To combine or how not to combine - that is the question...

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New Bee
Mar 24, 2023
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By the end of the season I need to reduce down to my one "official" pitch. So I'm trying to consider the best way to do so from my current predicament.

I have a single hive pitch at an association managed apiary in a local copse - association policy/rules stipulate that I must be back to one pitch at the end of the season. Unfortunately, I don't have a private apiary.

Back in April my one & only colony became hyper-defensive and was stinging the public as they walked along the public walking paths 20-30m away from the apiary. To manage the colonies behavior - it was decided to try re-queening with purchased out-of-area queens before any more further drastic actions were taken.

To reduce the "hot" colony population to a more manageable level during the re-queening attempt the hive was split so that much of the brood was taken to a temporary position at the opposite side of the apiary to bleed-off the forages. So that now I have a temporary pitch and my original "officially sanctioned" pitch.

As re-queening a "hot" colony is not always successful - re-queening was attempted on both the colonies; the original pitch and the temporary pitch. The re-queening of the temporary moved brood hive succeeded; whereas, the re-queening of the original "hot" hive was not. I have added a test frame to the original hive to see if they are indeed queenless - but I have not seen any eggs now for over a fortnight. I will check the test frame at the next fine & sunny day.

By the end of the season I need to reduce down to my one "official" pitch. So I'm trying to consider the best way & time to do so from my current predicament.

The original (now) queenless colony population is on the wane and numbers are starting to drop. There is also the possibility of attempts of robbing by neighbouring hives as I have recently observed wrestling on the landing board. The temporary queen-right colony is starting to get going again but I cannot keep it at this location indefinitely.

So my thinking is that now is probably the best of the bad options to reduce back down to one pitch while the old colony numbers are dropping and the new colony numbers are increasing. If I wait longer than the temporary colony will be at greater numbers at the end of the season. Is this a fair consideration or when would folks reduce if they were in this predicament?

As I understand - I can either newspaper-combine the two colonies or I could swap-combine the colonies.

Newspaper-combine seems to be the traditional text-book way to reduce colonies - however, my concern is for the new queen's wellbeing. What are the chances that the old "hot" foragers during the combine commit regicide? Afterall they have prior history.

Swap-combine - the idea being to swap the hive positions so that the foragers returning to the original position will have to negotiate their way into the new hive. Would this work or have any negative consequences?
I can leave a NUC at the temporary location to catch returning foragers for either option.

Which method would folks recommend or are there better manipulations or other options - that I could consider?
if they are indeed queenless
Establish this first, and nuc the spare as insurance over winter. You could, if you aren't bothered, unite anyway and let the queens sort theselves out, but better to have a spare.

Reduction is not only about apiary rules: the main flow will start soon and one strong colony will produce far more honey than the two you have currently. One option: take away the queenright colony for a fortnight, return it and unite directly to the original lot on the old site; alternatively, move it a metre a day to the old spot, but either way, the aim is to retain all flyers.

The one-colony rule is daft; must be plenty of open land where you are; time to find a friendly farmer!

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