honey bee management how to

How to combine colonies using newspaper

Folded newspapers. One or two sheets is enough for combining colonies.

Although newspapers are no longer common, you can probably find a sheet or two.

Beekeepers often want to combine two colonies, usually because one is weak or queenless. Because each colony has its own unique odor, combining colonies without an “introductory period” can cause fighting among the workers. Worse, any fighting could kill the queen.

If the two colonies have a layer of newspaper between them, the bees must first tear through the paper before they interact. This process takes a while, but as soon as the paper gets holes in it, the colony odors begin to mingle. By the time the bees can pass through the paper, the odors have substantially combined and fighting is avoided.

The newspaper method is easy

Combining colonies using newspaper works surprisingly well. I have even used it in the dead of winter to save a queenless colony. Here are some simple guidelines:

Step 1: You should have only one queen. Keep the strongest queen and destroy the other. There is no point in letting them “fight it out” because you could end up losing both.

Helpful tip:

Instead of killing a queen, you can keep her in a queen cage with some candy and a dozen nurse bees. If for some reason the colony combination goes awry and the queen is killed, you can introduce the remaining queen.

Step 2: Place a layer or two of newspaper over the topmost brood box of the bottom colony. One sheet is enough, although I frequently use two, just to slow the process a little.

Helpful tip:

The bees don’t care whether you use sports, world news, op-eds, or classified. What they don’t like is columns that end with “continued on A6” when there is no A6.

Step 3: You can let the paper hang over the edge—or not. In wet areas, the paper may wick some rainwater into the hive although it’s usually not much since newspaper disintegrates quickly.

Step 4: To give the bees a head start, some folks make two or three slits in the newspaper with a blade or sharp knife. Other folks don’t bother with slits.

Helpful tip:

Making slits is one of many practices that beekeepers spend hours arguing over while the bees just go about their business. Beekeepers really care about slits and bees really do not, so just do what makes you happy.

Step 5: Place the second colony on top of the newspaper. The bees should be happily combined in a few days—the larger the colonies the quicker it happens. You can remove the remaining paper if you want, or the bees will remove it by themselves.

Rusty Burlew
Honey Bee Suite

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  • What recommendations do you have of getting all of the bees out of the hive body you put on top of the hive you’re combining into? Will they mostly leave on their own? Should I use a fume board, etc?

    • George,

      Once the evenings get cold and the bees start to cluster, they will all come together. Also, if there is room, move all the combs with honey and pollen into the lower box and remove any that aren’t full from the bottom box. Basically, the bees will move themselves.

        • Scott,

          I’ve never put an entry in the top box. The bees go through the paper quickly, so I never saw a reason for a separate entrance. I think the bees will mingle more quickly without one. However, if you want an extra entrance, I think it would work just fine.

  • To help introduce some queenless bees to a queenright hive, I used the newspaper method but I also added about two drops of lemongrass oil to make the entire hive smell the same. I have no idea as to whether it made a difference or not (versus newspaper alone), but there were no issues. The bees I added were pretty mad so I wanted to placate everyone as much as I could.

  • I have a weak nuc going into winter. I am contemplating about adding a couple frames of bees to the colony using the newspaper trick and then reduce them back down to a 10 frame box using a bee escape board. Then overwinter them on top of a strong colony to provide warmth over the winter. There are 9 frames of drawn/capped comb brood available.

    Do you think this might work Rusty? I am wondernig if I should cut my losses and have 6 strong colonies or should I push for that nuc to survive? If I do not overwinter the nuc then I have some capped frames of honey for the spring to get queen rearing off to a start. Personal openion is greatly appreciated.

    What to do….

    • Okay, Jeff, you asked for personal opinion. If it were me I would probably try to bring that nuc through the winter. Your plan is sound and you have a chance of succeeding. On the other hand, common sense tells me to go for the second, more conservative plan, and cut your losses.

      At heart, I’m an experimenter and I’ve learned a lot by trying things that shouldn’t work. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t. I find that these little projects take a lot of time and mental effort, but I enjoy the challenge. If I succeed I learn. If I fail I learn. So, in the long run, what appears to be a loss is just an education. And education is never free.

  • Being a chemist and an engineer I like to experiment. Bringing a nuc through the the winter offers a lot of advantages here on the Island, especially in light of the short season. I’m looking at overwintering the nuc on top of another 20 frame standard colony with a really tight stainless steel mesh. So I think when I go home this evening I will move two frames from a really strong hive on top of the nuc and preform the newspaper trick. Then on Sunday I will remove the newspaper. The question is should I leave the nuc in a standard deep box or reduce down to 5 frame before winter. The 10 deep has most of the frames drawn out with honey and some brood so there would be ample food.

    If it fails the strong colonies can clean up those frames in the spring.

    Thanks Rusty

  • I checked today, it was 21°C. There was 4 frames covered pretty good with bees. So I placed a sheet of newspaper with two frames of bees from another colony. I know the two frames added above the 10 frames are queenless as I found the queen and placed her back in the box from the original hive on the frame next to where these frames came from. So by Sunday those bees should be acclimatized. Also there was a small amount of capped brood on one of the two frames to keep the nurse bees where they need to be.

    So Sunday I will check to see if they have merged and reduce everything back to one box. Later in the fall after I feed the nuc up good I will place that on top of the 20 frame box using the duel-sided screened inner cover I made up. I’m hoping the heat from the bottom bees will support those top bees.

    Also at what point will bees stop drawing comb, assuming carbohydrates are still available? is it temperature dependent or is it season dependent? I know there are still some bees to emerge yet.

    My colonies did well. I had one colony from last year. Two splits plus original from last year and two nucs. Then last year’s colony swarmed and I caught it. Then the virgin left and the swarm didn’t make it. So I didn’t get a new mated queen until 10 days ago so the other colonies were supporting the queenless and nuc for a while until new queens arrived. So at the end of the season each colony has 19 frames drawn plus 10 in the nuc at present. That is why I’m asking if I feed some more is there any chance they will draw the last frame for each box.

    Thanks Rusty. You are helping me a lot.

    Also I pulled 11 frames of capped honey from the swarm, with another 8 frames partially drawn or open from last year’s queen that swarmed. So I still have that left on and am feeding sugar syrup so I can add that to the 10 frame box if I want. Many options. Many options.

    • I’ve been told that drawing of combs is related to availability of nectar and day length. I’m sure temperature is a factor as well. Heavy syrup resembles honey more than it resembles nectar. So feeding in the spring induces comb building more than feeding in the fall because the formulations are different.

      I suspect you may have some comb building in the next few weeks but not much. I doubt they will draw out a whole frame. Be sure to let me know because now I’m curious.

  • Update. I pulled off the top hive feeder today to install a bee escape. In the partially drawn honey super where two frames were removed and a void space present there was drawn comb roughly 3″ by 5″ attached to the brood frames below. That was over the last 3.5 days. So as you mentioned, as along as nectar is available they will draw comb. Current daytime temperature is in the high 60’s to low 70’s cooling to high 40’s to low 50’s at night.

    I plan to move the top hive feeder to a colony I removed two frames from in hope they will draw a little more comb and fill a bit of it up. I know a colony can get by the winter here with 18 frames as I discovered last year as there were only 17 frames drawn on the colony last year and not a lot of stores. The honey board was needed last year but I do not think this will be an issue this year. I only took those frames for the nuc.

    Once again thanks for the feedback Rusty. It’s greatly appreciated.

  • I captured a small swarm earlier today. Should I combine it with another hive that contains a swarm capture from a few weeks ago or should I insert it into a new hive?

    • Jeremy,

      You can do either. But if you decide to combine them, make sure to remove one of the queens. If you put the two queens together they could possibly kill each other so you may end up with no queen. Also, combine slowly, using newspaper works well.

    • You can keep a captured swarm in a nuc box for weeks. But once it fills up the box, it will want to swarm again.

  • Many questions . . .

    I hoped my bees would raise a new queen from a frame of brood I gave them. It appears they have not but I haven’t looked closely yet. My second is doing great so I wish to combine them.

