Auntie Bee advises on uniting colonies, and then treating for varroa

Dear Auntie B and Uncle Drone

I have two colonies that I want to unite at the moment. Both need the late summer varroa treatment. How soon after uniting them is it safe to start treating them with Apiguard? I wouldn’t want the smell of the treatment to disrupt the chosen queen’s hold over her newly extended colony.

Auntie Bee answers:

Now is an ideal time to unite colonies and it is essential to have strong colonies going into winter.  As colonies have their own unique odour they will fight unless united slowly with time to get used to each other.  There are a number of methods for uniting colonies but the newspaper method is easy and reliable.

Firstly a few tips about uniting. If you have two colonies to unite – your records should tell you which has the better/younger queen and the other queen should be culled.  Don’t unite and leave both queens to fight it out on the principle of survival of the fittest, the victorious queen may well be damaged in the punch up and then you will have no queen for the following season.

How to unite, This is best done late afternoon when foragers have returned to the hive.

Remove supers from both colonies and place a sheet of newspaper over the brood box in the position that the final colony will occupy.  Secure this with a queen excluder and make a few small holes in the paper to allow the odour of both colonies to permeate.  Place the brood box from the second colony on top and close the hive.  If you want to put back a super with stores a further queen excluder and newspaper sheet are required.

Most text books say it is preferable to unite with the queen in the bottom brood box but I think this is not important.  As you have a queen excluder in between the brood boxes you will know where she is and you can reverse or amalgamate the boxes later on.  Don’t over winter with the queen excluder in place though, if you chose to leave the bees on a double brood.

And the answer to the question. After a week, inspect the colony and if a good proportion of the newspaper is gone and the bees are moving freely between the boxes, I would tidy away any remaining paper and check that the queen is laying.  You will  need to see eggs or very young larvae to ensure that she is laying well.  Then reverse the boxes if necessary so the queen is in the bottom box or amalgamate frames into one box if colonies were both small to start with.  I would then leave everything for a further week before doing the varroa treatment.  Bees are susceptible to stress and I like to do only one manipulation at a time and give them time to recover in between.

Final noteVarroa treatment should be done before feeding as most treatments are temperature dependent.

Good beekeeping

Auntie B

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