How would you handle these two hives this fall?
I have two hives that were a result of a late summer split:
Hive 1: This is the hive I intended to maintain as the split — it is the 'daughter' hive of my original nuc that I bought this past spring (I guess we'll call that original hive "Hive 0"). After my walk-away split on July 15th, hive 1 made lots of queen cells. I got to see the new queens emerge, and the new queen was back and laying by around August 23rd. She started laying HEAVY and that hive is filling out two deeps nicely by now.
Hive 2: After I did my split but before the new queen emerged, someone from my local bee club advertised hygienic mated queens. I was feeling cautious about getting Hive 1's new queen mated in time to build up before winter, and after some discussion, I decided to go ahead and buy their mated queen and use her to make a 5-frame nuc using a few frames of drawn comb/food and bees from Hive 0.
During my last inspection in August (around the 30th) I found a queen cell in Hive 1 which I removed since the new queen was laying so well.
I must've missed a queen cell during that inspection because on this most recent inspection (September 16) there were zero eggs, a fair bit of larva (some that was probably as young as 4 days), tons of capped brood, and an empty queen cell.
I take this to mean the new queen emerged a few days ago, proceeded to kill the existing queen, and then took off on her mating flights. My concern is whether she'll come back mated in time to build up the winter population.
Meanwhile, Hive 2 is building slowly, which is also concerning going into winter. They're only up to about 7 frames out of the 10-frame deep. And not as much eggs, larva, or brood (or food, for that matter) as I'd like to see.
I'd love to go into the winter with all 3 hives going strong, but at this point in the year, is there even time for the queen to get mated and build up the hive enough before winter? (I'm in zone 6.)
Or is it better to combine the two hives now, letting the queen from the weaker hive continue to build the overall population (to whatever extent she can) while the newly emerged queen is out mating? (And then whichever is stronger of the two will survive to continue the one hive.)