Merging colonies

I’ve had a mixed bag for the case of combining. At one apiary I had a nasty black queen ruling a very stroppy hive that would have a go at people walking past; really not the best thing for a hive in a garden that was right next to a path. The short version of this story is:

  1. I merged them using the newspaper method, killing off the nasty queen
  2. After a week I removed the partition
  3. They fought, lots, and killed the nice calm queen
  4. They were even more stroppy once they were queenless, and two national brood boxes hold a lot of angry bees, especially when they are full of brood too.
  5. I tried to re-queen them, but was unsuccessful
  6. I attempted to requeen again, with a ‘thick’ plug of fondant this time
  7. I think it has worked, they have calmed down a bit and are bringing in lots of pollen; I’ll inspect one evening this week.
  8. So, after my abject failure with the newspaper method, I decided to change method, lots of flour and chuck them all in together. My next two merging’s went better. I wanted to combine in some nucs I had, prop up the numbers of one hive in the hope of it being productive this year, and support another hive that was low on numbers and had lost its queen (as mentioned above, cough).

One went extremely well, no fighting that I could tell, the queen survived and is laying like a trooper. That stack now has six impressive frames of brood in a 14 x 12 national brood box, a super that is being pulled out nicely, and a commercial brood box on the top, which has the remains of the nuc, 5 frames full of brood, being hatched (separated from the main brood by an excluder below the super). Now some will say that is an odd order of boxes, separating the brood with a super, usually brood should be kept together for warmth. My requirement was to empty out the commercial brood and take that away, the problem was that the bees were starting to store honey in the frames that I wanted to remove, and I really didn’t want to start trying to extract a commercial brood frame. Given this was all inside a WBC outer shell I wasn’t so concerned about heat issues of separating the brood, so I did it, and it seems to be working.

The other merge was less successful, in a way. The frames were commercial in the nuc and the hive I was trying to merge them with was a WBC with eight 14×12 frames; not only could I not put the frames in, but I could not put one brood box on top of the other. As a result I merged the bees and put the brood in another hive that was a bit short on brood. The result was a bit short on bees, but the queen in there is a really good layer so that should not be an issue for long.

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