I'm late to the party, but I tried overwintering nucs this year for the first time (well, it was the first time I tried nucs, period). I had 2 of 6 survive. They were late summer splits with new, MH queens using two frames each donated from my six hives. I am using the 5-frame polystyrene hives. The 4 that died, starved, a stupid mistake on my part, underestimating their needs. The first time I could get into them after November was mid-February, when we had a brief thaw. By then the four were gone, but I was able to save the other 2 by feeding dry sugar and pollen pattties. They did great with no moisture problems and are booming now. Will be transferring them to deeps as soon as the boxes arrive from Rossman.
I really like these polystyrene hives (although I am sure they are too expensive for anything more than a hobbyist) and just had 4 more delivered. I wish they had shims, like regular hives to make it easier to add sugar and patties (you have to be careful to make sure the lids are not too high after supplementing). Thought I had the answer, when I saw ps nuc shims advertised in the BetterBee catalog. I even called them to make sure they were shims to raise the lids on the ps hives and was assured they were. But, they arrived yesterday and are the wooden front boards for the revolving entrance. Duh. Dumb name to give something that doesn't lift an object from another object, as other shims do.
Having had a small taste of success, I am addicted. As I have posted elsewhere, this year I am going to take a stab at raising my own queens using two methods - 1) the Nicot system, and 2) just putting frames with swarm cells in 2-frame nucs. I'll be using a Cloake board on my hive of choice to get things rolling . Will report on my success or failure with each method.
The way I am doing things is not cheap, since I buy pretty much everything (don't have the skills to make my own, nor the time to learn the skills, nor the time to use the skills I took the time to learn). BUT, it is definitely cheaper than buying new bees and/or queens each year. Last spring I spent~$600 on six packages, plus another $60 when I had to get two new queens to replace two that failed in the packages, plus another $150 for the six MH queens for the nucs. This year I spend ZERO on bees. The satisfaction of success is much more important than saving a few bucks, and I'm spending plenty on new woodenware, etc., anyway. But, I'd much rather buy equipment to add hives, than bees to replace losses. May not be so lucky again, but it is encouraging.
Following the advise of MP, MB and others, I want to raise my own queens, because 1) it gives me better quality control over what I am putting into my hives, 2) I think it makes me a better beekeeper, and 3) it is just, plain cool.
Thanks, everyone for all the great advice and thanks for reading.
If you want to gather honey, don't kick over the beehive. - Dale Carnegie