The most common scenarios when you might want to unite two colonies of bees include:
- When one of them is queenless;
- When one of them has a vile queen and you are about to make them queenless;
- When one or both colonies are too weak in the approach to winter.
Most bee books will tell you to unite the two using the ‘newspaper method’ This is where a sheet of newspaper (or two), primed with a pinprick (or two), is placed between the two colonies to be united – one on top of the other of course.
The rationale is that the newspaper prevents immediate contact between the two and acts as a sort of a timer – the bees can smell each other through the paper and by the time they have chewed their way through they ‘know’ each other and will not fight.
Generally, it works well but there are certain criteria for a successful outcome:
- One of the two colonies should be queenless;
- Any queen cells must be removed from the queenless half or the bees may not be receptive to the other queen, they might initiate supersedure and they might even swarm;
- There must be no open brood with the queenless colony – or they might build queen cells before they unite, then swarm or use these cells to replace your good queen when they do;
- And you’d better check there’s no queen cells in the other half either – you know what they’re like!
But there are other reasons for uniting bees and there are other ways of doing it…
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