Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
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    Lambton Shores, Ontario, Canada
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    259

    Default Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    I am getting my first bees in a month or so (late April), and have a question. I am getting a 4-frame nuc, and based on a lot of the sources I've read, the bee keeper I am buying the nuc from, and a few people on the forums here, I should expect to need to split this hive sometime in its first year.

    I realise that the timing of that split will be highly dependent on factors such as nectar flow and pollen availability, but I was wondering if someone could give me a rough idea as to the time that the hive will be ready for a split...and any advice on identifying that time point is greatly appreciated.

    thanx

    Bryan

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    2,070

    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    Hi Bryan. Its good that you are thinking ahead. I was not prepared for the possibility of my first nucs swarming so quickly. Someone in your area is better qualified to give you a general time frame, but when you hive the nucs take a deep breath and inspect each frame very carefully for queen cups/cells. I am pretty sure in my excitement and nervousness, I missed swarm cells and they swarmed soon thereafter.
    While someone near you can give you a time frame, only inspections will allow you to detect that they are making swarm preps. Keep a close eye out for a decreasing amount of brood and backfilling in the brood nest with nectar. There are other clues that the more experienced guys and gals can give you, but that is what I key in on. J

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Squaw Valley, CA, USA
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    1,019

    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    Given your climate- I would not split your hive until next spring.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    Quote Originally Posted by SuiGeneris View Post
    I am getting my first bees in a month or so (late April), and have a question. I am getting a 4-frame nuc, and based on a lot of the sources I've read, the bee keeper I am buying the nuc from, and a few people on the forums here, I should expect to need to split this hive sometime in its first year.
    A 4 frame nuc _should_ have 3 frames of brood, often they only have two. There is a huge difference in terms of how fast they can grow. With 3 frames of brood, under ideal conditions, ie, plenty of empty drawn comb available for the queen to lay more eggs, the colony can reach maximum population by mid July. As the first round of brood in those 3 frames emerges, the population will increase over the next 3 weeks (one round of brood) and the queen will lay up more frames. By mid to late May there will be 6 frames of brood which will start to emerge by mid June, allowing colony to reach maximum population by early July as that round of brood finishes emerging.

    The caveat to this, a new beekeeper doesn't have drawn comb to add to the nuc, so you end up restricted in colony growth by the availability of comb for the queen to lay, and this can get problematic if there is a heavy flow on, the bees start storing nectar in the brood nest, ie backfilling, which will lead the colony into swarm preparations even if they have not reach maximum size potential. When there is a good flow running, nectar comes in much faster than the bees can draw out new comb to hold the incoming bounty.

    There are a few reasons you may want to split the colony in it's first year, and a few reasons you may not want to split it. The reason to not split, is to have a maximum foraging population for making honey. The primary reasons to split would be a) because you want more than one colony and b) as a means of deterring swarms.

    We work on this principle here. From any given colony in one season you can get a) more bees, b) more drawn comb, c) a honey harvest. Pick two, because you only get all 3 in an exceptionally good season. If your colony swarms, you get a), even if you dont catch the swarm, they made 'more bees'. If you dont have an inventory of drawn comb as required for most swarm prevention measures, then b) more drawn comb is forced upon you as one of the choices. For this reason, we try set expectations for new beekeepers that it is unlikely to get a honey harvest in the first year. Often the lack of drawn comb in inventory forces a split as the only viable swarm prevention measure, or, without splitting, the colony swarms, so in fact it was split, beekeeper just didn't keep the second colony from that split.

    We use splitting as a 'last resort' swarm prevention measure when all else has failed, but with a significant inventory of drawn comb available, our preferred method of swarm prevention is 'give them space', which you will read a lot about. The issue is, beekeepers and bees have a different idea of 'what is space'. The bees dont view a new box full of foundation as 'space', they only view drawn comb as 'space', a substantial difference that doesn't always get properly explained to new folks.

