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  1. #1
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    Default Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    I have plans to wither multiple nucleus hives in a single top bar hive, separated by follower boards to take advantage of collective heat production....

    I figure I could get three or four nucleus colonies in a 4 foot top bar hive

    any experience with this or ideas

    I know it's only April 29th, I'm a planner...

  2. #2
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    Isle of Wight, VA
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    I want to follow this thread because I hope to do the same thing.

    I have noticed with some of my follower boards/hive walls that some bees can get past them and into the next chamber, but I've also seen where people add quarter round to take up any differences. (I think that was Wyatt Mangum who mentioned that in his book). My TBH's have 3 separate side entrances, so I' think it's entirely possible to overwinter the 3 colonies. The single colony that I overwintered this year was only on 14 bars (1/2 my hive) and even with our unpredictable winter, they had 4 bars of capped syrup/honey left over come spring time.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    My follower boards don't fit super tight either

    so I stapled some strips of folded burlap around the perimeter to plug the gaps
    this might even lead to better heat transfer in the long run
    and Michael Bush said it'd take a while for the bees to get through burlap
    and Mangum has made hives out of sunflower stalks so I think some burlap should be ok

    My biggest question was about condensation...will one colony get all that moist hot air and then get some cold water on their heads?

  4. #4
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    I've seen burlap for an inner cover and the bees just propolize it. But if they can get to the ends they will fray it and I think they chew on it a bit. All in all it seems to last ok in a hive.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    I have used corrugated cardboard (cut slightly larger) on the back of follower boards, as well as putting a masking tape skirt on them. Both seem to work in reducing bees getting through. Although they can very easily chew through masking tape they mostly leave it alone when used like this. It would be worth using two follower boards between each colony so even if some get through it is to a "no mans land". The gap between the two followers could also be filled with an insulator to further help. As to the condensation I would think that you would have less condensation as more of the hive is having its temperature actively regulated. Condensation usually results due to temperature differential between two areas or surfaces.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    I'd be worried that a double follower board would impede the clusters working together

    When looking at a double nucleus langstroth box, the two nucs cluster against the divider so it looks like one cluster divided by a divider.



    I got a lot of the overwintered nuc concepts from this Michael Palmer Presentation

  7. #7
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    Jun 2012
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    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    I tried this last winter. Of my 5 colonies none of the 3 in the single hive body made it. The other two colonies in their own accommodations were a bit stronger (bigger cluster) and with the cold winter it mattered. Out of the 3, I lost one to mites, one to dysentery, and one to losing it's cluster. The one that succumbed to dysentery also had some moisture. All the clusters took positions away from each other instead of sharing heat so that didn't work out like I hoped.

    I don't really think sharing the hive body was a problem except maybe for the moisture. The problem with it was cleaning out the dysentery side. I washed it out and then hit it with a torch for good measure.

    Right now I have a nuc that is divided into two colonies but I set it up as a hybrid KTBH/Lang/Warre with quilt boxes. I hope that the quilts help.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    Why do you think they didn't cluster together?

    What was the placement of broodnest/honey stores/divider?

    I've deduced that the broodnest is considered the "middle" of the hive and that if the broodnest is manipulated to be next to the divider then the small cluster will form there?

    Does anyone have anymore understanding on how to manipulate where the cluster will form in the case of small nucs?

    If the small clusters aren't forced to work together their chances of survival seem to be reduced

    Any info on placement of brood frames/bars and honey frames/bars in relation to dividers/follower boards?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    Colleen

    can you give us some more info on the colonies that didn't make it?

    Estimated bees and stores going into winter and on how many bars? How much open space did they have? Did you feed? How much?

    I'm just trying to get a better idea of your setup

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    Quote Originally Posted by garyprunty View Post
    Why do you think they didn't cluster together?

    What was the placement of broodnest/honey stores/divider?

    I've deduced that the broodnest is considered the "middle" of the hive and that if the broodnest is manipulated to be next to the divider then the small cluster will form there?

    Does anyone have anymore understanding on how to manipulate where the cluster will form in the case of small nucs?

