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Combine in haste?

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Flatters 

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I stated on a separate thread, getting many opinions was confusing but it was pointed out to me that there can be many right answers as there lots of variable to consider. I am pretty low at the moment and I am concerned I have intervened and messed around with my bees too much mainly out of ignorance. I have been on the basic course and attended the club out apiary about 8 times for hive inspections. So here is the rather long story...

In June I got my bees. 5 frames and a two year old queen. As instructed when I went on holiday I made sure they had plenty room as they should not swarm at this time of the year. I came back around 15th August and there were 6 queen cells. I closed up the hive and started to look what to do, but I was too late acting as they swarmed.

The queen had clipped wings so I caught her and encouraged her into a spare hive with fresh frames and the swarm followed her. They seemed happy and started building up stores and brood. Over the following weeks I failed to spot the queen even in such a small colony. This became my hive 2.

Hive 1 still had brood in there, plenty stores and a super on. I though they were sorted until 1st September when there was a further swarm. I set off to find it but failed.

This is now where the panic set in and I think I have made some fundamental errors. I still could not see the old green spotted queen in hive 2. If I could not spot her in a 5 frame hive I though she must have stopped laying and been kicked out. I could not see any eggs. In Hive 1 there was a frame with a queen cell on it and I thought it a good idea to move that to Hive 2. In retrospect I think this was a bad thing. If hive 1 swarmed because of that then I had taken away the source of their new queen and so by my intervention made them queenless. Over the last two weeks all the larvae that was left has developed into bees and on inspection last week there were no eggs and no larvae.

So back to hive 2 where I popped in the frame with the queen cell (around the 7th Sept) Last week when I inspected there were eggs and larvae and the queen cell was open. I still could not see any queen but she must be present. Whether it is the old queen and the emerged queen cell got killed I don't know. If it is the virgin queen and she got mated quickly then I have been lucky.

I have emailed the person I bought the bees from but got no reply. I have never had a mentor allocated to me although I tried to encourage two local bee keepers to help me but they were too busy.

So last weekend my next intervention took place. I decided that hive 1 was queenless as there was no eggs or brood and I took away the queen. Hive 2 I thought to small to take a frame from as a test frame and in any case it is getting late to get a queen developed and mated. I also decided that Hive 2 was queen right but a bit small. I decided to combine the colonies. So queenright small colony was the base, newspaper on top of that and last Sunday evening I moved Hive 1 completely onto the newspaper. A lot of activity ensued and lots of newspaper ejected during the week.

There have been no mass of dead bees at the front of the hive so I assume they merged OK. The bees continued coming and going on Monday and were flying to the old hive location but then circled and flew to the new one which was about 3 feet away. By Tuesday it was as normal. They are still collecting well (the last of the HB, cream, yellow and orange pollen)

Below is a picture of my hive. From the bottom up, Hive 2 brood, queen excluder that had newspaper under, Hive 1 brood, queen excluder, eke with Apigaurd in, super (2/3rds full), feeder

Tomorrow I should have a look and see what has gone on. On my list for the main checks are; can I see a queen? Has hive 1 brood chamber got any eggs? if it has I was wrong and there was a queen. I will move the filled frames in hive two to the middle taking out empty ones then I will move the good framed down from hive 1. I was not going to put the frames in from the original nuc I was sold as they look very old and the foundation is dark brown.

Any advice please on what I should do. I would also be grateful of comments on what I should have done differently. I feel I have completely messed up and at the moment I am hoping there is enough to salvage so I can give the colony the best chance to get through the winter. I have a lot to learn!
 
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Hopefully the combining has gone well! You seem to have done the combine as most books suggest - so I'll have my fingers crossed for you. When you add your other frames make sure that any frame of pure stores are still at the edge of the box.

Wish I could say for certain what to do next, but I am a newbee with no local mentor either - but I do have a great beek I can phone in a panic. If you have joined the local assoc. could you try phoning the sec. and asking if there is anyone willing to visit and advise you? Even a phone chat with someone experienced can be really supportive.

Keep going, it does get easier -- and while you might have made some basic errors...who hasn't? Good luck, and let us know how you get on?
 

Mushy Bees 

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Hi Flatters,

I know exactly how you feel! You are not the first and certainly won't be the last to feel unsure about what you've done. I'm still in my first year beekeeping and uniting colonies is the scariest thing I've done.
It sounds like it went well though if there ain't loads of dead bees.

My first attempt in June - hundred or so dead bees outside the hive (doing great now).
Second attempt. Carnage!! Queen killed.

I used a different method to you (sugar spray with Lemongrass oil) and will be using the paper method next time I unite.

I reckon you've done well. Keep us posted!!
 

Flatters 

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Thanks for the encouragement.

Awful weather in Wigan today (just watch Match of the day tonight) so I did not do a sort out. Hopefully tomorrow evening will be better. Shame because my eldest son is home today and we normally sort the bees out together. He is back to college tomorrow.
 

