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  1. #1
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    Default Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Chapter 1, First Drone of the Year

    This year I'm trying a method of increase designed hopefully to maximize the resulting number of colonies from the available resources. The tradeoff being an increased amount of equipment and decreased colony size.

    I came rather abruptly to the need for a more efficient increase method last year when I was able to wander around the yard and pick up a handful of dead virgin queens, the ones killed by the first who hatched and then dumped out the door.

    So this year, I am trying something new to me and which is a sort of a hybrid between different methods of others. I don't have a very long beekeeping season, perhaps March through June if the rain holds out, so I can't do many cycles of splitting or queen rearing.

    So I came up with the following method.

    When the hives are in buildup mode for the main season, I select about one third of overwintered colonies to be honey producers and/or mothers of the next generation of queens. I take the best colony not included in the first category and groom it to become a cell builder. I graft 2-3 dozen queens from a mix of the mothers and let them be raised in the cell builder. I remove all the queens from the remaining two thirds of colonies and place them and a frame or two of brood in nucs and then use the remaining brood and bees to start mating nucs using 'queen castles.' From the queen castles, deserving nucs will graduate to 5-frame or even 10-frame nucs while undeserving nucs will have their queen offed and be merged to high performing nucs to create larger hives. Moderate to good performing nucs will be sold to reduce numbers to the size I want to overwinter with (or have equipment for).

    Using this method, my goal is to create a large number of hives from which to pick the best survivors, producers, and the most gentle. Since I don't make or need tons of honey each year, I can maximize profits by selling nucs and get by honey wise by simply setting aside the honey producers from the beginning rather than splitting and disturbing them.

    What kind of preparations do I need to do this? The first thing I need is the queen castles. They can be a bit pricey at upwards of $40, fortunately, they can be made for a quarter of the price. So I made 10 3x3s. 30 nucs should easily cover 36 grafts with anything but the best possible failure rate which I'm certainly not expecting this first time around.

    I'm starting this thread to document my progress. Feel free to comment, criticize, or offer advice.

    Oh, and did I mention I saw the first drone of the year today?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Will be interesting to follow your progress.

    What may be your biggest obstacle will be your short flow. Everything goes great during the flow, but what you are wanting to do gets difficult during a dearth. So jumping in and producing a lot of cells as soon as conditions permit will help you succeed. My suggestion would be temporarily use two cell finishing hives, just so you are not forcing them to raise too many cells, and it's better to have a surplus of cells and waste a few, than to have everything else in place but not have enough cells. During your first cell raising attempts, aim for double the number of cells you want, as it's unlikely you will get as many as you are aiming for.

    You can easily use an extra hive as a cell raiser, even just for one or two times, then let it be a normal hive again, with virtually no ill effect on the hive.

    All nucs of the size you want to make, during a flow, produce a lot of honey and usually need it taken out to stop them clogging up. This can be deceptive if trying to judge a good producer. Temperament can be judged, although in a queen breeding nuc most of the bees, most of the time, are usually from a different queen.

    Would be interesting to see your posts accompanied by photographs.

    Should this thread be in the bee and queen breeding section?
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 02-02-2012 at 02:55 PM.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Also, I've actually found it more complicateed organisationally, just running a few nucs (currently around 100), than when I was running a larger operation. That's because it's all very piecemeal. I'm not raising enough cells to have a regular schedule that's the same each day, and queen orders are often for ones and twos, instead of by the yard, I have to keep records on each nuc. Also have to leave nucs queenless for periods, if no cells are immediately available.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Thanks for the advice, I'll seriously consider two cell builders.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Let me know when you have nucs for sale. I'm just down the road and I'm looking to expand . I'm looking forward to following your progress.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Actually any good strong hive will serve as a finisher in a pinch.........as long as you isolate the queen under an excluder, right OT?. One of the problems with cell builders is too much of a honey flow will cause the bees to make a mess of your cells, when this happens to us we will put a frame of foundation towards the outside, it seems to help with the burr comb around the cells. We have our cell yard in a location without a history of a huge nectar flow and just figure on a regular program of supplemental feed. We just use some good quality duct tape on the lid and a Sharpie for recording any pertinent info. Overall sounds like you have a good plan, best of luck and keep us updated.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    I tried something similar last year. I went with 4x2's, rather than 3x3's. Other than that, the plan sounds similar. I have one main honey flow in March/April. After that it's usually dead nectar wise around here.

