Nuc management questions.
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  1. #1
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    Default Nuc management questions.

    So I have some questions on my nuc management in rearguards to winter survivability and spring build up.

    Skip to the end for the questions or a little background on my area and bees:

    I'm listed as USDA zone 4a. Elevation of about 4700' (1432 m). Generally Dry I believe the average rainfall is about 14” (35 cm) of moisture. Typically have wind speeds of 75+ MPH (120+ kph) in the winter with temp reaching down to about -25f (-32 c). In the summer I will see over 100f (38 c).

    I have one hive that started with a swarm out of a bee tree, located about 10 miles (16 km) from this location, in June 22 of 2014. They have been in the tree for 5-6 years and swarmed for the last 3 years or maybe they have died off and repopulated the tree this I am unaware of. My hive is consistent of all medium frames mix of foundation less, mannlake small cell plastic, and acorn drone comb.

    The first year I did feed sugar syrup with LGO and spearmint to help with comb build up and winter stores. I did not realize this was considered a treatment.

    Year 2 I did not feed or do any varroa management, counts or treatment. I now know that this might be a mistake and will at least do number counts next year. I am not opposed to killing off of the hive to prevent a might bomb if need be.

    This past year I attempted to make some nucs off of this hive, my timing was bad and made them later in the year then I should have. The queens returned from mating flights and started laying around the 1st of august. This corresponded to the end of the main flow and a massive dearth. Robbing and death ensued.

    By the time I checked on the queen and got it to stop, the three nucs that were left consisted of a queen a few larvae and maybe 50 to 100 workers. It was a very sad day.

    I moved the nucs to a different location and repopulated from the main hive, a frame of sealed brood and about a frame shake of bees. This met with near disaster as I had inadvertently shook the queen from the main hive into the transfer box and had her out of the hive for over 8 hours. I had wondered why the bees had looked kill the new queen and it wasn't till I had seen the main queen on the last frame of transfer that my heart rate raised and it all began to make a little more scene.

    I did move honey, nectar and near empty frames to help the bees build up, I don't believe that they did much comb building.

    The last I opened the nucs was in October, by this time two of the hives had slowed on brooding. I had moved 4 partly filled nectar frames on top of them the strongest had some uncapped brood and capped honey on the top. The nucs had 16 medium frames and I would estimate 12 lb (5.5 kg) to 25 lb (11.3 kg) of honey. Good luck little bees.


    So ten days ago:

    [IMG]http://i150.photobucket.com/albums/s104/mrbiggs_photo/bee%20stuff/20160203_151818.jpg[/IMG]

    I attempted to listen to the nucs with a stethoscope and knocking on it. No sound, are they dead? The last hive on the right of the picture is completely empty.



    The last few days we have had a warm up and today was calm 10 mph (16kph) wind at 47 (8 c). Some bees flying.

    I went to check on them. Should of had the smoker. They were not happy having the lid removed.

    Nuc one still had capped honey.

    [IMG]http://i150.photobucket.com/albums/s104/mrbiggs_photo/bee%20stuff/20160212_141734.jpg[/IMG]


    Nuc two inner top frame almost empty.

    http://i150.photobucket.com/albums/s104/mrbiggs_photo/bee%20stuff/20160212_142321.jpg


    Replaced it with a frame similar to this one. Getting those bees off was a pain, should have had the smoker. Hope I didn't kill the Queen not that I saw her.

    [IMG][/IMG]



    Nuc thee still have some capped honey on the top it can bee seen in the lower middle of the pic.

    [IMG][/IMG]





    Questions:

    How do my nucs look in regards to population?

    How often should I be monitoring the honey reserves in the nucs?

    In my area I estimate that I'm still a month or two from flowers in the area and last frost is not expected until the first of June. Last year I saw fully developed drones near the end of April.

    What would be a good estimate for adding ultra bee patties and syrup if weather is failing to produce or to really help the bees explode?

    Thanks in advance for your help and advice.
    Last edited by Barry; 03-01-2016 at 07:28 PM.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    Landing, NJ, USA
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Do you object to dry sugar or a sugar brick? Considering your description of your rather Martian winter, and the fact that you have already fed in a frame of honey it may be good insurance. If the bees don't use it you can take it back off and make syrup out of it when it gets warmer.
    Bill

  4. #3
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    congrats on getting 3/4 through winter so far! without pulling frames (and i wouldn't until it gets warmer) it's hard to tell about the cluster size. i agree that something like lauri's sugar blocks would be a good idea. you could remove the frames and use the empty boxes from #4 to house the sugar blocks.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #4
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    Wheatland, WY, USA
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Considering your description of your rather Martian winter
    This is really typical of winter in this location, I would expect more snow and days in the 70 (21 c) - 80 (27) with more snow and wind before the last frost date shows up.

    I do have a couple of more frames of honey if I need to use them.

    These double nucs have a #8 open mesh bottom on them and 2" (5cm) foam on the top. I did notice that the bees are in the currently warmest part of the box. They may have more below them.


