Uniting Colonies

Hi there. We’re going to talk today about uniting colonies. We use single brewed chamber colonies. So when we unite a colony, we’re putting two brewed chambers together to create a two-brewed chamber hive. If you already have a two-brewed chamber hive, then what you’re going to need to do is consolidate the bees in your two-brewed chamber hives down to one-brewed chamber, and then the same thing with the other hive. So when you’re uniting them together, you end up with only two-brewed chambers. Having four-brewed chambers altogether, it gets to be very unworkable. So with that assumption that we have our bees down into two-single brewed chambers, what we’re going to do is merge the two together. And we do this on a slow release method by putting newspaper in between the two-brewed chambers. And that way the hives chew through the newspaper and gradually mingle together and become one hive. We can do this at different times of the year. In the middle of the summer you might have a hive that has a queen problem or isn’t functioning very well. 

And so you want to just merge it in with another hive. Right now we’re doing it in the fall of the year. And what we’re doing is uniting hives that are a little bit weaker with those that are a little bit stronger. So, for example, we’ll say we have a three frame colony. We’re going to call that the weak one. And we have a five frame colony. Well, that’s the median one. We’ll put those two together. We essentially have an eight frame hive then, which is a strong hive. So in doing this, the weak hive doesn’t perish over the winter. Those bees don’t die. They are able to contribute to the medium strength hive. And if we just leave a weak hive to die over the wintertime, by the spring it’s kind of an ugly mess. There’s mold growing in the hive, the honey is fermented and it’s, you know, undesirable equipment to be working with. So we take our losses in the fall by uniting that weak hive with a medium strength hive. The following year, we can divide those two-brewed chambers and go right back up to the same number of colonies. 

And so we’re really not at a significant loss. So let’s go through the methods of uniting colonies. We’re ready to go. I got some help here today. This is Yiza. He’s an intern that’s working with us. He’s from Mexico. So we have a medium strength hive indicated here with a big M, And we’ve also picked out a weak hive in a different location in the apiary. We’re going to merge the two together. What we want to do is move the weak hive to the location of the medium strength hive. That way, any bees that get lost because the hive is moved, are being lost from the weak hive. So it’s less bees getting lost. We want to put the weaker hive on the bottom and the medium hive on the top, because the medium strength hive has its brood chamber better prepared for winter. As bees go through the winter, they consume food and they move up into the top. And so through the coldest months of the years, the bees are up in the top box. So you want that to be the best box. What we’ll do now is we’re just going to move the medium strict hive out of the way. 

We’ve already unscrewed the bottom board and had a good look to see the strength of the bees from the bottom. But I’m just going to move that out of the way and tip it up like so. And then Yiza is going to move the weak hive into this position. Even a weak hive is pretty heavy. It’s about three frames of bees. We’ll get that positioned well. And then we’ll take the inner cover off. And then we’ll put our newspaper on there. You can see these bees are carving about three frames at the bottom, but they’re more like five at the top. Sometimes it’s windy when we’re doing this. And so you either need a helper like Yiza. Or you put your hive tool on the windy side to hold it in place. So now we’re ready to set this on top. We just move it over. And we’re making sure the upper entrance is facing the same direction as the upper entrance on the bottom hive. Now, let’s talk about Queens. Both of these hives have queens. At this time of year, we don’t like taking a lot of frames out and moving them around. 

They’re so full of sugar syrup and all stuck together. So going through and trying to find queens at this time of year is difficult. So we just let the queens sort it out themselves. In almost every case, the queen from the stronger hive is the one that will survive, and the one from the weaker hive is killed. But if you want to be sure, you can pinch the queen or remove the queen from the weaker of the two hives. So what’s going to happen here now is the bees will chew through the newspaper, colonies will gradually merge, the sense that the colony becomes uniform and they’ll go into winter in a stronger condition than they were prior to uniting them. A few more points here. If you have a hive that’s very weak, there’s really not much point uniting it with another hive. So if there one or two frames of bees, those are best dealt with by just shaking the bees out in front of the hive you’re wanting to unite them with. And then you store it away where it’ll stay in good condition. It’s really important that we aren’t uniting colonies that potentially have American foulbrood. 

So if you’re uniting hives in the middle of the summer, do a good job of inspecting those hives to make sure there’s no American foulbrood. In the fall of the year, it’s too late for us to be inspecting that. But we did inspections earlier on, so we’re confident with uniting the colonies that we did today. Last point, we have done another video on uniting hives, and that’s the case where there’s laying workers. So you can watch for that. Thanks for watching. See you another time.