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How to combine colonies using newspaper

Beekeepers often want to combine two colonies, usually because one is weak or queenless. Because each colony has its own unique odor, combining colonies without an “introductory period” can cause fighting among the workers. Worse, the queen could be killed in the fray.

If the two colonies have a layer of newspaper between them, the bees must first tear through the paper before they interact. This process takes a while, but as soon as the paper gets holes in it, the colony odors begin to mix. By the time the bees can pass through the paper, the odors are substantially combined and fighting is avoided.

This method works surprisingly well and I have even used it in the dead of winter to save a queenless colony. Here are some simple guidelines:

  • You should have only one queen. Keep the strongest queen and destroy the other. There is no point in letting them “fight it out” because you could end up losing both.

Note: Instead of killing a queen, you can keep her in a queen cage with some candy and a dozen nurse bees. If for some reason the colony combination goes awry and the queen is killed, you can introduce the remaining queen.

  • Lay a sheet or two of newspaper over the top brood box of the bottom colony. One sheet is enough, although I frequently use two, just to slow the process a little.

Note: The bees don’t care whether you use sports, world news, op-eds, or classified. What they don’t like is columns that end with “continued on A6” when there is no A6.

  • You can let the paper hang over the edge—or not. In wet areas, the paper may wick some rainwater into the hive although it’s usually not much since newspaper disintegrates quickly.
  • Some folks make two or three slits in the newspaper with a blade or sharp knife to get the bees started. Other folks don’t bother with slits.

Note: Making slits is one of many practices that beekeepers spend hours arguing over while the bees just go about their business. Beekeepers really care about slits and bees really do not, so just do what makes you happy.

  • Place the second colony on top of the newspaper. The bees should be happily combined in a few days—the larger the colonies the quicker it happens.You can remove the remaining paper if you want, or the bees will remove it by themselves.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite.com

Comments

George
Reply

What recommendations do you have of getting all of the bees out of the hive body you put on top of the hive you’re combining into? Will they mostly leave on their own? Should I use a fume board, etc?

Rusty
Reply

George,

Once the evenings get cold and the bees start to cluster, they will all come together. Also, if there is room, move all the combs with honey and pollen into the lower box and remove any that aren’t full from the bottom box. Basically, the bees will move themselves.

Anna
Reply

To help introduce some queenless bees to a queenright hive, I used the newspaper method but I also added about two drops of lemongrass oil to make the entire hive smell the same. I have no idea as to whether it made a difference or not (versus newspaper alone), but there were no issues. The bees I added were pretty mad so I wanted to placate everyone as much as I could.

Jeff
Reply

I have a weak nuc going into winter. I am contemplating about adding a couple frames of bees to the colony using the newspaper trick and then reduce them back down to a 10 frame box using a bee escape board. Then overwinter them on top of a strong colony to provide warmth over the winter. There are 9 frames of drawn/capped comb brood available.

Do you think this might work Rusty? I am wondernig if I should cut my losses and have 6 strong colonies or should I push for that nuc to survive? If I do not overwinter the nuc then I have some capped frames of honey for the spring to get queen rearing off to a start. Personal openion is greatly appreciated.

What to do….

Rusty
Reply

Okay, Jeff, you asked for personal opinion. If it were me I would probably try to bring that nuc through the winter. Your plan is sound and you have a chance of succeeding. On the other hand, common sense tells me to go for the second, more conservative plan, and cut your losses.

At heart, I’m an experimenter and I’ve learned a lot by trying things that shouldn’t work. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t. I find that these little projects take a lot of time and mental effort, but I enjoy the challenge. If I succeed I learn. If I fail I learn. So, in the long run, what appears to be a loss is just an education. And education is never free.

Jeff
Reply

Being a chemist and an engineer I like to experiment. Bringing a nuc through the the winter offers a lot of advantages here on the Island, especially in light of the short season. I’m looking at overwintering the nuc on top of another 20 frame standard colony with a really tight stainless steel mesh. So I think when I go home this evening I will move two frames from a really strong hive on top of the nuc and preform the newspaper trick. Then on Sunday I will remove the newspaper. The question is should I leave the nuc in a standard deep box or reduce down to 5 frame before winter. The 10 deep has most of the frames drawn out with honey and some brood so there would be ample food.

