View Full Version : Startilng to raise queens and nucs

01-25-2005, 07:21 PM
This is my year to expand, experiment and explore. I have been doing extracted honey only, selling at retail. This year I would like to try nuc and queen sales. No experience. Would like to try to have 25 nucs and 100 queens for sale, these numbers are arbitrary, and are given as a starting reference. I have plenty of material for nucs, hives, queen rearing nucs, etc. No money for Jenter type system. Are the numbers realistic? If not, please suggest better numbers.

To raise only nucs and queens, no honey expected, how many hives should I have? Should they be double or single bodies (I use deeps)? How many 5-frame deep nucs should I have (5 now on hand)? How many Small queen nucs should I have? What are your suggestions for a time line to get things rolling for this year? To prepare for fall? To prepare for ’06? (Honey hives will be run separately for honey production.) Thanks for your help. HAR

Michael Bush
01-25-2005, 07:41 PM
>No experience. Would like to try to have 25 nucs and 100 queens for sale, these numbers are arbitrary, and are given as a starting reference. I have plenty of material for nucs, hives, queen rearing nucs, etc. No money for Jenter type system. Are the numbers realistic? If not, please suggest better numbers.

I had several failures with queen rearing before I mastered getting the bees to build the cells. The rest I didn't think was too complicated as long as you follow the calendar of what you need to do when. If you forget you'll end up with a virgin killing all the other queens or some other timing problems.

But I'd say it's too soon to say how many you can raise. First you have to master the idea of rasing queens at all. Then you can try to ramp up to raising more. You don't have to have a Jenter box, but you need some method that will get the right age larvae in the right position for the bees to make queens out of them. There's always the Hopkins method: http://www.beesource.com/pov/hayes/abjmay91.htm

How many hives do you have to work with to make up the mating nucs? The cell builder etc.?

>To raise only nucs and queens, no honey expected, how many hives should I have?

I started with 12 hives this spring and raised about 100 queens, ended up with 15 hives and 12 nucs going into winter. Lost 6 of the nucs so far. I got no honey because of splits, queen rearing and pesticide losses.

>Should they be double or single bodies (I use deeps)?

For queen rearing I'd start with a good double to use to make up a cell builder from. You'll need a cell builder for about every 12 to 20 cells. The more bees in the cell builder the more cells they will be willing to build.

>How many 5-frame deep nucs should I have (5 now on hand)?

For raising nucs or for queen mating? For raising nucs you'll need as many as you plan to raise.

> How many Small queen nucs should I have?

For mating, I'm using 2 frame medium depth nucs. It will take a awful lot of bees to do all your mating for 100 queens in five frame deeps. You can buy or build mini mating nucs, but they take a lot of lumber and a lot of work. I like the mediums. I just pull a frame of brood and a frame of honey and make up a nuc. I have about 40 2 frame mating nucs and needed more a time or two. I will probably build about 10 more. If you fill a typical cell bar it's about 28 cells or so. So every batch of queens in every cell builder needs about 28 nucs. If you do a batch every week or so thats 56 nucs. But then the bees may or may not finish all those cells. If you use Dennis' method (I think he called it accelerated or some such word) maybe you'd get buy with half as many nucs.

The problem with predicting is that, in the end, the bees do what they want. You'll never get as many queens as you plan for, but if you get good at it, which may take some trial and error, you can get a lot of queens.

> What are your suggestions for a time line to get things rolling for this year?

I have no idea how soon you can raise queens in NC. I'd try early and if it fails try again and again until it works. If you don't see any drones flying it's too early.

Don't count your queens until they emerge.

01-29-2005, 07:18 PM
Thanks for your quick response. Almost 11,000 posts, you have worked hard for us neophytes. The numbers I gave were only for a starting reference, I know now they maybe to high to start with. About the number of nucs, I was trying to figure how many I would need thinking they would be reused one or more times during a season, depending on a lot of variables during the course of the season. Same for the queen mating nucs. I am thinking about using the two frame queen mating nucs in a standard ten frame deep Lan. hive body, simular to your set up.Taking your advice I am studying/considering the Hayes methoid for queen cells. Do you have a suggestion as to the ratio of deep hives to nucs for bees and hives to nucs for queen mating? This is an expermential year, I am just trying to get a handle on a starting point. I would like to make a few bucks but consider this year a learning experence. Thanks for your advice.

