Page 1 of 11 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 212

Thread: Wintering Nucs

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,466

    Post

    Michael Bush has asked that I participate in a discussuin on "Wintering Nucs."

    I do winter nucs here in the northern Champlain Valley of Vermont and New York. More than 400 this winter. This is sometning that my good friend and sometimes mentor, Kirk Webster, has talked me into. I say talked me into, because at first I was not convinced. I mean, if my production colonies couldn't winter very well, how could 4 frame nucs. Anyway, I did give it a half hearted try...about 15 years ago.

    I had a yard to move, one that had dwindled to only 15 colonies. The spot was too windy, and the road too rough, and the neighbors...recently built a house...too angry. Rather than just move them, I split them into 4 frame nucs, installed queens, and walked away. I wintered them on top of other colonies. 90% made it. I thought that was pretty amazing, considering I had done no management.

    So, encouraged, I made more the next summer. I had two options. I could remove brood from production colonies, or I could split up weak...non-productive colonies. Since the best time for me to make these nucs is mid-summer, and that's when the crop is on, and would require lots of extra lifting, I chose the latter method.. It has become the foundation of my ability to keep my numbers up, and raise my own stock.

    I think the method is simple enough, and what is required of each beekeeper is to get the timing right for each area of the country. Obviously, the time for making up nucs in Vermont will not be the same as for Nebraska where MB lives, or Virginia, or Ohio...etc.

    Anyway, here in Vermont, the best time for making up nucs is mid to late July. Non-productive colonies are sacrifised. 1 1/2 frames of brood and bees are place in each nuc box, until all brood from the weak colony is used up. I use 4 frame, double nuc boxes, but the style isn't of much importance. It's what's in the box that counts. Along with the two frames containing brood, I add one comb of honey and pollen, and one empty comb or frame of foundation. This yields 4 - 6 nucs. I find if I make them too strong that they will swarm on the fall flow. So, resist adding extra shakes of bees...as you would with spring made splits. Mid-summer nucs are different. You want them to just build up enough to populate the box with young bees, and then shut down. Remember, when the brood hatches, there will be lots of bees. So, just add enough bees to cover the brood. Also remember...it is mid-summer. The nights are warmer, and chilled brood isn't much of a problem. Swarming is!! So, after making up what nucs you can from the weak hive. I move the nuc boxes to another yard and give each a laying queen or ripe cell.

    The split up hive can often be saved, if you find the old queen, as they still have all the field bees. Give the one box on the bottom 4 to 6 combs of honey, and 4 to 5 empty combs, and the old queen. They build up quite quickly. When there is hatching brood, the unit can be requeened with the last round of mated queens...in August, and wintered on top of another colony. If you have a longer season, it can be increased to 1 1/2 stories, and wintewred on a stand that way.

    A few weeks after making them up, they must be checked for strength. Those with exceptionally prolific queens will begin swarm preparationa on the fall (late) flows. Don't let this happen. If it does, you lose your bought or raised queen, and they often go into winter with small clusters...although many will still winter. Uf they are getting too strong...cups with eggs, or young cells are started, remove a frame, and add a empty or foundation. As long as there is a flow on, you have to manage them. Some will be so strong that you can remove two frames and give an empty and a foundation, or two empties. The idea is to have them packed with bees at the end of your last flow, with a couple frames of food, and no cells. THis is where the iming comes in. It's just something you will have to experiment with.

    For winter...here...I want about 20 pounds of feed for winter. I don't want every cell and nook and cranny filled with honey or syrup. The bees still need clustering space...just like a full sized colony. I remove each frame, and see hoe much additional feed they will need to have 3.5 frames of feed...in a four frame nuc. They are moved in late fall, and winter on top of a production colony's inner cover. No communication hole or screen between the two. This gives them a nice warm dry place to winter. Further south, they can be wintered on a stand, and even stacked on top of each other...wintered in blocks of 6 or 9 double boxes.

