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Methods to build a small colony


As some of you may know I lost a good portion of bees from one colonies bees. Although there still a laying queen, brood and eggs I’d like to bolster their numbers and am wondering the best way to do it?

Feeding the bees will build numbers but also encourage robbing if the colony is a bit low on numbers.
Adding a frame of brood is the most common practice and I’ve done this in the past however in this case I’m concerned there wouldn’t be enough bees to keep the brood warm.
I’ve also heard of swapping hive positions. Has anyone used this method and does it work?
Combining colonies is an option however this colony has sentimental value and I am keen to build on my beekeeping experience as last time I had a small colony, possibly due to my inexperience, I lost it.

These are the methods that come to mind, I’m sure there are other to be discussed after my conundrum is resolved…


I would add a frame of capped (ideally emerging) brood. When one of my hives absconded they left a frame of capped brood and it was probably left for a good day or so before I found it and transferred it to another hive. All the bees hatched out in the end, so I think capped brood can be quite neglected and do well at this time of the year - when not pouring with rain and wintery :).

I have tried the swapping method before and it led to much confusion, so it didn’t work for me.

Our bees are out in force today in serious gales, so hopefully your girls can get back on track quickly!




Swapping hives certainly works, but you need to do it only while plenty of honey is coming in. Be aware that the donor hive will get seriously depleted, so you may need to remove some of the brood frames… Put them in the receiving hive:) That would be a great way to even up the numbers of 2 hives where the numbers are extremely out of balance.

I agree with Jingles in relation to hatching brood. A frame that is only half full of brood would be ideal if the colony is that weak, however you can repeat that every 7-10 days. It wont be long & you’ll feel confident that the colony will handle full frames of brood. By doing that, you’ll end up with a strong hive.


I frame of brood gives three frames of bees
Get that one frame of emerging brood in…but make sure it is emerging
A depleted colony will not be able to look after very young brood