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The Incredible Honey Bee…Mixing Colonies, Cross Your Fingers
Purebreds vs. Mongrel
Each honey bee colony is unique. They have a personality all their own. That personality is reflective of the queen and her children. Practically everyone in the hive is her child. If she is a new queen then the colony will eventually be her offspring since the older bees will die off. Therefore, the hive will take on the characteristics of the queen.
Purebred bees are usually more docile than mongrel or crossbred bees. The Killer Bees for example are a cross between the African Honey Bee and the Italian, or at least originally that was the mix. I have more on "killer bees" in the article “The Incredible Honey Bee…The Killer Bee vs Purebreds.” The breed of bees can be compared to dogs. The purebred is more easily trained and predictable. The mongrel dog has conflicting personality traits which can make it more unreliable and unpredictable. So it is with mongrel honey bees also known as “angry bees”.
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When mixing colonies you stand a chance of getting angry bees. These bees are very aggressive. Some beekeepers like these aggressive bees because they are aggressive in every aspect including the production of honey. However, they can be hard to keep. The aggressiveness can be bred out by introducing a new queen. I know of some bee keepers who will extinguish the whole hive because these angry bees will attack and rob other hives. They basically become robbers rather than productive workers and they stress the hives that they attack.
Mixing Colonies Process
There are several processes that you can use to introduce bees to each other. One method is to line the top of the host hive with newspaper and spray it with sugar water. Place a super (small box on the hive) on top to hold the paper. Dump your bees onto the paper and put the lid on the super. The host bees and the introduced bees will each eat through the sugar-water soaked paper, which will take several days. Ideally by the time the bees eat through the paper they are used to each other’s’ “smell” and will welcome each other. The problem with this is that if the bees eat through paper too quick they will fight. Another method is to place window screen instead of newspaper and then remove it in several days. Again, you take a chance that you may introduce the bees too soon and fighting will ensue.
As stated before colonies are as unique as the queen. When introducing colonies they may just not get along no matter how hard you try. Sometimes the introduced bees will leave the hive. Sometimes they will try to take over. The chances of this happening will be increased if you leave the introduced queen with her bees. Therefore anytime you try to mix colonies, you must separate out the queen. She is usually killed by the beekeeper because she serves no further purpose. To leave her in is to invite trouble.
Just remember that personalities of hives play a large part in mixing colonies. The most successful mixes come when the same breeds are mixed (i.e. Italian bees with Italian bees). Both colonies are more likely to accept each other and live in harmony to produce a stronger and healthier hive.