    My strong hive has 2 supers on the 2 hive bodies. Must the weak hive’s hive body be set on the strong hive’s hive body? Or can I set it on top of the supers? If I cannot set it atop the supers, What do I do with the supers full of bees and honey? My ventilated inner cover provides a top entrance, should that be closed up when they are combining? Is there a certain time of day/year when they should be combined?

    • Sarah,

      You want to unite the two brood chambers, so I would not put the honey supers between them. I would remove the two supers, place a piece of newspaper over the strong hive body (with or without a slit, it doesn’t matter), then place the weak hive body on top of the newspaper.

      The problem, as you pointed out, is now you have two supers filled with bees. What I would do is remove the bees from the supers before I combined. I would remove the bees by using an escape board (or any other escape device, such as a porter) or by blowing them out or fuming them out. Then I would place the bee-less supers on top of the weak hive body (which is on top of the newspaper which is on top of the strong hive body) and close the upper entrance for two or three days until the hives have combined.

      After the two or three days you can re-open the upper entrance. You do not have to do anything with the newspaper; the bees will remove it. You can combine anytime. Now, with many of the bees out foraging, is a good time. By the way, don’t worry about the weak hive not being able to get out . . . the newspaper barrier won’t last very long.

      • Right now the weak hive is in two supers, should I reduce them to one? Thanks for answering so soon.

          • Hi. I recently combined a very strong queenless hive with a small queenright nuc which I transferred into a brood box. I used the newspaper method but because the queenless colony had a brood box plus 2 supers full of bees I placed the queenright colony underneath. What are the chances of the queen surviving?

        • Sarah,

          Combine them into one if it’s convenient. Otherwise, put both on. If’s it’s as weak as you say, you should be able to reduce it to one box fairly easily.

  • When combining two hives, should there be only once entrance, or is it okay to have two entrances, one for each hive?

    • You can do it either way, but why not get them accustomed to the main entrance right from the start?

      • Maybe my experience is difference than others but I would think if they went thru the paper in minutes that would defeat the purpose of the slow introduction. I just merged 2 hives yesterday with one sheet of paper and today (24 hours later) the paper is fully intact other than one hole in the corner just big enough for one bee to fit thru. With this being possibly a slow process I think it would be wise to at least shade the hive so they don’t overheat with lack of ventilation and water to cool the hive. I set a sheet of cardboard beside the hive to shade them during this process and hope tomorrow they should have chewed a bigger hole now that they have a starting point. I should mention I did put several 1/4″ slits in the paper prior to putting the hive boxes together to get them started but they chewed a hole in the corner where there was no slit.

  • Hello Rusty
    We have a queenless hive that is raising drones in spotty patterns in the brood areas. They have good stores, and we would like to combine it with another hive. We would like your opinion on the risks to the receiving hive. It is in a single deep, and is building up quickly at the moment. Will the laying workers cause a problem? Should we close it up after dark to catch the foragers before adding it on top of the receiving hive? We are in the coastal area of San Diego and things are picking up quickly here with this warm weather. Lots of things putting out nectar right now.

    • I would play it safe and put a piece of screen between the two hives until the laying worker hive gets used to the queen’s pheromones. Hardware cloth or just a piece of window screen will allow the queen’s scent to pass through and yet keep them all separate. I would leave it like that for about three days before you remove the screen. By then, open brood pheromone plus queen pheromone should shut down the laying workers. After three days replace the screen with newspaper.

      Laying workers will often kill an introduced queen, but I think combining the hives will work okay as long as the queen-right hive is strong.

      Closing up the foragers after dark is a good idea. Just keep that whole hive locked up and above the screen for the three days. It won’t hurt the foragers to keep them in for awhile.


  • We use another method with newspaper to introduce single frames of brood and bees by making a paper envelope, pop the frame and bees in the envelope, and put it in hive.

    • Sean,

      That is so cool! I’ve never heard of that, ever, but it makes so much sense. Are you going to send me a photo? Yes?

    • Sean,

      That is so cool! I’ve never heard of that, ever, but it makes so much sense. Are you going to send me a photo? Yes?

  • I wanted to report success of combining a laying worker hive with three frames of bees, brood, honey, pollen and a queen from a nuc hive using the newspaper method. First I shook ALL the bees from the laying worker hive a solid couple hundred yards away then waited five days. After the five days I did the newspaper combine. I did however place the laying worker hive on the bottom for the combine. Previously I had tried twice to requeen. The first time just using a normal queen cage. The second time using a much larger queen cage about the size of a shallow honey super frame.

    I figured if you are going to introduce a queen to a crazed group of bees she should bring a dowry and backup.

  • After reading all the posts about combining a weak with a strong hive, I took the plunge and did the newspaper method. Now I have a question. Everyone talks about what’s going on while the hives are combining, but what happens afterwards? The bottom hive has not completely filled all 10 frames and the weak hive only had 4 frames of bees. Will the weak bees desert the upper box and live in the lower box or will some of the lower bees come up, along with the queen, and start filling more of the frames in the upper box?

    • Beverly,

      After combining they behave as one colony, not two. So the collective decision will guide what they do next.

  • Is it possible to put a weak hive body on a strong hive body, separated by newspaper, then another layer of newspaper and the strong hives honey supers on top of that? Then in a week or so, take the weak hive body out?

    • Jimmy,

      I’ve read this several times and I’m not sure what you are trying to do. If you are just wanting to unite two colonies, you can leave the honey super off for the duration and then return it once the combination is complete.

  • Hi. I am new to beekeeping. Just got my first pkgs of bees last week from BeeMaid. The first tube was 100% textbook. The second was a nightmare right from the instant I opened the tube. First of all. The second colony was extremely hostile. Even though they were handled exactly the same as the first, there was at least 100 bees stuck to my suit. Second. The darn cork was countersunk into the cage. I could not pull it or dig it out. It just crumbled. Eventually I had to very carefully push the remainder through. Then. The bees didn’t attempt to clean the candy putty out at all. So I removed most of it. Gave them a day to clean the last of it out and she was still in there. But listless. I removed the staples. Dumped her into the brood box and it looked like two workers were stinging her. The Queen is dead. What the heck do I do? Afraid to add the Psycho NZ Carniolan colony to the normal one.

    • CJ,

      That’s quite a story. I’m trying to put this together, but I assume you’re in Canada and got the psycho carniolan from New Zealand through your local supplier. Yes?

      It’s not unusual to get different personalities (melliferalities) in different packages. That’s normal. Why one was so huffy is hard to say; maybe the bees had a rough trip. Countersunk and crumbling corks are also irritatingly normal, as are bees who don’t read the manual. I don’t want you to think you did anything wrong, that’s just the way it is in this business.

      You’ve probably already done something, but I would have added the psycho bees to the other package. Having a queen will straighten up their behavior.

      • Yes I am in Canada. The supplier is a huge reputable company (BeeMaid) and they did give us another queen immediately. I never bought bees before so I didn’t know how the supplier would react. By Mid-day Monday the hostile hive was roaring. Within 10-30 minutes of adding a new queen cage equipped with nurse bees, the hive calmed down and was quiet. The strange thing is there was still a piece of candy in the hive from the first queen cage. And the bees rolled it out and dumped it off the edge of the front entrance. I actually got a photo of it. They really did not like that queen. So she was injured. Or sick. Whatever the case there was no second queen to be found on the frames. Now they are behaving like normal bees. Although the new queen is probably not free yet. That was a learning experience for sure.

        • CJ,

          Remember that sound. That roaring is a typical queenless-colony sound, so if you hear it again you will know. Usually bee suppliers order extra queens because, inevitably, some don’t make it. I’m glad it worked out okay for you. Very interesting about the first queen and the queen candy. I wonder what was up with her.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Just wanted to thank you for all the information and time you spend educating the public on there bee situation…Indiana Beekeeper.