    Now, another plan is to start them earlier...say mid June here. These will positively swarm. So, after they fill their section, they are again split...say in mid-July. In this way, the original 4 - 6 nucs becomes 8 - 12. So, from your original weak colony, you can get anwhere from 4 to 12 nucs. Some years, the second round of splitting will yield 3 nucs from each original nuc, and will yield 12 - 18 nucs. This of course depends on where you keep bees, how strong your flows are, and how well they build up.

    I think the biggest problems you will face are swarming, chalk brood, and poor queens. But if you make enough, you will have some spectacular nucs, some average nucs, and some duds that can be requeened and given brood from nucs that are too strong.

    That's it for now. Have to go to Darts, where we're playing a top ranked team. We beat #1 the other night 20-10 I went out with 140 in 301, if you know what that means.

    I'm sure I haven't been entirely clear on my procedure, and there will be plenty of questions...so I'll answer them as they come in.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Whitefield, Maine USA
    Posts
    6,624

    Post

    Thanks loads Mike! This is not the first time your nuc production methods have been discussed here on Beesource, but it's the first time it's been presented by you [img]smile.gif[/img]

    Last spring after you gave that great presentation about making summer nucs at the Maine State Beekeeper's Association meeting (that I MISSED...) I decided to look into it. To that end, I obtained one of your handouts from a friend of mine (that's online too someplace, isn't it?) that DID attend the meeting, and based on that information set about trying my hand at some nucs last summer. I built 2 bottoms and 2 feeders per your directions and put up four 4-frame nucs in 2 deeps at the beginning of August (I was going to build 3 of them but found myself queencell-challenged). Anyways, I gave them each a queen cell; 3 of them turned into mated queens- the 4th I introduced a homemade queen to in mid August. They're currently sitting on full sized hives, wrapped, and all four are still alive [img]smile.gif[/img]

    The only thing I did wrong was making the division board feeder a tad bit too wide- the nucs are a little tight for room. Next time I'll make them 3/8" or maybe 5/16" narrower so I have a little more room to move frames. I was also a bit concerned about them having enough ventilation but so far they seem to be doing fine.

    The only question I've got now is "will they make it to spring?" but I don't suppose you can answer that one! In any case, I'm optimistic [img]smile.gif[/img]
    Dulcius ex asperis

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Wausau Wi
    Posts
    311

    Post

    Very interesting thankyou Michael Palmer. I want to try to do nucs this year. It will be fun to see what comes of it. Do you only have them in one box, or two nuc supers stacked ? What size makes a weak hive in your mind ? Some of us (myself) aren't familiar with how many frames would be a weak hive.
    Everything happens for a reason. Time heals all wounds - time and a half heals them even faster

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,212

    Post

    I use nucs in North Alabama but with a few modifications. Each nuc is 3 frames and one brood chamber will hold 3 nucs. I built divided bottom boards to hold the nucs. The wood dividers between the nucs are cut to the dimensions of the brood chamber and in the approximate shape of a standard frame. The biggest difference is that I winter 3 nucs on their own stand. They make it just fine.

    Another difference is in feeding. Our winters are so mild that nucs will starve before spring. I want them to come through in top condition so I put feed on them usually in February. This year, I had some nucs that had less feed than needed so I started feeding the end of December.

    Darrel Jones

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Erin, NY /Florence SC
    Posts
    3,361

    Post

    I'll add my thanks as well. As George indicated this has been a topic here we have discussed in great detail. A post from someone who is doing it large scale really helps.

    a couple of questions:

    1) What type of nuc boxes have you tried and what is your standard? Any special modifications?

    2) What types of commercially availabe bees have you had success with?

    3) How are you stopping/preventing the swarming with the prolific queens.

    4) Why do you think you see more chalkbrood?

    Thanks again Mike, great post! Thanks too to MB for suggesting it, there has been a void of inside information on this subject.

