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If one has a very weak hive and others that are doing well, would it be a good or bad idea to try and strengthen the weak one with resources from another or combine the weak one with a average hive in hopes of a strong hive? If the queen is missing or failing, what would you do? I understand if disease is an issue trying to save would be a bad idea. Or just letting it alone and see what happens?
 

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How weak is very weak? Bees between two frames? Just a hand full of bees? Any brood?

If there is no disease visually present and little or no brood, you could combine these with a strong hive.

Being that yiou are from NC and temps have been mild, from what I've heard, maybe you could eek these bees along by putting them above a strong colony with a double screen between them.

A simple double screen, if you don't have one, would be to take a wooden bound queen excluder and wrapping window screen around it, on both sides. Put this on top of your strong colony and put the weak one on top of that. Cover and leave alone until good flight. Then check things out. Probably in three weeks.

The idea of the double screen is to keep the bees and especially the queens seperated, while allowing the warmth of the lower colony to help warm the upper one.

Make sure that the upper colony has an entrance opposite the lower colony.

I know guys up here who make splits this way.
 

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You are not alone, I am sure most beekeepers confront this problem in one way or another in the spring.
I had two hives last spring that were in this catagory. Slow to build and I was watching others build quickly. The ones that built quickly swarmed. The week ones ended up being good producers and did not swarm.

I would try to find out what made them week in the first place. Disease, lack of stores, mites, poor queen,ect. Mark has a good suggestion on the double screen.

You can always requeen for better genetics and mite resistance.
Disease would have to be delt with more seriously.
 

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Hi Rob-bee,
Every BK has different experiences, but I would NOT recommend putting the weak hive over a strong hive as suggested above. I've done this and the bottom hive suffered terribly from condensation (we nearly lost it). My recommendations:
1) Leave the strong hives alone or at most steal a couple frames of honey/nectar to give the weak hive (one to each side of cluster).
2) Wrap the weak hive in black felt roofing paper and make a one or two bee-sized hole for an entrance. Make sure the weak hive gets as much sun as possible (sunrise to sunset).
3) Feed 2:1 or 1:1 directly above the cluster on the frame top-bars. Place a paper-towel covered with one or two inches of granular sugar around the syrup feeder to absorb moisture and provide extra food.
If the bees are young enough to hold out a couple more weeks, they'll build up ok. Good luck :cool:
 

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Condensation? How did that situation express itself? I would think that any moisture would go up to the top of the upper colony. Perhaps conditions are quite different between Northern NY and Raliegh, NC. I know that it is more humid where you are than it is here, on average. Interesting, that you had that experience. What do you attribute it to?
 

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I bet if you had a solid bottom board with a tightly reduced entrance with no ventilation at the top, it could have excess condensation.

The cause of weakness is the key. If they are out of stores, then feed. Dry sugar on the top bars maybe?

It is hard to say for sure sitting here in Indiana with 30 deg. temps. A queenless hive here and now would mean the colony was doomed.
 

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I'm not sure what to attribute it to. For some reason the lower (double deep) hive just didn't get the air circulation they needed. Maybe the bees in the top hive somehow blocked off the air flow. Or maybe the bottom hive got carbon monoxide from the upper hive. The weak top hive did survive, but the bottom hive ended up weaker than the top hive! Have you actually tried overwintering a weak hive over a strong hive? I'm not saying it won't/can't work, but I've tried it on two different hives in different locations without success. What does work for me (but requires more manipulation) is to vertically partition the strong hive with all of it's bees in the larger partition and the weak hive's bees in the small partition (for example frames 1-7 in the large partition and 8-10 in the small part). The bees on both sides of the partition tend to cluster next to and/or on the partition. Shim the inner cover to cap the partition and provide air flow/top entrances for both sides. In the spring shift the partition to the middle, even out brood and resources, put a queen excluder and supers on top >> presto! a two-queen honey-maker hive.

:cool:
 

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PS: moist air is lighter than dry air so could sink down to the lower chamber as cool dry air comes into the top entrance. I suspect this effect could overcome the "warm air rising effect" in our NC winters.

Todd: One setup had a solid bottom board with reduced entrance; the other had a SBB but closed with the insert and also a reduced entrance. :cool:
 

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It's been suggested to me that very small weak hives can be combined in the winter simply by taking the bees on a frame and sticking it in with a stronger hive. The bees and who's going to be queen, would sort out on their own accord. This was more a "they'll die if I don't do something" situation. I didn't try it, perhaps if I had, 2 of my deadouts wouldn't be dead right now. I dunno.

I did my combining last fall. If I hadn't, I'd have a lot more deadouts. Some of them that I combined and requeened last fall are doing fine and I don't doubt, that without those efforts, all of them would be dead by now.

>The week ones ended up being good producers and did not swarm.

This could be as much the strain of bee as anything.
 

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> PS: moist air is lighter than dry air so could
> sink down to the lower chamber as cool dry air
> comes into the top entrance. I suspect this
> effect could overcome the "warm air rising effect"
> in our NC winters.

Sorry, the "warm air rising" effect is going to
completely swamp out any effect of moisture.

Check out Dalton's "Law of Partial Pressures",
"Charles' Law", and "Boyles Law" online, and
you may find examples with temperature changing
and with moisture changing to illustrate just
how tiny an effect even a large differential
moisture has on a given volume of gas as compared
to even a tiny temperature difference.

As for the bees, feed 'em some syrup and pollen
and be patient. Its still early yet. I've got
hives that have everything from grapefruit sized
brood areas to no brood at all, and all queens
are of the same age, and are NWCs from the same
supplier. There is variation between hives this
early, some hives are slower to get started.

But I'd never steal from the rich and give to
the poor if the hive never gets going. I'd
sooner combine the bees from the weak hive
with a strong hive, or "retire" them to an
observation hive. Waisting your time on hives
that are just plain weak is futile. Your
options are requeen, requeen, or requeen if
there is no disease or pest problem, and it
is a little early to scrape up an affordable
queen. Better to focus your energy on the
booming hives, and make splits when queens
do arrive.
 

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<Waisting your time on hives that are just plain weak is futile. Your options are requeen, requeen, or requeen >

Rob-Bee remember the 80/20 rule. We usually fall into the habit of fighting for the weak hives until we spend 80% of our time on 20% of our hives. Blame the queen for everything, requeen and feed.

Hawk
 

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I tend to prefer to take two weak ones, combine and requeen. There's always the risk that you'll pass whatever the problem is on to the sucessful hive. Sometimes they just need a new queen. Sometimes they just need some critical mass of worker population. Both usually gets them over the hump.
 
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