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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
1. Do you need to use newspaper to combine two hives that are both queenless? I have two hives on the verge of laying workers and instead of limping two hives along with 2 separate frames of eggs, I am considering combining them and placing 1 frame of eggs to start the requeening process. I have read about the newspaper combine but it sounds like this will gradually introduce the queen to a queenless colony. Since I have no queen in either hive, is it still necessary?

2. Can I combine 3 hives using this method? I am also considering adding the two queenless colonies to 1 small split that has a laying queen. Is it too much to try to combine the 3 colonies at once? Can I go for it all at once with 2 sheets of paper, or should I introduce 1 to 2, and then add 3 at a later date? I don't think I have much time to avoid a LW situation.
 

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I would remove some frames from which ever colony has been queen less the longest time ( remove from the center). Keep the frames from the small split together they replace the frames which you removed , her colony will keep her safe. Simply place them in the queen less hive. The frame with the queen needs to go in next to last ( toward the center) Then I would use the news paper method to introduce the second queen less colony. I don’t think you would have issues being both are queen less. Some others may do it all at once without paper, it’s just my preference. Hope all go’s well.
 

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I can tell you what I would do, and it may not be the correct or safest way of doing it.

I would dribble sugar water down between the frames of both queenless colonies and join them immediately. I would then put the queen right colony on top of them. A measure of safety may be to put a single sheet of newspaper between the top queen right box and the boxes below it, with a single small hole poked in the middle of it with a pencil. I would not fool with newspaper between the two bottom queenless boxes. Knowing how I am, I may not use newspaper at all.

Spraying the two queen-less boxes and joining will keep them all busy for a minute, adding the queen right box on top unsprayed will let them take over the hives below while they are busy. This is how I'd do it and have done in the past with similar manipulations.
 

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A good spray of sugar water will have them licking each other and by the time they are through every one is buddies.
 

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I've never done anything special with combining anything unless I'm trying to get rid of laying worker bees. And then I just turn the colony around, that forces most of them to slowly find somewhere else to go. And then when there's barely anything left I'll put the box on top of a strong colony and scratch open all the brood. Let them clean it all out.

Any other combines I just stack boxes up or throw frames into boxes together. This includes pulling a queen and combining them with another nuc or mating nuc, for instance. I put the frame with queen on one side of the box, put the foreign bees on the other side of the box and close them up. I've not ever had a problem doing this. I would not do that with laying workers, but bees from other queenright colonies...I don't know why they'd have a problem with them. Michael Palmer talks about doing similar and when I heard him talking about it, that was kind of permission for me to do the same. Brother Adam in Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey talked about pulling mated queens in the mating yard and using them to requeen colonies or splits in another yard. Direct released, no intro period or cages. (disclaimer that it's been a long time since I've read this book, but I'm pretty positive that was the method)

I've never done this myself as using a candied cage seems to work at a fantastic rate for me. I also realize that Brother Adam had two advantages over me... first, he was a far far better beekeeper than I will ever be. And second, he likely had just about all the queens he could ever need at any time. So that increases the risk tolerance. YMMV.

TLDR; I think people treat combines way too gingerly.
 

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You see, you don't provide enough info, but ask all those questions.

To me the #1 piece of info needed - how are all these hives are set (what are the orientation and the space between them).
Because really (if the setup allows) - all you need to do is to shake the bees in front of an empty hive and call your combine done.
Dump and done.

As long as this target hive is 1)the ONLY hive the bees can congregate into after the dump AND 2)it is centrally located with respect to the source hives AND 3)the source hives have been removed - the bees will combine in whatever configuration you want them into your target hive.

You can combine 2-3-4-... however many hives this way and combine whatever the resources they had in any way you want (frames, brood, queen).
Agree with jwcarlson - too much dancing around over nothing.
 

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1. Do you need to use newspaper to combine two hives that are both queenless? I have two hives on the verge of laying workers and instead of limping two hives along with 2 separate frames of eggs, I am considering combining them and placing 1 frame of eggs to start the requeening process. I have read about the newspaper combine but it sounds like this will gradually introduce the queen to a queenless colony. Since I have no queen in either hive, is it still necessary?

2. Can I combine 3 hives using this method? I am also considering adding the two queenless colonies to 1 small split that has a laying queen. Is it too much to try to combine the 3 colonies at once? Can I go for it all at once with 2 sheets of paper, or should I introduce 1 to 2, and then add 3 at a later date? I don't think I have much time to avoid a LW situation.
For both of your questions yes. I combined two weak hives just by placing frames side by side. One with queen and other one queen less. It will work for 3 also. If you still had a doubt then just smoke on them.smoke masks them and their pheromones. They will adjust with new hive normally later. If any hive among 3 had a queen then it's ok. Just combine 3 and smoke them that's it .🙂
 

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Unless you you start a robbing episode. Don't ask how I know
I'm not saying that there is NEVER a reason to spray or pour sugar syrup on bees. But I think those reasons are EXTREMELY limited and likely not particularly helpful anyway. I don't understand the fixation with doing this to bees. You can take two colonies of bees and plop them together without consequence... why further complication matters AND make everything sticky?
 

