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Protecting the queen while reinforcing weak hive

1911 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  CircleBee
Forgive me if this has been brought up in the past, but when I do a search all I am seeing is direct releasing queens in regards to packages. My situation is different because I have two over wintered Nucs who have laying queens, but are weak (about tennis ball sized clusters) so I need to reinforce them. I also have another Nuc that went queenless with about four frames of bees and not a stich of brood/larva/eggs. To be absolutely sure I put a frame of eggs in it to check and they started queen cells. Since we have no drones yet, I destroyed these queen cells, and figured that these hives were made for each other. I'd like to split the queen less Nuc in half and give half to each of my weak Nucs. Normally I'd play it safe, find the queens in the weak hives, cage them, then combine, and release her later so I know she won't be killed. However, the weather is not cooperating with me and I am looking at a stretch of rainy, cooler days and I don't think I should be ripping apart the hive to find the queens to cage them. So my question is, do you think my queens will be safe if I place the two queenless frames in the weak nucs as is (this I can do quickly enough in the weather I have)? My fear is that the weak nuc is too weak to defend their queen should the bees from the queen less frames decide to cause problems. I would think that these bees would be glad to see a laying queen, but on the other hand I really don't want to loose these two queens on a hunch...Any input is appreciated!
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If you're absolutely certain the one nuc is queenless and hasn't yet developed a laying worker problem, I'd shake half of them in front of each weak nuc that needs the population boost. They should smell the queen in each weak nuc and since they are queenless (and once shaken - homeless), they should eagerly join the colonies that have queens. There may be a little fighting, but the receiving bees are usually quick to recognize the incoming queenless bees are desperately homeless and welcome them in. If they're not queenless or have developed a laying worker problem, they might threaten or harm the resident queens. If you really wish to be safe, you could put the resident queens into queen cages, with a marshmallow or candy plug, for slow release, letting the workers become acquainted, so they are most likely to accept their new queen without issue.

If you do this, do not place the donor nuc back in its old location. There should be no place for the orphan bees to return home to. Giving them no choice but to join their new hives. Usually, if you just shake orphan bees out in an apiary, they will join the colony whose queen they like the smell of, best. But placing each group at the entrance of the colony of your choice, should help them decide to do as you desire.
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I'd shake half of them in front of each weak nuc that needs the population boost.
Do this at sunset, it reduces the fighting to zero. Never had a problem doing this.
I have never shaken the bees outside to let them choose their own queen or hive before. I like to do it safely if possible.
If they prefer one hive over the other then you still end up with 1 weaker hive. So why keep a weak hive then.
Here is what I would do after tried so many methods of combining weak hives and new queens into existing hives before.
I would suggest to cage 1 queen from the tennis ball size hive (not hard to find her) to put her into the 4 frames hive. Four frames is consider fairly strong nuc coming out of winter so they should build up quickly with a good queen. Since they are queenless they
should be readily to accept a new queen. Watch their acceptance behaviors to accept the new queen. They should mellow out
in an hour or 2. I made a successful 7 frames split 6 hours before releasing the new queen after they have mellowed down.
Then with the remaining tennis ball size hive that is now queenless, I would do a newspaper combine with the other
queen right tennis ball size hive. Newspaper combine will let them get used to the smell and intermingle gradually.
Look up you tube if you are not familiar with a newspaper combine. I read here that well fed bees are not that aggressive toward each others. So feed them syrup before and then patty and syrup after the combine. This will help them build up quickly since we
are into early Spring now. I'm not sure if it is Spring now where you are at.
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You do not shake them down in the open but in front of a hive, on a board so they can walk in after been shaken. So the bees you shake are directed into the desired hive. Early in Spring I simply put the queenless hive on top of a queenright hive. No newspaper, nothing, but you have to make sure it is not a drone layer.
So a better way is to put 2 frames of bees on top of the queen right hive in another hive box.
Maybe with newspaper for a safer combine if that is the concern too.
This is the best method so far, BH.
As long as the queens in the weak hives are actively laying I don't think you'll have a problem. I've taken a laying queen on the frame she was laying on with the attached workers and placed it into a queenless nuc with no problems in the past. So just pick whatever method fits your timing and situation and have at it.
So a better way is to put 2 frames of bees on top of the queen right hive in another hive box.
Maybe with newspaper for a safer combine if that is the concern too.
This is the best method so far, BH.
This is exactly what I would do. A newspaper combine as described is the quickest, least intrusive, and safest way to combine and not risk the queen in the process. I don't know what your temperatures are right now but it might not be the best weather for shaking bees out in front of the boxes.
Yeah, the weather is a concern too when it is raining outside with a cooler temp.
Combining them inside the hive is safer and warmer for a successful one.
Thanks everyone, I appreciate the replies. I did the shake half at each Nuc front on a board move. Had completely forgotten that option. took about 15 minutes and they eventually all went in each front door they were shaken too. I am 100% sure they hadn't made it to laying worker and it was 55 degrees with scattered showers so thought that the best option. Next warmer, sunny day I'll check to see if I made the right decision! Thanks again!
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