Is there any one else that will offer advice? I would appreciate others experense. Thanks HAR

01-29-2005, 09:17 PM
10 colonies of bees can raise 100 queens, have bees to make up mini nucs, and still make honey with at least 8 of them. You'll get lots of drones too and you will need them for mating.

It will take at least 15 more colonies to produce 25 nucs (5 frames) presuming you will be selling them.

If you have about 20 colonies to start with, you should start feeding in early February with the intent to split off nucs by the 1st of April. You can raise and mate queens in the nucs if you want to take that chance. Its about 20% queen loss that early. The queens should be mated and laying by April 15th.


Michael Bush
01-30-2005, 10:05 AM
>The queens should be mated and laying by April 15th.

In Alabama.

01-30-2005, 12:25 PM
har =I am in north georgia e mail me I might be able to help you get started/ we all have to sart some where.
I run several hundred baby nuc's for mateing if you don't mind driveing down can show you how to graft cells.[ caution I am old man] don't mind helping you out. I build most every thing.

01-30-2005, 01:30 PM

No, not in Alabama, in North Carolina. I've worked all over the SouthEast U.S. The climate for the Charlotte area is similar to mine here in Alabama but they can start queens up to 2 weeks earlier because the drones will be available by March 20th and mating can take place from about the 25th of March to the 5th of April. The earliest swarm I saw in the Charlotte area was on April 1st with heaviest swarming about April 25th to May 1st.

I'm not griping or complaining so please don't take this wrong. Just pointing out that my answer was actually timed for the Charlotte NC area. Here in North Alabama, April 20th is a better date. Note that when I say "mated and laying", I mean that the mating nuc has eggs and larvae sufficient to see the brood pattern and discard any poor queens.

It is possible to raise queens earlier in this area (or in the Charlotte NC area) but that is territory for an experienced queen breeder. It requires early feeding, lots of pollen and very strong colonies.


Michael Bush
01-30-2005, 02:22 PM
I should have ended that with a question mark. I certainly couldn't raise queens that early here.

02-09-2005, 10:44 PM
HARight, what kind of bees are you going to raise?? I am located in Gaston county and I am thinking about trying to raise some queens myself. No experience either.

Barry Tolson
02-11-2005, 04:12 PM
If one makes up a nuc with open brood, pollen and honey frames with the intent of just letting the bee's make their own replacement queen...can such a nuc remain in the bee yard during this process, or should it be taken a considerable distance away? Would leaving it in the bee yard reduce the chance of success?

Michael Bush
02-11-2005, 05:49 PM
I do it all the time. I leave it in the yard. You have to shake some extra bees in to make up for the returning foragers who will go back to the old hive.

02-11-2005, 06:13 PM
jnbgcpd; I have italian and will soon have a feral hive, will be getting a few nwc as replacements. In my first post I gave some numbers that were pulled out of the hat for a starting point. After reviewing comments from many helpful subscribers I have decided to forget about numbers and concentrate on learning how to raise queens and nucs this year. It will be a lot less flustrating to learn without the pressure of trying to produce a quota. I will try to raise queens from all using several methoids. As the exprence progress I will post the sucesses and inevatable failures, all part of the learning process. HAR

02-12-2005, 03:48 PM
I made several nucs this past spring. I made them from 2 different hives by smoking them heavy to reduce fighting. When you make these walk away splits you need to shake 1 to 2 extra frames worth of bees if you leave them in the same yard. In middle TN I had good queens from splits made late March. I wanted to make them on the 15th which is really pushing it. I started feeding about this time last year. We are having a cold snap so as soon as it ends I am going to start feeding 1/1 syrup to build them up. First split is planned for the 15th of March. I have been really thinking about raising nucs with bought queens or queen cells so I can have them ready by April 1st. Then the second batch would be made up with my queens which should be ready by April 15th.

