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Guy

NZBF Combining two hives

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Just after some advice - I have two hives that is a split from earlier this year. Both were QR but it seems that one of the queens has failed - no new eggs or brood for 3 weeks. Thinking of recombining the hives and have read that putting a piece of newspaper, with a slit in it, between the two hives is the way to go. By the time they newbies chew through the paper they will have accepted the new queen. Is this about right?

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Is there any capped brood in the queenless hive (how long ago did the queen stop laying)? How many frames of bees would you say there are in the queenless hive (enough to cover a frame of eggs)? How many frames of brood are there in the QR hive (are they strong enough to lose a frame of eggs)?

 

Three weeks is not a very long time to be queenless. If the queen was injured or defective then the bees may have raise a replacement and the new queen may not have started laying yet. Although if the queenless hive is down to only a handful of bees then I would merge them using newspaper just as you've described and treat for varroa. If the queenless hive still has plenty of bees and the QR hive can afford to lose a frame then I would transfer a frame of eggs/young larvae from the QR hive into the suspected queenless hive. Mark the top bar of that frame and check it again in one week.

 

  • If there is a queen present then the brood will be well looked after. In that case be patient and give her a couple of weeks to be mated before checking again for eggs/larvae.
  • If there is no queen then the bees will have commenced making an emergency queen on the marked frame. If this is the case then close it up and leave them alone for a further four weeks.

 

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Agree with Rob, just to add to it, when a queen is killed or fails, provided there are eggs in the hive the bees WILL make a new queen. For the bees to turn an egg into a laying queen takes normally a little over 4 weeks.

 

So if your hive has been queenless 3 weeks it probably contains a queen that is not laying yet. Therefore combining right now would be a mistake as the not laying queen might kill your mated one.

 

So test to see if the queenless hive really is queenless, by using brood as per Rob, then decide what to do.

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It's been an ongoing thing. The hive swarmed and eventually returned to the hive queenless. I split them and one hive quickly requeened. The other took a long time and I added brood from another hive to help it along. Eventually had a queen, and she laid for a week or two. Now no eggs for a few weeks - no new eggs to turn into queen but no emergency queen cells either. Because I added frames of brood to an already strong (in numbers) hive, the hive is big but getting old. Activity in and around the hive has been noticeably reduced over the past week or so. I had a good look and there is no evidence of a queen cell that has hatched. I would ideally prefer two hives rather than three as well...

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Guy it's about timing. If you put that last comb of brood in that hive say, 5 or more weeks ago, you can assume the queen they would have raised from it has failed, so in that case combine.

 

But - if a hive has been broodless for a while it can have laying workers starting to develop even though they are not laying yet, and laying workers kill queens.

 

So if combining the hives follow this procedure. Take the lid and mat off the hive with the queen. Put 2 sheets of newspaper on it, and poke a hole through the middle part with your finger, then put a queen excluder on top of the paper. Then lift your queenless hive off it's bottom board, and put it on the excluder on the queenright hive. Put the lid on and leave undisturbed for 3 weeks.

 

The reason for the excluder is that the queenless hive will contain bees unfriendly to the good queen in the bottom hive. The excluder is so that when the bees start chewing out the paper, the queen cannot accidentally wander up into a bunch of unfriendly bees. The reason to leave undisturbed 3 weeks is twofold. If the queenless hive has laying workers it can take several weeks in the presence of brood for them to revert to normal workers so we leave the hive undisturbed to prevent any bees deciding to kill the queen. Or, the queenless hive may in fact have some kind of unmated queen and if it comes to a fight, virgin beats mated queen every time. Having an excluder between for 3 weeks prevents a fatal encounter for enough time for the bees to figure there is a good queen in the hive and they get rid of the other one themselves.

 

After 3 weeks remove the excluder and rearrange the hive any way you want.

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If you really want to get rid of that hive then here is a short cut.

 

In a nice morning make sure the hive has at least some honey. If not then add one frame of honey from another hive. Scratch the comb if capped to open the cells.

 

An hours later and preferably before midday.

1.open the hive and puff a lot of smoke on the bees then close it for a minute(IMPORTANT - the bees will fill up their mouth with honey ready to leave their burning home)

2.set up a large piece of cardboard at the other end of your property(ideally will be 50-100m from your hive but......go with what you have)

3.go back to the hive and open it and give a bit more smoke and close it(IMPORTANT - the bees will fill up their mouth with honey ready to leave their burning home).

4.take the hive to the cardboard.

5.DO NOT PUT ANYTHING WHERE THE HIVE WAS! (IMPORTANT - leave that space empty)

6.open the hive and shake the bees on the cardboard from the frames and the inside of the box and from the mat and bottomboard. You can use the gear to the other hive/s.

 

IF:

-the hive had a good queen then the bees will stick with her in a cluster like a swarm on the cardboard. In this case you can collect the "swarm" and put it in a hive.

-the hive had a bad queen - i.e. ready to become a drone layer - the bees will not stick with her and will try to return to the hive. Because there is no hive where they expect it they will beg for a shelter at the other hive/s. The healthy bees with honey in their mouth will be accepted ONLY(i.e. some bees have developed their ovaries ready to become layer worker will not be accepted in any hive).

-the hive had no queen and/or had ready to lay workers the bees will return to the original location and because there is no longer any hive they will beg for a shelter at the other hive/s ..... bla bla bla

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