  • Hello Rusty,

    I’ve got a very basic question for you. One of the colonies must be moved off of it’s original hive stand in order to unite the two hives. How is it possible that bees from that colony don’t end up going back to their original location (where there is now no hive)?

    Kind regards,


    • Jon,

      Some of them will. You can minimize it by locking them up for a couple days, although after they are combined, life is different enough that they will most likely reorient on their own.

  • I have just put the weaker super on top of the stronger supers, with the newspaper in between, and have put the quilt on top of the weaker super. It has its ventilation hole blocked up because I don’t want wasps to get in or the bees to get out yet. Is there sufficient ventilation for them for the time the newspaper gets eaten?

    • Sarah,

      I’ll assume you’re talking about brood boxes here. They will break through the newspaper in a matter of hours, but if you think they need ventilation, you can put screen across the ventilation holes.

      • After two days all the bees have eaten through and are getting along fine. Thanks for the help. This blog is really useful.

  • Hi. This weekend I will be combining a queenless hive with abother hive. The queenless brood box is full of honey. Should I extract the honey before moving the hives together?

    • Mimi,

      Just make sure you leave enough for the combined hive to overwinter, and then you can extract the rest. Or you can put it all on the combined hive. It’s hard for a colony to have too much honey.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I just got advice from a local honey producer that it is best to put the weak, queenless hive on the bottom. Then stack the queened hive body on top. That this is more successful than putting the queenless hive on top.

    Any observation of which is most successful?



    • Brynn,

      Interesting question and I don’t know the answer. I always put the weak hive on top because it is nearly always lighter and easier to lift…not a very scientific answer, eh?

  • Rusty thanks for all your info! It’s a big help. I have a weak hive and 2 strong hives. Have been thinking to divide the weak hive and add half to each strong hive. There is a full super of honey on the weak hive. Should I create supers mixed half brood, half honey and add those to the top of the strong hive brood?

    And if I have a deep with 2 mediums of honey, should I reduce to a deep and one super of honey so there is not too much space for the hive to keep warm during the winter? Any advise is welcome!

    • Kathy,

      I would move things around to keep all the brood together and then put the honey to either side of the nest and above. I wouldn’t split the brood between two boxes because it’s too hard to keep warm.

      That said, honey bees make no attempt to keep their honey stores warm, nor do they attempt to keep the space inside the hive warm. The only thing they try to keep warm is the cluster. This is fundamental to understanding how a beehive works in winter. Read Physics for beekeepers: temperature in the hive and How do honey bees keep their hive warm?

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am a new beekeeper with a couple of friends in Victoria, Australia. We love this site and think we have read it twice through… Which has possibly confused us even more!

    We have 3 colonies all captured from wild hives in walls and roofs. 2 are going strong but 1 is weak (it was a small hive from the start) and now queenless. We witnessed the queen being brought out of the hive a few days after moving the colony into our hive. There was a lot of commotion. And we were devastated because we have not been able to find a queen yet in any of our hives and then the first time we do she is dead! 🙁 Maybe we hurt her in the move?

    We did a hive inspection and found a small amount of eggs so left it for a day hoping to see new queen cells being made. This was not the case. Not sure if it takes longer but the hive is not looking well. So we then took a good brood frame (eggs, larvae and capped brood) from a strong hive and added it to the weak hive. But we left all the bees on it… Now I am worried that they may fight but it didn’t look like it when we put the frame in. We are hoping this frame and additional bees will help make a new queen as stated in “Queenless or Clueless”.

    Or should we just have combined the hives with newspaper? We are confused and don’t want to kill our bees! If we do combine the hives with newspaper how do you stop the bees flying out of the weak hive when you take it from its current location and place it on the strong hive?

    If you have made it this far thank you and we hope to hear from you soon!


    • Lockie,

      It sounds to me like you are doing just fine. When I move a frame of brood from one hive to weaker one, I like to leave all the nurses in place because there may not be enough nurses in the weak one. The honey bees usually don’t fight when you drop in a frame. They tend to fight at the entrance, but once inside, they are most often accepted. It seems once they are “allowed” in, they have passed the test. You don’t want to just drop in a frame that contains a queen, but that is a very different situation.

      Given that the queen is gone, and they colony now has uncapped brood, it should be able to raise a queen. If you see nothing, you can add another frame in a day or two. Look for one with mostly eggs because that provides the best chance of the honey bees finding one that just hatched.

      Combining is always an option, but I would have probably done what you did. Once the the weak hive eats through the newspaper and mingles with the bees below, they will most likely reorient. You may lose some to the original location, but it won’t be a huge amount. Short of locking up the hive for a few days, it is hard to get them all and probably not worth it because you want to keep the strong hive foraging.

      • Rusty,

        Thank you for writing back so quickly and making us feel more comfortable with our decisions. We will check tomorrow and see what they are getting up to. Thought we would leave them alone today to do what bees do! (Hopefully making a queen) I’ll let you know how it goes.

        Thanks again.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have an overwintered hive that is weak. I will be getting new package bees soon. Can I combine the weak hive and a new package (minus queen) using the newspaper method?


  • Howdy Rusty. I know this is an older column but I recently had a swarm from my month and a half old nuc colony (pretty stressful for first year bee keeper.) The swarm bees and old queen left plenty of busy workers, sealed brood and a few swarm cells and even a supercedure cell in the original 10 frame deep brood box. ANyway, i didnt get to capture the swarm but if i did i was wondering if it would have been possible to combine them back with the original colony by placing a sheet of newspaper on top of the brood box, then placing another 10 frame deep box on top of that and then dumping the swarm bees and original queen into that? Would this cause chaos? Would the newspaper even be necessary? What would happen to the queens inside the swarm and supercedure cells?
    much appreciation, Drew

    • Drew,

      Yes, you can recombine a swarm from the hive it just left. Once they swarm, they urge to swarm dissipates. I would use newspaper, although I don’t know if it’s necessary. The queens would fight and with any luck, one would survive.

  • Hello Rusty,

    When combining two hives using the newspaper method in the same apairy, will the forager bees that have moved to the strong colony not return to the position of the old hive or do they re-orientate to the new hive?

    • Gavin,

      A lot depends on how long before they break through the newspaper. The longer it takes, the fewer that will go back to the original location. As more time passes, they have more of a need to re-orient.

  • Hi Rusty, I performed an artificial swarm on my hive about 2 weeks ago. It was a method that doesn’t require finding the queen. However, I don’t think it went according to plan, and now I suspect that 1 hive failed to raise a new queen and is now queenless. I found recently vacated queen cells in the other hive. The bottom line is that I don’t have any eggs to give them to raise a new queen, and the flow will end in less than a month in my area. I want to recombine them to make the most of the flow. Is this a good idea? Should I still use the newspaper method since they are all sisters that have been separated for only 2 weeks?

    • Kyle,

      Yes, it would be good to recombine, but you should use newspaper if they’ve been separated for more than a few hours.

  • I plan on adding a one-box weak hive to a strong hive using this method. All my strong hives are double brood boxes. What do I do with the three box configuration in the spring when its time to rotate the brood boxes (bottom to top)? Thanks for your help and thanks for the great site.

    • Sue,

      By spring the lower box, maybe two, will be empty. So just remove them. Or if some have brood, just put all the brood frames from two or three boxes into one or two.

  • I recently and successfully combined a small queenright hive with a hive that had no queen following an artificial swarm (using newspaper and a queen excluder). I now have brood and eggs below and above the queen excluder. The hive is very busy and thriving but I’m not sure if I have 2 queens. I’m wondering if the queenless hive may have had a recently mated virgin who is now laying or if the queen has squeezed through the excluder. What is the best thing to do?

    • Kath,

      It sounds to me like you have two queens. I don’t know how long you waited before deciding the artificial swarm was queenless, but it can take quite a while for a virgin to mature, mate, and go through post-mating maturation before beginning to lay. It can easily take several weeks.

      Of course, it is possible that the queen squeezed through the excluder, but I think it unlikely, especially if she still has room for eggs in the lower brood chamber.