    If the small clusters aren't forced to work together their chances of survival seem to be reduced

    Any info on placement of brood frames/bars and honey frames/bars in relation to dividers/follower boards?
    My experience has been that they like to keep the brood nest adjacent to the entrance. I didn't manipulate them to the back where the solid follower was because I thought they would move there themselves as they went through their winter stores. The bees in these colonies were Buckfasts and were very frugal with their stores so they never got to a place that they could share warmth.

    I do have notes that have the exact configuration. I'll check them and update either tonight or tomorrow. I did feed both syrup and pollen sub in the fall.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    >I thought they would move there themselves as they went through their winter stores.

    Yeah they will move, I'm just trying to understand how to get two clusters to move through their stores in the same direction/together

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    Quote Originally Posted by garyprunty View Post
    Colleen

    can you give us some more info on the colonies that didn't make it?

    Estimated bees and stores going into winter and on how many bars? How much open space did they have? Did you feed? How much?

    I'm just trying to get a better idea of your setup
    I looked at my notes and the three nucs that were together in the one hive body were:
    1) 11 bars, 5 brood 5 honey one candy. Mite count 1.7%. Fed syrup and pollen sub in the fall. Deadout in February from dysentery. Found some fermenting honey in their combs (frothing). I did see the occasional hive beetle so I think that was the cause of the honey issue that took them out.

    2) 10 bars, 4.5 brood 4.5 honey one candy. Mite count 3.5%. Fed syrup and pollen sub in the fall. Deadout in late February from cluster loss. I tried to save the queen but messed up and lost her.

    3) 9 bars, 3 brood 4 honey 2 empty. Mite count 9.8%. Fed syrup and pollen sub in the fall. Deadout in late January from cluster
    loss but really mites.

    I should also note I brought this combined hive into the garage before the temperatures went below 0F and the garage generally stayed around 25 to 40. On the few warmer days I dragged the hive out so they could do cleansing flights.

    The two nucs that overwintered but were in their own accommodations:

    MNH Mutts) 10 bar nuc, 9 drawn 1 partial. 5 brood, 4.5 honey, a little candy in the back where the partial comb was. Mite count ~1%. Fed a little syrup and pollen sub but most was their own honey. Came out of winter with around 3 1/2 bars of bees but would have starved if I hadn't given them deadout honey comb in the spring. This nuc was light weight so I moved it into the garage only for the coldest weather then put it back outside. I also put wool as insulation over the bars. In February this nuc got moved into my new hybrid KTBH/Lang/Warre nuc body with quilts on it. The bees killed the queen when I marked her so I now have three new daughter queens that will hopefully get mated when the nice weather hits this weekend. This new hybrid nuc is now divided into two five bar nucs that I can super with Langstroth 5 frame nuc boxes. It is full of bees despite pulling another split off it with the third queen last weekend. That split went into the nuc this colony started off in.

    Buckfast) full size hive body (4'), 10 combs to beespace follower. 5 brood, 5 honey but extra bees covering a few of the honey bars from a nuc that lost it's queen and got combined with this one. Mite count 11%. Fed a little syrup and pollen sub but most was their own honey. Came out of winter with around 5 1/2 bars of bees and used a fraction of their honey. I did not do any extra measures (besides putting wool for insulation over the bars) on this one because I thought it was a goner after I saw the mite numbers. The spring mite count was around 9+%. This one is building but slower than the other. The brood nest is starting onto the 8th bar (would have been 9th but I needed a bar of brood for the split). They look like they will be at the right size for a good honey crop when the main flow starts. I'm worried about their mite count but am watching closely.
    3rd yr - 1 KTBH & 4 KTBH nucs - TF - USDA Zn 6b

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Wintering Multiple Topbar Nucs in One Hive??

    I think one of the keys to Michael Palmer's overwintering two nucs side by side in the same box and sharing heat is the size. That is part of why I made my hybrid nuc. In the larger hives only the Buckfast cluster seemed to move and it was only a bar or two. The MNH Mutt colony that was in a nuc by itself may have moved the same but it looked like on warmer days they moved the honey to the cluster as they ended the season pretty much where they started and yet their combs in the back were empty.

    The new bars will allow me to put sugar over the cluster if they are light (I don't plan to leave them light, but if they are...). I tried putting a candy bar beside the cluster and it didn't work out like I hoped because only part of the cluster can come in contact with it.
    3rd yr - 1 KTBH & 4 KTBH nucs - TF - USDA Zn 6b

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