How To Move Bees From One Hive To Another

There are many reasons a beekeeper might move bees from one hive to another. There may be a structural problem or a pest infestation in a hive, making an evacuation necessary. Your hive could be overcrowded or underpopulated, in which case you would either move bees to a brand new hive or introduce new bees to an existing one. Before you undertake a project like this, it’s important to understand what happens when you move bees from one hive to another.

When a bee colony is struggling, it might be in its best interest to combine it with another colony. The weaker colony should be added to a larger and stronger colony that has plenty of honey stored up. Combining colonies in this way will give you a large hive of average strength. Once the newly added bees are settled in, however, the hive has the potential to grow into a very strong hive.

Never introduce new bees to an existing hive by putting them all in at once. Major changes like this will throw every bee into a frenzy and could cause fighting. Different colonies have different odors, and if bees are suddenly thrown into a new hive with an unfamiliar odor, they’re unlikely to adapt.  When introducing bees to a hive, do it gradually. One popular method among beekeepers is known as the “newspaper method”. 

The newspaper method begins with finding the queen in the weaker colony and killing her. This may sound extreme, but it’s a necessary step that you must take when combining two different hives. In the end, there can only be one queen. Your bees will do better with the queen who has created a strong hive, not with the one whose hive is weak and struggling.

Once the old queen has been killed, you can prepare your stronger hive for the combination process. First, use a bee smoker to smoke your hive. This will keep your bees calm while you work. Next, open your hive and place newspaper over the top of the frames in the brood box. Cut thin slits in the newspaper, or poke small holes in it using a pin or a nail. 

Next, take the brood box from the weaker hive and place it directly on top of the newspaper-covered hive. Because of the slits/holes made in the newspaper, the odors from the two different hives will mingle. Bees on both sides will begin to chew through the paper, which will slowly introduce the two colonies to each other. This process is slow and gradual, and bees introduced in this way rarely fight. After about a week, the newspaper will be entirely chewed through! This indicates that the two hives have happily begun merging into one.

how to move bees from one hive to another

What Is The Best Time Of Day To Combine Hives?

There are many details to consider when moving bees or combining hives. One thing to keep in mind is the time of year that you plan to do this, and the weather and temperature that you will be working with. You can’t always choose when to move your bees – sometimes urgent situations arise, and you need to relocate or combine a colony as quickly as possible. But when you do have control over the timing of the situation, choose according to your preferences and your knowledge of your hive.

There is no one time of day that is best for combining hives. This mostly just depends on your personal preference. Some beekeepers prefer to do this during the middle of the day when worker bees are out collecting nectar. This way, there are only drone bees in the hive when you smoke it and combine it with another hive. This also makes it easier to find the queen and kill her, if need be. 

However, some other beekeepers suggest waiting until the evening to combine hives, especially in the summer. This is because of concerns about high temperatures. If you live in a hot climate, consider waiting for a cooler part of the day to combine hives. As a general rule, you should not combine hives using the newspaper method when daytime temperatures are above 90 degrees. When it’s this hot outside, a newspapered hive could struggle to stay cool. Wait for a time of year when the temperature is a little lower. This is for your bees’ wellbeing, and also for your own comfort! 

Some beekeepers believe that early autumn is the best time to combine hives, while others argue that combining hives in the springtime gives bees more time to build up honey stores for the winter and organize the brood box in their new hive. Consider your local climate and the status of your beehives to decide what’s right for you.

Tips For Adding Bees To An Existing Hive

Adding bees to an existing hive is not an extremely complicated task, but there are still lots of tips and tricks that can make the job extra easy. To make sure you’re successful in combining your hives, consider some of the tips below. 

  • Some beekeepers recommend spraying bees in a strong colony and a weak colony with sugar water and then adding frames from the weaker colony into the strong colony’s hive. The idea here is that the sugar water gives all the bees a similar scent, and the stronger colony is more accepting of the newcomers. This method is an alternative to the newspaper method, but it is less commonly used. 
  • If you are attempting to consolidate your hives, you have to make sure there is only one queen among all the hives you’re bringing together. Check and double-check your weaker colony to make sure there was only one queen (and that she has been killed) before you start combining hives. A hive can have more than one queen. If one queen is inadvertently left behind, it complicates the combination process and causes confused, distressed bees. 
  • If you want to combine hives, you don’t necessarily need to have one “strong” colony and one “weak” colony. Two weak colonies can be combined to form one healthy colony. If you’re working with two weak colonies and neither one’s queen has been successful, you can order a new queen and kill both of the previous queens.
  • Before you combine colonies, make sure that neither one is diseased. Check thoroughly for pests. Your colony might be underperforming because it is sick or infested. If that’s the case, combining it with another colony will only spread the problem. 
  • If you immediately combine bees from two different colonies, they’re likely to fight. But if you immediately combine bees from three, four, five, or more colonies, they’re actually less likely to fight and are usually able to quickly adapt to one another. 

Final Thoughts

There are several reasons you might want to combine two bee colonies. Maybe you have two weak colonies that don’t stand a chance of overwintering unless they are combined. Maybe you’ve lost a queen or have a colony that is performing poorly and would benefit from joining with a new colony and a new queen. Whatever your reason, combining colonies can give bees that are struggling with the chance to become part of a successful hive.

how to move bees from one hive to another

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