      If it were me, I would separate the two chambers and set them up as separate hives. Alternatively, you could replace the excluder with a double screen board (Snelgrove board) and run a double-queen hive through the winter. The lower colony will help keep the newer colony warm.

      • I was thinking I had 2 queens. I had waited just over a month before deciding the artificial swarm was queenless, the other two hives I’d split at the same time had laying queens so that also prompted my decision. I’m going to put in a snelgrove board which should then make the situation a little bit more clear.

        Thanks very much for your help and advice


        • Kath,

          Wow. A month is a long time, but not unheard of. I agree that the snelgrove board is the best decision. It’s actually very cool that you’ve got that extra queen. I’m glad you were cautious!

  • Rusty, Thank you for all your time! We have three hives total, and two are queenless. One queenless is in one box, the other in two boxes (but with several empty frames). The two-box hive has laying workers. Our plan is: To use the newspaper method and place the one-box hive on top today. Then next weekend, after those two hives have combined, shake the laying worker hivebees into the (now single) strong hive. Does that make sense to you?

    • Hi Liz,

      Have you read my post “How to fix a laying worker hive?” The first part of your plan is good, a newspaper combine on the hive without laying workers should work. But before you combine I would take a frame of open brood from the queen-right hive and put it in your laying worker hive. You can probably get all the bees into one box and add the brood frame. Then in about a week, add more open brood. Once the egg-laying stops you can combine the hives. I would be really careful about shaking the laying workers into your strong hive before their ovaries are suppressed, or they will kill your one remaining queen. The post above explains how this all works. Let me know how it goes.

      • Hi Rusty, Yes, I read that. I tried that — admittedly with just one frame of brood, though; I never added another — and the laying workers are still there. I don’t think I want to weaken the one hive I have left, so maybe I will just let this hive die on its own, and then harvest the honey?

  • I am freaking out, I checked my weak hive and there was a laying worker …. I think! Ive checked and checked for queen and normal brood, couldn’t see any, I’ve merged with paper my weaker colony. Now I have done it, I am sooo worried that I’ve done the wrong thing and I have a queen in the weak colony! What is going to happen? Are all my bees going to die? I have a queen excluder between the two brood boxes as I didn’t want the queen moving up and laying in it. Thought it would be easier to clean frames at later date. But if there is a queen in both colonies neither of them are going to be able to kill each other and there is just going to be mass murder …. ?? Oh this beekeeping is a worry.

    • Sarah,

      You can stop freaking out. Many of us run double queen hives on purpose (two queens separated by excluders but having shared honey supers). There is no mass murder, just lots of honey. In any case, you already combined so there is nothing to fret about. Your bees will sort it out.

  • I am a new beekeeper this year. I started with one hive, which swarmed twice and I caught only one of the swarms. I have two weak hives, which I combined using the newspaper method a few days ago. My issue is that both of my hives have been robbed so we don’t have much honey. I think the robbing is still going on, so we made robbing screens, which we transferred to the newly combined hive. I live in New England and I’m concerned about not having enough honey to survive the winter. Is there anything I can do to help the bees along? I do feed them sugar water constantly since they were robbed.

    • Nancy,

      You may get a fall nectar flow where you are, which could help a lot. In the meantime, just keep feeding them a heavy syrup and keep the robbing screen in place.

  • My hive was robbed, leaving no honey and no queen. There is no brood or eggs in the hive. The honey bee count is down. If I feed them sugar water, the robbing bees return. It is now the beginning of September and I don’t know what to do. They have no honey to go through the winter. Is it too late to introduce a new queen? This happened two weeks ago and I go into the hive, hoping to find eggs but there has been none. I can use some advice.

    • Nancy,

      You can introduce a queen, but unless you get the robbing under control the situation won’t improve.

  • My hive keeps getting robbed. I combined my weak hive with my stronger hive but the hive was robbed again and when I inspected the hive, there was no honey left, no brood, no larvae, no eggs and I suspect the queen is gone. I’ve waited a couple of weeks but no eggs or sign of the queen. Every time I leave sugar water, there is a frenzy outside the hive. I leave the sugar water at night but by morning, there are bees trying to get into the hive from all angles. I left my robbing screen in place but it doesn’t seem to deter the robbing bees. I need some advice as to what I should do. Should I move the hive? Is it too late to introduce a queen? Should I stop feeding the bees? Thank you for any advice you could give me.

    • Nancy,

      Before anything else, you’ve got to get the robbing under control. You might want to introduce a new queen, lock up the bees, move the hive into a shed or garage, and then feed like crazy. When the weather gets cold you can take them back outside.

  • I vacuumed a hive of bees a week ago and I don’t think the queen survived. I would like to combine this hive with a late swarm I caught but the hives are about 10 feet apart. What should I do that the field bees don’t return to the old hive site.

  • Hello Rusty…

    So I asked about my hive getting robbed… most of the bees were killed by wasps and other bee robbers, so I closed up all the entrances and placed a piece of garden burlap over the front. I have less than one frame of bees and a queen. I am wanting to take some bees from my other hive to increase the number in the now weak hive. I put the remaining bees in a shallow super with frames of honey they had drawn over the summer. If I get bees from the other hive on frames and move them over would they go down through the newspaper or could I use a piece of screen to separate the two groups? I am worried and do not want to move the lower super since they have been through so much. Also will the newly introduced bees start protecting the new hive? Do I need to keep the hive closed like you’ve mentioned in previous to keep them from going back to the other hive? Since the wasps destroyed the hive will the queen start laying eggs again even though it is coming into fall?

    Thank you for all of your information.

    • Evelyn,

      Equalizing colonies is not like combining them. Just find a frame of brood you want to move, shake most of the adult bees off of it, and move the frame to the weak hive. You don’t not need newspaper and you do not need to close anything up. Just add the frame of brood (making sure it doesn’t contain the queen). The bees in the weak hive will start taking care of the brood. When some of the brood hatches so you have more nurse bees, you can add a second frame in the same way. You don’t want to add two at once because there may not be enough nurse bees to care for it all.

      The queen will probably lay some eggs, but not a whole lot all at once. Just do this slowly, step-by-step, to try to gain some colony strength before winter.

  • Hi

    I am new to beekeeping and have a few questions. I caught my first swarm 3 and a half weeks ago and to cut a long story short I have laying workers (i know this because the population is reducing, there is three plus eggs per cell, sometimes three larvae per cell, and i have had two experianced beekeepers try to help me find the queen and we can find it). I spotted the first eggs 10 days ago now.
    I caught a second swarm yesterday which is just getting settled into to its new home and i am yet to open it up and look for the queen.

    I am after a bit of advise as to how to proceed. A few people have told me to shake out the first swarm with the laying workers and start again with the new swarm as combining them this late will be difficult. Others have said to paper them together but i have heard i then risk them killing the queen in the new swarm. It should be noted that the new swarm is bigger and stronger than the hive with the laying workers. Another note is that I have very limited access to frames of brood from a queen-right hive and my new swarm wont start laying for awhile yet.

    I would really like to save the first swarm i caught and combine the two if possible.
    Remembering that I am a novice to this game what would you suggest I do?

    Thanks for all your help

    • Louis,

      You mean a newspaper combine? More likely, one queen will kill the other. I usually take out one queen so they don’t end up killing each other.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have two weak hives; I’d like to combine them using the newspaper method. It’s the middle of swarm season here in San Diego and I’ve heard it’s not a good idea to combine hives during swarm season.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks for all you do here, it’s greatly appreciated!

    • John,

      I don’t know the reasoning behind not combining during swarm season. It seems to me that if they are both weak, they’re not going to swarm even if you do combine them.

      If they were mine, I wouldn’t hesitate to combine. In fact, combining during a nectar flow usually works pretty well because the bees are concentrating on foraging rather than household squabbles.

      That’s my two cents. You can let me know what you do and if it worked.

