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Uniting Honey Bees Using Newspaper

This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.

PH.

 

Uniting Honey Bees Using Newspaper

Newspaper uniting is the most common method of combining two boxes of unrelated bees, that occurs in beekeeping text books.

One or two sheets of newspaper are placed between the boxes of bees to act as a barrier which will slow down the integration of the two groups of bees. The newspaper is pricked a few times in the area that will be over the centre of the box. This will give the bees a purchase to start the chewing, which will gradually open a passage which bees can pass through.

This chewing takes time and during it, bees from either side of the membrane have an opportunity to lick each other allowing scents to mingle. Very little fighting normally occurs, although on odd occasions fighting results in the deaths of many bees. Luckily such occasions are so rare that I have only seen it once in a thirty year period and I am one that has taken a few chances.

Leave the united bees alone for a week, they will have removed most of the newspaper and it will be seen as scattered fragments in front of the hive entrance.

A queenless or weak colony may be united with another. Put the weaker colony on top of the stronger one. Many texts will tell you to kill the least desirable queen in one of the two groups to be united, but I find it is often prudent to leave both queens, so that the bees can make the choice, in most cases the younger and fitter queen remains, but there may be subtle things in a queen’s make up that the bees are better able to make choices about rather than the beekeeper.
Two brood boxes united by newspaper

There is a variation to this method… If the lower colony already has a honey super on, this can be left in place and the newspaper positioned on top of the super, rather than the brood box.

Yet another variation is to use one or two queen excluders, so that the bees combine, but the queens cannot meet. If the upper box does not contain frames, a swarm may be dumped into it. In either case the queen from the upper box will be found on the upper surface of the topmost queen excluder after most of the bees have gone through the newspaper.

It pays to make a couple of penetrations through the paper to enable the bees to make a start.

I put the queen right unit on top as they have the greater drive to get out and get in supplies.

PH

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