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Unite 2 nucs

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drex 

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20 days ago I was given two cast swarms. One was in a skep which I moved into a national nuc box, which is doing fine, with build up of brood after a slow start. The other came in a national nuc ( it had been there a few days). I left it in the nuc, but still no brood. I cannot see queen or eggs - but I lack experience.

The first is ready to transfer to my National BB. I want to unite this with the broodless colony ( I think if queen was present she would be likely to be laying now - not made it back from mating flight?). I intend to do careful inspection tomorrow to check for queen, but after advice here think it best to unite anyway.

I lack equipment. I was thinking of transferring the ( presumed) queenless frames into a national super ( with castellations for 10 frames), with a 50 mm eke, and sitting this on top of my BB ( containing my 5 queenright frames), newspaper and QE. All frames are DN4.


Is this the right way round for the boxes ( queenright on bottom)?

How long do I leave it before moving the top frames ( in which there are some stores of nectar and pollen) down into the BB ( so that I have a full complement in my BB ?

Will the super plus eke contraption work?

What if I miss a queen in the broodless colony and unite anyway?

Thanks in anticipation
 

drex 

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The actual advice was that as they were both small colonies it would be better to unite anyway. It is my assumption, based on the evidence I have seen so far, that they are queenless ( at the last inspection they had gone from calm to grumpy), well behind the other colony, which is a few days younger. Still grumpy. Forgive me but I am a complete beginner, why would they leave a nice home, with stores, even if they are queenless, rather than stay there and just die of old age?
 
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plumberman 

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The problem here is that you are making the assumption of queenlessness. There is still a fair chance that there is some sort of queen- if you unite without being 100% sure of this, your known laying queen might lose out in the battle that will follow.

Standard advice is to test out the situation by a test frame of eggs/larvae. If they are indeed queenless, they will start to draw out emergency queen cells which will be visible in three days or so.

If your other colony can spare a frame use this, or you might consider cutting a small amount of comb containing eggs/very young larvae and putting this in your suspect colony.
 

Midland Beek 

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If you hive a swarm containing a virgin queen it is often the case that eggs will not appear until maybe 3 or 4 weeks. A queen goes on a number of mating flights, and in the UK this is often interrupted by poor weather.

Anything positively queenless and you will most likely notice as soon as you remove the crownboard. The bees will roar and jump out at you and you will go "Wooo".

If it were me, I would be inclined not to unite.

When was this apparently queenless swarm hived?
 

barratt_sab 

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Please don't take any of what follows as advice, as I'm certain to have less experience than you!

We had almost exactly the same situation as you, about 4 weeks ago. The (very small) cast was on five frames of brood in a 14x12 BB with a dummy board. Two days after it was installed we found a queen (I think still virgin) dead on the grass outside the hive. We waited a week and checked for another queen or any sign of eggs and could see none.

Sadly, at this point, they were the only bees we had, and nobody locally seemed to have a frame of brood to spare to allow us to see if they would raise queen cells.

After another week, we checked again and there were tiny amounts of pollen stored, lots of sugar water stored (we had been told to feed them) and no sign of a queen or any eggs. At this point our Nuc arrived, with 4 frames of brood and a marked queen.

We were advised to combine them, and were presented with a number of different methods from different sources, ranging from the newspaper method to “install the Nuc in a hive, then dump the cast bees on the grass in front and see what happens”.

We elected to use the newspaper method. We read all the books we had, and concluded that we could find (at least!) two opinions about which colony goes on top. We went with Alan Campion, mostly because there was a nice picture for the hard of understanding. His book calls for the queen-right colony to go on top and the queen-less colony to be underneath.

We checked again for a queen or eggs in the cast bees (there was no sign of either) and then put their five frames on one side of the 14x12 BB with a dummy board, put newspaper on top (we selected the Evening Standard), and then put the five frames of Nuc bees and another dummy board (on the same side of the hive) in another BB on top. We topped it off with the crown board with the feeder still in place.

There were still some of the cast bees in the feeder (who resolutely refused to come out) but we figured they would have to fend for themselves.

Nothing happened for 24 hours, and then all hell broke loose. There was shredded newspaper under the hive, which had fallen through the mesh. There were quite a few dead bees that had been dumped out of the front of the hive (most of which looked like they come from the Nuc). We looked up underneath the hive and there were so many dead bees on the mesh that it looked like the St Valentine's Day bee massacre.

As the prescribed week of waiting wore on, we saw more and more foraging flights, and lots of pollen being brought in, which gave us some hope.

We opened the whole mess up yesterday to find... loads and loads of apparently very happy bees (a mixture from both original colonies), our marked queen, loads of eggs, lava in various stages, capped brood, pollen and honey.

