To combine or not to combine, that is the question (well, one of them).
I'm a newbie. Green as green can be - I've read tons, watched a thousand how-to videos, but I'm still green. I do have two hives going ... but just barely. I need some advice.
Hive 1: a friend's bees swarmed, she captured the swarm, queen and all, and gave it to me. I installed it in early May. I fed them 1:1 sugar water and left them alone for a couple of weeks. When I inspected, they only had comb on one bar and it wasn't full. I pulled the bar out and I thought I was being careful but I was not careful enough - comb fell off. (I'm going foundationless. Well, actually, I'm going top-bar but bees are bees, right? So I don't think this is just a top-bar issue but I will post over there if you think I should.) The comb did have brood of all stages on it but it was very, very heavy with all the syrup they had stored and it was very, very soft. I tied it back on the bar, put it back in the hive, and hoped for the best. I checked them this past Saturday and they have built new comb, using the old comb (the part I tied on was almost completely gone). But I did not see brood. Their numbers are dwindling, of course. There was a small cluster inside, near the comb, and the comb was full of bees working, but I did not see brood in any stage. So I'm thinking they might be queenless. Maybe I killed her in my clumsiness during that first inspection . . .
Hive 2: (also top bar) - bees vacummed out of a basement wall. What a job!!! This was a couple of weekends ago. I'm guessing we got about a pound of bees, but we were also able to get some comb with brood of all stages on it. I didn't see any queen cells, and I know they may not make a queen, but I installed them anyway, hoping they would make themselves a queen. I checked them yesterday and they were busy working on the comb I had put in - they had enlarged it just a little and I didn't do a really close inspection because there were lots of bees on the comb, but I did see there is still some capped brood that still hasn't hatched.
I thought it might be helpful to combine these two little hives since I was pretty sure the first hive was queenless and the second hive still maybe has a slim chance of making a queen. But when I put the bar from hive 1 into hive 2, the hive 1 bar went crazy. They definitely roared. And they started flying out. So I immediately put them back into hive 1 and decided that maybe there was a queen inside that little cluster that's there near the comb.
Should I just leave the two hives be and see what happens? Maybe order a queen for hive 2?
Should I try to put the hive 2 bees in hive 1?
Should I try again to put hive 1 bees into hive 2 using a newspaper divider?
Should I go vacuum more bees from the basement to add to both hives? That would increase their numbers temporarily . . . and I can get more comb from the basement (and get stung 20 more times, but, oh well. :) )
Should I just give up for this year and start over next year?
Thanks for any thoughts. Sorry this is such a long post.
Re: To combine or not to combine, that is the question (well, one of them).
If you decide to combine you should use the newspaper method, described in detail on this site and others. Having a top bar hive may complicate this but I'm sure there is some way to make it happen. This allows the bees to get used to each other over a period of 1-2 days instead of all at once.
Any chance you could get a frame or two of eggs from a beekeeper friend? If you could each hive would have the chance to make a queen if they need to.