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  1. #1
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    Default colonies absconding from nucs

    I have 16 nucs that I have made up this past summer. last weekend some of the older colones absconded. I was thinking we where managing these properly and keepign the population low enough to keep the nucs functioning. Obviously not. some of the nucs absconded even though they had been give. an additional 5 frame box.

    So now I have some questions but am looking for more detailed and exact information than generalizations. for example frames with 3 frames covered with bees. rather than simply saying some bees.

    We started these nucs form mating compartments with two frames weakly covered in bees. Weak coverage means patches of bees approximately hand size. Maybe 400 bees per frame. The nucs then had additional bees added until they had 3 frames of bees. This woudl be three frames well covered in bees. Again later they where given a frame of brood.

    The purpose for this slow deliberate build up of populations as for the purpose of observing a colonies performance with various degrees of population. Build up was for the most part either lacking or very slow up to about 4 frames of bees and 3 fraems of brood.

    At the point of 4 fraems of bees and 3 frames of brood a second 5 frame box was added to the nucs.

    It was at this point that the nucs absconded anyway.

    I have considered many possible causes. such as general dissatisfaction with the space . lack of expansion room for the queen. We have sen a lot of multiple eggs in cells do to restricted laying space.

    Mainly I am looking for what you all consider minimal numbers to make up and maintain a nuc. I am starting to think that a genuine nuc (5 over 5 boxes) can only be maintained for a limited length of time.

    For those that use them do you think that use of a split ten frame or 8 frame box alleviates absconding tendency? That it might give the impression to the bees that they are part of a larger colony maybe?
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Never had nucs abscond during the prime season, typically I lose them in fall, finding them empty either because of mite pressure or robbing pressure. The only one I lost this year was brand new split that I found 95% of the bees bearding in the afternoon outside the nuc with 3 frames of abandoned brood inside. I intro'd a virgin and they absconded with her later that day but as luck had it, it was the first day we hit over 100 as well. In my opinion, weak-slow building colonies tend to abscond more at some point, just an observation I've made. They tend to start building up, and then they're just gone one day as you've kind of described, hit a certain mass and they leave for greener pastures.

  3. #3
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    In my area, deep shade and a cooling (high pressure fogging system) help to keep my nucs occupied and functional. I already know that any the sun can reach, will either be dead or quickly abandoned. This season has been especially brutal, in that regard.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  4. #4
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    Jan 2013
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    Larimer County, CO
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    501

    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    Never had nucs abscond during the prime season, typically I lose them in fall, finding them empty either because of mite pressure or robbing pressure. The only one I lost this year was brand new split that I found 95% of the bees bearding in the afternoon outside the nuc with 3 frames of abandoned brood inside. I intro'd a virgin and they absconded with her later that day but as luck had it, it was the first day we hit over 100 as well. In my opinion, weak-slow building colonies tend to abscond more at some point, just an observation I've made. They tend to start building up, and then they're just gone one day as you've kind of described, hit a certain mass and they leave for greener pastures.
    is there any "critical mass" you've noticed to be the trigger point, i.e. 3 or 4 full frames and they're gone? i had that happen to two colonies earlier this season, both from removals and both large colonies, only they left behind enough bees to cover the brood i removed from the structures, with the queen and a large part of the other bees leaving for greener pastures.
    I'm the dude, so that's what you call me.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    For the nucs around 3-4 frames, sometimes you find some bees left, I figure they're ones that emerged after everyone else left or just young nurse bees that wouldn't leave brood.

  6. #6
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    Apr 2013
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    I have had 2 nucs that certainly were not packed with bees look great and then 2. Weeks later hardly any bees. I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that they had been robbed so made certain the others had a screen and/or a tiny entrance. My nucs aren't in the shade but here 80 is a sizzler

    This season has been my season to learn that some hives, no matter how hard I try to keep them going, fade away. My hat goes off to those who seem to be able to be able to recognize dud hives early on, shake them out and start afresh. Having said that I really wish I knew why some hives are poor doers regardless of the help offered them.
    Janne....first hives April 2013, 19 hives, treat, plant zone 8b, at sea level, latitude 49.13, longitude 123.06

  7. #7
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    Nov 2004
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    Camas, WA
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Are these nuc's a year old (made up "this past summer")? If so, I've never kept a nuc as a nuc that long.

