Advice needed on colony management.

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Vergilius 

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Hello all,

I'm in a bit of a predicament. I attempted to unite 2 smallish colonies (on 6 frames each) together last Tuesday. I did it via dispatching the older queen and the newspaper method. Unfortunately, having just gone in to sort the two boxes out, it seems that something has gone wrong and they are queenless; there are several emergency queen cells developing on one frame and no new eggs. This is obviously a worry, as I have one strong-looking colony now staring down the barrel of not having a mated queen going into winter.

So far, my efforts to source a queen at this late stage have predictably been in vain. The potential saving grace is that I have two other queenright colonies, each on eight frames. To my mind, these are my options; what do you suggest?

1) Allow a virgin to hatch out and attempt to get mated. I'm convinced this is a terrible idea at this time of year, but perhaps I'm wrong.

2) Unite fully one of the smaller queenright colonies to the big queenless colony, and overwinter as a huge colony on double brood. My biggest concern with this is the system which I'm not a fan of, but then again, all being well, I guess I can split the colony in the spring.

3) Divide up one of the smaller colonies and unite one frame of it with queen on to the big colony, and the rest of it to the other small one. Given the recent catastrophe, the precariousness of the situation and my own general clumsiness, I do not feel comfortable handling the queen herself and putting her in a cage etc. Obviously the issue with this is the leftover frames.

My gut says double brood option -- any thoughts?

Ben
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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Option 2 - by the spring you will probably have them in one box anyway.
When doing the unite, I find it a good idea to put a queen excluder between the two colonies, just to make sure the queen doesn't wander into the other colony's territory before they are behaving as truly one entity.
 

Vergilius 

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Thanks Emyr! Do you have any preference which way round you do the unite; i.e. Q+ on top or bottom? I'm just a bit spooked having seen it go wrong so recently! To be fair, it never had before...
 

WoodenBeam 

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If the queen right colonies are in the same vicinity as your now Q/less colony shake them out in the general direction of your other hives & remove the brood box/stand. They should beg their way in & just bolster the numbers.
 

Erichalfbee 

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I find the queen is safer in the top box if her colony is much smaller than the queenless one.
The trouble with a shake out in this instance, to my mind, is that the larger colony can quite easily overwhelm the smaller and leads to fighting and even killing the queen. A newspaper unite is far safer
 
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jenkinsbrynmair 

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Thanks Emyr! Do you have any preference which way round you do the unite; i.e. Q+ on top or bottom?
No preference for me, whichever ways is easier, but in my case, as it's usually the queenright colony is the one brought in to save the colony - that goes on top.
 

Hebeegeebee 

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With a small q/r colony, I would have it upstairs, above an excluder so the queen is out of the way, to an extent, until all the bees are combined. Newspaper unites are very reliable but not 100%. Hungry colonies are, I believe, more likely to kill the queen in these circumstances.
 

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