Today (May 31, 2016), was one of my first novice beekeeper tests. "Hive 16-04" has had a rough go. It was a small swarm collected in a rain/snow storm, in the late afternoon. After collecting it, we rushed home to hive them but they weren't placed until after dark. The next 3 days were filled with blizzards and below freezing nights. When we finally inspected the hive, about half of the bees were dead. We removed the carnage and decided to let things play out on their own.
Swarm that was placed in Hive 16-04
Surprisingly, the queen quickly began laying and doing her best to increase the population. We fed them 1:1 sugar syrup, but their low numbers and new foundation proved to be a struggle. They are making progress, but slowly. Hive 16-04 has 2 frames built to about 25% each.
Hive 16-04- this was their best frame
Our recent hive inspection (only two days ago) found that the young Hive 5 is filled and preparing to swarm. 8 frames are filled nearly 100% and several queen cells are present (we are waiting for our new deep box to place on the hive).
This is when we had an Aha moment! We can reduce the chance for swarm from Hive 5, and help Hive 16-04 at the same time. How? By Hive 5's generous donation of a filled brood frame to Hive 16-04, of course!
We eagerly donned the suit and lit the smoker. We opened Hive 16-04 and made room for the new frame. Hive 5 required some inspection to pick a frame. Due to brace comb and queen cells, only one frame from Hive 5 was eligible for trade. It had one queen cell, which we decided to remove.
The general rule of thumb is that you should visually confirm the queen is present in the donor hive before swapping frames. Although we did not see her, there were many new eggs present. We did not see her on the frame we selected, and took that as good enough.
We picked up our chosen frame and gave it a solid smack on the inside of the deep box, dropping nearly all the bees inside the hive. Another small shake was necessary to clear off all but a few remaining bees. We once again verified that the queen was not present on our frame, and quickly placed it in Hive 16-04. We closed up Hive 16-04, and then reassembled Hive 5.
Both sides of the frame that was moved from Hive 5 to Hive 16-04. This frame had the most capped brood.
We only performed the swap a few hours ago, but with another quick peek it looked like things were going well. There were a number of bees on the new brood frame. If all goes to plan, Hive 16-04 should increase nearly 3x! For now, we wait.
Update 6/1/16: Since we were all geared up to add a box to Hive 5, we decided to take a quick look inside Hive 16-04. The brood frame was covered in bees, and the one queen cell had been dismantled. Looks like things are off to a good start!