Uniting a Super of Honey & Bees
There are some occasions, when a colony is underdeveloped, that
insufficient stores are available to cope with the "June Gap". 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
board. Most coverboards 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 8mm 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
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 cover board from it and shake or brush all bees onto the top
Immediately put the prepared single hole board in its place, using as
little smoke as possible.
Take the super and coverboard, as one unit, from the other hive and
place on top of the single hole board.
Quickly put the 'spare' cover board on the open donor colony.
Replace both roofs.
If the hives are situated some distance apart within the apiary:-
Place an additional cover board near the colony that the super will be
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
Place the single hole board diagonally on top of the upturned roof of
the donor colony.
Lift the super, with its own cover board, from the hive onto the single
hole board (the bees are effectively but not totally captive).
Put the spare cover board on the open colony.
Pick up the super and single hole board as one unit and carry to the
Place diagonally on the upturned roof.
Smoke the recipient colony through the hole in the cover board.
Remove this coverboard, 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 cover board that is now spare.
Finally, whichever method was used, wait a few days then remove the
single hole board.
How & Why it works:-
An 8mm 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
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 8mm hole their scents are
rapidly combined or blended or masked (whatever the actual mechanism
is). The cluster provides further resistance to travel and further
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 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.
Prepared by...David A. Cushman...On 20/07/99 Rev 1 21/07/99