In the picture above you can see the newspaper between the two hives. As of yesterday, Oct. 3, 2017, they still had not combined and were acting as two separate hives. I did two things to this two story hive. First of all, I observed that the bottom hive was fighting off robbers and they had some wax cappings at the entrance. I had suspected all season that perhaps the strong hive was robbing these weaker hives, which may have been part of their problem. So, to help them I needed to reduce their entrance - the bottom entrance. I had one wooden entrance reducer with me, but it was a bit too long. I didn't have any proper tools with me to cut the end off, so I crudely shortened it with a combination of an orchard saw and my hive tool. Sorry, my woodworker friends! I had to do something! Once I got that in, they calmed down and looked much more orderly. They were taking pollen in and were quite busy. Now, I focused my attention on the top hive. In this picture, you can see the blue medium on top with the white spacer to make room for the sugar water jar. I had purchased a top feeder for sugar water that I wanted to put up there instead. I am sorry I forgot the camera, so I don't have a picture. (I know, if I had an i-phone that wouldn't be a problem!) I opened the top and checked the gallon glass jar. It had been half consumed. I removed that and the blue box and put the new sugar water feeder on top instead. I put two gallons of sugar water in that - which I had brought in a bucket, then I made a mistake I didn't realize until I got home. I put the inner cover back on top and then the top cover and spacer. The reason that was a mistake is that the top feeder is designed so that the bees won't drown as long as they can only get in from the bottom. If they can get into the top, they can and most certainly will, drown. After I got home and sat down to eat lunch, it occurred to me what I did, so I raced back over and removed the inner cover and spacer so the top cover sits flush on the feeder. There were some drowned bees, but a number I think they can manage without too much harm. I am glad I caught it then, not much later!
I checked the strong hive as well. I was concerned that maybe they had been robbed as well because there is very little forage left. There was no fighting at their entrance, so I was pretty sure that wasn't the case. Just to make sure I opened them up and checked to make sure they had all the honey they had the last time I checked and more since. That was the case, so I was satisfied they are more likely the robbers of the other hives, not victims of robbing themselves. I did take the sugar water jar I removed from the two story hive and added some sugar water to it and put it on the strong hive just for insurance.
So, I feel the hives are ready for winter now, as best as I can make them. I wish there was a way to feed the bottom hive of the two story hive, but they will either have to combine or survive on what they did store, or perish. I guess time will tell. The top feeder works in such a way that I can fill it by only removing the top cover, which allows re-filling in marginal weather. I will make sure when I insulate for winter that I leave the top cover free to be removed.
On the field day on Oct. 14, we will insulate both hives and also check the sugar water level. I will make sure to leave holes in the insulation for top entrances - which are the only entrances for the top hive. There is a hole in one of the boxes for the bottom hive, so I need to leave that open as well. This will be an interesting experiment!