  • Well I’ve read every one of the postings but here’s something I’ve never seen/encountered. I went to a friend’s house because he had two swarms in the trees. He also has two huge hives in the same area. When I opened the hives they were loaded with honey, loaded with thousands of bees, no queen and not a sign of any brood/pollen at all in either one. So I’m going to take each swarm and add it to each queenless/broodless hive using the paper technique. Does it matter where I place the swarm? Should the swarm with the queen go on top of these boxes? There’s a million bees and I hope introducing a queen will get some brood production. Do you think this will work? How can there be so many bees and yet not one brood chamber with larvae? Can these all bee robber bees? Please advise! Thanks!

    • Bill,

      Swarms usually land close by the hive they just left from. They usually stay there until they’ve selected a new location to live. Based on your description, I’d say the two swarms came from those two hives. That would also explain why there was no queen, eggs, or larvae.

      The queen usually stops laying many days in advance of swarming and slims down in preparation for flying with the swarm. That leaves the parent colony with no queen, no eggs, and no open brood for a while. Those hives probably contain virgin queens that are preparing to mate, or they have already mated and haven’t yet started to lay. This is a completely normal situation.

      I would say its not the best time to put the old queens back into those hives. They will probably fight with the new queens. Just hope that at least one queen survives the battle.

  • Hello Rusty,
    Have you ever combined two colonies in a horizontal hive. I’m guessing the process is the same except you would need a follower board with a cutout to which you could attach the newspaper. I just captured a swarm that I plan to combine with a smaller colony so any tips or ideas you have would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Hello! My sister and I are aspiring beekeepers and just wanted to clarify your advice on combining. I did read through all of the posts and apologize that some of this is probably already answered.

    This is our second year with 2 hives. Lost both to robbing last fall and had almost no bees going into winter. Got 2 new nucs this spring. Just looked in on one hives and did not see much brood at all. We are unsure if we just are not seeing and it is there? Saw some larvae, but not much eggs. The second hive was not completely looked at, but what we saw looks similar to the first. We have 2 boxes and then a queen excluder and then 2 supers with the top super almost empty. We are looking at combining the hives. We have not seen a queen ever- cannot find- again or are not good at identifying. Should we put 2 bottom boxes and then excluder and newspaper and then the other 2 bottom boxes and go into winter with 2 partial and possibly 2 queens? Or no excluder and let them fight it out if there are 2 queens? Can we take the honey supers? Should we wait until closer to winter to combine?
    Appreciate any advice. We love our bees and are struggling. We live in central Minnesota.

    • Amy,

      Remember that brood rearing slows way down at this time of year. I often see little or no brood in September and October, so lack of brood doesn’t surprise me. If you are seeing eggs, you have a queen, so it sounds normal. But to answer your combining problem, if you use an excluder with the newspaper, the workers may fight or they may accept two queens for a while. Eventually you will get down to one. The biggest danger of two queens in one hive is you may end up with neither. I think I would try really hard to find the queens.

  • Hi!
    Is there a best time of day to combine hives (one is healthy, the other one is queenless)? Usually I go into my hives when most foragers are out, but if I do that in this case, what will happen to the queenless foragers? They’ll have no access to their hive. Should I combine early or late in the day when most bees are in the hive?


  • Hello!

    So I have a very interesting situation. My hive was attacked by wasps and was left almost dead. I went from a pretty healthy hive to maybe a frame of bees in there. At first I couldn’t find the queen but saw some eggs. Then after a few days I saw that the gallies had two eggs in them! So I thought: the queen is dead and a worker is laying two eggs. So I bought ANOTHER queen, frantically trying to save my slim colony. Queen arrived, I put her in there and waited a few days. After four days I re-opened the hive only to find a dead queen in a little box, the bees had not removed the candy. But sadly as I was inspecting my dismal hive I noticed: There is a queen!? So either the original queen was in there or they made a new one. (also, it’s August and I don’t see ANY drones, so I hope she is the original mated queen!).

    Then all of a sudden I notice a LOT of activity at my hive. At first I think: Cool, they are more active than I thought, but then I realized my colony was being ROBBED by another colony! (Seriously, I can’t get a break!?) I smoked them, dispersed them, reduced the front entrance to one tiny little hole. Last night I decided to close up the entire hive in hopes that 1) It would give the robbers nothing to steal. 2) Maybe the queen (if she is alive after the robbing) can catch up on some egg laying and boost my hives population!

    So today, as the hive is all sealed up, I noticed a LOT of the robbers were coming back to steal from my hive… as an act of desperation I took a vacuum with panty hose on the end and sucked up probably about 2-3 cups of bees, lol. Then I made a paper envelope and put them in there, waited till evening, opened the bottom door to the hive and slid the paper envelope in there. After I slid them in there, I resealed the front door and am planning on keeping it that way until the other honey bees lose interest in my hive.

    I am REALLY hoping that the robbing bees I caught will add volume to my hive… once they eat their way out of the paper envelope. My question is: Have you ever done anything like this? Will the bees after a while turn their allegiance from their old queen and simply view MY hive as their home? And will any of them try to go back? I’m planning on forcing the whole colony to stay inside the hive for about 3-4 days… hoping that the queen and the remaining (few) workers can build a brood again.


  • Hi Rusty,

    I am intending to unite two hives using the newspaper method you suggest. I think my weak hive is queenless as when first inspecting last week, following our cold winter here in southern Australia. I couldn’t find the queen and there were no eggs but plenty of honey. However, when putting the hive back together after inspection, there were bees fanning on the landing board, which I found confusing. My question Rusty is, would they have been fanning if there was no queen in the hive? If she is still there, she must be weak, so how vital is it for me to find her before combining her with a stronger hive which is a few miles away? Second question is, should I put a nuc with a few drawn frames in the spot from which I remove the weak hive in the hope of catching any bees who had not arrived home by dawn which is when I hope to collect the hive

    I am very upset about this hive not coming through winter well, as it was my strongest hive and I’m wondering what I could have done to prevent this dearth of bees. I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t cared for them as well as I should have, despite my efforts, so I was interested in your recent post. Thank you for sharing your wisdom so generously.


    • Julia,

      The bees fan after a hive has been opened to make sure all the bees know where the entrance is. It really has nothing to do with the queen. They are fanning their own Nasonov pheromone.

      If there is no brood now (which would be about equivalent to our April) I assume there is no queen, just like you say. I wouldn’t worry too much about finding her, just go ahead and combine with the newspaper. If you happen to see her, of course, remove her. Otherwise, don’t worry.

      You can put out a nuc for catching strays if you want, but I doubt you will catch many.

  • I have a strong double deep that went queenless. Seeing 15 queens cells with larvae. It is end of October here in Texas so I am not optimistic about her mating wellness before it gets cold/drone availability.

    I have a solid single deep that’s queen right. Could I do a newspaper combine? Or would the bigger hive (without a queen) overwhelm the smaller (with the queen)?

    • Katherine,

      You could cage the queen for two or three days while the newspaper combine is going on, and then release her. That will give you a greater margin of safety.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thank you for the previous advice you have given me. I have one more problem that I hope you can advise me on. I had wrote you a few weeks ago because 2 of my hives were queenless (I think because of Thymol and unusually high temperatures). I re-queened and it seemed like both hives were accepting their queens (the worker bees weren’t being aggressive with the queen and went right to feeding her in the cage).

    I checked a week later and one hive was totally normal and their queen was fine. Then I checked the other hive and it was a totally different story. Couldn’t find the queen and the hive was full of drones (the rest of my hives might have 2 or 3 drones left and this hive had 5 or more drones per frame). So I am thinking that the workers must have started laying eggs. Although, I couldn’t find any eggs, only some capped brood that wasn’t there the week before. I had read an article you wrote about how workers will kill the queen, if they have started producing brood. I am thinking that is what happened to my queen. She is definitely not in the hive (we have checked the entire hive twice). The weather is starting to get cool now and I am in a panic. I don’t want to lose all those bees. It was my strongest hive and it is still full of bees (2 deep 10 frame supers).

    So I was wondering what you think would be the best thing to do? Should I split the hive in half and put a deep super on 2 of my other hives (using the newspaper method)? If I do that, would I leave that super on all winter (so that it would be 3 deep supers high)? If I use the newspaper method, will the laying workers affect the new hive? Thanks again for all your advice.

