The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Strengthening a weak hive with a frame swap

Checking a frame of brood in the honeybee hive.We took advantage of a brilliantly sunny day on Thursday to peek into two of the hives.  The weak hive was still just as weak --- the photo to the left shows how they still haven't finished building on all of the frames in their brood box.  Worker populations in that hive are distressingly low, which means they're not saving much honey and may not survive the winter.

So I popped out an empty frame from the weak hive and swapped it with a frame of capped brood from one of our strong hives. 
The capped brood will hatch out into hundreds of workers who will build up the weak hive's population, and I suspect the strong hive won't miss the new workers that much.

I hadn't thought ahead to realize that the frame of capped brood would be covered with nurse bees tending to the brood, so I got a little bit worried as I carried this buzzing frame to the new hive.  I needn't have been concerned --- I've now read that the nurse bees will be assimilated into the weak hive with no problems.

The strong hive was not thrilled at having their lives interrupted during such a big honey flow, so I made my inspection as fast as possible and got out.  No stings this time, though --- I'm so glad not to have to be inspecting on a cloudy day when the hive is crowded!

Shame-faced plug: The Avian Aqua Miser poultry waterer works great for turkeys and ducks as well as chickens.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I am facing a similar situation, and will do as you did by taking a frame or 2 from my stronger hive and adding to my weaker one (which was the stronger of the 2, but had a late spring swarm about 3 weeks back). Seems to be pretty commonplace.
Comment by Aaron Sun Jul 13 18:33:22 2014
hi thanks for the info. want to know the update of the weak hive. Did the queen survive with the new brood?
Comment by tmc Fri Jan 27 22:22:59 2017

Instead of adding just a few frames I added a complete box from an extremely strong hive that definitely wont miss it. I identified three boxes with brood, one loaded and two with lots. One of those with lots I took off and shook all the bees from it into the mother hive. I then put on a queen excluder and put the now empty of bees box on the top, top board with top entrances and the lid. The nursing bees came up through the queen excluder and some of the field bees came back in through the top entrance. I left it overnight. In the morning I took the top off the weak hive, laid a piece of scored newspaper on it and added the box from the strong hive, put on a top board with no top entrance so effectively locking in the bees otherwise the field bees would fly back to the mother hive. By the time they chew through the paper they will fly and come back to the new home. I've done this before and it works well. Course can always add the weak hive to the strong with the use of newspaper too.

Comment by valerie Wed May 16 15:53:15 2018

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