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Four Ways to Strengthen a Weak Hive

Updated: Apr 30

A hive might be weak for any number of reasons. It is important to note here that I am referring to a HEALTHY hive of low population. If your hive is weak because of disease, the disease should be treated first before any of these strategies.


Option 1: Feed and Condense


Bees will always thrive in a smaller space. If your bees are filling fewer than half the frames in a box, then condense them (unless you have good reason to expect a population boom shortly!). You can learn more about condensing a hive here.


Feeding 1:1 syrup and feeding a pollen patty will stimulate brood laying and should give your hive a population boost, providing your queen is laying effectively.







Option 2: Boost the Hive


Boosting a hive involves taking resources from a stronger hive to give to the weaker hive. You can take brood and/or food frames from the strong hive. Make sure the queen is not on the frames being donated (I like to find her first and isolate the frame she is on), but otherwise all of the bees can go with the frames.


Learn from my mistakes: Only boost a weak hive once. If that doesn't help it recover, then it's time to requeen or cull the hive. Read about how we cull without killing here.



Option 3: Requeen


This option should only be chosen in spring or summer, and not at the onset of fall. Sometimes a queen problem is hard to identify. But if she is present, and laying eggs, but your hive still just isn't growing like it should, then it's time to replace the queen. Read about requeening a hive here.





Option 4: Combine with a Stronger Hive


One strong hive is better than two weak hives, especially if you get to split it again come spring. When you combine hives, you need to remove one queen (the queen of the weaker hive) and then use a layer of newspaper to allow the bees to slowly become accustomed to one another. You can learn about this strategy in more detail here.


If you feel like experimenting


If you feel like experimenting, you could also try to equalize two hives by placing them one on top of the other with only a queen excluder separating them. We had very good success doing this with some weak nucs this spring. You can read about it here.


Just do Something


There are not a lot of guarantees in beekeeping, but a close one would be that a hive you are worried about in fall is very unlikely to survive winter and thrive in the spring. With these 4 (and a half) strategies in your tool box. you are well equipped to give your small hive a leg up.


Looking for more?


Looking for more beekeeping education? You can find my virtual, on-demand beginner and intermediate courses at https://courses.rushingriverapiaries.com


Or if you'd prefer a more tailored experience, you can join my mentorship group at https://www.patreon.com/thehivementorship


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