If it fails the strong colonies can clean up those frames in the spring.

Thanks Rusty

Rusty
Reply

I would leave it in the 10-frame.

Jeff
Reply

I checked today, it was 21°C. There was 4 frames covered pretty good with bees. So I placed a sheet of newspaper with two frames of bees from another colony. I know the two frames added above the 10 frames are queenless as I found the queen and placed her back in the box from the original hive on the frame next to where these frames came from. So by Sunday those bees should be acclimatized. Also there was a small amount of capped brood on one of the two frames to keep the nurse bees where they need to be.

So Sunday I will check to see if they have merged and reduce everything back to one box. Later in the fall after I feed the nuc up good I will place that on top of the 20 frame box using the duel-sided screened inner cover I made up. I’m hoping the heat from the bottom bees will support those top bees.

Also at what point will bees stop drawing comb, assuming carbohydrates are still available? is it temperature dependent or is it season dependent? I know there are still some bees to emerge yet.

My colonies did well. I had one colony from last year. Two splits plus original from last year and two nucs. Then last year’s colony swarmed and I caught it. Then the virgin left and the swarm didn’t make it. So I didn’t get a new mated queen until 10 days ago so the other colonies were supporting the queenless and nuc for a while until new queens arrived. So at the end of the season each colony has 19 frames drawn plus 10 in the nuc at present. That is why I’m asking if I feed some more is there any chance they will draw the last frame for each box.

Thanks Rusty. You are helping me a lot.

Also I pulled 11 frames of capped honey from the swarm, with another 8 frames partially drawn or open from last year’s queen that swarmed. So I still have that left on and am feeding sugar syrup so I can add that to the 10 frame box if I want. Many options. Many options.

Rusty
Reply

I’ve been told that drawing of combs is related to availability of nectar and day length. I’m sure temperature is a factor as well. Heavy syrup resembles honey more than it resembles nectar. So feeding in the spring induces comb building more than feeding in the fall because the formulations are different.

I suspect you may have some comb building in the next few weeks but not much. I doubt they will draw out a whole frame. Be sure to let me know because now I’m curious.

Jeff
Reply

Update. I pulled off the top hive feeder today to install a bee escape. In the partially drawn honey super where two frames were removed and a void space present there was drawn comb roughly 3″ by 5″ attached to the brood frames below. That was over the last 3.5 days. So as you mentioned, as along as nectar is available they will draw comb. Current daytime temperature is in the high 60’s to low 70’s cooling to high 40’s to low 50’s at night.

I plan to move the top hive feeder to a colony I removed two frames from in hope they will draw a little more comb and fill a bit of it up. I know a colony can get by the winter here with 18 frames as I discovered last year as there were only 17 frames drawn on the colony last year and not a lot of stores. The honey board was needed last year but I do not think this will be an issue this year. I only took those frames for the nuc.

Once again thanks for the feedback Rusty. It’s greatly appreciated.

Jeremy
Reply

I captured a small swarm earlier today. Should I combine it with another hive that contains a swarm capture from a few weeks ago or should I insert it into a new hive?

Rusty
Reply

Jeremy,

You can do either. But if you decide to combine them, make sure to remove one of the queens. If you put the two queens together they could possibly kill each other so you may end up with no queen. Also, combine slowly, using newspaper works well.

Jeremy
Reply

Can I keep the captured swarm in a nuc box for a few days? If so, how long?

Rusty
Reply

You can keep a captured swarm in a nuc box for weeks. But once it fills up the box, it will want to swarm again.

Sarah
Reply

Many questions . . .

I hoped my bees would raise a new queen from a frame of brood I gave them. It appears they have not but I haven’t looked closely yet. My second is doing great so I wish to combine them.

