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I have a couple of hives that I started late this past spring. Assuming they make it through the winter, could I order in and add a queenless package of bees to that hive to bump numbers substantially in order to get them off to a stronger start in the spring?

Would it also work to combine a queenless package with a package that has a queen in a new hive to bump their numbers in hopes of getting honey from them in the first year?

Thank you
 

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Sure, joining them over newspaper should work. The only word of caution is how long your newly arriving queenless package would be quennless. Longer it is w/o queen harder it will be for bees to accept new queen. So it's better to remove the queen from the package shortly before you merge them.
 

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I believe trying to add bees from a package in the spring would be a total waste of your money. All colonies of bees come into spring with the goal of colony reproduction (swarming). To achieve that goal, the queen will be going gangbusters with her egg laying and the population should be increasing quite nicely without adding more bees to the existing colony. If the colony is not quickly growing in late winter and spring, something is wrong. They may be short on pollen or nectar which can be the result of poor weather or a general lack of stores. They may also be sick with mites or some other bee disease. If the hive is healthy and growing, adding a package of bees will probably push them over the edge and guarantee that the hive swarms. Which means, the $150 or more that you spent on the package will now be up in a tree somewhere. At this point in time, I would recommend thinking positively and researching how to keep them from swarming in the spring. In general, boosting the population is easy in the spring. Simply adding a pollen patty can work wonders if done in the correct manner and at the correct time.
 

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I bought some queenless packages once just to use for setting up early mating nucs. They had some QMP (now called Pseudoqueen then called Beeboost) hanging where the queen cage normally would be. That worked pretty well. I just put them in the mating nucs with some drawn comb, honey and queen cells. I think shipping them with no queen and no QMP would be pretty stressful.
 

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I believe trying to add bees from a package in the spring would be a total waste of your money.
I tend to agree with this. Over the years we've started packages in the spring beside wintered colonies a few times. In our part of the world, spring brood starts in earnest around Feb 15, and the absolute earliest we can get a package is around March 1. Our experience is, a colony that survives the winter with a frame and a half of bees will be larger and more robust by May 1 than a 1kg package started on the same stand on March 1. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
 
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