    [size="1"][ January 08, 2007, 07:06 PM: Message edited by: Joel ][/size]

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Seattle, Washington State
    Posts
    4,398

    Post

    if you need to do emergency feeding with the nucs, what is the best way?
    Chef Isaac..Culinary Arts and Honey are a sweet mix! http://www.sweetascanbeehoneyfarm.com & http://www.adoptahive.info

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,336

    Post

    My first year trying to overwinter nucs it was ten frame medium nucs on an inner cover with a double screen over the hole. The notch in the inner cover made the entrance for the nuc. The humidity from the strong colony below did several of them in. The next year I made eight frame medium nucs and stacked them up with a solid bottom (1/4" luan, no screen) and I just had them wrapped on all sided in insulation:

    http://www.bushfarms.com/images/Apar...sWintering.JPG
    http://www.bushfarms.com/images/Apar...ppedInFoam.jpg

    Again, the biggest problem I had was all the humidity. Wrapping didn't seem to allow it to escape at all. The second problem was that it was an extreme winter and the nucs died out from the bottom up with the ones that got more rising heat lasting the longest. Still half of them made it through.

    Last year I did this:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/images/OverwinteringNucs1.jpg
    http://www.bushfarms.com/images/OverwinteringNucs2.jpg

    With a space heater set at 70 F inside. They did fine until some of the jars leaked and drowned some of them. But then the winter wasn't much of a winter. I fed pollen patties and some of them swarmed in March. My theory was my observation hive always seems to get through at 70 F and even raise a few patches of brood. Also that the dry heat from the space heater would drive out some of the moisture instead of feeding in more (as a hive below seems to do).

    This winter I'm doing a similar setup, but I removed the feeder jars when the cold set in, left off the one by eight spacer and turned the heater all the way down to about 45 F.

    But again we haven't really had a winter.

    Usually we get a week of -10 F or so and that seems to kill a lot of the nucs.

    I like your solid board. I got a copy of some info about your overwintering nucs that shows a nice frame feeder. I'm not entirely clear how you keep the populations separate in it. Maybe you could clarify that.

    I've been trying to figure out what the optimum size is to overwinter for a nuc. It seems that I had as many five frame medium nucs survive last year as eight frame medium nucs. So this year I just did five frame nucs.

    It would be simple enough to do eight frame medium nucs on top of my eight frame medium hives with a solid 1/4" laun board between them. Maybe I'll try that this next year. The other advantage would be that I can do it in my outyards, where I need electricity and the ability to keep an eye on them with a space heater. [img]smile.gif[/img]

    I did a queen bank last winter with a terrarium heater under it (and it was in the space heated area). Without the terrarium heater the bees would cluster and abandon the queens. With the heater they spread out and cared for most of them. Some were abandoned, but some made it through the winter. If I had any queens left over this year I would have tried it again, but I sold them all.

    My nucs are mostly combined mating nucs from queen rearing.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,466

    Post

    >George saysI was also a bit concerned about them having enough ventilation but so far they seem to be doing fine.

    Yeah, warm winter so far, without much condensation. I drilled 3/4" holes in my nucs, on the opposite end from the entrance. I open it for winter, and close it with Duct Tape the rest of the year. I think it helps with moisture problems that some of the nucs have.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Whitefield, Maine USA
    Posts
    6,624

    Post

    >shows a nice frame feeder. I'm not entirely clear how you keep the populations separate in it. Maybe you could clarify that.

    It's got a solid wooden divider in the middle, running from the bottom to top bar which splits it into two compartments. There is a slot on either side on opposite ends near the top bar so the bees in each nuc can access their own compartment.

    I've got, or had, a photograph of one of the ones I built. I'll see if I can find it.
    Dulcius ex asperis

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,466

    Post

    >Do you only have them in one box, or two nuc supers stacked ? What size makes a weak hive in your mind ? Some of us (myself) aren't familiar with how many frames would be a weak hive.

    I have my nuc boxes so that each hive body holds two 4 frame nucs. Some are divided by a solid divider, but most by a movable division board feeder.