    • Nate,

      I’m not convinced you have laying workers. You mentioned some capped brood. Was it in a normal pattern, like a circle of brood? And was it worker brood or drone brood? If it is worker brood in a circle, you do not have laying workers. They lay randomly across the frames, not in a patch. and they don’t lay workers. Also, you would see multiple eggs in many cells.

      At any rate if you combine the hives, wait a week or so after combining and then add an escape board or a porter escape to get them into two brood boxes and then take off the third box. Too much space in a winter hive is an invitation to predators and pests.

      • Rusty,

        Thanks! I wasn’t convinced that I had laying workers either. The only reason I thought I had laying workers was because of the high number of drones in that hive (and a lack of a queen). The rest of my hives don’t even have 1/10th of the amount of drones. I am not seeing any eggs at all and the brood pattern is circular (although, it is a much smaller circle of brood than normal). But the brood also looks like worker brood (smaller cells and don’t have the raised cap). The next nice day we have, I am going to go through the hive again and see if we just missed the queen on the previous 2 inspections. Maybe something happened to the queen after she was accepted and laid some eggs. If I don’t find her, than I will combine the hive with my other hives. Thank you so much for your help! I have a mentor (the only beekeeper within a 50km radius) and he has been helpful. But he is over 90 years old and is completely self taught (and I already have more hives than he does). He definitely doesn’t have the vast knowledge of beekeeping that you do. You have helped ease some of the panic I have experienced as a first year beekeeper. So thanks again!

    • Susan,

      I’m not sure what you’re getting at here.

      1. Yes, you can combine three weak hives using standard combining practices. However, three small weak hives might just give you one big weak hive. In other words, you need to solve the problem of why they are weak if you expect improvement.

      2. You can overwinter two queens in two deeps if you keep the queens separate from each other. A double-screen board (Snelgrove board) might work.

  • Am in Fairbanks Alaska. My attempt at overwintering outside failed so I started with two new packages this year. A company was offering mosquito spraying in our neighborhood about the time my two colonies collapsed down to 1.5 and 3 seams of bees. Both have queens but are very weak so I decided to try to combine them with a double queen excluder setup to try to get them strong enough to attempt overwintering inside. I put an excluder an uncut sheet of newspaper, a shim and another excluder then the weak hive then a feeder then my lid. Got busy and 2 weeks later the newspaper was still intact and the top dink was dinking along with capped brood and dinky stores. Put slits in the paper and am trying again. Anyone heard of this happening?

    • I guess I don’t understand. If you were trying to combine the two colonies, why use excluders? And if you’re not trying to combine, why use newspaper? I guess I’m missing something.

  • What about propolis trap? Can be used instead of newspaper? It has very small slots and bees can’t pass through it.

    • Hisham,

      The problem is you want the bees to co-mingle and combine into one colony, but you want them to do it slowly instead of all at once. The more newspaper they remove, the more easily they can mix. A propolis trap would defeat the purpose.

  • My husband and I are a new beekeepers, and we installed 2 nucs in 2 hives June 1 (in NH). One hive has what we call a lazy queen (does her job, but slowly), and the other hive is more active, but lost the queen right after we installed the nuc. That active hive re-queened themselves (yay); 2-3 weeks ago we saw eggs. An inspection this last weekend saw no eggs, larvae, or capped brood in the active hive, and aggressive buzzing indicating there is not likely a queen again. Since it is almost August and we now have a queenless hive and a lazy hive we were thinking of merging the two to try and get through the winter with at least one hive. Between the 2 hives we maybe have 4-5 frames of honey right now. Question is, do we merge the more active hive (with more bees, but no queen), into the lazy hive (with less bees, but with a not-so-great queen), or dethrone the lazy hive, get a new queen and merge them both with a new (hopefully better) queen? Thanks, these posts have been really helpful!!

  • Hello,

    I wish to unite two hives for the winter, using the paper method. Could you please tell me, how the bees from the top, still flying, will be able to get back in to their box, now separated with the newspaper?
    I love to read all your advise.

    Thank you

    • Jean,

      Bees out flying while you combined hives will go back to the original location of their hive. It’s best to lock them in their hive at night before combining the next day.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I followed these steps exactly and combined an August swarm with a small hive that was extracted from a house in July. The swarm was a good size and was building comb quickly, but after a couple weeks I never saw a queen and they were filling all their new comb with nectar (no eggs). Since we’re into our dearth here and winter is around the corner, I figured combining the two weak hives gave them both a better chance at survival.

    I did the combine in the evening when it appeared all the foragers from the swarm were home. The two hives are about 300 feet apart, and I placed the swarm over the extraction, separated by paper, and with frame feeders in both boxes. By the next day a large portion of the swarm was desperately trying to find their box back at the original location. They eventually clustered in a roll of landscaping fabric (imagine unrolling wrapping paper and finding sheets of bees between each layer). Not knowing what to do, I gave them back a box to go in (insert sound of 300 bees sighing with relief).

    Now what?

    • Emily,

      Read the posts on moving colonies a short distance. You need to keep them confined for a few days.

  • It is April 2019. I have a large, 2-deep hive that came out of winter queenless and a small 2-3 frame queenright nuc. There are definitely no eggs, larvae or capped brood in the queenless hive. I have checked 3 times now. Top and bottom boxes. This hive is hopelessly queenless. I have not tried this and am looking for input. I am thinking about trying the newspaper method but a little differently. With the newspaper method it usually takes anywhere from a day to a couple before the 2 colonies are joined. I would think the foragers from the nuc would fly back to their original hive in that short amount of time. I am not sure how long the large colony has been queenless but I do not see any eggs from laying workers.

    It’s a risk on whether the hive will accept a mated queen. I’m thinking of closing in the queenright nuc for about 3 days and on the 4th day putting them above the large colony via newspaper method. I’m thinking that way I might have very few if any foragers flying back to the original hive. At the same time (maybe) I could put the queen from the nuc in a queen cage and put her below with the queenless bees. Then after a couple of days see how the bees are reacting to the queen. Any thoughts, suggestions etc? Do you think this could work? I’m sure there is something I am missing but not sure what.

    Thanks Linda

    • Linda,

      If you see no sign of laying workers, why not put the queenless hive under the nuc in the nuc location? Locking up the good hive my not be the optimum choice, since you don’t want to disrupt a good thing. Instead, lock up the queenless bees and move them. Still use newspaper, of course.

  • I’ve probably made this more complicated than I need to (as usual) but here it goes:

    I split my colonies earlier this year, essentially making nucs with the old queens and leaving most of the bees and frames in the old hives to get on with requeening themselves and making honey. I suspect that one of them failed to produce a queen (23 days now from the split which I did when there were open but filled swarm cells). The hive is two deeps very full of honey and pollen but no sign of eggs or brood.

    I’d like to combine that hive with one of the nucs (now in a deep). Since all the brood is in the nuc I’d rather not put it on top of the old hive and have the queen start laying in the supers.

    Can I put the small, queenright colony on the bottom or the middle of the large queenless one and use newspaper on both sides?

    Thank you for the this resource Rusty it has really been invaluable to me. This is our first year with production beyond our personal needs so we’ve been selling cut comb at your suggestion.

    Location: Southern Vancouver Island

    • Erik,

      You can try it. I would be careful, though, because 23 days is barely enough time to go from split to laying queen, especially if you can any bad weather.

  • I am combining a queenright colony with a queenless colony using the newspaper technique and the queenless colony has capped queen cells, Should I remove the capped queen cells from the frames prior to combining?

    • Alram,

      Personally, I would not remove the capped queen cells. If something goes wrong with the introduction, then you have the capped cells to fall back on. If the introduced queen is strong and healthy, she will dispatch the queen cells. If not, it’s better that a new queen takes over.