My strong hive has 2 supers on the 2 hive bodies. Must the weak hive’s hive body be set on the strong hive’s hive body? Or can I set it on top of the supers? If I cannot set it atop the supers, What do I do with the supers full of bees and honey? My ventilated inner cover provides a top entrance, should that be closed up when they are combining? Is there a certain time of day/year when they should be combined?

Rusty
Reply

Sarah,

You want to unite the two brood chambers, so I would not put the honey supers between them. I would remove the two supers, place a piece of newspaper over the strong hive body (with or without a slit, it doesn’t matter), then place the weak hive body on top of the newspaper.

The problem, as you pointed out, is now you have two supers filled with bees. What I would do is remove the bees from the supers before I combined. I would remove the bees by using an escape board (or any other escape device, such as a porter) or by blowing them out or fuming them out. Then I would place the bee-less supers on top of the weak hive body (which is on top of the newspaper which is on top of the strong hive body) and close the upper entrance for two or three days until the hives have combined.

After the two or three days you can re-open the upper entrance. You do not have to do anything with the newspaper; the bees will remove it. You can combine anytime. Now, with many of the bees out foraging, is a good time. By the way, don’t worry about the weak hive not being able to get out . . . the newspaper barrier won’t last very long.

Sarah
Reply

Right now the weak hive is in two supers, should I reduce them to one? Thanks for answering so soon.

Sarah
Reply

I meant to say they are in two deeps, not supers.

Rusty
Reply

Sarah,

Combine them into one if it’s convenient. Otherwise, put both on. If’s it’s as weak as you say, you should be able to reduce it to one box fairly easily.

Phillip
Reply

When combining two hives, should there be only once entrance, or is it okay to have two entrances, one for each hive?

Rusty
Reply

You can do it either way, but why not get them accustomed to the main entrance right from the start?

Hersteinn
Reply

Is there no danger of suffocation with the newspaper method with one entrance?

Rusty
Reply

They will break through the newspaper in a matter of minutes.

Gus
Reply

Rusty,
Should the top hive have a entrance for it?

Gus
Reply

Sorry, after commenting I noticed you answered this question already.

doug and sandra
Reply

Hello Rusty
We have a queenless hive that is raising drones in spotty patterns in the brood areas. They have good stores, and we would like to combine it with another hive. We would like your opinion on the risks to the receiving hive. It is in a single deep, and is building up quickly at the moment. Will the laying workers cause a problem? Should we close it up after dark to catch the foragers before adding it on top of the receiving hive? We are in the coastal area of San Diego and things are picking up quickly here with this warm weather. Lots of things putting out nectar right now.
Thanks
Doug&Sandra

Rusty
Reply

I would play it safe and put a piece of screen between the two hives until the laying worker hive gets used to the queen’s pheromones. Hardware cloth or just a piece of window screen will allow the queen’s scent to pass through and yet keep them all separate. I would leave it like that for about three days before you remove the screen. By then, open brood pheromone plus queen pheromone should shut down the laying workers. After three days replace the screen with newspaper.

Laying workers will often kill an introduced queen, but I think combining the hives will work okay as long as the queen-right hive is strong.

Closing up the foragers after dark is a good idea. Just keep that whole hive locked up and above the screen for the three days. It won’t hurt the foragers to keep them in for awhile.

Rusty

Sean
Reply

We use another method with newspaper to introduce single frames of brood and bees by making a paper envelope, pop the frame and bees in the envelope, and put it in hive.

Rusty
Reply

Sean,

That is so cool! I’ve never heard of that, ever, but it makes so much sense. Are you going to send me a photo? Yes?

Rusty
Reply

Sean,

That is so cool! I’ve never heard of that, ever, but it makes so much sense. Are you going to send me a photo? Yes?

Steve
Reply

I wanted to report success of combining a laying worker hive with three frames of bees, brood, honey, pollen and a queen from a nuc hive using the newspaper method. First I shook ALL the bees from the laying worker hive a solid couple hundred yards away then waited five days. After the five days I did the newspaper combine. I did however place the laying worker hive on the bottom for the combine. Previously I had tried twice to requeen. The first time just using a normal queen cage. The second time using a much larger queen cage about the size of a shallow honey super frame.

