Time to combine?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Dutchess County, NY, USA
    Posts
    19

    Default Time to combine?

    3rd year beekeeper here.

    I went into last winter with 2 previously overwintered colonies (one via split) and 2 new ones. The older colonies made it through winter while the 2 new ones did not (despite one of them being very strong at season's end).

    One of my survivors swarmed in late June but has done very well since. Have had trouble spotting the queen but plenty of nice brood patterns, eggs,etc and they've grown nicely. (I know this is the one that swarmed as my wife got it on video). Shortly after I noticed the other colony was not queen right...declining population, only some drone brood, etc. On July 18 I added some brood frames from the stronger hive and on July 20 I introduced a new mated queen. A week later I could not find the queen or evidence of laying. Gave it more time and today it's clear she is not there. The population doesn't seem to be dropping off (yet - I'd call it about 50-60% full) and they are busy making comb and honey with a handful of drone cells present.

    All boxes are 8 frame. Stronger hive has 1 deep and 4 mediums (after taking 2 mediums off for some honey). Weaker hive has 1 deep and 3 mediums.

    I am thinking it's too late to try again with a new queen and I should combine the colonies. If so, wondering if I should wait until the population drops off a bit otherwise it seems I'll be creating too big a colony but the weak hive will be bringing honey stores with them.

    Any suggestions appreciated. Thanks.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
    Posts
    1,975

    Default Re: Time to combine?

    Hi Jim. Since nobody has chimed in, I will give you my opinion but I am also a 3rd year, so not a ton of experience. I do not think it is too late to introduce a new mated queen, tho time is running out. I would add a frame of eggs/young larvae to see if they attempt to make a queen as a test. If they do, I would put it back in your other hive after culling any cells, and try introducing a mated queen. If you get a queen laying, add some pollen patties to encourage brooding up. If this fails, I would go ahead and combine right away to prevent a laying worker issue. Good luck, J

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Dutchess County, NY, USA
    Posts
    19

    Default Re: Time to combine?

    Thanks for the feedback. I will be checking online for queens to see what's available.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    camden, tennessee, USA
    Posts
    300

    Default Re: Time to combine?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    Hi Jim. Since nobody has chimed in, I will give you my opinion but I am also a 3rd year, so not a ton of experience. I do not think it is too late to introduce a new mated queen, tho time is running out. I would add a frame of eggs/young larvae to see if they attempt to make a queen as a test. If they do, I would put it back in your other hive after culling any cells, and try introducing a mated queen. If you get a queen laying, add some pollen patties to encourage brooding up. If this fails, I would go ahead and combine right away to prevent a laying worker issue. Good luck, J
    Yes exactly what he said...

    I am ashamed at how many times the bees have fooled me into thinking I had a queenless hive when in fact it was just waiting for a virgin to be mated and begin laying. A frame of eggs and young larvae will tell you what you need to know provided that you don't take the queen with it... (Also something I have done) If you find fresh eggs and larvae this time of year the queen is likely close by so be careful. A frame of open/wet brood will have a pheromone that will suppress laying workers as well. I would also agree that if queen cells are drawn on your donor frame that a mated queen would be your best bet. Much faster turn around, but if that has failed once already I suspect you have a queen on her way. Just a matter of Mr. Bush's bee math which I can't seem to wrap my head around sometimes.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Dutchess County, NY, USA
    Posts
    19

    Default Re: Time to combine?

    So I finally decided with time running short to get a new queen. She arrived late yesterday. Today I went out to the hive that I was concerned about and lo and behold 2 frames (one side each) have a nice pattern of capped brood, larva and some capped drone brood. Took a quick look for the queen (she arrived marked) but couldn't find her but I assume she must be in there now (maybe the marking fell off). So I decided to try a split from the stronger hive. I took a frame of capped brood with some larva, a frame of nectar and honey and some bees. Looked carefully trying to make sure I wasn't taking the queen. I moved those frames and bees into box in a separate location. I added a syrup feeder. The new location isn't miles away but is in our vegetable garden which, for some reason, has not really been visited by the bees this year (last year they were all over it). They bees seem to be staying with the hive in the new location. Tomorrow I plan to check it and put the queen cage in that hive.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Williamsport, PA
    Posts
    429

    Default Re: Time to combine?

    This may or may not help, but I will throw it out there...

    Tomorrow if it doesn't rain (again) I am going to make 2 hives into 3. I have 1 late season nuc that is doing very well but I don't have enough drawn comb to give them for another box. I have another 2-deep configuration of 8 frames with a queen that is less than stellar.

    I'm going to pull 5 frames off the double deep and add another box to the nuc making a 5x5 configuration. I will separate them with some 1/8 screen for a few days. The remaining double deep will have 11 deep frames left, I will make another 5x5 with that and have a bonus drawn frame in case another needs one.

    My experience is they winter great in 5x5 configuration.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Denver Metro Area CO, USA
    Posts
    1,749

    Default Re: Time to combine?

    jim that sounds like a good winter nuc for the end of june, it might be bit light on bees this time of year, I would give it another frame of capped brood if you have it, at the very least some drawn comb and feed hard

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