    On the sugar brick what would be the best practice:

    Build a shim and lay on top?

    Make a brick out of an empty wooden frame and place it in the top box?

    Perhaps 3 or 4 frames mixed with the honey reserve and add a new box?


    Pollen sub?

    Thinking this should be added at first flowers or bud swell on the trees, there still will be freazing weather after this point.


    I would rather not open them up till late april or may when they are ready to swarm, but understand they could have starved out by then or not built up as fast as they could with better management.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    i've not used it, but here is a good way to provide feed for the remainder of your winter:

    https://www.beesource.com/forums/show...r-sugar-blocks

    it includes a sprinkling of protein mix.

    if you have another warm day i would consider exchanging your additional honey frames for any empty frames in the top boxes.

    once it warms up and there is pollen and nectar available additional feeding won't be necessary.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Currently there is honey in all the top frames. the one I swapped out had about 8oz of capped honey left on it.


    I wonder how often I should be checking on these reserves?



    My concern with the additional feeding is the variation of weather I see and forage damage.

    It would not be unexpected to have trees blume and 2 days later freeze and have 6" of snow on them for a week.

    A larger hive that has more resource may do ok, but I fear that the nucs might not fare well. MY intent is to allow continually build up until they are 40 or 50 medium frames strong.

    Last year in the early part of May we had some unusually wet weather. I witnessed the girls dragging large numbers of drones out to be slaughtered. I'm unaware if this was a hygienic behavior or not, but my thought at the time was they where getting rid of the dead weight because the resources in the area had stopped coming into the hive.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Biggs View Post
    Currently there is honey in all the top frames. the one I swapped out had about 8oz of capped honey left on it.
    i would say they are very good shape then.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Biggs View Post
    wonder how often I should be checking on these reserves?
    i use a scale to weigh my hives about once a month through the winter. doing so gives me a very good idea as to how much honey has been used and how much remains. your honey being at the top makes it easy to take a quick peek from time to time on the warmer days.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Biggs View Post
    concern with the additional feeding is the variation of weather I see and forage damage.

    It would not be unexpected to have trees blume and 2 days later freeze and have 6" of snow on them for a week.

    A larger hive that has more resource may do ok, but I fear that the nucs might not fare well.
    having the sugar bricks on top of the nucs would provide some 'insurance' as david laferney puts it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Biggs View Post
    Last year in the early part of May we had some unusually wet weather. I witnessed the girls dragging large numbers of drones out to be slaughtered. I'm unaware if this was a hygienic behavior or not, but my thought at the time was they where getting rid of the dead weight because the resources in the area had stopped coming into the hive.
    i see things like that from time to time, and usually chalk it up to 'the bees know best'.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    excellent job getting those bees through to this point with the setbacks you had and your climate. I overwinter nucs in 3 5 frame medium boxes (zone 6). Going into winter I like to see 20 lbs in my top box and will supplement if I have to. I also put a 1.5 feeding shim and put on a sugar brick late fall. On mild winter days I check the sugar bricks every couple months.

    If you want to check stores in early spring, just weigh the top box. Its fast and doesn't require pulling frames on those substandard days.

  10. #9
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    Crown Point, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Newspaper with misted sugar to get it to clump work well if your pressed for time. Sugar brick is fine if you have the time.

    How do my nucs look in regards to population?
    I tend to have carniolan type bees these days. They tend to have grapefruit sized clusters that are scary small. Probably horrible type bees for any kind of pollination work. Come spring they explode. Can't always judge on apperances. If you don't mind feeding them in the winter then they are good looking bees that you have. If your of the leave alone type of beekeeper/ then I'd bee scared of them eating them selves to death. Then the ultra small cluster start to look good. With that said knowing your type of bee is important so you can manage them properly. If you have Russian, Italian, or carniolan bees you need to make allowances for each type of stock to winter them properly.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Population looks good. I am located in the upper valley region of NH and VT, similar climate zone you are in with what sounds like less winds. In regards to setting up your nucs you have to figure out your main flows and work around getting your nucs set up in that time frame.

    With most of the combs in the top box full of honey I would say they have plenty of feed until the end of this month going into March. Once brood is being tended to you will see honey stores disappear rapidly. When this happens you need to feed and stay ahead of them until natural nectar sources are found.

    I have seen plenty of nucs with large populations in February dwindle down to just about nothing with a long drawn out winter come late March early April.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Thanks again for the help and information.

    Quote Originally Posted by Clayton Huestis View Post
    knowing your type of bee is important so you can manage them properly. If you have Russian, Italian, or carniolan bees you need to make allowances for each type of stock to winter them properly.
    I'm unaware exactly but think they are a locally adapted Italian bee.


    It looks like I will need to add a scale to my beekeeping equipment this year based on the replies.


    Last friday I saw temps in the mid to upper 60's (18+ c) it was calm, 10 - 15 mph (16- 24 kph) winds and sunny. The trees in the area are starting bud swell and I'm noticing some bark changes on some trees that show the approaching spring. Dandylions are starting to green and slowly grow.