    Weak hive...oh, you mean for splitting up? The one not making any honey when the others are. For whatever reason...I don't care...except, of course, AFB! Since the colony isn't making more than a super or two, while the rest of the yard has 4 or 5 or 6 or more supers, I split that one. The nucs you make from that (those) colonies are more valuable to your apiary than a super or two of honey.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,466

    Post

    >I use nucs in North Alabama but with a few modifications. The biggest difference is that I winter 3 nucs on their own stand. They make it just fine.

    I'm sure you do it differently. That's exactly my post. It's up to the beekeeper to experiment for their location. Good to know you are having success in the south! Now, since I know beekeepers in all parts of the country...Northeast, South, West, and even Alaska...I feel even more confident about suggesting this process of wintering nucs. I believe it to be the salvation of our apiaries. The nucs winter better than the production colonies that are challenged by Tracheal and or Varroa. With a good supply of free replacement bees on hand, the beekeeper is open to Varroa control using other methods, than Fluvalinate and other junk. If the method doesn't work well, there are your replacement bees to restock your hives, free in the spring!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,466

    Post

    >a couple of questions:

    1) What type of nuc boxes have you tried and what is your standard? Any special modifications?

    As I said, a couple styles. But, I don't think it is the style of box that matters. I would think that even 5 frame nuc boxes shoved together on the inner cover, with a cover on top, would work. Even the styrofoam ones would work. The boxes can be adapted...the bees too

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Seattle, Washington State
    Posts
    4,398

    Post

    if you need to do emergency feeding with the nucs, what is the best way?
    Chef Isaac..Culinary Arts and Honey are a sweet mix! http://www.sweetascanbeehoneyfarm.com & http://www.adoptahive.info

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,466

    Post

    Oops, hit reply too soon. Too many darts tonight, too much jet lag from Oregon.

    joel asks:
    2) What types of commercially availabe bees have you had success with?

    None, really. You had to say I would say
    that. Well, that's not fair, what I said. It's just that I think you can raise better queens that you can buy. Raise cells from your best, and use them to start your nucs. If you start your nucs early enough, you can...in NY...get three rounds of queens, the last wintering with the nuc...2 birds with one stone.

    3) How are you stopping/preventing the swarming with the prolific queens.

    By removing full frames from the nucs, and adding empty combs or foundation. Frames of bees and brood can be removed and used to start other nucs...if early enough in the season. Of course, if there are cups with eggs, or cells, you must remove all first. I have placed an excluder on top of the two nucs, with a super on the excluder. Make sure there is no gap under the excluder above the divider...that the queens can pass through. Some excluders need a little shim, and feeders need to be taped, so the queens can't pass under excluder. This does work well to stop swarming. The bees from each nuc work happily together. They don't attack either queen. When time to remove super, use triangular bee escape bvoard on top of the excluder, and under the super. Bees go down into whichever nuc they want. But...since they have a place to put their incomming honey, there will be only brood below the excluder. You'll have to feed lots!

    >4) Why do you think you see more chalkbrood?

    I wasn't clear on that. I see more chalk, besause I'm splitting up non-productive colonies in the firts place. Some of these are non-productive colonies because of chalkbrood. Now, if you are using hygienic queens, or queens raised from colonies that have never showed chalk, then once the new queen has an established brood nest with her bees, the bees will clean it up. Once the nucs are well established, I'm not seeing more chalk...I'm seeing less. This was one of the main reasons for raising my own queens. It took about 5 years, but chalk is almost non-existant in my apiary...even in a cold rainy year like this one.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,466

    Post

    >if you need to do emergency feeding with the nucs, what is the best way?

    Any way that fits. If your nucs have division board feeders, fill them. If they have little inner covers, then through the inner cover holes. If you have grain bag inners, fold back one corner, and use a can or jar contact feeder. Surround with empty hive body.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,466

    Post

    >Again, the biggest problem I had was all the humidity.

    Nice photos of your setup. Yes, moisture can be a problem. Have you tried to winter any on production colonies...solid divider in between. I wonder if that would help your %? You use a space heater...maybe you don't even need one. We usually have much longer, colder winters than you. Temps to -20 and more. Doesnt seem to require a heater upo here.