I figured if you are going to introduce a queen to a crazed group of bees she should bring a dowry and backup.

Rusty
Reply

Steve,

Why did you wait five days? I missed that part.

Beverly
Reply

After reading all the posts about combining a weak with a strong hive, I took the plunge and did the newspaper method. Now I have a question. Everyone talks about what’s going on while the hives are combining, but what happens afterwards? The bottom hive has not completely filled all 10 frames and the weak hive only had 4 frames of bees. Will the weak bees desert the upper box and live in the lower box or will some of the lower bees come up, along with the queen, and start filling more of the frames in the upper box?

Rusty
Reply

Beverly,

After combining they behave as one colony, not two. So the collective decision will guide what they do next.

Jimmy
Reply

Is it possible to put a weak hive body on a strong hive body, separated by newspaper, then another layer of newspaper and the strong hives honey supers on top of that? Then in a week or so, take the weak hive body out?

Rusty
Reply

Jimmy,

I’ve read this several times and I’m not sure what you are trying to do. If you are just wanting to unite two colonies, you can leave the honey super off for the duration and then return it once the combination is complete.

CJ
Reply

Hi. I am new to beekeeping. Just got my first pkgs of bees last week from BeeMaid. The first tube was 100% textbook. The second was a nightmare right from the instant I opened the tube. First of all. The second colony was extremely hostile. Even though they were handled exactly the same as the first, there was at least 100 bees stuck to my suit. Second. The darn cork was countersunk into the cage. I could not pull it or dig it out. It just crumbled. Eventually I had to very carefully push the remainder through. Then. The bees didn’t attempt to clean the candy putty out at all. So I removed most of it. Gave them a day to clean the last of it out and she was still in there. But listless. I removed the staples. Dumped her into the brood box and it looked like two workers were stinging her. The Queen is dead. What the heck do I do? Afraid to add the Psycho NZ Carniolan colony to the normal one.

Rusty
Reply

CJ,

That’s quite a story. I’m trying to put this together, but I assume you’re in Canada and got the psycho carniolan from New Zealand through your local supplier. Yes?

It’s not unusual to get different personalities (melliferalities) in different packages. That’s normal. Why one was so huffy is hard to say; maybe the bees had a rough trip. Countersunk and crumbling corks are also irritatingly normal, as are bees who don’t read the manual. I don’t want you to think you did anything wrong, that’s just the way it is in this business.

You’ve probably already done something, but I would have added the psycho bees to the other package. Having a queen will straighten up their behavior.

CJ
Reply

Yes I am in Canada. The supplier is a huge reputable company (BeeMaid) and they did give us another queen immediately. I never bought bees before so I didn’t know how the supplier would react. By Mid-day Monday the hostile hive was roaring. Within 10-30 minutes of adding a new queen cage equipped with nurse bees, the hive calmed down and was quiet. The strange thing is there was still a piece of candy in the hive from the first queen cage. And the bees rolled it out and dumped it off the edge of the front entrance. I actually got a photo of it. They really did not like that queen. So she was injured. Or sick. Whatever the case there was no second queen to be found on the frames. Now they are behaving like normal bees. Although the new queen is probably not free yet. That was a learning experience for sure.

Rusty
Reply

CJ,

Remember that sound. That roaring is a typical queenless-colony sound, so if you hear it again you will know. Usually bee suppliers order extra queens because, inevitably, some don’t make it. I’m glad it worked out okay for you. Very interesting about the first queen and the queen candy. I wonder what was up with her.

Chad
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Just wanted to thank you for all the information and time you spend educating the public on there bee situation…Indiana Beekeeper.

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Chad!

Jon
Reply

Hello Rusty,

I’ve got a very basic question for you. One of the colonies must be moved off of it’s original hive stand in order to unite the two hives. How is it possible that bees from that colony don’t end up going back to their original location (where there is now no hive)?

