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  1. #1
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    Question Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Over the past few months, there have been a few threads on nucs, and more specifically - overwintered nucs. I get the sense that people are often surprised at how quickly these colonies take off, and if you're caught off guard, they will swarm before you get a handle on them. So, to some extent, the overwintered nuc is a unique entity, which acts somewhat differently than a full sized colony.

    I have six nucs wintering right now, and I want to make the most of whatever resources come through winter. I also have 5 full sized colonies, and I want to expand as much as I can in the 2013 season. I want to work toward maintaining about 3/4 of my colonies as nucs and 1/4 as production or full-sized colonies.

    You never know what toll winter will take, but assuming my colonies make it thorough, what can you offer in terms of advice on how to manage overwintered nucs in the spring? How can I best manage my resources in the spring - and maximize the potential of what I have?

    Thanks,

    Adam

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Adam - What was your original reason for overwintering six nucs? I don't know if answering that question will help others give you better advice on how to manage them this spring...I guess I am just being nosy because I would like to overwinter some in 2013 for backup stock in case my hives don't make it, or I lose a queen, etc.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Adam, when is your main flow? Timing is everything.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Adrian:
    Our main flow probably runs from Mid May to Mid July. Swarming is usually late May and through June.

    mtndewlver:
    I am overwintering the 6 nucs specifically to learn how to do it successfully in my region. My primary interest is in building the knowledge and management skills necessary to create a healthy sustainable bee population in my own operation. I have come to believe that the ability to successfully winter nucleus colonies may be the key to doing that.

    Adam

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    >I want to work toward maintaining about 3/4 of my colonies as nucs
    In my mild climate I move my over wintered nucs into brood chambers in January because they would swarm in March if i didn't. I then super them as needed. Do you mean you want to keep yours as nucs all summer? I would think you would let them develop into full size colonies and in mid summer start new nucs to over winter.

    >I have come to believe that the ability to successfully winter nucleus colonies may be the key to doing that.
    In this era of heavy winter losses that seems to be the best technique.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by odfrank View Post
    ...Do you mean you want to keep yours as nucs all summer? I would think you would let them develop into full size colonies and in mid summer start new nucs to over winter...
    My nucs are in 8 frame single deeps right now. I am planning to move to divided deep 8's with narrow frames, meaning I can have two 4 frame nucs side by side in a single deep. Then I'm planning to follow Mike Palmer's approach, meaning I will super the nucs, so that they get two or three 4 frame boxes high. From what I understand, the supering, combined with the removal of resources for beefing up production colonies, or making more nucs is how you keep them in the relatively small space.

    But this is why I'm asking questions. I've not had a season managing overwintered nucs yet, so the line of questioning is a part of getting ready and committed to an approach.

    Adam

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Hi Adam, it sounds like you have a similar season to me (just 6 months difference). Can you try the following technique? I've only come up with it recently.

    1. In early spring (when plum trees are well into blossom), move an outside frame into a new box, this frame is to be centred directly above the brood nest.

    2. Find the edge of the brood nest and place a new frame BESIDE the brood nest. This is a "hole" beside the brood nest and the aim to maintain this hole well into the main flow. There must be brood on one side of the new frame and drawn comb, or the edge of the box on the other side of this new frame.

    3. Repeat this process about every 2 weeks, alternating sides. (The previously added frame should be at least 2/3 drawn.) you can even do both sides at once (or 2 Nuc boxes at once in your case) when temperatures are warm enough and the bees are flying every day.

    4. Once there is brood on the edge frame(s) of the brood box (which is very likely in Nucs), move this frame to the box above, centred directly above the brood nest.

    5. Do this until about midway into the main flow. Then you can just concentrate on the supers. Alternating honey frames with new frames works well.

    Here's a link to the "Maintaining a Hole" thread for more details:
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...rst-year-hives


    I use foundationless frames for the new frames, but as Walt Wright pointed out, if you have Varroa Mite you should keep drone cells to a minimum. So try foundation instead.

    By the way, when do your plum trees usually flower? Is it February or March?
    You should be able to work out how many frames you will need as a minimum from that.

    Once the main flow hit I was able to add 4 frames at least every 2 weeks.
    My 2 queen hive has gone from 10 frames at Plum blossom to 46 deep frames plus 6 I took for splits (still a few weeks left of the main flow.) So they have drawn 42 deep frames so far in 5 months, without feeding!