  • Hi Rusty, I made a mating nuc box (8 frame box divided in 3, with 2 frames in each section). It worked great! My question is what do I do with all the bees and nice brood the new queens produced, after I sell the queens?? Can I just put them all together with one of the new queens? I have 6 or so frames of bees that have been isolated.

    • George,

      It sounds like you did well that! Yes, I would combine all the remainders into one colony with a queen.

  • Thanks! Can I just put them into a hive together or do they have to get used to each other, ie newspaper method? I figure they have all been queenless for a few days or more, so if I smoke them good and put them together, (with a queen in a cage at first ) they won’t fight…?

  • Hello,
    Yesterday I combined 2 small hives.
    One hive was a new package installed in April, but something happened to the queen. We re-queened this hive in May, but the colony still seems small.
    The second hive was a swarm we caught In June. It also seems quite small. There is capped brood and larvae, but have not been able to locate the queen.
    Since both seem so small we decided to combine using the newspaper method. We have never done this before.
    Now I am sitting at work freaking out because it’s so hot out and the top bees have no ventilation or any way to get out!
    I feel like I missed a step somewhere where ventilation is provided for the top hive?
    I am afraid I just cooked the top bees!
    Is there a way to open the top hive?

    • Stephanie,

      I like screened inner covers for this purpose. It keeps the bees cool but they can’t get out. You can also put a hole in the top box with a hole saw and then screen it. The bees will usually rip the newspaper soon after the combine, so you may be okay. I hope.

  • Hello
    I am in South Central Pennsylvania. I combined a nuc with a strong hive starting 8 days ago, after leaving the nuc queenless for 3 days. I used the newspaper method. I opened up the hive yesterday (7 days after beginning the combination) and all looked well, but I found 4-5 supercedure cells on the frames of the nuc. I could’t find the queen but it is a very strong hive with many bees. I’ll look again tomorrow, but does the creation of supercedure cells during the 7 days of combining mean the nuc bees probably killed the queen in the main hive?

    Thanks for any advice

  • Hi Rusty

    I thought they were supersedure cells — looked like complete peanuts attached to the middle of the frames from the nuc (above the newspaper). They were not open cups. The nuc I was combining also had what am calling supercedure cells after 3 days without a queen. I cut those out while combining nuc with main hive. It was during the 7 day period of combining that new supercedure (complete peanuts hanging from the middle of the frames) were formed. My mentor thinks the nuc bees balled the queen (based on the evidence that the nuc bees formed supercedure cells during the 7 days) but another beekeeper (who sold me Purdue queens) thinks likely not. It is a very strong hive. I will look again for evidence of the queen but wanted your opinion.

    • Pam,

      I didn’t understand your question my first time through. Sorry. It makes sense that you saw queen supersedure cells in the nuc because you said that the nuc was queenless for three days. That is plenty of time for those bees to begin replacing their queen by building supersedure cells. I’m still not clear why you waited three days if you knew they were queenless. But anyway, you combined with newspaper three days after the nuc went queenless. By that time new queens were well underway, so you cut those cells away from the frames in the nuc.

      After seven days, you found more supersedure cells in the nuc. Right? Without further evidence I would assume the main hive queen is still there. Try looking for eggs in the next few days before you give up.

    • Pam,

      I didn’t understand your question my first time through. Sorry. It makes sense that you saw queen supersedure cells in the nuc because you said that the nuc was queenless for three days. That is plenty of time for those bees to begin replacing their queen by building supersedure cells. I’m still not clear why you waited three days if you knew they were queenless. But anyway, you combined with newspaper three days after the nuc went queenless. By that time new queens were well underway, so you cut those cells away from the frames in the nuc.

      After seven days, you found more supersedure cells in the nuc. Right? Without further evidence I would assume the main hive queen is still there. Try looking for eggs in the next few days before you give up.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I wanted to tell you that you were correct and the main hive queen was still there. The reason I waited 3 days before combining the nuc bees with the main hive is that I killed the nuc queen in order to be able to combine the nuc with the main hive. I understood that 3 days queenless would help the nuc bees accept the new queen in the main hive? That is why I was alarmed to find supersedure cells in the nuc frames above the newspaper seven days after combining. Perhaps it just took the nuc bees a while to understand that a queen was in the main hive, under the paper.

    Thanks again — I really appreciate the advice

  • Dear Rusty,

    You were correct. The main hive queen is still there. I saw her today. There were no supersedure cells today. So, all is well. I assumed the presence of supersedure cells after 7 days of combining meant the nuc bees had killed the queen. It looks like it does take a while for the bees above the paper to understand that there is a queen in the hive below the paper.

    You asked why I waited 3 days since I knew the nuc queen was gone. That is because I killed the nuc queen preparatory to combining the nuc with the main hive. I thought one had to wait 3 days for the bees to know they have no queen. Is that not correct?

    I really appreciate your help with this.


    • Pam,

      When I’m using newspaper I don’t wait. Like you observed, the newspaper slows things down enough that it’s not a worry.

  • Hi Rusty,

    In order to make one strong hive, I was preparing to combine 2 small queenless splits using newspaper and add a mated queen when I was unexpectedly presented with a swarm. So 2 days ago I got creative and gave each split and the swarm it’s own medium super and stacked them, putting the swarm super in the middle. Each super then separated with a screen and given its own entrance. My thinking was after a few days they would perceive themselves as one hive and the swarm queen’s pheromone would pervade through the hive through the screens. However, when transferring the swarm, I could not find a queen but thought I saw a virgin queen. In the middle of the assembly and irritated bees, I just finished what I started. Then I wondered if the splits also held virgin queens that I missed. There were no eggs, larvae or capped brood in spite of open queen cells for over two weeks since they hatched so I figured they died on their mating flights. Then a queen raiser I know pointed out that our unusually intermittent cold and rainy spring weather here in Central Ohio has delayed queen emerging and mating. So theoretically, all three supers could each have a virgin queen. Which is more likely than multiple emerged queens in both splits not surviving mating flights. So, until there’s an actual mated queen, should I leave screens in place? Or will the bees accept each other over the course of a week even without a mated queen/pheromone present? Also, I realize there could be more than one mated queen over the next couple of weeks (heavy rain predicted for the next 5 days so further potential mating flight delays), so I wouldn’t know which queen is ruling. In that case, maybe I go back to splits with respective queens? I feel like I’ve made a convoluted mess. I should’ve just bought a mated queen and be done with it!

  • I would like to combine a nuc where the queen died, presumably on a mating flight. My question relates to the position. I have two hives on a 3-hive stand, imagine you are standing in front of this. I have a hive on the left, one on the right. My nuc is on a separate stand about 2 feet to the left and 7 feet back. I want to combine this nuc with the hive on the right of my hive stand. I understand bees go back to nearest hive, so I’m guessing the nuc may filter back into the hive on left?. Any tips?. Many thanks.

    • Liam,

      Bees go back to the place where their hive was, not to the nearest hive. So these bees will likely go back to the nuc stand.

  • How do you newspaper a failing colony onto a queenright colony that has honey supers on it? Does newspaper go on top of the honey super?

    I may have a colony that is queenless due to the queen not returning from the mating flight. I also have supers on all my colonies (4) including the suspected queenless hive.

    Any advice would be helpful and appreciated

    Thank you kindly

    • Angella,

      If there is no brood in the queenless colony, you can put the newspaper above the honey supers. If there is brood, I would remove the supers so brood would be adjacent to brood, then put all the honey super on top.

  • I learn so much from your website – you’ve become a clear and reliable source for me, a relatively new beekeeper. But – now I have a new level of appreciation. Reading up on combining hives using paper, I laughed out loud over your “column A6” note – excellent! Thanks for the laugh 🙂

      • I’m right in the middle of my first paper combine. July in New England, but I have a few questions (and I’m a newbie so feel free to correct anything below!). Hive I swarmed on June 13, but I was able to capture it and start a new hive, Hive II. I waited until July 5 to see if Hive I would raise a new queen, but still no eggs and no sign of a new queen. I didn’t see any signs of laying workers, but I was worried that time was ticking without a queen so I decided to merge Hive II back onto Hive I since Hive II was doing really well with lots of capped brood, eggs, pollen, and nectar, busy queen, small though they were. I waited until sundown this past Friday – a cool night with rain expected.