Kind regards,

Jon

Rusty
Reply

Jon,

Some of them will. You can minimize it by locking them up for a couple days, although after they are combined, life is different enough that they will most likely reorient on their own.

Sarah P
Reply

I have just put the weaker super on top of the stronger supers, with the newspaper in between, and have put the quilt on top of the weaker super. It has its ventilation hole blocked up because I don’t want wasps to get in or the bees to get out yet. Is there sufficient ventilation for them for the time the newspaper gets eaten?

Rusty
Reply

Sarah,

I’ll assume you’re talking about brood boxes here. They will break through the newspaper in a matter of hours, but if you think they need ventilation, you can put screen across the ventilation holes.

Sarah P
Reply

After two days all the bees have eaten through and are getting along fine. Thanks for the help. This blog is really useful.

Mimi
Reply

Hi. This weekend I will be combining a queenless hive with abother hive. The queenless brood box is full of honey. Should I extract the honey before moving the hives together?

Rusty
Reply

Mimi,

Just make sure you leave enough for the combined hive to overwinter, and then you can extract the rest. Or you can put it all on the combined hive. It’s hard for a colony to have too much honey.

Brynn
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I just got advice from a local honey producer that it is best to put the weak, queenless hive on the bottom. Then stack the queened hive body on top. That this is more successful than putting the queenless hive on top.

Any observation of which is most successful?

Thanks,

B

Rusty
Reply

Brynn,

Interesting question and I don’t know the answer. I always put the weak hive on top because it is nearly always lighter and easier to lift…not a very scientific answer, eh?

Kathy
Reply

Rusty thanks for all your info! It’s a big help. I have a weak hive and 2 strong hives. Have been thinking to divide the weak hive and add half to each strong hive. There is a full super of honey on the weak hive. Should I create supers mixed half brood, half honey and add those to the top of the strong hive brood?

And if I have a deep with 2 mediums of honey, should I reduce to a deep and one super of honey so there is not too much space for the hive to keep warm during the winter? Any advise is welcome!

Rusty
Reply

Kathy,

I would move things around to keep all the brood together and then put the honey to either side of the nest and above. I wouldn’t split the brood between two boxes because it’s too hard to keep warm.

That said, honey bees make no attempt to keep their honey stores warm, nor do they attempt to keep the space inside the hive warm. The only thing they try to keep warm is the cluster. This is fundamental to understanding how a beehive works in winter. Read Physics for beekeepers: temperature in the hive and How do honey bees keep their hive warm?

Lockie
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I am a new beekeeper with a couple of friends in Victoria, Australia. We love this site and think we have read it twice through… Which has possibly confused us even more!

We have 3 colonies all captured from wild hives in walls and roofs. 2 are going strong but 1 is weak (it was a small hive from the start) and now queenless. We witnessed the queen being brought out of the hive a few days after moving the colony into our hive. There was a lot of commotion. And we were devastated because we have not been able to find a queen yet in any of our hives and then the first time we do she is dead! 🙁 Maybe we hurt her in the move?

We did a hive inspection and found a small amount of eggs so left it for a day hoping to see new queen cells being made. This was not the case. Not sure if it takes longer but the hive is not looking well. So we then took a good brood frame (eggs, larvae and capped brood) from a strong hive and added it to the weak hive. But we left all the bees on it… Now I am worried that they may fight but it didn’t look like it when we put the frame in. We are hoping this frame and additional bees will help make a new queen as stated in “Queenless or Clueless”.

Or should we just have combined the hives with newspaper? We are confused and don’t want to kill our bees! If we do combine the hives with newspaper how do you stop the bees flying out of the weak hive when you take it from its current location and place it on the strong hive?

If you have made it this far thank you and we hope to hear from you soon!

Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Lockie,

It sounds to me like you are doing just fine. When I move a frame of brood from one hive to weaker one, I like to leave all the nurses in place because there may not be enough nurses in the weak one. The honey bees usually don’t fight when you drop in a frame. They tend to fight at the entrance, but once inside, they are most often accepted. It seems once they are “allowed” in, they have passed the test. You don’t want to just drop in a frame that contains a queen, but that is a very different situation.