    Today I received thundersnow!


    Added to all 3 nucs. A 1 1/2" (3.8 cm) shim and 1 1/4" (3.2 cm) 2.5lb (1.13kg) sugar brick. I had rapped the lower part of the shim with duct tape to seal any draft as I don't think they would have time to glue it shut before the wind and cold would set in.

    [IMG][/IMG]

    Nuc #1 looks to be Using honey rapidly I did not see any in the top of the frames. I don't know If it is because they don't share the hive with a second colony or if they are just less efficient with their use or perhaps they have started to brood already. They did keep brooding later in the year then the other 2. I would suspect that if I did not add the sugar brick they would starve out soon unless there are more stores underneath. I will check for new bees in 3 weeks. I'm thinking I may cull this queen later in the year. 2 and 3 are still fat with honey on the top.

    Numbers of bees coming out of one appeared to be more, they are on the left. They also look to be more active than the other colonies.

    Short video link.

    http://vid150.photobucket.com/albums...226_135110.mp4

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    I just checked my nucs yesterday. Lost a good looking cluster. They were completely dry except for the sugar brick that was in contact with them and being used. Lots of the colonies were low. I redistributed resources from my deadouts but they weren't enough. I'm going to have to steal some resources from my big hives and bring them out in a couple of days.

    Is it possible that sugar bricks won't sustain them once they start raising brood?

    I also discovered I had a couple of micro clusters (handful of bees) that aren't flying. I removed some frames from one assuming that they weren't raising brood. They weren't and had a queen. I think I'm going to bring them home and give them the foragers from my big hives using a snelgrove board and see if I can get them going. The nuc location is bringing in pollen yet, but my home location is just starting and have some healthy populations.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by lharder View Post
    Is it possible that sugar bricks won't sustain them once they start raising brood?
    Spring starve-out is common even in my temperate climate. I've had pollen since before Christmas, but small clusters never get ahead of the growth curve -- and bee condition declines. The bees consume their own body stores to feed and warm brood, and continue to weaken. Weak bees cannot forage well, so even as large clusters explode, the small clusters blink out. Brood == major protein demands, and major metabolic heat demands.

    The rule: Go big or go home.

    In early summer, a "one cup" mating nuc can raise brood and grow, in spring not-so-much.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    I get that. I need to add bees to the equation to get the small clusters going. The debate in my head is am I risking the donor hives at this time of year.

    Because they are small clusters, they have lots of food. Its the nuc with the strong cluster that died suddenly without food in comb, but a sugar brick that they were in contact with that makes me think they weren't able to use it at the scale they needed.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by lharder View Post
    The debate in my head is am I risking the donor hives at this time of year.
    .
    Yes, you are.
    Saving dinks by robbing thrifty hives is false economy.

    You need a hard-earned base of experience to know how far to the edge you can push donor hives. You need luck in the weather, as a week of rainy weather can undo your calculations.

    Everyone kills a bunch of colonies before they learn to thread that needle. That is a maturing and tempering experience for the beekeeper -- look forward to "earning" the experience.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    I took off some unoccupied boxes of my home hives so I can give my nucs more resources. I had a chance to see how many frames of bees I had. I was shocked that one had 18 to 20 medium frames of bees occupying 3 boxes already. Another had 14 to 16, one had 8 and my laggard had 2. It was a laggard last spring as well. I think 3 are strong enough to subsidize another hive, so I will bring back 3 tiny cluster and put them above snelgrove boards and see if I can kickstart them.

    We have decent weather ahead so it may be OK. I'll let you know how it turns out.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    lharder>>
    It's a lot harder to walk the walk than it is to talk the talk!

    Those are weak bees with questionable genetics -eliminate them before they spread their inferior genes throughout the region.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    The problem nucs are late season ones that are small through no fault of their own, maybe. I have no real issues with helping when they are dealt a poor hand circumstantially, or by my own error. There are tests, then there are fair tests. If I get them going they will be properly tested this winter.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    First day after transfer with the mini clusters above the snelgrove board. Opened the lids today to check on them after a day of relative chaos. First off, I found a dead queen on the bottom of a nuc box used to transport. Down to 2 of 3. Two of the mini clusters had accumulated about 2 frames of bees. One had minimal additions.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Nuc management questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by lharder View Post
    Because they are small clusters, they have lots of food. Its the nuc with the strong cluster that died suddenly without food in comb
    laggard had 2. It was a laggard last spring as well.
    Being inexperienced in keeping bees, others with more knowledge please correct if my thoughts are wrong on this.

    Would it not have been better to combine the resources and bees of the small clusters with the one that had died, before they starved out? Would it not be a good idea to take the laggard hive and this combined hive and bust it into nucs and use larva/queen cells form the hives that are the best performers in this apiary later in the year under good flow?

    Would this not result in more bees and a stronger apiary over all?

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