Prop Up a Weak Colony, Or Not?

We have two honey bee colonies in our backyard, both started from nuc boxes 35 days ago and housed in Langstroth hives. Hive #1 has been fed a water-sugar mixture just about every day (with some honey mixed in for the first three weeks). We added a second brood box a week ago because 9 of the 10 frames in the hive were partially or fully drawn out — the colony was ready to expand.

Hive #2 wasn’t fed until the second week, but for the past week has had two Boardman feeders installed. It doesn’t get as much late-afternoon sun as Hive #1, and the last time we checked a couple days ago, only seven, maybe eight frames had partially or fully drawn out comb on them. (We also pulled a huge ugly slug from the bottom of the hive the same day.)

Those are the differences between Hive #1 and Hive #2. Here’s a quick video I shot today that illustrates the differences:


Hive #1 is in fantastic shape as far as I can tell. If the activity outside the entrance is any indication of the health of the colony, then the colony in Hive #1 is doing three or four times better than the one in Hive #2.

It’s not uncommon to prop up a weak hive by installing a frame of brood taken from a stronger hive. But I’m reluctant to try anything like that because: 1) We already rolled the dice last week when we checkerboarded the brood frames after expanding Hive #1. We were lucky the colony was strong enough to handle having the brood all spread out. But if we chance it and mess with the brood again, I think we’d be pushing our luck. 2) We don’t have enough experience to try something like that. The queen would get squished, I know it.

I’m making a call to the one local experienced beekeeper I know, and if he says we should move a frame of brood from the strong colony to the weak colony, then okay, we’ll do it — if he supervises the operation. Otherwise, the plan is to wait until next weekend and add a second brood box to Hive #2 and hope for the best. (We do a lot of that around here.) For all we know, Hive #2 could be doing just fine the way it is. So we’ll see…