Given that the queen is gone, and they colony now has uncapped brood, it should be able to raise a queen. If you see nothing, you can add another frame in a day or two. Look for one with mostly eggs because that provides the best chance of the honey bees finding one that just hatched.

Combining is always an option, but I would have probably done what you did. Once the the weak hive eats through the newspaper and mingles with the bees below, they will most likely reorient. You may lose some to the original location, but it won’t be a huge amount. Short of locking up the hive for a few days, it is hard to get them all and probably not worth it because you want to keep the strong hive foraging.

Lockie
Reply

Rusty,

Thank you for writing back so quickly and making us feel more comfortable with our decisions. We will check tomorrow and see what they are getting up to. Thought we would leave them alone today to do what bees do! (Hopefully making a queen) I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks again.

Marina Miller
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I have an overwintered hive that is weak. I will be getting new package bees soon. Can I combine the weak hive and a new package (minus queen) using the newspaper method?

Thanks

Rusty
Reply

Marina,

Yes.

Drew
Reply

Howdy Rusty. I know this is an older column but I recently had a swarm from my month and a half old nuc colony (pretty stressful for first year bee keeper.) The swarm bees and old queen left plenty of busy workers, sealed brood and a few swarm cells and even a supercedure cell in the original 10 frame deep brood box. ANyway, i didnt get to capture the swarm but if i did i was wondering if it would have been possible to combine them back with the original colony by placing a sheet of newspaper on top of the brood box, then placing another 10 frame deep box on top of that and then dumping the swarm bees and original queen into that? Would this cause chaos? Would the newspaper even be necessary? What would happen to the queens inside the swarm and supercedure cells?
much appreciation, Drew

Rusty
Reply

Drew,

Yes, you can recombine a swarm from the hive it just left. Once they swarm, they urge to swarm dissipates. I would use newspaper, although I don’t know if it’s necessary. The queens would fight and with any luck, one would survive.

Gavin
Reply

Hello Rusty,

When combining two hives using the newspaper method in the same apairy, will the forager bees that have moved to the strong colony not return to the position of the old hive or do they re-orientate to the new hive?

Rusty
Reply

Gavin,

A lot depends on how long before they break through the newspaper. The longer it takes, the fewer that will go back to the original location. As more time passes, they have more of a need to re-orient.

Kyle P
Reply

Hi Rusty, I performed an artificial swarm on my hive about 2 weeks ago. It was a method that doesn’t require finding the queen. However, I don’t think it went according to plan, and now I suspect that 1 hive failed to raise a new queen and is now queenless. I found recently vacated queen cells in the other hive. The bottom line is that I don’t have any eggs to give them to raise a new queen, and the flow will end in less than a month in my area. I want to recombine them to make the most of the flow. Is this a good idea? Should I still use the newspaper method since they are all sisters that have been separated for only 2 weeks?

Rusty
Reply

Kyle,

Yes, it would be good to recombine, but you should use newspaper if they’ve been separated for more than a few hours.

Sue
Reply

I plan on adding a one-box weak hive to a strong hive using this method. All my strong hives are double brood boxes. What do I do with the three box configuration in the spring when its time to rotate the brood boxes (bottom to top)? Thanks for your help and thanks for the great site.

Rusty
Reply

Sue,

By spring the lower box, maybe two, will be empty. So just remove them. Or if some have brood, just put all the brood frames from two or three boxes into one or two.

Kath
Reply

I recently and successfully combined a small queenright hive with a hive that had no queen following an artificial swarm (using newspaper and a queen excluder). I now have brood and eggs below and above the queen excluder. The hive is very busy and thriving but I’m not sure if I have 2 queens. I’m wondering if the queenless hive may have had a recently mated virgin who is now laying or if the queen has squeezed through the excluder. What is the best thing to do?

Rusty
Reply

Kath,

It sounds to me like you have two queens. I don’t know how long you waited before deciding the artificial swarm was queenless, but it can take quite a while for a virgin to mature, mate, and go through post-mating maturation before beginning to lay. It can easily take several weeks.

