Now that children and grandchildren are back at school, if the weather is good, why not spend a relaxing few hours sitting watching the activity in your apiary. 

As well as keeping your eyes peeled for Asian hornets maybe you can contemplate whether you might need to combine small healthy colonies to ensure they will survive the winter. Leaving a colony struggling can cause them to have chalk brood in the spring as stress is the main cause of this condition.

So which queen do you favour depending on her age, laying pattern and the traits her bees exhibit? Are they heavy propolisers which you find a pain, or do you collect it?Are they good housekeepers, foragers, less swarmy etc.

Having made the decision, when you come to do it, the easiest way of combining is by putting one brood box on top of the other, using a sheet of newspaper between the two. By the time the bees have nibbled their way through this they have all become accustomed to the queen’s pheromone and will accept each other. Don’t use the newspaper and the two colonies will fight each other and you can end up with fewer bees than you started with. Two colonies will fight, but three will not. Note which queen you will need to remove.

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