I have two small hives and I’ve been debating about whether to give them brood from bigger hives or to merge them. One of them is pretty defensive, so I decided to remove the queen and merge it with the other small hive.
I strapped the hive together so I could move it to the bee yard with the other small hive. At dusk when all the bees were home from foraging, I closed the entrance with a paper towel plug. We loaded the hive onto the Gator and moved it next to the other small hive.
This morning I stapled a sheet of unprinted newspaper to the bottom of a hive box and poked a few holes in it. This will create a thin barrier through which the bees will chew and slowly get to know the scent of the strange hive and their queen. I have to be absolutely sure the queen doesn’t go into that box though, otherwise the two hives will battle and I risk losing both queens.
I checked each frame before putting it in the papered box, but by the time I had moved all ten frames, I still hadn’t seen her.
To make sure, I decided to try a two-phase approach instead. I set an empty box on a bottom board and shook all the bees from the frames before putting them in yet another empty box. This puts all the bees under the frames. Before putting the frames on the set up, I put a queen excluder over the bottom box. The workers will be able to crawl through to the frames but the queen is too big to squeeze through. Tomorrow, I’ll move those frames back into the papered box and on to the other hive.
Meanwhile, the foragers remember where their hive was yesterday and are pretty confused. They’re clustering on the cinder blocks and even trying to go in to the neighboring hive. Since that’s a very strong hive, they’ll be able to accept the new foragers without too much trouble. A long-time beekeeper explained it like this: if a tornado blows your house away, the first place you go for help is to your neighbor, who of course lets you in.
After letting the hive sit overnight with the queen excluder, I returned to the task. It is much easier to find a queen amongst six bees vs. 6000. She was hanging on the bottom of the excluder trying to join her unruly children.
Now the two small hives have been merged into one. Both hives will work on removing the paper separating them while the scent of the hive flows through the holes. By the time they are able to get through, they should be one big happy family.