    I make up 15-20 per year with 2 frames of capped brood heavy with bees, some empty drawn comb and maybe some foundation and add a queen cell. Those are made up in May to keep production hives from swarming. When they grow to fill the nuc with 5 frames of bees (usually near the end of June) I put them in a single to winter although I have done 5 over 5's, but now prefer singles. Some grow slower and just fill 5 frames by the end of summer so they overwinter as nucs. I have never had a nuc abscond. Actually I'm not sure that I've ever had a hive abscond either.

    I've had bees since 1986 except for a few years in the 1990's when I couldn't keep them alive and didn't want to treat them.
    Bruce

  8. #8
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    Nov 2013
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    Bellflower, Montgomery,Mo,USA
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    180

    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Danial Y,

    What kind of population pressure do you have in that yard? Do you have full colonies as well as the nucs there? Are you feeding your nucs or is there still a flow on when they absconded? When you added your next box did you lift a frame from the bottom to get them to draw up?

    I'm thinking of using this model for next season so your information helps me see how well it works.

    Thanks for your good posts.

  9. #9
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    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    A frame of bees emerging adds a tremendous population pressure to a nuc, I had half a dozen or more swarm out on me leaving few bees with swarm cells. Even pulling full frames of honey or brood and foundation didn't seem to keep them in the five frame boxes. I am running some doublenucs with a queen excluder over them and standard ten frame supers. I am thinking I will put a divided box full of honey and try to winter them. Not a lot of room for error with nucs it seems. My hats off to the ones who routinely manage them and winter them.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Daniel Y
    When you added the second story, was it drawn comb, foundation, or foundationless? I've found good success to move a comb of open larva up into the second story with a top inverted mason jar feeder works well. If foundation, they start drawing well. If drawn, they start storing at the frame next to the larva. I was wondering if you are working with mostly undrawn foundation or foundationless, thinking that may be an issue?

    I've just added a second story to my four frame nucs. I moved a frame open larva up and the second story is two combs foundation and one comb part drawn and the frame of larva I moved up. I added my mason jar feeder and they've taken a pint in the last half of the day today. I'm counting on them drawing out all frames to full use and stores for winter in the next two months. It should work out just fine if I can keep robbing from getting started. These have good queens with three to four frames of bees so I don't think robbing will be an issue.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Heat has definitely been at top levels for the past few weeks. It seems they jump ship just about the time they get the first 5 frame box filled. These nucs where started last May or later. Weak and slow growing definitely fits. and we are finally taking measures to change that. Added boxes have drawn comb.

    Not sure just what happened but the activity in the bee yard was completely different yesterday. not sure if the rain has finally got something to bloom or what but bees where flying and every colony we have had bees at the entrances. drought has been out biggest problem this year. even feral colonies I have cut out have very little honey.

    I have never noticed comments about the need to keep nucs shaded before. I will keep that in mind.

    For now it sounds like it is starting nucs to weak. having them build up to slowly and some additional aggravating circumstances like heat and drought.

    For now the yard has both nucs and full size colonies. we are now working toward splitting everything up to make it equal strength. Everything is going to ten frame boxes as well.

    No doubt this year is being very hard on the bees.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by RayMarler View Post
    When you added the second story, was it drawn comb, foundation,
    I wonder the same Daniel.

    You can't just add a box of foundation on top of a strong, single story nuc...especially in hot, humid weather. They don't recognize foundation overhead as expansion room. The absconding you experienced is because the bees can't regulate the temperature within their cavity, so they leave. Did you happen to witness the absconds? They act differently than swarms, as they fly directly away, and never cluster within the apiary by hanging on a branch or fence post or whatever. They're out of the hive, and away over the hills and far away. I've seen them go as I stood there waiting for the "swarm" to cluster...but they never do.