    >I like your solid board. I got a copy of some info about your overwintering nucs that shows a nice frame feeder. I'm not entirely clear how you keep the populations separate in it. Maybe you could clarify that.

    The feeder has two chambers. separated by a verticle board. Each nuc has an entrance into their chamber of the feeder from the side. The feeder sits on a cleat attached to the bottom, so the bees can't cross under. I have some photos I could post, if I had a place to do it. Is there a free place I could use, and then just give the url?

    >I've been trying to figure out what the optimum size is to overwinter for a nuc. It seems that I had as many five frame medium nucs survive last year as eight frame medium nucs. So this year I just did five frame nucs.

    Yeah, I think there's a huge leeway here, as you have seen. I have 8 and 9 deep frame nucs, 4 and 5 deep frame nucs. I also have mini-nucs that i winter. These are deep half length frames. There are only 4 of these little combe in some of them, although most have 8. They all winter well, as lins as the population is good enough. They're little chamber has to be full of bees in the fall.

    >My nucs are mostly combined mating nucs from queen rearing.

    So, why do you think they are dying in the winter? Starvation? Cluster too small? Just a moisture problem? If you took one less round of queens, do you think that would help? The nucs would be stronger with young bees...which helps everything.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,212

    Post

    The biggest single problem with overwintering nucs is moisture. I solved that problem by placing an empty brood chamber on top of the brood chamber that contains the 3 nucs. The top brood chamber has dividers just like the bottom one. The top cover is loosely fitted so air can seep in around the entire upper edge. It sounds extreme but I can assure you it works! Bees don't freeze so long as they can cluster. They will starve if they run out of feed. They will die fastest of all from excess moisture.

    Chef Isaac, The one big problem to watch for when feeding nucs is the use of jar or can feeders inverted over the nuc. Any time the temperature changes by 35 degrees or more from night to day, the feed will contract at the cool temp then expand in the heat. This forces the liquid out and can drown out the nuc. If you use jar feeders anyway, set them up so you can upend them at night then put them back on to feed during the day. This is a lot of work.

    A better feeding option is to mix 2:1 syrup and build a simple sprinkler to sprinkle it into the combs. You can fill a comb in a minute or so and it will get the nuc through a week or more depending on how much brood they have. A simple but effective sprinkler can be cobbled together from a 3 gallon sprayer and a fine spray nozzle such as is used for plant watering. This is effective for a few dozen combs. Bigger operations would need a tank and pump type sprayer.

    Darrel Jones

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Whitefield, Maine USA
    Posts
    6,624

    Post

    >Is there a free place I could use, and then just give the url?

    If you email them to me I'll post them on my site:

    gsferg @ sweettimeapiary.com

    George-
    Dulcius ex asperis

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,336

    Post

    >>My nucs are mostly combined mating nucs from queen rearing.

    >So, why do you think they are dying in the winter?

    The first year , it was moisture. The second year it seemed to be the extreme cold that got the bottom ones in the stack while the top ones continued to do fine. The third year, my losses were mostly from drowning from leaky feeders.

    >Starvation?

    No.

    > Cluster too small?

    Possibly. On those -10 to -20 F nights. But we haven't had any of those the last two winters.

    >Just a moisture problem?

    That certainly seemed to be a big problem.

    >If you took one less round of queens, do you think that would help?

    It might. They might get more opportunity to rear a good batch of brood before winter.

    >The nucs would be stronger with young bees...which helps everything.

    I'm sure.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berkey, OH, USA
    Posts
    1,487

    Post

    Thanks for this discussion. I made up 5 nucs in early August this year from Q cells, I chickened out and did combines into full hive bodies with 3 of them because they built up so strong. I sacrificed some weaker colonies which I split up and moved them into 3 mediums each. But I have 2 bundled up still as nucs, hope they make it. They are 2 high 5 frame. Looks like one has some nosema.

    Glad to hear what you say about taking out brood if they get strong. I didn't know what to do but knew there were just too many bees in there!

    Not sure if it is till considered a nuc since they are in 3 full mediums now.

Page 1 of 11 123 ... LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Ads