Combining for Honey Production
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    5,183

    Default Combining for Honey Production

    Several times this season I have come across a hive that either had a failing queen, had swarmed or had some other issue that left it too weak in my judgement. Too weak maybe to reliably protect the hive against SHB, robbers, or wax moths - but certainly too weak to produce a harvestable honey crop - even though they may have actually contained a good bit of honey at the time.

    In several of these instances I have done a paper combine with their next door neighbor, and now 3 weeks or so later all of the combined hives are looking like they will produce bumper crops. Also this has not seemed to make any of the combined hives more likely to swarm - maybe even less.

    My hives all sit on long hive stands that hold 5 or 6 hives - so if I had a choice I combined with the weaker of two adjoining healthy hives.

    For anyone who doesn't know or isn't clear, a "paper combine" is where you stack one hive on top of another with a sheet of paper (I use paper towels - which I keep on hand anyway) between them. The bees eat through the paper and kill one of the queens thus combining the two into one larger hive. When combining two hives that are next to each other on a hive stand I push the combined hive to a position about halfway between the two original hives so that the foragers don't miss a beat. always provide for some ventilation for the top section. In my experience it always seems that they stick with the better of the two queens.

    For me this is likely to be way less work than trying to find a queen, and since I make lots of increase hives every year - including this year - the loss of a queenright unit from my hive count doesn't bother me at all. Just one more of the many reasons to split out plenty of nucleus hives.

    In retrospect if I could go back a few weeks in this extremely swarmy season I would do this with all or most of the hives that I have which have swarmed - it's quick and easy and seems to have substantially increased my future (fingers crossed) honey crop. Lots of times when a hive swarms it's chock full of honey, but it won't produce an additional harvestable surplus. And in any event it's way better than letting a hive secumb to robbers or hive beetles.
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Glen Arm,MD
    Posts
    327

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    I was thinking of doing the same thing, although too late to do for a honey crop probably. I did combine 2 small weak hives, but one was queenless. With all the rain in the spring I wasn't able to get in and do what I needed to, so I had more swarms than I should have. I will make sure I don't make the same mistakes next year. This was a very swarmy season.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Bristol,RI
    Posts
    652

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    you could just take the smaller hives queen and make a nuc with 2-3 frames and use it to split the hive later on. Maybe since i only have a few hives queens aren't as easy to come by.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Richmond, VA, USA
    Posts
    343

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    Is it too late in the season to try a newspaper combine for increased honey production? I live in Richmond, VA.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    5,183

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    It's not too late to try it. How successful it is will depend on a lot of things. If you have a hive that doesn't look like it's going to make a honey crop you don't have much to lose.
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    5,604

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    Makes a lot of sense to me. Splits and new colonies can be made up toward the end of the flow, but the best honey crops come with a hive full of bees at the right time.
    To everything there is a season....

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Marshall county, AL
    Posts
    3,404

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    Makes a lot of sense to me.
    Yeah, me too. I have never combined two hives but I have sat by and watched 2 weak hives not make any honey. Two hives with no honey is really no better than not having either hive. I have been so focused on growing my numbers that I have not been conscious enough of the strength of a hive. It takes a weak hive a long time to overcome being weak, if it ever does.

    I don't mean to go off on a tangent but.....

    Hive strength is something that seems so simple, but apparently it was something that just passed me by. I have made my fair share of weak splits in the past 4 years. They would piddle along all summer, not amounting to much of anything. It finally dawned on me this year. Four strong splits is much better than 8 weak ones. Quality over quantity. It took me 4 years to figure it out. Splits, hives, whatever, there's no difference. Weak hives survive. Strong ones thrive.

    Makes so much sense, but took me so long to truly comprehend it.
    The more I learn about bees, the less I know.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Southeast Texas
    Posts
    1,792

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    Brad - another 5/10 years ya may get the hang of it - HAHAHA - just joking
    Now on a more serious note - this is why I don't split my bees until the first nectar flow is about 2 weeks in and the pollen is going strong - and I have also learned over the years - Winter in triples for nucs - all with honey stores - in the spring - set up like this the bees turn that honey into brood - then splitting is fast/EZ - take the whole box - nail on a new top/bottom - and let them raise a queen. 1 parent hive - 2 box nucs that really are booming.
    1st year these nucs make over 100 lbs. of honey by May. well enough to take some and overwinter. And your right 4 good strong hives beat 8 dinks

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    5,183

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Bee View Post
    Yeah, me too. I have never combined two hives but I have sat by and watched 2 weak hives not make any honey. Two hives with no honey is really no better than not having either hive. I have been so focused on growing my numbers that I have not been conscious enough of the strength of a hive. It takes a weak hive a long time to overcome being weak, if it ever does.

    I don't mean to go off on a tangent but.....

    Hive strength is something that seems so simple, but apparently it was something that just passed me by. I have made my fair share of weak splits in the past 4 years. They would piddle along all summer, not amounting to much of anything. It finally dawned on me this year. Four strong splits is much better than 8 weak ones. Quality over quantity. It took me 4 years to figure it out. Splits, hives, whatever, there's no difference. Weak hives survive. Strong ones thrive.

    Makes so much sense, but took me so long to truly comprehend it.
    Those little splits have their place too - spare queens, mating nucs, next spring's production hives, material for combining in September. Now that our nectar flow here is pretty much over for the year, any hives that aren't already busy curing and capping a honey crop are fair game to be used as resources for building up nucs and rearing queens. Hives that didn't make anything will be requeened with cells grafted from those that did.

    Having adequate numbers of hives to work with gives you management options that you just can't consider - or can't get yourself to consider - when your hive count is really low. Even if some of those hives are really small.
    Last edited by David LaFerney; 06-03-2016 at 10:02 AM.
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

  11. #10
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Vernon, AZ. USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    I would advise you to pinch the weaker colonie's queen before combining. You will have only temporary benifit If she can kill the more fertile queen. Also, you do not get a "war", with just 1 queen.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    5,183

    Default Re: Combining for Honey Production

    You don't get a war with 2 queens either when you do a paper combine - at least I never have. It's just anecdotal evidence based on what I have seen, but they seem to pretty much always keep the better of the two. I know drone layers never survive a paper combine.

    Deciding which queen is less desirable, finding her and pinching her (or moving her to a nuc) is a great idea if you are sure you know which is which and you have the ability and time to find her. By all means do that. But if the time and effort involved in that are not good options then you can execute a paper combine in about 5 minutes.
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

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