    My first round of nucs this summer..80 total...suffered some absconding. 32 left within 2 weeks. I made them too strong and we had a week of hot humid, and that was that. So, if you all are going to make nucleus colonies to winter, you must keep an eye on the weather and act appropriately if there is a predicted hot, humid spell coming. The bees need more cavity space to be able to control the temperature within that cavity. It doesn't matter if they are a single story nuc or a double story nuc. They must be handled the same. A second box is added with foundation or comb, but a comb of brood must be moved up into the second box, and a comb or frame of foundation moved down against the divider...if you're in divided boxes. The bees will explode into that second box. Once they have populated that second box, and another hot, humid spell is predicted, the process may have to be repeated.

    Also, I don't view a single differently. In similar weather, they will act the same. That said, in my area of the north, bees winter better in the vertical nuc configuration, than they do in singles...even though they all have the same cavity volume and the same number of combs.

    So my take on your problem is that you have to understand what's happening in your bees and act accordingly. If your weather dictates that you expand into larger cavities, then do it.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Micheal, That fits a lot of what we are seeing. We have witnessed there of the abandonment. I am calling it abandonment because it is not what you describe as absconding. The bees do in fact cluster one in a tree One on a nearby tobacco plant and one on the bottom of a nearby hive. In total I think we have had about 7 vanish but we did witness and recovered these three.

    Until now the cause was just about anything as far as I knew.

    More space and it is a temperature regulation problem.

    As of yesterday we are boosting both population one frame of bees per day and are adding a second 5 frame box. All added frames are drawn. We will move up a frames from the original bees to the new box today.

    Thanks everyone for all the comments. it has given me some direction to focus on.

    In all I think we are seeing the effects of conditions that are not normal and how the bees respond to it.

    Activity in this yard changed drastically yesterday. much more flying and bees bearding on every colony no matter how small it was. The bearding was not like typical bearding though. it appeared somewhere between bearding and just a lot of bees returning from foraging. I have never seen anything that quite looked like it before. My gut opinion is it is bees that have been on the verge of starving suddenly finding something to forage on. I am seeing indications that our late season rabbit brush and sagebrush is coming into bloom.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    I think we beekeepers often misunderstand what it takes for the bees to keep things cool... we tend to provide too much ventilation and sometimes too much room. Bees can ventilate a fairly large hive through a small hole and manage to keep it cool. If the hole is too large, it can become impossible. Huber tried adding an entrance and it DECREASED ventilation:

    "Fourth Experiment. Same as Third, But Two Candles.
    I wished to see whether my ventilator would provide enough air for two lighted candles. They burnt for 15 minutes and then went out together. In another test where the mill had not been started they burned for 3 minutes only.

    "Fifth Experiment. Increase in Number of Openings Decreased Actual Ventilation.
    We tried increasing the number of openings in the side of the box, but were not successful. One of the two candles went out at the end of 8 minutes. The other kept alight as long as the ventilator was in motion. I had therefore not obtained a stronger current by multiplying the openings.

    "These experiments show that in a place with an opening only on one side, air can renew itself when there is some mechanical cause tending to displace it, and this seems to confirm our conjectures on the effect which the fanning of bees has on the hive."--Huber's Observations on Bees Volume II Chapter 8, C.P. Dadant Translation.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  15. #15
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Increasing cavity size doesn't mean increasing entrance size.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    >Increasing cavity size doesn't mean increasing entrance size.

    Agreed. My point was that things we do don't always affect things the way we think. We might think that adding a box will make them cooler. It may or may not. It may actually make it more difficult for them to cool things or it may make it easier because the bees can spread out more. I suspect that the results may depend on the number of bees. A more populated hive might benefit from the extra room as far as cooling where a less populated colony might have more trouble cooling it.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  17. #17
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    I think I figured out the cooling thing on my own. And I agree it would not be obvious to most. I wrote a long explanation of it somewhere on these forums in the past.

    First of all ventilation does not provide cooling. it may in fact create heating. The only thing that provides cooling is removal of the heat from the existing air. ventilation may provide nothing more than more heat laden air.

    Just FYI None of my hives have full size entrances anymore. I don't want hot mid day air replacing the cool air the bees have been creating all day.

    Bees cool the hive with evaporation. This causes humidity issues. I Think it would be beneficial to any beekeeper to do some experiments with humidity and just how large an entrance is needed to reduce it. Just as an example I used to incubate chicken eggs this required control of humidity between 50 and 60% or so. 60% was actually fairly difficult to achieve in the artificial environment. Requiring a nearly air tight compartment. If even a pencil size hole was made in the compartment humidity woudl drop to outside levels in a matter o a minute or two.

    Humidity will escape through a very small hole. taking the heat it absorbed with it.

    So that is my 101 on how bees cool a hive. more air means more heat to be removed. a small hole that allows humidity to escape but limits air exchange seem to me to work the best.

    Now do the bees have a large enough population to evaporate the necessary water? that also seems to me to be a critical issue. I also wonder if the bees simply since they are failing or thriving and that a colony that is to small simply is desperate for better conditions all around. Lacking the ability to reason what the problem is they resort to the only course of action they are instinctively equipped with. and that is pack up and move. A bad chance to survive is better than no chance.

    SO far we have had two days of slowly adding population to these colonies. the temperatures have also dropped. My only concern at this point is gettign matted queens killed by adding foreign bees.

    On a good note we had 3 queens emerge this morning. the results of having grafted hundreds of larva. As you may guess queen rearing is an almost total failure under these conditions.

    To much heat. to much drought and to mild of a winter last year. In all I think this is just a very bad year here for bees but being so new I don't have enough experience to compare it to other years. If that is true then I am doing far better than I woudl think. I am actually winning to some degree at a battle I should be loosing.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post

    Humidity will escape through a very small hole. taking the heat it absorbed with it.
    So that is my 101 on how bees cool a hive. more air means more heat to be removed. a small hole that allows humidity to escape but limits air exchange seem to me to work the best. Now do the bees have a large enough population to evaporate the necessary water? that also seems to me to be a critical issue.
    All very interesting. I have not had any nucs abscond yet. And generally it is very hot and very humid here throughout the summer in VA although this summer is significantly cooler. I have made overwintered nucs at 7 in the morning when it reached mid to upper 90's later in the day and stayed that way for days. So I guess bees here are able to evaporate the water created by humidity to survive in these conditions most seasons. Or else perhaps I've kept them the right size for the cavity most of the time. Or just been lucky. I have made some too strong and others too weak, but mostly been able to adjust soon enough.

    I note Daniel is in NV which I assume is hot but dry and Vermont- well we all know that is paradise- 70 degree days in August... So I wonder if it is the weather exception- that when you get a super warm spell/heat wave that creates such a difference influencing the absconds? Meaning that bees here are more used to functioning in very hot and humid conditions, and we do get heat waves, yes, but perhaps they are not as dramatic a difference as a week of mid 90's in Vermont. No idea, just speculating. So far so good on not experiencing nuc absconds in my experience so wondering what the differences might be to explain it.
    karla

  19. #19
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Keep in mind that evaporation and the resulting cooling effect is relative. if the humidity of the inside of the hive is brought higher than the outside air. evaporation cooling and movement of that moist air and the heat it contains to outside the hive will happen. The problem is that in areas of higher humidity it takes much more water to air surface to increase humidity. As I said in my incubator 60% was difficult to reach in our area. 60% woudl be equally difficult for bees to reach. Requiring far more bees holding drops of water and fanning to achieve. this woudl be in agreement with Micheal Palmers statement that higher humidity results in lowered ability for a given population of bees to keep a hive cool.

    Humidity is a factor of water surface area exposed to air and the space being humidified. increase water to air surface area and humidity will increase. In a beehive this means ad more bees with drops of water and you increase humidity. in high humidity environments it would require far more bees to increase humidity in the hive to cooling levels than in low humidity areas My bees have it much easier than bees in areas of high humidity.

    If you think of it as it does not matter how high the humidity is. if the bees bring the humidity of the hive higher than that they will be cooling the hive. Once heat has been removed from the air in the hive you do not want to exchange it. Any more than you open the windows while running an air conditioner.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  20. #20
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    Mar 2013
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    Clinton County, IN, USA
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    Default Re: colonies absconding from nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    Once heat has been removed from the air in the hive you do not want to exchange it. Any more than you open the windows while running an air conditioner.
    I guess that is one reason why they seal up any cracks and holes in their hives with propolis

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