How Do I Combine Two Double-Deep Hives?

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How Do I Combine Two Double-Deep Hives?

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Dave D asks:

I’m thinking of paper merging two double-deep hives. My question is: Do I leave it as a four deep or do I reduce it in size and if so what is the process?

Rusty Burlew replies:

I don’t know your reason for combining, but in any case, you should probably reduce the size of your combined hive before winter. A tall hive in winter can be drafty, due to the chimney effect. Just as a tall chimney has more draft than a short one, a tall hive will have more draft than a more compact one. In addition, a large interior is more difficult for the bees to patrol for winter pests including mice, voles, beetles, spiders, or whatever else might find the space attractive. A hive with two or three boxes will be more manageable for you, as well.

Before you begin to combine the two double-deep hives, try to consolidate the brood nests in each hive. For example, If one hive has five frames of brood in one box, and two in the other box, try to put all seven of them in one box. Repeat this process in the other hive. Then, when you combine, put the two brood nests adjacent to each other with the newspaper in between. This arrangement will give you one big brood nest straddling the two middle boxes instead of two smaller nests in different areas, which is much easier for the bees to maintain.

After the bees have successfully combined but before it gets cold, rearrange the boxes. Put the two boxes with brood on the bottom. In the third box, put as much honey as will fit. In the fourth box, put any extra honey and frames of bees. Let them settle in for a few days, and then put an escape board between box three and four and see if the bees will consolidate. On a cold evening, all the bees from the top box should go down to the brood nest to help keep it warm. Leave the escape board (or an inner cover with a porter escape snapped in the hole) for a couple of days. Once all the bees have gone down, you can remove the top box. If the hive is still so populous that some bees refuse to go down, remove the escape board for a couple of weeks and then try again. Populations drop rapidly at this time of year, so eventually, they should all be happy in three boxes.

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