As can sometimes happen at this time of year,  one of the urban hives produced a number of swarms which also means a parade of new queens ha...

Merging hives

By | Sunday, November 13, 2016 Leave a Comment
As can sometimes happen at this time of year,  one of the urban hives produced a number of swarms which also means a parade of new queens have been hatched over the last few weeks.

Unfortunately, the latest queen wasn't laying and when beekeeper-in-charge, Cam, sought her out to see what was wrong, it was apparent that she hadn't mated. A virgin queen is to be expected not long after the old queen has swarmed but having given her a couple of weeks it became obvious that this queen had something wrong with her and needed to be replaced.

Had there been fresh brood in the hive Cam would merely have had to dispose of the queen and the hive would have produced an emergency queen. Unfortunately, weeks without a viable breeder meant that we would have to intervene.

It is easy enough to purchase mated queens and they get shipped to us in the mail, however, with plentiful swarms and a shortage of spare hive boxes and frames, it was decided to boost the endangered colony by introducing not just a queen but an entire hive. Effectively, we were reinstating one of the hive's previous queens and her bees.

Merging colonies is a tricky business. The queenless colony is apt to kill the introduced queen as an interloper and the bees will fight if you just throw them together. However, time for the queen's scent to permeate the hive will familiarise the bees with her. Separating the two colonies using newspaper is an old but very effective trick and one we've successfully used before.

By the time the two sets of bees have eaten through the newspaper, both colonies will accept the queen and become a single hive.

Andrew and Cam demonstrate how this is done in video.


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