Flatters 

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This evening I managed to open the hive. Here are the bullet points:

- There is brood in there and the larvae is from very small to capped.
- There are no queen cells but two old looking empty play cups
- I could not see the queen
- Most of the brood is in the top brood chamber
- The bottom brood chamber which was hive 2 above was still only 5 frames big and the frames had capped brood
- In the light I struggled to see any eggs but some of the larvae is very small so I think there is a queen there.
- Most of the small larvae is in the top chamber.
- There are a decent number of bees for the winter and the stores look to be adequate.
- Because I could not see the queen I put the hive back together to seek advice.
- I put in the second tray of Apiguard and took the feeder off
- I took out the queen excluder between the two brood chambers
- There were only about 100 dead bees in the top brood chamber which either are due to the fight on merger or died naturally.
- There were virtually no bees ejected from the entrance since the merger took place.
- The big brood chamber has 4 frames capped stores,3 ½ frames well laid out brood at different stages then 3 ½ frames stores.
- The lower brood chamber has 1 ½ frame stores 1 ½ frames mixed stores and a small amount of brood then 2 frames stores and these have lots of pollen
- The super is about 4/5th full

Any advice on what I should do now would be appreciated. The forecast is OK for tomorrow or should I leave them alone?

I can't do anything at weekend as I taking my daughter to Uni in Norwich so have to do an overnight stop. I could do something on Thursday evening or Friday afternoon if the weather is OK

I need to combine the things down to one brood chamber but what do I take out?

What do I do with stuff I take out? Does it get wasted or can it be used?

I have a call in to the person I bought the bees off but they were out. I really think I should push the club to see if they can get someone to come and help.

Any suggestion anyone, please?
 

Silly Bee 

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You have brood and larvae, stop worrying about the queen, you have one in there, at least there was in the last few days.

I'd leave them alone and let them get on with it.
 

Teemore 

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You have brood and larvae, stop worrying about the queen, you have one in there, at least there was in the last few days.

I'd leave them alone and let them get on with it.
I agree entirely: I have always been told that you do not need to see the quenn on every inspection. Watch for eggs, larvae, capped brood, pollen and honey/nectar. If you see the queen it is a bonus.
 

oliver90owner 

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I need to combine the things down to one brood chamber but what do I take out?

My questions are: Why? What have I missed?

There appears to be enough there to overwinter on double brood. Brood into the bottom box and feed to fill the top.

An alternative might be to fill the bottom box with brood + stores to fill and overwinter on a brood plus the super. Which means the same thing - re-arrrange and feed to fill the space. The other frames could be stored away (freezer?) for use in the spring.

The double brood would likely be my favourite, if I wanted to make an early split in the spring. Can't see any real decisions to be made here. Very simply, you do not discard bees, so it can only be stores which might be left out.

The super could be extracted, if not used, with the uncapped honey being returned to the bees, as feed, and the capped being extracted for a crop.

Regards, RAB
 

drstitson 

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what next

two choices - merge down into 1 brood box, perhaps (as per other threads) setting up hive so that any spare stores on "unused" frames get taken down) whilst extracting what you can from the super and again leaving open stores to be taken down.
OR leave as two boxes. move brood straight down into bottom (with the existing lower capped brood moved outermost?) then feed feed feed so the frames in top box get filled.
 

Flatters 

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Thanks for the advice.

The dropping down to one brood chamber is my ignorance where I thought that over winter you have one brood chamber and one super. After speaking to someone last night they said they always prefer two brood chambers.

The suggestion I have been given is to just swap the two brood chambers about so that the smaller one is at the bottom. I will mover the brood in the smaller chamber to the middle so they are under brood in the upper chamber. I will also feed.

In a few weeks they recommend moving the super down to the bottom and leave the queen excluder out. So working from the bottom it will be super with stores, smaller brood chamber, full brood chamber, crown board, insulation then roof. I need to ensure the ventilation is good.
 
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General comments on here indicate that you shouldnt be giving them any more space than they need to keep warm. Smallish colony should be fine on single brood (I hope!)
 

oliver90owner 

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They have the opportunity to move up if on OMF and very cold. Double brood will likely find her laying in the top box in the spring if that is warmest.

Doesn't seem like too small a colony now united?

The extra super underneath is simply over-doing it really. The honey would be better for you! It might help to keep out the wind a bit better but two broods full of stores is far more than needed and a couple frames could be removed and replaced with insulated dummies if really needed. Extra drawn store frames or just drawn frames may be very handy if you decide to divide into a nuc as well.

I over-winter on 14 x 12s which equates to about a brood and a half.

The benefit of double brood will become apparent when wishing to move frames around in the spring, prior to splitting the colony and also when doing it.

Regards, RAB.
 

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