Beekeepers unite colonies in order to enlarge a colony and improve their yield of honey or surviving the dearth. A colony can produce surplus honey only if it is strong enough and contains 6-8 combs with plenty of brood and sealed honey and covered well by bees. This very much depends on the colony having a productive queen. If a colony fails to produce surplus honey for 2 seasons, or if it weakened by repeated swarming, then it can be strengthened. Combine two weak colonies to make a strong one. One large colony collects more honey than two smaller colonies. A colony can be united either with another colony or with a swarm.
Uniting a colony with another colony.
Steps on How to Unite Bee Colonies:
- In the late afternoon, check which colony has the youngest and healthiest queen. Remove and kill the queen from the worst, most aggressive or least productive colony.
- Leave this colony for 24 hrs, they will now be missing the queen and ready to accept a new one. They will also be less likely to fight as there will be no smell on them of the dead queen after 24 hours.
- In the evening catch and cage the queen from the other colony in a queen cage and place the hive near to the queenless colony. You will have to move it slowly and gradually over a number of days
(1m per day) so as not to lose any foraging bees. Alternatively always choose the location of the stronger colony.
- Smoke both hives thoroughly to cover their familiar smells.
- The cage will protect the queen should any fighting start. BUT to prevent bees fighting also dust them with flour or spray with sugar water – they will be busy cleaning themselves and will not fight!
- Place the queen in her cage in the queenless hive next to the brood nest.
- Transfer all the top bars with combs and bees into the hive. Smoke each comb as you do so. Alternate combs from the different colonies as you do so until all the brood combs are united and then add the honeycombs at the sides.
- Completely remove the empty hive.
- Release the queen when you see that there is no fighting between the 2 united colonies.
- Close the occupied hive and leave the united colony undisturbed for the next few days. Any further disturbances may cause the bees to abscond.
- If you did not find either queen or do not which one is the best then you can still unite the colonies.
Leave both queens in the hive and the stronger one will kill the weaker one. But remember fights are likely to happen and bees may fly away, so smoke heavily and flick the bees with water to separate them.
Watch them and keep smoking them for an hour or so until they settle down. Beekeepers may also unite a colony with another because one queen has died or has got lost.
If a colony becomes lazy when others are busy then the young queen may be lost during her mating flight. There will be no brood to raise a new queen and workers will start to lay unfertilized eggs.
You will notice that many brood cells are crammed with eggs – this is called “Worker Laying”. It is often too late to give the bees some brood from another colony so they can make a new queen.
Workers will often be too old to produce milk to raise her. So unite the colony by removing all the combs, brushing off the bees and adding the combs to a healthy colony.
Smoke the bees out of the old hive and carry it away. Most of the homeless bees are welcome to the colony as they have honey to offer.