I recently picked up a very small afterswarm (grapefruit sized), and at the same time discovered that my main hive lost its queen after swarming (I saw her about a month ago, with evidence of recent swarming, and now there is no brood, and no queen. There's some evidence of laying workers, but not much).
I would like to combine the swarm with the queenless colony, which makes the most sense in my situation right now rather than trying to re-queen the big colony, and trying to limp the little one along into some kind of decent growth.
In the past I have combined colonies but I don't remember exactly how I did it.
What I'm planning on doing is building a box that sits in between some of the top bars in my queenless hive, with no bottom, and stretching newspaper between the two boxes to separate them temporarily, with some razor slits but in the newspaper to help them start chewing it apart. I remember that much of the procedure.
The main question I have is, do I let both colonies have entrances until they have combined, so they can get in and out and get water? Or, do I shut one of them in by closing off their entrance? Leaving them open seems to make the most sense to me.
The other question is about dealing with laying workers by combining colonies. I assume that the presence of the small colony's queen will shut down the laying workers, without me having to do the painful process of shaking out the queenless hive a few feet away from their current location (I've read advice to that effect, but have never done that).
I've had fairly poor luck dealing with laying workers, and I understand that's generally a difficult thing for most people. I don't want to try to just give them a queen, as that's where my problem has always come in. Since I don't normally re-queen in the course of ordinary business, I don't have a good sense of queen introduction techniques, and I've lost something like 6 out of the 7 queens I"ve tried to introduce into queenless colonies in my beekeeping carreer.
On the other hand, I've had good success with combining colonies when I've had two weak colonies to deal with.
I assume that this is probably the best way to deal with laying workers? Also, in the past when I have had laying workers, there has been a lot of drone brood. Here, there's only one or two 1-inch patches of capped/nearly capped drone brood. The rest of the broodnest is almost completely filled in with nectar and honey and pollen (I guess I'm going to need to move those combs out of the way and add empties and the brood nest of the donor (smaller) colony, once a queen gets in there , if she's gonna have anywhere to lay eggs). It's been about a month, I think, since I checked the hive last (was out of town...). It makes me think that the laying has just started (what's the timeline on drone brood cappping?) or that there aren't very many of them laying, which I hope will make it easier to change their minds.
I'll be doing this operation tomorrow, so any advice on that would be appreciated.
[size="1"][ May 31, 2006, 10:40 PM: Message edited by: girl Mark ][/size]