good luck .


What did you end up doing?


Thanks for the additional replies!

I ended up leaving it as it is. Mainly because of my beekeeper friend and mentor who is going to provide us with the new colony for the merge. He thought it better to do the merge early next spring, and the new colony is not yet mine to decide about. This might mean laying workers, although they hardly did that since they were queenless.


Hi Dawn, we finally got around to doing that video. I hope you don’t mind me doing a bit of showing off towards the end of the video.