I'm brand new to nuc sales and had 2 picked up this afternoon. They are overwintered nucs. The buyer was from Birmingham, about 75 miles away. To be exact they are the brand new bee-havers from the Birmingham zoo.
They overwintered in 5 over 5 nucs, and I've pulled a frame or two of brood over the past few weeks to keep them from starting swarm preps.
I went through both nucs on Saturday and made sure everything was just right. I found both queens, and added a new frame of foundation in the center of both bottom nucs to get them to draw comb and hopefully have an easy way of finding both queens. Since the nucs had 10 frames of comb and bees, my plan was to give them 6 frames instead of five. I planned to use the remaining bees in each nuc as a queen mating split. Today was pick up day for the nucs.
So, the first hive went about right. I put in 3 frames of capped brood, two frames of open brood and one frame of pollen and honey. I installed it in their 10 frame box and showed them the queen, etc.....
Then I get to the next nuc. Neither hive was weak, but it's been the weaker of the two. Slower to build up. I found that queen easily Saturday. I looked, and looked, and looked and installed the frames in their 10 frame box. I looked through every frame, gently shook bees off frames into their box, that I was certain didn't have the queen on them. I put on the top and we talked a while. I went through one of my other hives just to kill time and show them more about how to do that. I then went back into their new box and went through the frames one more time, looking very closely. Still haven't found the queen.
There were fresh eggs in the hive, one whole side of one frame, of wax drawn since Saturday was full of eggs. There was larvae in every stage from just hatched to capped. They've got multitudes young larvae in week old snow white drawn comb and no signs of even the beginnings of a queen cell. From every indication the queen is in the box. She wasn't in the nuc when I removed all the frames. I put a frame of open brood back into the nuc and left it for 20 minutes to draw any bees in the nuc to it. She wasn't riding it back to the hive.
I advised them to leave the hive, let me check it tomorrow, and then we could either meet halfway or they could come back up later in the week to pick it up.
So, after that very wordy story, let me ask my question...
For those of you who sell nucs, what do you do when you can't find the queen? I'm sure the smart bet is to have more than 2 ready to sell when you sell two. I think I've also learned my lesson and next year when I sell overwintered nucs, they'll be in a 5 frame box, not packed with bees, when the customer gets here to make it easier to find the queen, but what if..?