I have had some small nucs from swarms that have grown to full strength hives but this will be my first attempt at starting nucs from scratch...rearing queens, getting them mated, and having the nuc build up to a production hive.
My intention is to make up three or four nucs to overwinter. The nucs will serve as both mating and increase...as the queen will stay in them until the nuc is moved to a production hive. I may keep one nuc as a backup queen and comb builder. I've got some basic plans and ideas and thought I'd lay them out here for folks to give me advice or suggestions on. Great plans of mice and men...here we go.
I will be making my first attempt at grafting. I figure if I'm going to give it a shot I might as well go "whole hog". I've got a very good hive that I will graft larvae from, but I will use a different colony to start and finish the cells. This starter/finisher has always had a strong population but just doesn't make a surplus for me...I figured I might as well make them earn their keep.
On hand are JzBz cell cups and bars...a small assortment of homemade and bought grafting tools...and no experience. I'm debating on my grafting location...inside the jeep?...bring the larvae in the house where I have a large lighted magnifier?...or...? During the time of grafting the ambient temperatures should be fine (if not too hot), I'm more concerned with humidity levels so a small tent with the floor wetted might even work. I understand that the grafting should be done quickly to keep the larvae from drying out and to wrap the larvae in moist towel to help keep the larvae from drying out...thus my desire to do the grafting in the beeyard.
If I succeed in making some viable cells and have enough of them I intend to place two of them in each queenless nuc. I'm figuring on having a frame of honey, two frames of capped and open brood with pollen, an empty frame of comb, and a frame of foundation in the nucs.
The grafting and nuc building will be after I harvest honey...probably at the end of June or first of July. We will be going into the summer dearth, so it might be *interesting*. I am thinking that plenty of drones will be available and with the goldenrod and aster of the fall flow they should have time to build up.
I'm debating on either using a cloake board type of setup or either the Ben Harden method that was suggested to me: http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/benhardenmethod.html to make the queen cells. I tend to like the idea of the cloake board as it's least disruptive in time and upheaval of the starter/finisher colony. I will be using a homebrew cloake board if I go that route...a wood bound excluder (sitting lonely by itself) with one end piece of wood cut lengthwise in half to allow a piece of rigid plastic (probably a politician's sign that they donate) to be slid in.
I will be using 8-frame mediums for these nucs. I had thought about splitting the mediums up into two 4-frame mating nucs but have decided to dedicate a full box to each nuc using 4-5 frames with a follower board and expanding as (hopefully) needed. Simple plywood tops and bottoms. Entrances reduced down to a couple of inches It's hot in south Alabama, should I include some bottom or side vents?
I feed with mason jars and I'm considering feeding through the top covers and either cover the jars with large cans, or another super to shade them. I've thought about painting the jars with black, and then white paint...leaving a taped stripe down the side to view syrup levels through. I don't know if this would make any difference in heat absorbtion by the jars or not. I've seen where lots of folks feed through the cover and don't worry about the jars being in the sun, but I also understand that the sun can increase pressure in the jars when they heat up causing them to leak....I'm not sure what to do on this.
My beeyard is in full sun, but I've read where the mating nucs should be in a shaded area. My concern is SHB, of course. Also, if I move them to the shade the colony will end up orienting on that spot. I'd like to keep them close to the house but moving them later to the apiary area would probably require moving them a couple of miles away and then back. Would some type of simple shade on top of the nucs work so that I can have them in the apiary area to start with? I guess it wouldn't be bad for the nucs to be apart from the big hives, though.
I'm sure there's all kinds of things that I've omitted and I'll them when my weary head thinks of them. Any comments or suggestions are appreciated.