how to proceed?
early fall did a paper combine, ended up leaving the topo box on for a total of three deeps, placed candy on top frames in late october, checked last week they just about finished it and good amount of bees in the top. went out today...i know its in the upper twenties, cracked the top to place more candy in, the bees were quite active despite the temps, tried shooing them away so i could place candy, couldnt so ended up kind of setting on top of the pile of bees...within seconds they were all over the candy so i closed up shop and walked away....question is does this sound normal...and in the spring hows the best way to split it back down? the hive next door ate the early candy and are in the bottom deep still
Re: how to proceed?
Bees in the top box, this early in the season, is never a good sign. The likelihood of them starving to death is high. Even if brood rearing started tomorrow, which the weatherman says it won't, they'd consume all their honey trying to produce brood.
Your emergency feeding will help. Hopefully, you'll be able to sustain them until the weather breaks and you can get some feed on them. Remember though, if you put syrup on them, they'll need ventilation to get rid of the feed's extra water.
Let's say, optimistically, they survive and the queen starts putting up brood. I would set two boxes, with the queen, on their own hive stand. On the other, I'd make a queenless single deep hive. In both, I'd divide the brood (both open and sealed) evenly. This would mean that your queenless single will have a LOT of brood in it, percentage-wise, which is what you'll need to sustain that hive until they can make their own queen. The other hive, the double, will need more empty comb so the queen can lay into. Lots of brood there would only encourage swarming. Give her room.
In about 3 weeks time, the queenless single should have a queen produced, mated and laying eggs. 12 more days and you should see sealed worker brood cells. To save time, I'd encourage you to look for EGGS. If you don't see any, swap in more unsealed brood frames from the other hive. They'll make one.
Or just order a queen.
Hope that helps,