The years of drought are taking their toll on bees all around our county; I have talked to other bee keepers in our area and many say their hives are struggling. After recently checking on the two bee hives in our school garden, Thad (my bee keeping mentor) and I decided we needed to combine them. We have been feeding our bees all summer and still their stores of honey are low. One of our hives is just too small and weak to make it through winter; almost no brood (eggs) and a very small number of bees in the hive. We hope to save both our hives by using the “newspaper method” to create one stronger hive. It is a simple process and has a good success rate. Last week we marked the queen in our weakest hive. The hardest part for me is having to remove the queen from that hive; but the alternative is for all of them to die off during the winter.
We put the super (box with the frames of bees, brood and honey) from the weak hive on top of the stronger hive with a sheet of newspaper between the two boxes of frames (supers). The newspaper keeps the bees from the 2 hives separate for a few days; as they begin to chew through the paper the different odors from each hive will combine gradually into one and all the bees will feel like it is their “home”. If you were to just combine 2 hives they would go crazy and think they were being attacked by robber bees and try to kill one another and the queen. As they eat through the newspaper, their odors mingle so the bees feel safe and by the time they chew completely through they are one big happy family. Two evenings ago we combined our 2 hives. I will check them next week to see how they have “merged” and hopefully, all will “bee” well (sorry, couldn’t resist that pun!). Because I am so fascinated by the magical world of bees, I am describing the process with photos.
Combining the Hives: How To’s:
Best time to combine hives is at dusk, AFTER all the bees have returned to their hives so they don’t get left outside at night, which they won’t survive. The first step is to find and remove the queen from the weaker hive. There can only be one queen and the strongest one is the one to keep. As I don’t like to kill anything, I give that job to Thad.
Put all the frames (with bees, brood, honey) from the weak hive into the same super (box) so all the bees are in the box you will be moving. The next step is to open the top super (box) on the stronger hive and place a sheet of newspaper over the top box of frames completely covering it (it should hang over the sides a bit). Some people say to poke a few small holes in the paper, others say don’t bother. You decide! Now, put the box of frames (full of the bees, brood and honey) from the weaker hive right on top of the top box of the second (stronger) hive, with the newspaper in between. Finally, add a hive top feeder, fill it with sugar water and then replace your outer cover and that’s it! Leave the bees alone for about a week, then open the hive and see what’s happening. They will have eaten away much of the newspaper and now be one big, happy hive of bees. Keeping my fingers crossed!