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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Question Overwintered Nuc vs. A Small Colony - Is there a difference?

    There has been a lot of talk on this forum and others about the unique spring performance of the overwintered nuc. People have been shocked at how quickly they build up, and many have been caught off guard and lost swarms, due to the rapid spring expansion of the overwintered nuc.

    But what makes these colonies act more vigorous than others? Why would an overwintered nuc take off in the the spring any faster than an overwintered production colony?

    I have some hives that entered winter as full-sized colonies, housed in two deeps. I also have nucs overwintered in single 8-frame deeps. For the sake of discussion, lets say that come spring, a nuc and the full-sized colony come out of winter with the exact same number of bees, and a healthy queen.

    Does it make sense to expect that the overwintered nuc will perform better? Is there any difference at that point?

    Thanks,

    Adam

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Richmond, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    168

    Default Re: Overwintered Nuc vs. A Small Colony - Is there a difference?

    In my situation (i.e. I do not believe in requeening in the way that it is recommended, so most of my hives come out of Winter with queens entering their 2nd, 3rd and (in rare instances) 4th year), I believe that the Overwintered Nuc does so well for two reasons. One is that the queen is young and raring to go. She's born, gets to lay for a couple of months then has to shut off - when Spring comes around she is really ready to rock.

    An equally important reason (and probably the bigger reason) is the size of the box. They have much less space to deal with and, I believe, more bees can focus on brood rearing (and its easier to keep everyone warm.) In my case, this is born out by some of the older queens that I put in Overwintered Nucs. For reasons that I won't go into here, I try to grab any of my older queens (3rd year) in May and drop them into a Nuc, letting the parent hive raise a new queen (and go broodless for a bit - my form of replicating a swarm like activity in my managed hives.) Some of these queens make it to the Fall and overwinter. I have seen these Nucs also come out of Winter very strong. I personally attribute this to the size of the Nuc.

    That's my opinion anyway.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    3,896

    Default Re: Overwintered Nuc vs. A Small Colony - Is there a difference?

    Its a good question. I wonder if anyone has ever really researched it? It might just be perception and not a real difference. I will say this - it is easier to put early spring feed in contact with the cluster in a smaller setup which might result in faster early build up.
    since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  4. #4

    Default Re: Overwintered Nuc vs. A Small Colony - Is there a difference?

    In my experience it is the limited space. Bees are crowded together in a small box. I do have Warré hives with very small boxes (compared to other hive types) and the Warrés outperform other hives I have side by side next to them every Spring.

    If I use a follower in a horizontal trough hive I get similiar results and I heared from Dadant Jumbo beekeepers that they use the followers for the very same reason.

    Crowding bees means more bees per comb, more warmth, more brood food per cell.

    In bigger hives bees tend to distribute throughout the hive when temps go up. They do get lost somewhat.

    All beekeeping is local, so there might be differences in bee strains/lines, local climates and so on. The above is my observation of smaller and bigger hives side by side in my area. Mostly A.m.carnica.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Posts
    915

    Default Re: Overwintered Nuc vs. A Small Colony - Is there a difference?

    George Imrie (if you don't know who Imrie is, Google his "pink pages" and read them) used to say give them a lot of space in the spring and really crowd them in the fall going into winter. I didn't understand the logic of this at the time but now I have noticed that hives that are crammed down into a smaller space generally do better in the spring. I agree with the statements above about the amount of space they have to heat, manage, distance to food, etc. etc. I have noticed when I thought I was being kind to the girls by throwing an extra super of honey or two on top, that these hives almost never do as well as the ones that are squeezed down into a single deep or a deep and a medium. I have several 5 frame nucs that I overwintered the last couple of years that come out of the winter and boom. The one with 2 deeps and 2 full supers of honey seems to be struggling.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,340

    Default Re: Overwintered Nuc vs. A Small Colony - Is there a difference?

    >But what makes these colonies act more vigorous than others? Why would an overwintered nuc take off in the the spring any faster than an overwintered production colony?

    Probably similar to why a swarm takes off. They are just motivated more. A struggling production colony is not motivated, it's just surviving. A nuc that made it through the winter is in a race and knows it.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Overwintered Nuc vs. A Small Colony - Is there a difference?

    Interesting input. Most of you suggest it's a spacial effect, or that the size of the nest cavity is affecting the density of bees and that this causes them to build up more rapidly. Mike Bush has suggested that it has to do with a type of 'attitude' or 'morale' of the colony, which is associated with their state of health. He suggests that if an over-wintered production colony is the same size as an overwintered nuc, then it has declined over winter, and is thus in a struggling state, while the overwintered nuc of that size is in a state of good health.

    Do we know of any more research/writing/information on either of these two perspectives?

    • Is there more information on the effect of cavity size on build-up?
    • Is there more information on colony 'morale' as it relates to the health of the colony?


    Thanks again,

    Adam

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    3,824

    Default Re: Overwintered Nuc vs. A Small Colony - Is there a difference?

    There is always reasons why a small colony has not taken off. It is best to make them into nucs with new queens!

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