05-01-2006, 08:27 PM
So what do you have to charge for a nuc to make any money? 5 frames + foundation are almost $10 plus the cost of a temporary nuc box (cardboard?). Would it be worth buying queens and making splits into nucs, then feeding them heavy to draw out the frames before selling them? That would come to about $30-35 in cost. At $60 a nuc you might make 25-30 for your effort.

At $75-$90 for a 3 lb. package it would seem that Nucs would sell for more than $50. Would hobbyist buy NUC's in the summer? Around here there should be plenty of time for them to build up for fall if they are fed.

Just wonder if it would be worth it at all. Our flow is over in early June and I thought making some splits after the flow would be a way to draw some extra income out of all those bees who have not much to collect. Seems I could pull a Nuc's worth of frames out of each hive two or three times at the end of the flow. Even picking up 50-75 profit from each hive would nice.

05-04-2006, 12:15 PM
I would like the prospect of selling nucs after the flow is over, but I think a begginer would have a hard time feed them enough to build them up for winter. Here there is plenty of time to build up a hive, but when you figure in zero beekeeping experience, I wouldn't suggest it. If I was able, I would sell summer splits to people who knew what they were getting into. Don't forget the hive bettle factor if applicable.

As for feeding your nucs heavy to draw out comb before selling, I don't think people usually do that. I'd say nucs are a good way for beekeepers to cull out old comb. Get rid of your 3 yr+ comb, you can tell the buyer to rotate it out in a year or two. Buyer can provide the box, just have them drop off, or bring a hive box to put them in. If you are using a new queen, charge more. No, $25-30 would not be worth the effort, you need to cut those costs.

Are packages really $75 - $90???

05-05-2006, 07:14 AM
Yes packages went for $75-$90 this year from R.Weaver and B. Weaver respectively. They are the big suppliers in this area. Minimal Freight made these cheaper than going with CA or GA. I'm not sure what Dadant was charging on their Paris TX pickup day.

At what point (expressed in productive months left in the season) would you suggest a beginner should not buy a package or NUC?

Fortunately, not having to deal with SHB (yet)

05-05-2006, 08:58 AM
"At what point (expressed in productive months left in the season) would you suggest a beginner should not buy a package or NUC?"

Well it depends, if its your only option than mid summer would be possible with lots of feeding, likely continuing through the winter and early spring. I wouldn't do a package in summer, unless you can get some empty comb to give to them. Getting new hives started during the early to middle of the main honey flow is just much easier, but if its too expensive or unavalliable then thats different. BUT, an extra $40 for the nuc or package in the spring will mean less sugar water and time working on building them up in the summer.

I found building up comb in summer with sugar water was tricky because the bees filled up all their comb with sugar water and left little space for the queen to lay. So its tricky, you have to pay attention. Their mode of operations is just different in the spring honey flow than it is in summer. TX isnt TN, so I'd be interested to hear what others say about that.

[ May 05, 2006, 11:00 AM: Message edited by: MichaelW ]

Dan Williamson
05-05-2006, 10:02 AM
"At what point (expressed in productive months left in the season) would you suggest a beginner should not buy a package or NUC?"

I guess the first question is: How do you define productive?
-enough time to build up and gather some honey?
-enough time to build up to over-winter
-enought time where there is a flow without the need for feed?

There are different answers for the different scenarios and even more different answers depending on where you live.

The latest I've made up a nuc was July 31st here in Indiana. It didn't have enough honey to make it thru the winter. I gave it the extra full super from the hive next to it which had also started 2 1/2 months prior to this one as a nuc. The split was also made from the same hive.

To get an accurate assessment of your area regarding timing it is best to talk to others more local.

As a wrap.... It depends on where them thar bees live!!!

05-05-2006, 09:06 PM
There's a good article about Nucs in this months Bee Culture.

Dave D.
05-06-2006, 06:29 AM
Rob Mountain, I sent you a private email.