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Newspaper merge method: too thin?


Dear bee believers,

I did a hive merge a few weeks ago with a trader joes paper bag in lieu of newspaper and it seemed to go really well.

Yesterday, I combined a weak and almost certainly queenless hive with my strongest hive. This time I used newspaper, only one sheet. I’m wondering if that led to overly-rapid access between the hives and fighting? Though I didn’t see any fighting on the landing board, I did see the bees bringing out (what seemed to me like) a tremendous amount of dead bees.

UGH. Seems I did something else wrong. Because the queen-right hive had a bottom board screwed to its brood box, I put the ‘queenless’ hive on top. I now understand it should have gone on the bottom - I assume since it’s the one with all the empty cells that would hopefully be filled with brood.

How big of a problem is that?


This could be the difference between “almost certainly queenless” and “likely queen right”.


Sorry Bobby, I realize I hadn’t described the situation well enough. This was a hive that I had inspected three weeks ago, and found a dozen emergency queen cells, all but two torn open and several with dead queens inside. I had hoped for a virgin queen then.

When I inspected this time, the top (medium) super frames had mostly honey, and some dry empty cells. The bottom (deep) super frames had some honey around the edges, a little scattered capped brood around the edges, but mainly frame after frame of completely dry, empty cells.

Is it possible that if there were a virgin queen then, she still wouldn’t have started to lay 21 days after emerging?


There was likely a queen alive when you inspected 3 weeks ago given the state of of the torn down cells. From what I’ve read and experienced, it takes 10 - 14 days under normal conditions for a queen to get out and successfully mate after emerging.

If at the end of three weeks there is still no signs of a laying queen then yes, combining is cool (I’d have given them a frame with eggs on it first just to try again though. I’m weird like that). Seems you did things right but given the mass casualties, something was amiss.


I blame the shims… After all there are huge number of them on the ground! :smile:

OK, sorry, back to serious now. You lost a lot of bees. I am truly sorry about that. When I have done newspaper, I usually use 2 or 3 sheets, but I don’t think that was the main issue here. I agree with @Bobby_Thanepohn, likely both sides were queen-right. One may be senescent or poorly-mated, but not enough that her offspring are truly rejecting her.

Hopefully the best queen won. Please keep us updated. :pray:


Thanks all. They’re no longer bringing out dead bees, so I’m really hoping they’ve come to a resolution! Can I assume that either way, there is now a queen in the house?


I lost one of my two queens and decided to combine my hives as well a month ago. Since we no longer get a paper version of the news, I had to improvise with Reynolds Parchment Paper (for cooking). I was worried it was too thick, but the merge went without a hitch and the resulting hive looks quite healthy so I guess it was the right stuff.


Never! :blush: Unless you have an Arnia monitor, it always takes an inspection to be sure. Sorry, I wish I could have said “Yes!” :neutral_face:


Thanks nonetheless for the tough truths :slight_smile:
When should I inspect?


New information has come to light!!! @Dawn_SD @Bobby_Thanepohn what do you think:

One of the things that most puzzled me while observing the dead bees being brought out of the hive is that they seemed extraordinarily ‘sticky.’ Whenever a bee tried to toss the corpse over the edge, it would invariably fall with it, while very clearly trying to ‘un-stick’ itself. Even once on the ground, it seemed to be quite hard work. As soon as free, they’d fly back up to the hive.

While checking on the newly merged hives, I saw a litle bit of sugar water mix (5:3) emerging from under the top feeding pail. I moved it, and there was a small lake of this clear syrup pooling on top of the hive, with a dozen drowned bees.

Could a leaking pail be the cause of the dead bees, rather than fighting?


Could be. Hopefully you checked that the lid was on tight - those pails can take some serious pressure to close (if my hands hurt from arthritis, I have even been known to use a rubber mallet carefully to close the last bit!), so it is easy to get an inadvertent leak.

I would look again in a week or so, and see how the hive is doing and whether there is some brood in there. This time of year, the amount of brood will probably be decreasing, but you should still see some nice uncapped larvae if all is well.


Can an arnia tell you the colony is queen right ?


No, only a beekeeper can do that! :smile:

However, it can give you some hints. If the brood temperature probe is a nice constant 32-35C there is viable brood on that frame, which suggests a laying queen. Of course in winter, it doesn’t help at all if your bees cluster - you will still have a queen, but she won’t be laying and the temperature shown by the probe will drop accordingly.


OK…I’ll come clean. I think they are nice toy for those who like to play and look at data. BUT I do still have an open mind and I am really interested in it. I know two people who bought one a couple of years ago and both lie abandoned in the garage.


Perhaps you could “borrow” one for a while to try it out? :imp:


I think I might just sit on your shoulders…you’re sensible :smile: