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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Peterborough, NH
    Posts
    5

    Default How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    I have ended up (unintentionally) with a very small hive -- essentially a "nuc" -- that I'd like to figure out how to get through winter, if possible. In particular, I'd welcome advice on how to feed it through the winter. I've read that some people feed dry white sugar on top of the inner cover. Is that adequate? Does it need to be replenished periodically through the winter?

    Background/context: I am a newbie who just started beekeeping this past spring here in Peterborough, NH. I have two regular hives that I believe are strong and have enough honey to get through the winter. The mini-colony that I'm concerned about consists of a queen and workers occupying about 5 frames in a 10-frame medium hive box. They have stored some honey and pollen, but not nearly enough to make it through the winter. I did have a plan to provide food for them -- a neighbor was going to bring a full deep hive box of capped honey to put on top of the colony -- but that source fell through (the capped honey turned out to have been mostly eaten while in storage).

    So, now I'm left wondering whether this mini-colony can survive the winter or not. To help keep it warm, I can move it inside a hoop house or inside a garage workshop area. So, I assume the main problem is lack of food. Any advice would be welcomed.

    -- Noel

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Johnson City, TN
    Posts
    380

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    You are going to here a lot of different oppinions on this. Some people just put sugar on top of the inner cover, some poeple feed pollen patties, some people make sugar candy. Brushy mountain sells a inner cover that has a real thick rim, you can pour sugar candy in it, let it harden, then flip it upside down, and the moistier in the hive softens it up for the bees. If you put it in a garage I don't see why you can't feed them sugar water, provided there is enough insulation to keep it from freezing.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Big Stone Gap, VA
    Posts
    967

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    If they only have five frames, I would move them to a five frame nuc, IF you can. Less area to keep warm, and in your climate one, they will probably not build up any more before winter sets in.

    We caught a very small swarm in mid September, and we plan to feed them Megabee Winter Patties placed directly on the frames. You can also make your own fondant. But, for the small amount we need, we will just purchase this.

    When it gets bitter cold, we plan on moving this small nuc inside our unheated garage. But only when it gets bitter cold, say in the 20's and below. We have never brought a nuc inside an unheated garage before, which will be a short distance and only when it is bitter cold. We also have talked about making a migratory cover for this nuc, and set it between two 10 frame hives, with one side touching a strong hive.

    Shane

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    2,365

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    You could place two follower boards on either side of your 10 frame box to take up the extra room then stack it on top of one your stronger hives using a double screen bottom board with a separate entrance. Your strong hive on the bottom will provide heat during the winter. Pour sugar on the inner cover.
    President, San Francisco Beekeepers Association
    www.habitatforhoneybees.org

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,120

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    I have used dry sugar both on top and on the side...

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnucs.htm#overwinternucs
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Bardstown, KY, USA
    Posts
    321

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    I take it that you don't have any retired friends heading to Florida this time of year??? I would look up the October newsletter for Kelley Bees and read about winter feeding using the "mountain camp" method...

    Good luck. I have to single brood boxes that have to make it this year by themseleves.
    Grandchildren are the best.... Bees a close second....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Peterborough, NH
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    A big THANK YOU to everyone who has replied so far. Very helpful. After posting my question, I also saw that a few other current threads are addressing the same or similar issues, and there are a whopping number of past threads on same/similar issues, so lots of helpful guidance here -- below I provide a quick summary of what I've found (so far).

    I think I'm likely to try the simplest approach -- providing dry sugar -- though I haven't settled on how specifically to do this yet, as it appears there are numerous options. Although it'd be ideal to reduce their space, that's not practical for me at the moment. (I'm not familiar with "follower boards," so will have to read up on what those are.)

    Here's a summary of what I've gotten from the replies and in other threads I've scanned so far:

    • Provide dry sugar directly on the frames, &/or on top of newspaper, &/or on top of inner cover, &/or next to frames, &/or filling a frame feeder. A basic description of the "mountain camp" method for feeding sugar is here: http://www.indianahoney.com/ihf/drysugar/drysugar.html ... and Michael Bush provides helpful info here: http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnucs.htm#overwinternucs ... and here: http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm#drysugar

    • Or feed with fondant.

    • Or feed with "Megabee Winter Patties" placed directly on the frames.

    • Or provide a "candy board" right above the cluster. Or candy frames can be made (fill an empty frame with candy, similar to filling a candy board form) and used presumably like a frame feeder.

    • If the hive can be kept warm enough (above freezing), then feed sugar water all winter.

    • Consider placing the mini-colony on top of strong colony with divider; or (easier) simply put bottom board of mini-colony on top of the cover of larger colony.

    • To reduce the space they occupy and have to keep warm, place two "follower boards" on either side of 10-frame box to take up the extra room.

    • Closer to spring, perhaps supplement with pollen or pollen substitute (pollen patties).

    • In spring, be prepared to feed them early and often.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Lititz, PA, USA
    Posts
    709

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    A follower board is just a solid piece of wood that is the same size and shape as a frame. You can place them in your hive on either side of the 5 frames to give those frames artificial "walls" so the bees only have that 5-frame width available. This might help them keep their cluster warmer. Between the follower boards and the actual sides of the hive I'd put crumpled newspaper or something similar to sort of act as insulation. In your case you'd want to make those boards a little deeper so they would extend down to the bottom board. You also want the follower to be high enough that they're level with the top of the box so the inner cover is right on them, no gap. You don't want anything, bees or otherwise, getting into those spaces on the sides. If the nuc overwinters and survives, the follower boards are nice because you can slide them over little by little and give them one frame of space at a time as they expand in the spring until they are 10 frames wide. Then you can just pull out the boards and stash them for another time.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Peterborough, NH
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    Thanks. That all makes sense. Also sounds relatively easy to make (though one tough part might be getting the height just right).

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Johnson City, TN
    Posts
    380

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    Told you you would have many oppinios!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,867

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    I think your best bet is to kill the queen and combine the small hive with one of your others, presuming you can answer the question "Why is this hive not thriving?" You can certainly experiment to try and get them through - is there something that makes you believe that this colony will do an about face and start performing well once winter is over?
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Peterborough, NH
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    Yes, many ideas, and now I realize I even left one of them off my summary list:

    Find retired friends who are heading to Florida.

    Hmm, doesn't work for me at the moment, but maybe if I'm in the same quandary next year.....

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Fredericksburg, Va
    Posts
    798

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    This summer I made several 5 frame top feeders that follow the same design as the 10 frame styroform hive top feeders. I plan to flip them over to use as a shim space for a candy board covered with newspaper to fill the extra space.
    This is a test of the nuc feeder method.
    Bee all you can Bee!
    http://www.hamiltonapiary.net

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Peterborough, NH
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    I think your best bet is to kill the queen and combine the small hive with one of your others, presuming you can answer the question "Why is this hive not thriving?" You can certainly experiment to try and get them through - is there something that makes you believe that this colony will do an about face and start performing well once winter is over?
    The colony actually seems quite healthy and thriving in a sense, but I created it very late in the season when I acquired a new queen for one of my regular hives. At that time, I took the queen that was in the full hive and moved her along with 5 frames of brood and food into a single hive box. I wanted to keep that queen as "insurance" in case anything went wrong introducing the new queen into the regular hive, and I just didn't have the willpower (to be honest) to kill this queen. So, now the new queen is well established in the original, full-sized colony, and this "old" queen (though she's not very old at all) in the mini-colony seems to be doing well too, but winter is looming, and my original plan (feeding capped honey to the mini-colony) has fallen through. As I said, I think I'll go with feeding dry sugar.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Millbury, MA, USA
    Posts
    1,824

    Default Re: How do you feed a nuc through the winter?

    Make your follower boards out of styrofoam and fill the empty spaces with styrofoam... see Bob Hack's web site and look at the photos, he uses this method and it seems to work well... I'm trying it on a weak single this winter.

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