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Colony very small; is it too late to combine?

 
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Laurieston
House Bee


Joined: 12 Apr 2013
Posts: 16
Location: Northern Germany

PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 8:52 pm    Post subject: Colony very small; is it too late to combine? Reply with quote

One of my two HTB colonies seems to be shrinking almost daily. No dead bees on the floor to be seen and still some brood being laid and raised. However, there are now so few bees left that I doubt they will be able to survive the winter. They have also stopped taking up the 1:1 feed I have been giving them. There is another, stronger queenright colony, with much better stores, at the other end of the same HTB, divided by a follower board. Is there anything to be said for trying to combine the two? The two colonies have been neighbours for months now. And if so, then what would be the best method?

Another thought is that maybe this colony is ill, and therefore should not be mixed with a healthy one.

I also wondered if ths weak hive is being robbed, but there does not seem to be much activity at the entrance. Is there a way to see if some of the bees coming and going are robbers instead of inhabitants, or legitimate guests?

For information we have about 12 degrees on average now, but are already due (over due really) frost, and cold.

Thanks again for advice.
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Lizbee
Guard Bee


Joined: 24 Mar 2012
Posts: 84
Location: UK, North East England, Hartlepool

PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 2:19 pm    Post subject: Hi Reply with quote

Hi Laurieston

Don't know if I can help, I do not have much experience myself.

I am confused about the new brood unless they are all drone in which case you may have a laying worker. If you have seen worker brood then it depends upon how big the cluster is and their stores. Barbara has raised small swarms the size of a grapefruit overwinter. If they have loads of stores then I would not expect them to take syrup.

Robber bees would be hovering in front of the hive and I would expect to see some agression at the entrance if the colony was well.

The bees may move over themselves if they are not queen right.
I have seen a supercedure cell in one of my two colonies, I dont know how it happened as we have had very good weather for queens this year. They have swarmed quite a few times and sadly I did not catch any.

Sorry I cannot suggest anything about combining the two.

I hope someone with more experience will post for you.

Best wishes Liz
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 3:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Colony very small; is it too late to combine? Reply with quote

Laurieston,

It's normal for colonies to contract at this time of year.

From your last inspection, or perhaps by looking through the inspection window if you have one, can you say roughly how big the two colonies are ? How many bars of brood, how many of honey ?

And how big were the two colonies say one month ago, before the contraction began ?

What is the history of the two colonies ? Are they new this year ?

Adam.
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Wood Troll
Foraging Bee


Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Posts: 109
Location: France 49

PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Laurieston,
I must admit I am also not overly experienced but I undertook combining two hives last week. One is on holiday from another beek and has had stone brood (dealt with) which has left it very small but with some stores, the other is a late cast (August) which is very small, has a few stores and might also have become queenless.

The method I used was to transfer the stone brood colony into the cast hive so I can thoroughly clean the hive of spores. I first tried to find the cast queen (to no avail) then placed a wet sheet of newspaper (with a few small slits in it) over the end top bar of the cast colony down into the hive. The wet paper molds well to the sides of the hive and the bees in theory chew through it after they have become accustomed to the smell of a new queen.

The only problem is that I have not had chance to go back in the hive to see ho things are settling down. Everything seems fine from the outside. I intend to inspect the hive on Friday so I will let you know.

Steve
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Laurieston
House Bee


Joined: 12 Apr 2013
Posts: 16
Location: Northern Germany

PostPosted: Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your responses and questions.

Okay. The TBH has two colonies in, the original, which I cut and chopped last year and the captured swarm which swarmed from the original in May.

Original colony was full, that is about 2/3 of full length Chandler design, apart from 2 bars which were being built on. Of these only about 10 have bees still on, of which I would say about 8 are full. Most of these have stores in, although most of this is uncapped. On about 4 there is still brood. I don't experience brood bars and stores bars, they always seem to be combined with stores above and brood below. This results in the middle/bottom of the comb being 'dirtier' than the top. I think about half of the bees disappeared 6 weeks ago, whether they were robbed or poisoned I don't know, but the colony lives on albeit much smaller. I don't think they contracted this much. I do know that the neighbourhood fields were sprayed big time, some sort of herbicide about this time.

Swarm colony was captured in May and filled up all but two bars on the remaining 1/3 of the TBH. They have about 6 bars of half capped stores and half uncapped, and about 3 bars also have brood, in the same way as the original hive. This colony does not seem to have shrunk.

My concern is about whether I should combine the two so that they can make it through the winter, and whether it is too late to do this.

Another idea, or question, is whether I can or should rearrange the bars to make sure that the stores are nearest the cluster? My inclination however is to allow the bees to worry about their cluster themselves and leave them to it.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laurieston,

What did you decide to do ? I read your post and couldn't think what to advise, so I didn't say anything !

Adam.
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Laurieston
House Bee


Joined: 12 Apr 2013
Posts: 16
Location: Northern Germany

PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Decided to do nothing. Well not nothing, but rather let the bees do their thing. I have found out several times with them over the last 3 years that my decisions are often not in keeping with theirs. Another reason is that if the badly shrinking colony is ill it would be better to not spread whatever they have.

I notice yesterday that both colonies in the TBH are still bringing in good amounts of nicely yellow pollen. Did you know that the German word for the pollen carrying is Pollenhosen, translated Pollen Trousers, nice heah.

Therefore I will keep feeding and leave the comb as it is. I did notice that the combs inside to the south of the entrance hole are empty but inside north are being used. The other hive has the entrance at it's southern extreme, so all combs are northwards. Will try to notice this for following years to see if there is anything in it. I will put another follower board in to reduce the hive size down to just the used combs.

Fingers crossed it works.

Laurieston
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laurieston wrote:
Decided to do nothing. Well not nothing, but rather let the bees do their thing.


Well done - that was my instinct as well when I read your post.
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