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You can take two colonies of bees and plop them together without consequence..
+1
Pretty much so in most situations.

Maybe it takes dancing when combining strong queen-right units during severe dearth - a rear situation and kind of "why" do this?
 

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A good spray of sugar water will have them licking each other and by the time they are through every one is buddies.
Unless you you start a robbing episode. Don't ask how I know
Nothing wrong with spraying sugar water if done properly and it does not really hurt (just need to have it prepped and it is a little extra hassle and may not be even necessary).
If you do this in dearth situation, simply work the project at the closure of the day just before dark (NOT mid-day in the middle of the bee yard).

If insist on spraying "something" mid-day - well, spaying weak solution of grain alcohol/vodka, or even weak vinegar will get the same affect - this will mask any scents while not causing robbing.
 

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@jwcarlson, when you say you just turn a dwindling lw hive around, do you mean to rotate the hive so the entrance faces the opposite way? I have a lw hive that I have given up on and this would be an easy option for me.
I wanted to do a direct combine, but find myself in a weird, unanticipated position where I do not have a strong hive. They all decided to go queenless, swarm and supercede at the same time. J
 

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@jwcarlson, when you say you just turn a dwindling lw hive around, do you mean to rotate the hive so the entrance faces the opposite way? I have a lw hive that I have given up on and this would be an easy option for me.
I wanted to do a direct combine, but find myself in a weird, unanticipated position where I do not have a strong hive. They all decided to go queenless, swarm and supercede at the same time. J
Yep, I just flip them around. I do it during the day thinking that slows the trickle to other colonies down. I've not had a disruption caused by doing this yet. Shaking them out (years ago) I had one "take over" a nearby colony that had a queen that had JUST started laying. At the time it was a big impact for my tiny apiary.

Anyway, flip them around and probably 75% of the bees are gone within a day or two. Then whatever is left just gets plopped on something queen right and strong so there's no real concern. You could argue that you could just probably plop them on without turning them... it's just a comfort level thing. It doesn't really cost anything doing it the more conservative route other than a slightly longer time to resolution. But with LWers that colony is a complete and total loss other than the comb. In my mind I'm just trying to basically euthanize the bees occupying the comb... without euthanizing them. This is a little more important if you've got a colony you've been donating brood to that just won't turn it around where you might have 2-3 frames of recently emerged bees. That's something worth salvaging. I do worry about mite load in these colonies, especially if they've been raising mites in drone brood for awhile. I figure the mite load has to be high (at least on the bees in the hive). But the time of year I'm generally dealing with these types of things it's usually during summer treatment or during a time of year where I'm a little less concerned because the queen is going to outproduce the mites for a bit yet anyway.

Now if you're one of the beekeepers who doesn't open their bees until May and finds they have a small colony and laying workers who might have been raising drones since March... that's a different animal. I would think harder about what I do re: their mites.

All that said... laying worker issues have almost become a total thing of the past for me. I typically have queen cells or even virgins OR will have them soon. And I have absolutely amazing success turning around LWer colonies giving them a virgin dipped in honey water (or just honey smeared on her wings in a pinch) and a cell at the same time (if I have it). I'd guess that I successfully flip probably 75% like that. It's successful enough that I can ignore the failures as having been just general mating failures as I don't see a big difference between the two as far as percent chance of having a laying queen in three weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Lots of good info here for future combines.

Here is what I ended up doing:

Picked up the weaker, queenless hive and moved it to the location of the stronger hive (these are the only two hives in this yard and they were about 15 ft apart). Pulled box with the stronger population and queen and set it on top of the weaker hive separated by a sheet of newspaper with a slit in the middle. Came back shortly thereafter and witnessed some guarding/fighting at the entrance. Did not smoke or sugar spray them. Figured some fighting was inevitable. Noticed a lot of bees roaming the area where the weaker hive used to be. Since there is only 1 hive in that location now and it is sitting 15 away I figure these bees will find their way in over time.

My reasoning for relocating the weaker hive was the thought that it would cause less confusion than if I had moved the larger queenright hive. Maybe that was right? Maybe it was wrong? Maybe it doesn't matter. I guess I will find out soon enough if the two colonies can work it out.
 

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I tend to put the weaker hive or the one with the queen that needs a bit of protection, above the newspaper. I set the top box cover back a quarter inch.
 
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