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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
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    627

    Default Keeping a Top Bar Nuc the "Right Size" to overwinter

    I have an 8 bar Top Bar Nuc that I have been struggling to keep this size to try to overwinter. I started it in late May and made it fairly strong because I wanted them to make their own queen. They succeeded and she is laying a great pattern but I have had a hard time keeping them this small size.

    They are fully drawn (well, one partial) with a bar of pollen, a bar and a half of honey/nectar with good bands of capped honey on each of the remaining bars. The rest is solid brood but the queen is kinda skinny which I am guessing is due to her lack of space to lay. I stole a bar to give to a new nuc two weeks ago in an attempt to keep them sized for the nuc but they seem to be rapidly outgrowing it. It seems that half the hive is bearding on warm days and I am sure it is because they are crowded.

    I can steal another bar from them for the new nuc but I think we are going into our dearth period soon and am not sure they will replace it without me feeding them but there is no room to feed them. I am now of the opinion that 8 bars are too few but do I make a new larger nuc (don't really have the time for this right now) for them or try to keep them in this nuc to overwinter? I should add that the wedge on these bars is slightly shorter than the rest to fit this hive so bars can go out but I currently only have one empty bar that will fit it. It is also shorter in depth but matches the new nuc. (The new nuc has ten bars, five drawn, and I gave them the queen so they aren't trying to make one).

    Another option might be that I have a new full size hive two steps from going online and I could make a solid follower board to divide it and put them in one end. I have a nucleus colony in the end of my current full size hive due to an emergency split I did when they swarmed and left 7 swarm cells behind. I was going to put that colony in the new hive but this small nuc is stronger by one bar.

    Here it is: 2013-07-15_crowded_nuc.jpg
    Last edited by Colleen O.; 07-16-2013 at 12:04 AM. Reason: add pic

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,557

    Default Re: Keeping a Top Bar Nuc the "Right Size" to overwinter

    Colleen, 8 bars seems a tad small. I do know that people in langs keep 5 frame nucs over the winter, but the area of a 5 frame deep is probably larger than your nuc. I'm guessing the top inside width of the hive is around 15 inches wide based on the width of the legs. I can't tell how deep or how wide the bottom is because of all the bees! I would think that you probably have the same hive size as a 4 frame deep. In any case, a longer box may make it easier for you to feed them in the winter if you need to. My guess is that it is unlikely for them to draw out substantially more comb this time of the year, so moving them into a larger box may not mean they will increase in size. So I guess I'm giving you a definitive "I don't know" answer!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Keeping a Top Bar Nuc the "Right Size" to overwinter

    Quote Originally Posted by shannonswyatt View Post
    So I guess I'm giving you a definitive "I don't know" answer!
    LOL! Yeah, that is where I'm at with it too!

    You are right on the sizing, probably about the equivalent of a 4 frame deep Langstroth nuc. The other nuc, the ten bar, is probably equivalent to a 5 frame. It isn't all drawn out so there is room to feed that one. I THINK I should take another bar out of the 8 bar nuc that is bearding so bad and give it to the 10 bar to strengthen it. That should hopefully ease the overcrowding in the 8 bar for now and I can always give the bar back late September or early October if they need it.

    On the other hand, if I make the divider for the new hive I can put two nucs in it and they would have a little more room to grow and would benefit from each others heat in winter. That way the too small 8 bar nuc can be pulled out of service.

    Argh! I am still not sure!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,557

    Default Re: Keeping a Top Bar Nuc the "Right Size" to overwinter

    I think that making a full size hive is a better way to go. You will need one in the long run, you may as well do it now.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: Keeping a Top Bar Nuc the "Right Size" to overwinter

    Hi Colleen, sounds like the new nuc box is a little larger, can you swap boxes and use that one with the established nuc and give the new nuc the smaller box? I over wintered a top bar nuc last winter that had seven or eight bars (17.5" length bars) but I started the nuc much later and had just enough room to add a sugar brick in the end as it went into winter.

    Or could you swap out a partial bar from your full sized top bar hive with a full bar from the nuc and continue that process as necessary? This year I have made a couple of new top bar nuc boxes and they each will hold eleven or twelve bars for a little more flexibility.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Keeping a Top Bar Nuc the "Right Size" to overwinter

    I guess I should give some background on the nuc sizing.

    Last year when I went to put my new purchased hive together I found out the window was broken and had to throw together a temporary hive out of what I had on hand. I had 1 X 10s so I used those for the sides instead of the 1 X 12s my regular hive is. That temporary hive was around three feet long and I cut it down to make the two swarm traps/nucs. I used the old follower boards to make the ends of the 8 bar nuc so it ended up being just a little smaller and therefore not all the bars fit it (the wedge has to be about 1/8" shorter than the rest are). When I didn't catch any swarms with the nucs but needed to split my own hive to prevent swarming I put the split into the 8 bar nuc because the other one was at a friends house. I could shorten the wedge on more bars but I don't think I want to use this little nuc for anything other than a swarm trap in the future so I don't want to put more time into it.

    The new hive, which matches the hive I purchased, just needs a window cover to be done. To put bars from the hives into the nucs I have to cut the bottom 1 1/2" or so off if they are fully drawn. I can put the bars from the 8 bar nuc into any of the hives or other nuc but I currently only have two extra bars that will fit in the 8 bar nuc due to the shorter wedge. One is in the 10 bar nuc and one is not currently in use.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Keeping a Top Bar Nuc the "Right Size" to overwinter

    I just finished reorganizing the 8 bar nuc into the new hive body. I'm afraid I might have been too late because when I transferred the comb I saw they have been backfilling the brood nest. Very little room for brood on any of the combs.

    I swapped the newer 10 bar nuc into the place that the 8 bar was so that they could take advantage of the additional field force. I made a solid follower to divide the new hive and put the 8 bar in one end and the nuc that I had intended to put in the new hive into the other end. Hopefully I can get them to fill out the hive by winter, then they should overwinter better sharing heat as they move towards each other to the center of the hive. We'll see how it goes.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
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    1,557

    Default Re: Keeping a Top Bar Nuc the "Right Size" to overwinter

    I wish you well!

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