Equalizing Bee Colonies
By Khalil Hamdan
The aim of equalizing bee colonies is to
make weak and strong colonies in the apiary of the same strength before the
nectar flow, and to boost the weak colony by giving it either some brood or
Weak colonies have a low bee population
and a few frames of brood. This may be because the queen is poor and not
laying many eggs. However, there are many factors that may contribute to
weakening of a colony. Weak colonies make little honey and are slow to build
up and do not develop into strong units if were left alone.
The advantages of the equalization
colonies more or less equal in strength
weak colonies without effect to strong colonies
It is an
effective method of preventing swarming by reducing congestion in more
result in more honey yield
all colonies productive
minimizes robbing in the apiary
the risk of disease transmission between colonies in the apiary
Equalizing may be done at any time but is
usually done in spring. Start the process in advance of the blooming period.
Only the very strong colonies with large amount of brood and large bees
population are equalized. Weak colonies that are due to a failing queen are
not worthy of equalizing, in this case it is better to be united or
Great care should be taken not to disturb
brood combs and bees from diseased colonies. Always check the colonies for
signs of diseases before equalizing them. Do not equalize a weak colony
caused by disease.
Methods of Equalizing
There are many ways to
strengthen weakened colonies. Here is how:
Transferring frames of sealed
brood from a strong to a weak colony.
Frames of sealed brood
without bees are taken from a strong colony and given to a weak colony. The
bees on the frames are brushed off before putting them in the middle of the
Frames of drawn foundation are placed in the strong hive.
Give a weak colony
enough frames of brood to bring it up to four frames. A colony being
equalized with four frames of brood will develop into strong honey producing
colony in time for the nectar flow. Do not give an unsealed brood, as there
may be a small number of young bees in the weak colonies to care for the
extra brood. Unsealed brood needs maximum care from the colony, whereas
sealed brood needs minimum care.
The sealed brood will
emerge and help strengthening the weak colony and aids in brood rearing.
Adding sealed frames of brood
with young bees.
Shaking frames of young bees
taken from populous colony into the weak hive.
C A U T I O N: Make sure that the queen is not
transferred either with the brood or when shaking out extra bees.
Exchanging positions of weak
colonies with that of strong ones.
Swapping the position of
colonies is an easy practice to increase the number of foragers in the
weaker colony and alleviate the congestion in the stronger one. A weak
colony is removed to the spot occupied by a strong hive and the strong hive
is moved to the former position of the weak colony. This is usually done
when the foraging bees from a strong colony are out during the middle of the
day. When the foragers from the strong colony return to the hive they will
enter the weak colony now on this spot. Bees flying back laden
with nectar or pollen are welcome and accepted into any colony without
Swapping Hive Positions
B C D
Before swapping, hive A & D are
very strong. Hive B is medium and hive C is weak.
Hive A swapped with C, and B with D.
D A B
After swapping, hive B & C
become a lot stronger, hive A & D become a little weaker.
Adding a package of bees.
Packaged bees purchased
for the purpose of strengthening weaker beehives in the apiary can be united
to another hive with a sheet of newspaper between the two units, and one of
the two queens is killed or removed. Read below how to unite two groups of
bees by using the newspaper uniting technique.
Uniting a queenless colony
with a queenright colony.
Combining two weak colonies.
Uniting Honeybees by the newspaper
Uniting honeybees by using a
sheet of newspaper is the most common method of uniting two different
colonies of bees together. The sheet of the newspaper separates the two
colonies and allows a slow mingling of the odours of the two colonies, so
bees integrate with minimum fighting.
A queenless or weak colony and
packaged bees may be united with another by this method. The weaker colony
is put on top of the stronger one. If both colonies are queenright, the
least desirable or the older queen is removed before uniting.
The process is carried in the
evening when the bees are not flying as follows:
Open the hive with the
queenright or strong colony.
Place a one sheet of newspaper
over the frames.
Punch several holes in the
newspaper with a nail or a matchstick to
make it easier for the
bees to chew and remove the paper.
Place the hive with bees of the
other colony without the bottom board over the newspaper.
Close up the hive with the
inner and top covers. The bees will remove the paper and be united gradually
with little or no fighting.
Inspect the colony three days
later and rearrange the frames.
When uniting a package of bees,
a hive body with combs is placed on the top of the newspaper and all the
bees in the cage is shake