It was clear that what we had thought looked like a lot of dead bees was in fact only a small proportion of the total number in the two colonies.

Most of the activity was in the upper box (where the nuc frames were), but there were also eggs and lava on one of the 14x12 frames in the lower box (which certainly weren't there a week ago). The newspaper had been completely removed from the space between the two sets of frames, but was intact in the areas masked by the dummy boards.

We reassembled the lower BB in the following order:

- frame of partly drawn foundation from the cast colony
- frame of honey & pollen from the cast colony
- all the frames from the nuc, in their original order
- frame of honey & pollen from the cast colony
- remaining frames from the cast colony

We then checked that our marked queen had made it into the lower BB OK. We put the crown broad on top of this one brood box and have now left them to it for another week.

Subsequently, we have been told that we did it all wrong (right down to the choice of newspaper), and also been told that the advice to combine was incorrect...
 

oliver90owner 

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barratt_sab,

Let me say you can never do it all wrong. Maybe some bits, maybe important bits.

In some people's eyes there is only their right way to do it. You did make a few mistakes/omissions.

The advice to unite may have been wrong in that the bees could have been diseased and you have added them to your healthy stock. The above case is not even similar. Further, any guarantee (from the vendor of the nuc) was negated.

You may have placed your frames in the wrong order (all brood should have been together) but that is not so important if there were plenty of bees to cover the frames (for warmth).

Given time you could have kept moving the queenless colony from one side of the queen-right colony to the other side. Flying bees would then have returned to the larger colony. But that might take some time. You could have powdered all bees with icing sugar and dumped them together - by the time they sorted out the icing sugar they would have 'mingled smells'. You could have used a scented spray for that instead of icing sugar, or even flour.

The one main problem is that you must be sure there is no queen in the colony first. The test frame is the way to go, proves queenlessness and then unite. A cast could conceivably have had two queens present. There is a law which means that your nice bought-in queen would likely be killed by the other!

One or two other things I might have done differently but that is history. Well done. I hope your colony now develops rapidly.

MB,

Who told you that?

It was I who suggested uniting the two colonies. One was a small cast and either queenless, or nearly so, after about two weeks. It was an alternative and, for me, a much better route than drawing emergency cells with a small cast swarm, which would be much smaller by the time it was serviced by a probable scrub queen.

The end point came, I think, with this comment: "so I will be patient or hope ( selfishly) that my mates hive is queenless and we unite"

Drex,

Check with a test frame, you will lose little. If they draw queen cells remove those cells, and uniting is still my best advice.

A larger colony will expand more quickly and may present a chance to split later, if appropriate. Only you know how small the colony is. Remember these were all flying bees in the swarm so the colony will dwindle until at least 3 weeks after the new queen starts into lay, and no new foragers for about a further three weeks.

Regards, RAB
 

barratt_sab 

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MB

Thanks very much for your suggestions – hopefully we'll be a bit better prepared next time. I think things would have been much easier if we'd had access to a full sized colony with brood or even just a frame of brood to test with, but that wasn't to be.

The advice to combine came from the Nuc vendor and we read about using scented spray the evening after creating our BB / newspaper tower – 24 hours too late to be of use.

Thanks also for understanding some of the frustrations underlying the original post – I can't remember getting so much conflicting advice since becoming a parent for the first time!
 

drex 

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An update just so that you know what happened.

The bees do not read the books!
In fact the slower ( then broodless) colony, has now overtaken the colony that was well ahead of it. I also managed to find and mark the queen, and compared to queens I have seen in my tutors hives was big. There were more bees in this slower colony, so I suppose once she came into lay, she really went to it, knowing there were enough workers to look after the brood. If it keeps building at this rate, may give a frame of brood with young workers to the slower colony.

What a wonderful learning experience. Thanks for your support
 

Poly Hive 

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Just a side note. Size of queen is absolutely NO GUIDE AT ALL to performance.

I have killed many a huge but useless queen and spent hours hunting for highly prolific queens which when found turned out to be barely larger than virgins.

Just so you know, size truly does not matter in the queen dept.

PH
 

Eyeman 

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Just so you know, size truly does not matter in the queen dept.
That goes against the research I've read. Yes size of queen cell (within reason) doesn't matter but big queen on average will perform better and lay for longer.
Personal experience does bias our views, including mine. Shame we haven't got more proper scientific studies to refer to when deciding what to do.
 

Poly Hive 

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I care not a jot for the research I know what I said to be true. Better nutrition of course produces better queens but to say a big queen is a better queen is just not true.

Facts are facts.

PH
 

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