A couple of weeks ago I did my first inspection of the year (a very brief one). It was apparent that the second of the two swarms I caught last year is now not queen right. There wasn't much brood in it when compared to my other hives, and what there was was spotty and mostly drone. I kept an eye on it just in case it was just a bit slow, but it hasn't improved.
There are a couple of reasons for spotty brood, but in this case it wasn't laying workers as I found the queen. I can only assume I have a poorly mated queen that doesn't have sufficient (or any?) sperm and is therefore laying unfertilised eggs.
I wonder what happened last July? Was the weather mixed? If so, perhaps this interfered with her mating flights and she just didn't mate enough. Either way I couldn't allow the hive to deteriorate.
It is too early in the year to requeen, so that wasn't an option, I also didn't want to take brood and eggs from another hive in case this weakened that hive as well. So, after consulting with my old mentor Eugene, I decided the best course of action was to combine the hives.
It's been quite mixed weather of late (especially at those times I had free to look at the bees) so I leapt at the chance to do some work when I woke up yesterday to find a brilliant Good Friday morning.
I got to the hive around 8am which is much earlier than I would normally open a hive, but circumstances dictated I could only get there at that time and the rest of the Easter weekend looks wet. The bees weren't agitated when I opened the hive and I found the queen pretty quickly - and swiftly dispatched her!
The strong hive was also mild mannered and I quickly removed the second deep that had just started to get drawn out.
I use the newspaper method of unification and so placed a sheet with a couple of slits in it over the receiving deep. I then moved the deep from the weak hive on top before shaking out the bees from the partly drawn out deep. This empty deep I will put to one side for now.
The shaken out bees quickly clustered around the hive entrance and started to fan Nazarov pheromone. I just love that smell!
So, I now hopefully have a strong single hive that should grow quickly and with luck, in a month or so, I can split and form a second hive.
It was interesting to find quite a lot of honey in the old hive. I imagine as there was little brood to raise there was little brood to feed, hence the stores being laid down.