Of course, it is possible that the queen squeezed through the excluder, but I think it unlikely, especially if she still has room for eggs in the lower brood chamber.

If it were me, I would separate the two chambers and set them up as separate hives. Alternatively, you could replace the excluder with a double screen board (Snelgrove board) and run a double-queen hive through the winter. The lower colony will help keep the newer colony warm.

Kath
Reply

I was thinking I had 2 queens. I had waited just over a month before deciding the artificial swarm was queenless, the other two hives I’d split at the same time had laying queens so that also prompted my decision. I’m going to put in a snelgrove board which should then make the situation a little bit more clear.

Thanks very much for your help and advice

Kath

Rusty
Reply

Kath,

Wow. A month is a long time, but not unheard of. I agree that the snelgrove board is the best decision. It’s actually very cool that you’ve got that extra queen. I’m glad you were cautious!

Liz
Reply

Rusty, Thank you for all your time! We have three hives total, and two are queenless. One queenless is in one box, the other in two boxes (but with several empty frames). The two-box hive has laying workers. Our plan is: To use the newspaper method and place the one-box hive on top today. Then next weekend, after those two hives have combined, shake the laying worker hivebees into the (now single) strong hive. Does that make sense to you?

Rusty
Reply

Hi Liz,

Have you read my post “How to fix a laying worker hive?” The first part of your plan is good, a newspaper combine on the hive without laying workers should work. But before you combine I would take a frame of open brood from the queen-right hive and put it in your laying worker hive. You can probably get all the bees into one box and add the brood frame. Then in about a week, add more open brood. Once the egg-laying stops you can combine the hives. I would be really careful about shaking the laying workers into your strong hive before their ovaries are suppressed, or they will kill your one remaining queen. The post above explains how this all works. Let me know how it goes.

Liz
Reply

Hi Rusty, Yes, I read that. I tried that — admittedly with just one frame of brood, though; I never added another — and the laying workers are still there. I don’t think I want to weaken the one hive I have left, so maybe I will just let this hive die on its own, and then harvest the honey?

Rusty
Reply

Liz,

Just be sure to protect the honey from robbers until you can harvest it. It can disappear really fast.

Liz

Thank you!

sarah Hayes
Reply

I am freaking out, I checked my weak hive and there was a laying worker …. I think! Ive checked and checked for queen and normal brood, couldn’t see any, I’ve merged with paper my weaker colony. Now I have done it, I am sooo worried that I’ve done the wrong thing and I have a queen in the weak colony! What is going to happen? Are all my bees going to die? I have a queen excluder between the two brood boxes as I didn’t want the queen moving up and laying in it. Thought it would be easier to clean frames at later date. But if there is a queen in both colonies neither of them are going to be able to kill each other and there is just going to be mass murder …. ?? Oh this beekeeping is a worry.

Rusty
Reply

Sarah,

You can stop freaking out. Many of us run double queen hives on purpose (two queens separated by excluders but having shared honey supers). There is no mass murder, just lots of honey. In any case, you already combined so there is nothing to fret about. Your bees will sort it out.

Nancy
Reply

I am a new beekeeper this year. I started with one hive, which swarmed twice and I caught only one of the swarms. I have two weak hives, which I combined using the newspaper method a few days ago. My issue is that both of my hives have been robbed so we don’t have much honey. I think the robbing is still going on, so we made robbing screens, which we transferred to the newly combined hive. I live in New England and I’m concerned about not having enough honey to survive the winter. Is there anything I can do to help the bees along? I do feed them sugar water constantly since they were robbed.

Rusty
Reply

Nancy,

You may get a fall nectar flow where you are, which could help a lot. In the meantime, just keep feeding them a heavy syrup and keep the robbing screen in place.

Nancy
Reply

My hive was robbed, leaving no honey and no queen. There is no brood or eggs in the hive. The honey bee count is down. If I feed them sugar water, the robbing bees return. It is now the beginning of September and I don’t know what to do. They have no honey to go through the winter. Is it too late to introduce a new queen? This happened two weeks ago and I go into the hive, hoping to find eggs but there has been none. I can use some advice.

