A Newspaper Combine

Here’s a short video that demonstrates a newspaper combine:

A newspaper combine is when two honey bee colonies, one of them usually without a queen, are combined into a single hive as one big colony by using a piece of newspaper to keep them separated for a few days as they get used to the smell of each other. Those are the headlines. Now the details:

1) Some people will cut a slit in the newspaper to help the bees chew through the paper faster. I don’t do that because the bees can chew through the paper quick enough on their own. The bees can often walk right through the slit and start mixing before they’ve gotten used to each other — and the result is death, dead bees everywhere, bees that have fought to the death. I’ve been there. I don’t like it. I’ve had no problems with putting the newspaper on without a slit in it.

2) The newspaper method of combining hives is much harder to do on a windy day. The newspaper just blows away. I sometimes have to wrap the paper around the hive box and secure it in place with duct tape. Sometimes I’ll just lay a hive tool on the newspaper to keep it down, but even then, the second I lift the hive tool, the newspaper blows away. So having a little duct tape on standby doesn’t hurt.

3) The hive that’s completely sealed in could overheat in the sun. I often add a ventilation rim to the top to prevent that. Some people just put on an inner cover and block the top entrance with mesh. But if it’s not hot and sunny, in the couple days the bees take to chew through the paper, they won’t suffocate. They could, but it hasn’t happened to any of my combined hives yet.

4) Two queenright colonies — that is, two hives, each with a queen — can be combined using the newspaper method as well. The only difference is a queen excluder is placed beneath or above the newspaper. The colonies, in theory, will combine after a few days, and they’ll have two queens separated by a queen excluder. It can get a little complicated, but I’ve done it twice and it seemed to work out okay.

Okay then. Here’s the extended director’s cut. It’s 18 minutes long and goes into some finer details of all kinds of things that some beekeepers might find handy.

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