    Matthew Davey

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Adam, one approach: Decide exactly how many production colonies you want and late April equalize the capped brood to 6 frames each, supplementing them from you nucs if needed; If you have plenty of boxes and frames on hand you could stimulative feed your nucs as early as they will take feed.
    I haven't fed mine in the spring as they expand fast enough. I also make my expansion splits with queen cells from either the MDA Splitter technique or natural swarm cells. If you want to expand quickly buying queens and putting them in a queen bank would be the way to go.
    If I were to feed my nucs I would want the nucs at my home yard so I had no excuse not to stay on top of them. I would have a queen bank in the same place. I would have my strong production colonies out of bee flight distance so there was less chance of robbing and honey contamination.
    I think it would be helpful in your planning to set yourself some concrete goals as to numbers of nucs as well. That way you will have supplies on hand when needed. A weak link in my suggestion is the dependancy on outside queens. If your nucs are going gangbusters and then the queens don't show up - then what?
    I have used few outside queens because: I'm a worrier and I would stress about delivery, I enjoy watching my own develop, and I like the brood break when you grow on a colony from a home bred queen.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    I have six nucs wintering right now, and I want to make the most of whatever resources come through winter. I also have 5 full sized colonies, and I want to expand as much as I can in the 2013 season. I want to work toward maintaining about 3/4 of my colonies as nucs and 1/4 as production or full-sized colonies. How can I best manage my resources in the spring - and maximize the potential of what I have?
    In April, replace any winter losses with your nucleus colonies. Also, re-queen any production colonies that aren't building up well, or have poor queens. That will take care of some of them.

    Did you want more production colonies? Or will you stay at 5? Will you use the remaining nucs for that expansion? Or will you split production colonies? If you can increase your production colonies by splits, then you'll have a few nucs left over. I use these as brood factories to get bees and brood for making more nucs. As I've said before, you'll get anywhere from 5 to 10 nucs from each. Repeat another year, building up your numbers.

    If you maintain 5 production colonies, and 20 nucleus colonies, that's your %. But be careful. The nucs will explode in may and June, and you really have to keep on top of them or they will swarm. Don't wait too long to order your queens for the dates you want.

    Also, I think your 75% nucleus colony count should be after all your nucs are made for the year...your going into winter count. also nothing wrong will installing them all into full sized colonies at the end of April, and then sacrificing enough of them to make your supply of nucs.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Michael, I have been working with your 100 colony count in mind - which you suggested would be minimum for creating a truly sustainable operation. I have in mind getting to 75 nucs and 25 production colonies as a goal, and trying to find a balance in life around that. Does that sound reasonable as a sideline?

    To me, the most important thing is bees. So I want enough colonies to keep from getting wiped out in a winter, or by other things, while at the same time being able to raise good queens from my own stock.

    You say: "be careful. The nucs will explode in May and June..." That explosion is the point of the thread - getting my head around what management I should be ready for so as not to let them get out of control.

    I'm also a little fuzzy on the process of letting the nucs build up into three supers and then breaking them back down. In some places I've read about breaking them all down to one box again, but I think you advocate wintering them in two boxes now - two 4 frames high. Do you break them down to one with sufficient season left to build back up to two?



    Adam

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    You say: "be careful. The nucs will explode in May and June..." That explosion is the point of the thread - getting my head around what management I should be ready for so as not to let them get out of control.

    I'm also a little fuzzy on the process of letting the nucs build up into three supers and then breaking them back down. In some places I've read about breaking them all down to one box again, but I think you advocate wintering them in two boxes now - two 4 frames high. Do you break them down to one with sufficient season left to build back up to two? Adam

    By being careful, I mean look into them often. I start removing brood from the strong ones in early May when they're still in 2 stories. If you only have a few, you can expand them to 3 stories. Then start harvesting brood later in the month. At first, 1 or 2 combs of sealed brood every week or ten days will be enough to stay ahead of them. As the field force increases, they get strong fast and fill everything with brood and nectar. At that point, you step up the harvest pace. Take the nucs from 3 stories to 2 with most of the top box empty. Allow them to fill the top box and next round take them down to one box with the old queen, a couple partial brood combs a feed and an empty. They in essence, become the last nuc. You can change the queen at that point if you wish.

    Then you let them all build up into 2 stories again...for winter.

    I would buy queens from wherever. Make your schedule now and order queens to come every 10 days or so from some time in May until the beginning of July. Use this year to learn the timing, and see just what the bees are capable of.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Thank you, Sensei.

    Matt - Interesting ideas there. I'll have to experiment with those as well - thanks.

    Adrian, I believe it was you who talked in another thread about how fast they build up, which is what led to this line of questioning.

    Now, if I only knew what I'll have come spring...

    Adam
    Last edited by Adam Foster Collins; 12-29-2012 at 04:42 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Now, if I only knew what I'll have come spring...Adam
    Ah, and there's the rub.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    overwintered nucs. I get the sense that people are often surprised at how quickly these colonies take off, and if you're caught off guard, they will swarm
    Adam
    Its the fresh queen in the nuc that promotes the vigour. A small nuc can build right into the flow and produce as much as a full sized wintered colony.
    Just that the full sized hives act exactly the same way with fresh queens, and your able to take surplus strength from them to make up splits and send them into the flow to collect a large honey crop
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Spring Nuc Management: Any Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    Its the fresh queen in the nuc that promotes the vigour...Just that the full sized hives act exactly the same way with fresh queens...
    Interesting. I will be interested to see what happens this spring.

    Adam

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