Rusty
Reply

Nancy,

You can introduce a queen, but unless you get the robbing under control the situation won’t improve.

Nancy
Reply

My hive keeps getting robbed. I combined my weak hive with my stronger hive but the hive was robbed again and when I inspected the hive, there was no honey left, no brood, no larvae, no eggs and I suspect the queen is gone. I’ve waited a couple of weeks but no eggs or sign of the queen. Every time I leave sugar water, there is a frenzy outside the hive. I leave the sugar water at night but by morning, there are bees trying to get into the hive from all angles. I left my robbing screen in place but it doesn’t seem to deter the robbing bees. I need some advice as to what I should do. Should I move the hive? Is it too late to introduce a queen? Should I stop feeding the bees? Thank you for any advice you could give me.

Rusty
Reply

Nancy,

Before anything else, you’ve got to get the robbing under control. You might want to introduce a new queen, lock up the bees, move the hive into a shed or garage, and then feed like crazy. When the weather gets cold you can take them back outside.

Ed
Reply

I vacuumed a hive of bees a week ago and I don’t think the queen survived. I would like to combine this hive with a late swarm I caught but the hives are about 10 feet apart. What should I do that the field bees don’t return to the old hive site.

Rusty
Reply

Ed,

Lock the bees inside for about three days. When they are released, most will re-orient to the new location. Also see “How to move a hive.”

evelyn
Reply

Hello Rusty…

So I asked about my hive getting robbed… most of the bees were killed by wasps and other bee robbers, so I closed up all the entrances and placed a piece of garden burlap over the front. I have less than one frame of bees and a queen. I am wanting to take some bees from my other hive to increase the number in the now weak hive. I put the remaining bees in a shallow super with frames of honey they had drawn over the summer. If I get bees from the other hive on frames and move them over would they go down through the newspaper or could I use a piece of screen to separate the two groups? I am worried and do not want to move the lower super since they have been through so much. Also will the newly introduced bees start protecting the new hive? Do I need to keep the hive closed like you’ve mentioned in previous to keep them from going back to the other hive? Since the wasps destroyed the hive will the queen start laying eggs again even though it is coming into fall?

Thank you for all of your information.

Rusty
Reply

Evelyn,

Equalizing colonies is not like combining them. Just find a frame of brood you want to move, shake most of the adult bees off of it, and move the frame to the weak hive. You don’t not need newspaper and you do not need to close anything up. Just add the frame of brood (making sure it doesn’t contain the queen). The bees in the weak hive will start taking care of the brood. When some of the brood hatches so you have more nurse bees, you can add a second frame in the same way. You don’t want to add two at once because there may not be enough nurse bees to care for it all.

The queen will probably lay some eggs, but not a whole lot all at once. Just do this slowly, step-by-step, to try to gain some colony strength before winter.

nathan
Reply

Hi

I am new to beekeeping and have a few questions. I caught my first swarm 3 and a half weeks ago and to cut a long story short I have laying workers (i know this because the population is reducing, there is three plus eggs per cell, sometimes three larvae per cell, and i have had two experianced beekeepers try to help me find the queen and we can find it). I spotted the first eggs 10 days ago now.
I caught a second swarm yesterday which is just getting settled into to its new home and i am yet to open it up and look for the queen.

I am after a bit of advise as to how to proceed. A few people have told me to shake out the first swarm with the laying workers and start again with the new swarm as combining them this late will be difficult. Others have said to paper them together but i have heard i then risk them killing the queen in the new swarm. It should be noted that the new swarm is bigger and stronger than the hive with the laying workers. Another note is that I have very limited access to frames of brood from a queen-right hive and my new swarm wont start laying for awhile yet.

I would really like to save the first swarm i caught and combine the two if possible.
Remembering that I am a novice to this game what would you suggest I do?

Thanks for all your help

Rusty
Reply

Nathan,

In my opinion, a laying worker hive is generally not worth the hassle.

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