    Using that method, I saw two problems or issues that you might want to be conscious of. Since you are making smaller nucs, not only do you have a short time to produce queens, but you also need to watch out for the dearth and robbing. I kept mine small (some three frame, some four frame, one or two 2 frame) and when the dearth happened, robbing started like crazy. The smaller nucs didn't have enough populations to adequately defend themselves, got robbed out, and absconed. It left me with no nucs in the end. My suggestion would be to be conscious of when your flow ends, and make sure they have sufficient populations by that time. Also, don't go smaller than 3x3's (in my opinion).

    Second, because of the time frame of queen breeding, it requires you to set up a nuc, place a cell, and then essentially wait for her to do her own thing for a few weeks. The more you peek, the less she will develop into a monster queen. This raises a problem for the breeder, since some queens fail to emerge. Since it will be a few weeks until you can find out, by the time you open up your 3x3's you may have a queenless nuc or an e-cell. For that reason, I suggest using california cages, letting them hatch in the cell finisher. You can judge them based on where they are at when they hatch (size, color, or if they hatched at all), then place the virgins in the nucs on the same day they hatched. This reduces the chances of you having a queenless nuc, a poorly developed queen, and a loss of very precious resources.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Obviously advise born of hard experience LOL! You may be able to protect Sol from doing some of the same things.

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    as long as you isolate the queen under an excluder, right OT?.
    Yes Ha Ha! Actually I took another look in the hive cos I just wanted to be sure there wasn't something wrong with the bees. But the latest batch of cells are doing fine. So, I guess it must have been my innovative excluderless hive LOL.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Now if I can just get some decent weather to paint things... I'm building a whole hive (2 deeps, 2 mediums, BB, lid, telescoping cover and full of frames) and a nuc for a personal friend. Gave him the whole deal for $330 including drawn comb in the deeps. Way too nice I am. But it does help to make a good impression on the local extension agent right?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Solomon - How many hives are you starting with? It's almost the same thing that I'm planning - I have about 40 3 and 4 M frame mating nucs that I built last year that I would like to get (as many as possible) queenright and healthy before the end of April.

    Then I think I'm just going to select from them to overwinter in mostly 8 frame hives - which I have had very good luck with so far. My plan is still kind of sketchy from there, but it involves keeping a sustainable number in the spring and selling the rest as overwintered nucs.

    This might be completely coincidence, but last year it seemed that mating nucs that didn't make on the first try were likely to fail on subsequent tries too. Is it just me? Anyway, I'm thinking that this time failed mating nucs might get their frames immediately combined back and then rebuilt with fresh resources.

    And yes this should be in the queen breeding section.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    2000th post, woohoo!

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Solomon - How many hives are you starting with? It's almost the same thing that I'm planning - I have about 40 3 and 4 M frame mating nucs that I built last year that I would like to get (as many as possible) queenright and healthy before the end of April.
    I had 10 of 11 make it through the winter so far, but set to get real cold in the next few days. I'm trying to decide which ones should be for what purpose as some of the biggest overwinterers are a bit mean.



    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    My plan is still kind of sketchy from there, but it involves keeping a sustainable number in the spring and selling the rest as overwintered nucs.
    That's the plan for the winter.



    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    This might be completely coincidence, but last year it seemed that mating nucs that didn't make on the first try were likely to fail on subsequent tries too. Is it just me? Anyway, I'm thinking that this time failed mating nucs might get their frames immediately combined back and then rebuilt with fresh resources.
    That wasn't my experience. I did have some troubles with a couple queens not returning from mating flights, probably dragonflies, but adding a new frame of brood cleared the problem up eventually. Having more nucs and more hives makes for better possibilities with re-unites and retries. I'm lumping failures in with poor performers to be united with good performers to make new production hives.

    I'm trying to develop a whole system of beekeeping, and addendum to the Parker Plan, the second year and beyond. I need to make it work first, or at least discover that it doesn't work and how to engineer a workable solution. The plan already introduces the concept of breeding rapidly to maximize the availability of survivor genes and minimize the effect of losses. I'm trying to work out the best way to do that. I think nucs, queen castles, and grafting are the best ways to do that.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    You're about where I was at this time last year more or less. Overwintered 10 rather strong double 8 frame mediums - and no extra comb, took (a bit too much in retrospect) honey off of 7 of them and raised queens with the other three. Went into this winter with 10 doubles 11 singles, 4 halves, and a lonely top bar hive - and 20 more boxes of drawn comb. At this point I'm down by a 4 frame nuc and 2 8 frame singles - all of which were a bit dodgy anyway to tell the truth - I stressed my bees too much last year with all that. But I'm trying to do better.

