Sharing brood & fixing Hives
Learning how to fix a weak hive is a critical skill in beekeeping. Every beekeeper will, at some point, have one or many weak hives that need help!
One of the most important distinctions to make before fixing a weak hive, is deciding if it is worth fixing at all. Click here to understand when it's time to give up on a hive rather than fix a hive. But, assuming you've determined your hive is worth saving, there are a handful of actions to take to ensure your weak hive has every opportunity to succeed. The video above shows how to add brood, as well as gauge how strong a hive actually is.
To Strengthen a Hive:
1. Add 1 frame of capped brood from a stronger hive to the center of the bottom brood box.
2. Add bees. While this can create some infighting between hives, you can add bees to a weak hive. Find a frame of uncapped brood in a strong hive, ensure the queen is not on that frame, take the frame to your weak hive, smoke the entrance, and shake the bees off the frame in front of the weak hive. Since the frame was uncapped brood, the worker bees on it are primarily nurse bees, and integrate much easier into a new hive.
3. Make sure your varroa mites are 2 mites per 100 bees or less. Test and treat if needed!
4. Feed syrup. If your weak hive does not have at least 2 frames of honey in the brood box, then feed a small amount of syrup, about 1/3 a gallon, each weak.
5. Feed pollen substitute. Only give a weak hive as much as they can consume in 1 week, which is typically about 1/4th a pound each week. If it is not all consumed at the end of the week, pull it out of the hive, freeze it, and put it back in the hive a day later. This will ensure any small hive beetle eggs or larva are killed.
7. After 2-3 weeks of performing all these actions, if the hive does not seem to be growing, and the queen is not aggressively laying, consider replacing the queen. As you can see, the best way to save a hive is to "throw the kitchen sink at them" and provide them with every possible advantage and resource to allow them to grow. In most cases, a hive will begin to grow after all of these things! However, if your weak hive has been weak for a number of months, there is a good chance it will need to be requeened in the end.
How to Assess Hive Strength
A Frame of bees is one Deep frame covered at least 2/3 with bees front and back. Note: Keep Temperatures in mind.
The fastest method of counting bees is to lift the lid and with minimal smoke check how many frames are filled with bees. You can tilt the box and check the the bottom to make sure they are not just completely full.