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Discussion Starter #1
We had a couple 50 degree days and the bees have been pulling in a little pollen so I took a quick peak to check stores. Most of the hives are ok but there are a few with real small clusters. Is it ok to combine a few weak hives this time of year? I assume you would always have to use newspaper too. Suggestions?

Joe
 

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Depends on how weak. And if it is weak for a reason, like disease. Asses that first. Then, I would rather take the weak healthy hive and place it on a stronger hive. Then the two hives could balance out, and the weak hive could get heat from the stronger one.
Here is what i do

Force the strong one into one box. Spritz them with vanilla or mint flavored syrup (cheap spray bottle) I spritz the top of the box and the bottom, make sure you can smell the syrup. This masks the queen's scent. I do the same thing with the weak hive. Then the strong hive gets one sheet of newspaper on top with a small slit or two and a queen excluder. Place the weak hive on top. In two to three weeks (prefer 3 weeks) split the hives and add another brood chamber on each.
Now one of two things will happen:

1. you will see two strong hives ready to split and add a brood chamber on each right away since the queen will be close to running our of room

2. The strong hive will kill the weak hive's queen and the bees will combine to make one hive. This should not be looked at as a failure. Maybe the hive was weak for a reason.
 

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Looks like one hive has Nosema... the others moved up and abandoned the honey in the lower chamber and look like they about starved. I gave them a couple frames of honey for now. Next half way nice day i will see if they can be combined...

Is there a winter nosema treatment?

Joe
 

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if it is warm enough to check, it should be warm enough to feed with fumigilian-B. Use a quart sealer with nail holes in the lid and placed on top of your hives. Cover with an empty super and lid This is important since syrup mixed with fumid will be inert in 45 minutes when exposed to sun. They will consume a quart sealer fast, and this is good incase the temps drop. Assess the amount of stored honey they have and take the fork scratcher and uncap some and place next to the cluster for easy access

Treat all hives and more than a quart sealer will be needed. The will need atleast a gallon of treated syrup per hive.

Do not combine any hives until cleared up.
Reduce the small clusters to one box or even a nuc box so they can more easily generate heat to stay warm. Cover with insulation to help them keep in the heat.

Add a pollen patty to all hives. Even though they are gathering the hives will benifit from this, and on the cold no fly days all hives will still have pollen to consume. Smaller clusters have a hard time to forage and keep any brood warm. Feeding will ensure they have the nutrition they need to recover.

Do combines when the hives are healthy.

Please asses the state of your hives. If you are down to a handful or two of bees you are better off to shake the bees out and let them find a home if they can. Let the hives expand and then split to reduce losses.
 

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We have never much success in combing weak hives in cooler weather. It usually takes a few good days of busy bees to get through the newspaper, have the queens work out their diffucties and everyone get together. Having the field bees in while this is going on may result in both queens being killed. I also would not combine a weak hive I thought had any health issues. We've gotten to the point seasonally we let the weak hive work out their problems and either die or survive. We don't think supporting weak genetics in our operation is advantageous in the long run. We will requeen if the condition justifies it but for all the effort we've put into weak hives in past years the dividends were darn few.
 
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