    I think I would like to get to 10 good full grown honey hives + sustainability nucs - and a few extras to sell. Trying for a balance of enjoyment and a little bit of income.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    I'm ultimately going for about 20 full hives making honey, with nucs, making nucs to sell, maybe a few queens. I'd like my farming hobby to support my other hobbies and maybe help with retirement in 40 years.

    This winter, I'd like to go in with maybe 25 hives, mostly doubles, some singles, and I'd like to try to overwinter a few nucs. I have all the equipment, it just needs to be filled.

    I'd like to come out of winter with my goal number of hives each year. Expecting some losses as I do being treatment-free, that means compensation. I don't have enough years under my belt to know what level that needs to be every year, so it's still in the research/experimentation stage.

    I'd also like to try a topbar hive at some point. Beekeeping is about learning for me. Once I'm doing one thing well, need to add another.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Just a thought on your wax queen cell cups, are they treatment free wax? If not, I'd recommend making your own, with your own wax.

    Remember the queen spends the first 19 days of her life surrounded by her wax cell, if it's got treatment residue it will affect the queen.

    My own queen cells are now raised in treatment free conditions, although the cells are still mostly hatched into nucs that have been treated at some point in their past.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    We have a similar situation with the short season here in southwest VA. Depending on weather, by end of June there is no real flow. I have been rearing my own queens for two years now, and my goals are similar to several of you here on this thread. Most of this echoes your previous comments.

    1) Start early.
    2) Create strong nucs from the beginning so they can defend themselves. I think this also has a lot to do with stress that the bees have. The stronger nucs are more dynamic and deal with problems better. All of mine are mediums. I found they do better with at least 4 frames, so I use doubles or 5 frame singles with 4 or 5 frames. By the end of the season they turn in to doubles for overwintering.
    3) Use robbing screens on all nucs. They are easy to make bending and stapling #8 hdwe cloth. Robbing is the biggest problem I have experienced with queenrearing.

    Thanks for the thread.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    How's it coming?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    This last week, over spring break, I did three grafts of 18 larvae each. The first one failed entirely due to weather and other conditions. But I regrafted them and grafted a new set on Saturday and all is well.

    The first set is being done using the Ben Harden Method, that is queenright starter and finisher. I really like this method because I can use the same hive I grafted from to raise the cells, and there is very little overall disruption to the hive. There's no queenlessness so the bees are less grumpy. They've accepted 17 of the 18 grafts.

    The third set was grafted from a hive which was then made queenless by taking the queen and two frames of open brood and placing them in a nuc off to the side. This hive has accepted 12 of 18 grafts and is doing just fine. Once the process is completed, I will put the queen back or perhaps just leave a cell and allow it to become the new queen.

    For more info and pictures, check out my blog post on the subject. http://parkerfarms.blogspot.com/2012...g-success.html

    The next chore is to get 29 mating nucs set up. I've done a bit better than I expected.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Wow, sounds like you have your hands full! Let me know if I can help with anything. Topic sounds interesting but way over my head as this is my first spring with the bees! My two hives are doing great and building up quickly! I sent you a PM earlier.

    Sully

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Looks like you are in for an exciting spring!

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Sol's Nuc Project (Parker Plan, Second Year and Beyond)

    Update, I had to strip seven hives of all but one frame of brood to have enough brood to make the mating nucs. Obviously when pursuing an increase, you need something with which to increase. If you were doing this with a single hive using the Harden Method, you could only make enough nucs for the number of frames of brood there are in the hive. Still workable though.

    Each nuc was made of one frame of brood with adhering bees, one frame of stores with adhering bees, and one empty frame with comb or foundation. I had comb, so that's what I went with.

    At this point, I've gone through all the nucs. There was only one queen which did not emerge and that nuc had queen cups well underway. I'll just let it ride.
    Naturally, some of the nucs got many more bees than others, or at least ended up that way. May 5th is the day when I will go through all of them again and begin to cull. Yet to figure out is how fast they can grow.

    I'm still thinking this is a very workable way for the new treatment-free beekeeper to get going, splitting as rapidly as possible, learning the basics of breeding early on. Raising your own local queens is the best option for maintaining a sustainable treatment-free home apiary. I don't think freshman beekeepers need to be scared of anything. There's a wealth of information out there to be had and used to its fullest. It's a challenging proposition, I'll admit. But it can be done.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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