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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I currently have three hives that are all struggling to take off this year and I'd like some advice.

In an attempt to avoid the swarming issues I had to deal with last year I did minimal feeding this spring and really just let the bees do their own thing. By the time we hit dandelion bloom all three hives had come out of winter with ok populations, probably with colony sizes ranging between 2 and 3 pounds of bees. When I did try to feed them a bit in early May (before dandelion bloom) they didn't take much syrup. I chalked that up to the cold temperatures we were having and didn't think too much about it.

What I'm seeing is that all three hives have been really slow to build up. During recent hive inspections I've observed that the populations are pretty much stagnant and, in some cases, I'd say the population may have decreased. The brood pattern is pretty good but there isn't much of it. Probably 2 frames of brood total per colony ( that includes open and capped brood) plus a reasonable amount of nectar, pollen and capped honey considering the size of the colony. This is obviously way less than there should be this time of year. I'm disappointing that I'll miss the entire spring flow but it is what it is.

All three hives consist of two 10 frame deep bodies. Hive bodies were reversed two weeks ago and there's plenty of space for the queen to lay. All hives have 2013 colony raised queens and don't appear to have any diseases or other issues going on. I did not see any signs of dysentery this winter. Mite drop counts are low at last check with less than one mite per day (count was taken about three weeks ago). No mite treatments have been applied this spring.

I'm leaning toward requeening all three hives but wanted to seek a few other opinions first. Are there reasons other than failing queens that can lead to slow colony build-up like this? I'd hate to spend money on new queens only to find there's some other issue ongoing.

I've also debated combining two of the hives to make one but, given that I'll miss the spring flow anyway, I'm not sure what the real advantage is at this point. My goal is to build up colony strength over the summer and hope for a decent fall flow.

Any thoughts would be appreciated!
 

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How many frames of bees? 3 pounds should cover 5 or 6 frames, not 2. I would knock them
down to a single brood chamber and maybe combine the three into 2. They will build up faster in a single and you can add the 2nd box back in a few weeks when they need it.
 

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6 frames of broods combined into 1 colony will make them stronger. But which queen is the
fastest and strongest laying? If the flow is on now you don't need to feed otherwise you have
to in order to maintain their population thru out this summer. Yes, their population can decline
quickly if not properly maintained.
I combined 3 into 1 at early Spring time. Now split into 4 and growing with new queens this year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'd say there's 4 to 5 frames of bees, just not much brood.

If I combine my 3 hives into two do you suggest dispatching the queen from the donor hive (whichever queen is laying worst) and then split the bees and resources between the two colonies? Should I do a newspaper combine, or can I just do a direct reallocation of bees and resources?
 

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I am south of you.... but I think that what you said about the colder temperatures had an impact. My bees are the slowest to build up this year in comparison to the last several years. Things look good but it has been slower than I am used to. I am hoping that things will bloom longer and the bees will still build up well over the next few weeks. I don't really have advice. I am hoping nature will take care of things. The bees are building in numbers so that should help and hopefully more blooms with the rain. I hope things go well for you. :thumbsup:
 

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If the Spring flow is slow then no matter how many bees there are they will not build up as
fast together with the cold weather. All you can do is to feed them now--syrup and patty.
I don't kill the queens but cage them for back up just in case the combine did not work out. Some
hives are aggressive than others and will ball the queen from my experience. I had killed more queens than
making bees. But I know how to make them so not that desperate. Have you seen my recent
wire cloth frame cage? I use it to combine 2 expensive new queens, successfully.
 

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I'd say there's 4 to 5 frames of bees, just not much brood.
You might be fine to leave them to continue to build up. Get them down a single box and reduce the entrance so they can keep the brood warm easier. You are at a similar latitude to us, so the nights should be warming up. We are just at the end of a bit of a dearth after dandelions with clover just about to start.

If I combine my 3 hives into two do you suggest dispatching the queen from the donor hive (whichever queen is laying worst) and then split the bees and resources between the two colonies?
Yes

Should I do a newspaper combine, or can I just do a direct reallocation of bees and resources?
I would just do a reallocation. It won't matter for the nurse bees and if you do it on a day when they are flying, the foragers will be out and will have to choose between hives when they return. One will likely end up stronger than the other, but you can always switch hive positions are equalize at that point.
 

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I am also seeing the same thing here in Northern Vermont on the Canadian border, probably the same latitude or close as you. I am getting concerned that my three hives are not strong enough to build up during the main flow, which I don't think has kicked off yet here.

My three hives are 2, 5 frame deep Nucs, and 1 package that I added two frames of brood to bump the population it had struggled so much, so they are new hives.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the feedback everyone. The flow is reported on here, others in the area have multiple supers on their hives at this point. Looks like my hives have missed the boat.

I think I may try combining hives to see what happens.
 

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Combining them with newspaper is the best option I would take to make the hive
stronger. They maybe able to pack some nectar otherwise you have to feed them to
maintain the population. If there is not much resource coming in now consider patty and syrup. Just a
patch of borage will provide them with some pollen and nectar when they are building up. Later on you can
do a split when they are very strong too. It all depends on the hive condition until then.
 
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