i went to check on the lonely hive 35 miles away yesterday. they are queenless, without any eggs, larva, or capped brood. i found a hatched open swarm cell, which could explain a lot. and i kept hearing this weird crying noise, like a baby (since i had mine, everything sounds like a baby crying to me). eventually i figured out it was coming from the hive. evidently that is the sound the queen in the supercedure cell makes before she hatches. which was a really cool thing to get to hear, but now i am afraid that the bees might kill her when she hatches due to my messing with the hive just beforehand.
Now my question, if i go back to this hive this week and can find no queen again, should i just cut my losses and combine this hive with the other new one? Is it too late to expect them to build up enough population and honey stores to survive a Michigan winter? If there IS a queen, should i kill her and combine the hives anyway, or replace the plastic frames and foundation with something they might like to draw out quicker, and hope that's enough?