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Uniting a Super of Honey and Bees

There are some occasions, when a colony is underdeveloped, that insufficient stores are available to cope with the "June Gap" , if there is one. When these conditions prevail, we may think of uniting extra bees to improve the honey gathering potential.

However, we may not have a 'spare' Nucleus or swarm to hand. It is at times like these that the method described below may be used. It utilises a super from another colony and provides a reasonable quantity of bees plus whatever honey has so far been stored in this super.

The equipment used is simple and easily constructed or adapted from an existing crown board. Most crown boards are furnished with two apertures that are intended for the fitting of porter bee escapes, (The page "Porter Escape Holes" gives details of these). We need to blank off one of these holes (the one that is not on the centre line). The other hole is covered by a plate with a single 8 mm hole in its centre), suitable plates are detailed on the page "Porter Hole Plates".

The method is simplicity itself and can be performed two different ways depending upon the distance between the two hives concerned.

If the hives are side by side or otherwise close together then proceed as follows:-

Remove the roofs from both colonies and stack them out of the way.
Smoke the colony that is to become the recipient of the bees and honey.
Remove the crown board from it and shake or brush all bees onto the top bars.
Immediately put the prepared single hole board in its place, using as little smoke as possible.
Take the super and crown board, as one unit, from the other hive and place on top of the single hole board.
Quickly put the 'spare' crown board on the open donor colony.
Replace both roofs.

If the hives are situated some distance apart within the apiary:-

Place an additional crown board near the colony that the super will be taken from.
Remove the roofs from both colonies.
Place the roofs upside down on the ground next to the colonies, in a convenient position to act as a temporary resting places for the super being transferred.
Place the single hole board diagonally on top of the upturned roof of the donor colony.
Lift the super, with its own crown board, from the hive onto the single hole board (the bees are effectively, but not totally captive).
Put the spare crown board on the open colony.
Pick up the super and single hole board as one unit and carry to the other hive.
Place diagonally on the upturned roof.
Smoke the recipient colony through the hole in the crown board.
Remove this crown board, shake the bees into the hive and quickly place the super and single hole board in its place.
Replace both roofs and clear away the crown board that is now spare.

Finally, whichever method was used, wait a few days then remove the single hole board.

How and Why it works:-

An 8 mm hole is too small for two bees to go through at the same time. (Or if they can it is a scramble).

The bees in the super soon realise that they are enclosed and try to escape, this causes a build up of bees on the top side of the hole plate.

Meanwhile the bees in the main box smell the honey and bees in the new super and go to investigate. This causes another build up of bees, this time on the underside of the hole plate. (A small cluster forms, this is why we chose the central position for the hole, as bees cluster more readily in the centre of a rising stream of warmth).

The two lots of bees can only migrate in either direction one at a time and in struggling to pass each other at the 8 mm hole their scents are rapidly combined or blended or masked (whatever the actual mechanism is). The cluster provides further resistance to travel and further scent combination.

No bees rush out of the hive entrance when this method is used. (They are too busy at the congested hole site). No dead bees have been seen thrown out of the entrance during or after such a manipulation.

Even though the bees are from a hive within the same apiary none fly back to the parent colony, though I suspect that a few of the older workers will return to their original home after their first foraging flight.

It is a method well suited to back gardens, as the bees are only exposed for brief periods of time.

Dave Cushman.

Page created 20/07/1999

Page updated 20/12/2022

Written... 20 July 1999, Revised... 21 July 1999, Upgraded... 12 April 2005,
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