        I removed the honey super from Hive I, so I was left with a lower brood chamber and upper deep with lots of frames full of capped honey. I placed TWO sheets of newspaper atop that, cut about 6 slits, and put queenright Hive II on top of Hive I, covered up the top hive to enclose it completely. For the orphaned bees, I put an empty deep atop their old bottom board and placed a cover on that to give them shelter so that they could beg their way into one of my other two hives the next day.

        Next day – total heatwave (when it was supposed to continue raining). I actually put an umbrella over the hives, which get sun beating on them all day, and covered hive with a wet beach towel – ok, bag of ice, too – to try to cool it down (silly?). I saw some mild fighting on the landing boards of my hives – likely orphaned bees from Hive II trying to sneak into them. No signs of chewed paper yet.

        Today – high heat advisory! Worried that the top hive would die from overheating, so I opened up top hive’s cover and placed an old window screen over the top, sprayed the frames and bees with sugar syrup and Honey Bee Healthy, and popped the inner cover over the old window screen to let it vent. A few hours later I removed the screen, placed an empty deep box over the top hive, placed a Boardman feeder inside with some sugar syrup (with Honey B Healthy – read that some people have luck with adding vanilla extract or HBH to syrup or spray b/c it helps confuse the competing hive smells), an inner cover and top cover – by now I’m letting the bees use the inner cover opening and hoping this will help vent the hot hive.

        I did notice some chewed paper outside the hive but not much.


        1. Someone just told me that I jumped the gun and did the combine too soon and that I should break it all down back into two hives (and hope my Queen in Hive II is still alive – put them all back), along with some other rearranging of brood frames and honey frames in Hive I. Should I do that or wait another day or so to see if the combine is working? I really checked Hive I and saw no queen nor any capped anything – not even drone brood. Empty cells but for pollen, honey, nectar.

        2. I worried that Hive I, which is still very strong, won’t accept a new cage queen at this point, and I don’t want to lose more time with this hive since our summer is relatively short.

        Lots of questions – gob bless you if you’ve read this far in my long post

  • Love your site, great info.

    When killing or removing the queen to combine the hives, how long do you leave queenless? Can they go on top right away, or do you need to wait for 24 hrs? Do you then need to monitor the top box for swarm cells if they think they have lost her until they mix together?

    (Great tip about hanging on to her until you are sure that they have blended.)

  • Rusty,

    I have a tall hive that probably has more space than it needs. I have another hive that is bearding on hot days. Can I take a super from the tall hive and add it to the bearding hive with the newspaper method? The super being moved is full of honey and bees.

  • Rusty,

    I have a very weak queenright colony (resolved mite issue) and a 2nd hive that is thriving but very aggressive. I would like to re-queen the aggressive hive with the other queen. Can I put the weak queenright hive on top of the 2 brood boxes of mean bees using the newspaper method?

    Thank you
    Ayda from Wyoming

    • Yes. I would remove the aggressive queen and wait a day or two before combining to improve the chance of acceptance.

  • Hi Rusty, didn’t know exactly where to type this so I hope you see it. I installed a package with queen on 5/8. I also ordered an extra queen as I was going to get some bees from an friend. The package is bustling; the bees that I got for the extra queen turned out to be about a handful of bees – not nearly enough for anything. I looked today and all but a few of the bees from the friend are dead. The queen is still alive. Can I take a frame (or 2) from the package hive and put it into the “vacant” hive? If so, should I use the newspaper technique, or would this not work? If possible, I’d like to do this before the 1st queen is released in the hive, as I’m not good at all at spotting the queen and don’t want to end up with 2 queens in one hive. Id rather not have to purchase a nuc if I don’t have/need to. Plus, I’m thinking the nuc would come with a queen and I would have to sacrifice one or the other of the queens. Can you give me any ideas as to what to do? Thank you!

    • Sheila,

      Yes, you can remove some of the bees from the package to boost the second colony. You don’t need to combine the bees with newspaper because the number of bees in the second hive is too small to mount a defense.

      But here’s the problem. Neither hive will produce any new workers for three weeks, twenty-one days after the queen starts to lay. Many of the workers in the package will die before then, so the numbers will dwindle substantially before new bees begin emerging. By dividing a package before the colony gets going, you risk losing them both. You could get lucky and have both survive, but there’s no guarantee. The new queens will want to lay eggs like crazy, but a limited number of workers in each colony can only take care of a limited amount of brood, so colony increase will slow down.

      It’s your choice, but be careful.

  • Rusty thank you. I was able to get another pkg of bees today (Yay!), so I will install them this evening. Thanks for your response. It’s so nice to pose a question and receive a helpful, thoughtful response. It means a lot!

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thanks so much for all your information. I am about to combine a small queenless hive, a swarm I captured but was never able to requeen, with a healthy queen-right hive. Should I remove the hopefully empty hive box from the queenless hive after they have united? Or will they need the extra space for the new bees? Right now the queen-right hive has two 10-frame deeps.

    Thank you.

    • I would remove it. Things can get messy when they have lots of empty space. You can always add it back later.

  • Hi, quick question: Does it matter what time of day you do the combination, i.e., I would think early or late is better when most bees are in the hive to be combined so they don’t get “lost”? Or will they know to come back to their original hive even though it’s been moved over 3 feet and is on top of another hive?

    • Tracy,

      I don’t think it makes much difference. If you move the hive three feet, they are apt to get confused even if they were in it when you moved it. But at only three feet, most will sort it out after a day or two.

  • This info was very helpful. We did a combo of a large queenless hive (4 medium boxes with a lot of bees and resources but NO brood) with the smaller queen-right hive next door and forgot to make slits in the newspaper. Fingers crossed they all work it out.

    So glad Leigh at Beekeeping at Five Apple Farm recommended you. My mentors and advise from the handful of ‘vetted’ beekeepers like you have given us the confidence to try things out. Though we have had a few colony set backs we have grown from 3 nucs to 13 colonies as of today. Fingers crossed the combo works and the mites stay in check going into winter.

    • Ann,

      Don’t worry about the slits. The newspaper absorbs moisture from the interior of the hive and soon falls apart. The slits are mainly to make us humans feel better!

  • Hi—combining 2 queenright colonies—how long after removing one of the queens should I wait to combine with newspaper? Thank you!

    • Mike,

      According to many sources, honey bees know their queen is missing within about 15 minutes, and very shortly thereafter they will begin to prepare emergency cells. It usually takes a couple hours, or even more, for the worker bees to begin ripping apart the newspaper, although you can speed that up by making slits in it with a utility knife. So, taken together, you really don’t need to wait. Just remove the queen, add the newspaper, and put the thing back together.

      If you want to stay on the cautious side, don’t slit the paper.

  • Mostly just commenting to sign up for comments, but I recently did a newspaper combine with a somewhat crowded nuc on my least populous hive. I didn’t find or remove either queen because I’m a lazy and poor-sighted beekeeper. And I didn’t slit, because I remembered you’d said it wasn’t completely necessary. Within a day I could see newspaper lint on the underboard [boards under screened bottom boards]. I should probably go in and see if the queens killed each other.

    • Probably. But it usually works out in spite of beekeepers (not because of them).

  • Well, I did check up on them yesterday. I saw very small larvae, but not eggs or queens. But everybody seemed good-tempered and pollen was going in. I took out enough emptyish frames to fit the nuc frames into the main hive and remove the nuc box.

    The combine had enough population to participate in the mite treatment I got onto all five remaining colonies in this predicted rare span of not too hot July/August weather, which wasn’t true of either of the pre-combine colonies.

    As a particularly lazy beekeeper, I am happy to now have two weeks when treatment protocol says don’t mess with bees, because cool enough for the treatment is still hotter than I actually enjoy. When I removed my nitrile gloves yesterday, a cup of sweat poured out. Ugh.