adventures in beekeeping 2.0: combining two hives into one

This past weekend we had to admit a sad fact: One of our beehives was just not producing enough bees or bee supplies (i.e. honey) to survive a winter. We installed our two separate hives about 10 weeks ago. The “blue” hive is cranking. They have filled one bottom layer of files and more than half of a second. The “pink hive” has barely filled half of their starter layer. We don’t know what they are doing, but it ain’t much. To help ensure the success of at least one of our two hives, we decided to combine them – which basically means sacrificing the pokey queen for the strong one. It also means that we intentionally created a bee war in our backyard. Why do I keep hearing the Game of Throne’s theme playing in my head? Here’s how it works.

1. Condense the two hives that are to be joined.
In our case that meant simply taking off the top layers (that we just put in a rash of hopefulness). They were mostly empty anyway, though of course there were probably a couple of hundred of bees in each of them.

2. Use smoke to get the “strong” hive to burrow in while you place a layer of newspaper on top.
When bees smell smoke, they think there is a fire, so they run home and eat. (Sensible reaction, don’t you think?). The paper layer is to help the two hives get used to each other. You place the layer over the one five, make some bee-sized holes.

3. Place the second hive on top of the first hive.
The bees will be forced to find their way through the paper. In time, they will chew through it and become one. The paper will serve as slight barrier that will allow the bees to get used to the smell of the other bee so the inevitable “war” isn’t as deadly.

4. Give them some extra food.
We placed a layer of sugar water on top to help them through the moral crisis.

5. Sit back and wait for the bees to learn to cohabitate.

Eventually the weaker hive will submit and become a part of the stronger hive. The weaker queen bee will be history, so to speak.


We’ll report back in a couple of weeks and let you know how it is going. Wish us luck!


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