Yesterday I combined our two hives back into one. For this trick, I used some special equipment: two sheets of newspaper.
The two hives had previously been one before back in May, but were split because queen cells were found. Queen cells were soon discovered in both hives, and after about a month of no brood one hive finally had a mated laying queen. After some false starts of hatched queens who seemed to go missing, the other hive had a hatched queen cell this week. However, we decided to combine the two as both hives were getting weak after so long without brood. A new virgin queen may take up to two weeks to go on her mating flight, navigate back past birds looking for a tasty meal and start laying her eggs – from which new female workers take 21 days to hatch. So losing your queen causes a great gap in colony production.
Combining hives goes like this: brood box, sheet of newspaper with a few nicks made in it with a hive tool, other brood box, super and roof on top. The newspaper will be chewed through by the bees in about 24 hours, giving them time to accept each others’ scent. The two queens will fight it out to the death – I’m hoping the slightly older one already laying will win, but that may not be the case.
The flying bees from the second hive, now on top of the first hive, came back to where their hive used to be and circled round in confusion, poor things. Must be frustrating to come back from a hard day’s nectar collecting and find your home vanished.
Another hive in the apiary has some very aggressive bees at the moment, and while I was in the separated off area where we all drink tea one went for me. It burrowed into my hair and after some attempts to get it out it predictably stung me. My head now has a sore lump 😦
Bee fact of the day: a queen in her prime is capable of laying over 2,000 eggs a day.