    In Ontario I would expect the flows to be somewhat similar in timing to what we get here. If you get the nuc in mid to late April, then between mid May and late June they will be in a condition where they could generate a swarm. The big clue this is coming happens when you do an inspection and find nectar in cells where brood has emerged. That is backfilling, tells you the bees are running out of comb for storing nectar. The other big clue is finding a significant number of queen cells in various stages of development. The time to look for this in detail in our area is when the various types of berries start to bloom ie raspberries, blackberries, etc. In your area, the heavy flow may come from different blooms. If you see either of these symptoms, then you must take some action to prevent a swarm from leaving, and this far into the preparation process, it needs to be drastic action.

    The beekeeper selling the nuc is probably correct in suggesting a split will be necessary, that person is likely thinking of swarm prevention for somebody with no inventory of drawn comb and limited experience with bees. Splitting is the easiest way to prevent a swarm from leaving, has the happy side effect of giving you another colony, and the unhappy side effect of virtually assuring you will not harvest honey in the first year.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Williamsport, PA
    Posts
    465

    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    My experience was buying and bringing home my 1st Nuc April 16th. It grew out filling 2 boxes by the end of May. I pulled off enough frames & bees to make 2-3frame nucs on June 4th and by July 4th my 1 NUC had grown to 3, 1 8x8 and 2 5-frame nucs.

    I may have had near perfect conditions that year but that is my experience.

    As was mentioned above, the biggest limitation I encountered was lack of drawn comb. They had to build everything.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in PA View Post
    My experience was buying and bringing home my 1st Nuc April 16th. It grew out filling 2 boxes by the end of May. I pulled off enough frames & bees to make 2-3frame nucs on June 4th and by July 4th my 1 NUC had grown to 3, 1 8x8 and 2 5-frame nucs.
    There is a hidden detail there, in this case it appears box=8 frames and doesn't mention if those are deep or medium frames. I always think of a 'box' as 10 frame deep unless we specify something else. If it was really 8x8, then 8 high surely was not deep frames me thinks.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
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    8,073

    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    Quote Originally Posted by SuiGeneris View Post
    I am getting my first bees in a month or so (late April), and have a question. I am getting a 4-frame nuc, and based on a lot of the sources I've read, the bee keeper I am buying the nuc from, and a few people on the forums here, I should expect to need to split this hive sometime in its first year.
    Well, I disagree. With a perfect nuc, with perfect conditions all summer long...short as it is in Ontario...And in a perfect world, you can split a first year nuc. You might get a perfect nuc. You won't have a perfect summer. It certainly isn't a perfect world.

    I would build that colony up, harvest what honey you can, and winter it with a large population of young bees. Next year, if perfection has been on your side, you'll be able to take a split from it.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Williamsport, PA
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    465

    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    Quote Originally Posted by grozzie2 View Post
    There is a hidden detail there, in this case it appears box=8 frames and doesn't mention if those are deep or medium frames. I always think of a 'box' as 10 frame deep unless we specify something else. If it was really 8x8, then 8 high surely was not deep frames me thinks.
    8 over 8, which I thought was 8x8 in shorthand. Yes they were deeps and somewhere on here there are a few posts as I learned splitting and other stuff that year.

    Edit: I dug up the post with most of the information. https://www.beesource.com/forums/show...51#post1436851

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
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    Lambton Shores, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
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    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    Thanks for the replies everyone.

    Just to clarify, I am running a 10-frame deep lang as the brood chamber and am planning on running single-deep broods (which is the norm around here, double-broods are a rarity). Mediums for honey supers, although I'm not expecting to collect much or any this year. My goal this year is growth & healthy hives for wintering, not honey production.

    @grozzie2
    I'm originally from western Canada and spent a lot of time scuba diving around your region. I'm still surprised at the climate here - we are farther south than Portland Oregon, so the summers are quite a bit longer and hotter than anything I remember in my 30 years living out west. Last year we had a lot of wild flowers on our property until mid-October, and I saw bees flying right up to the end of the month. The first greenery is just starting to emerge now, but that's a bit odd as we usually have maples flowing around now. That said, my hope for this year is primarily to expand the bee yard, not to make honey. Like an idiot, I only ordered 1 hive to start, and afterwards realised what a bad idea that was. I'm hoping to have three by the end of summer - a split off of my nuc, and (with luck) a captured swarm. If I have 2 or 3 strong hives with good winter stores at the end of summer I'll consider it a success.

    I am working without the benefit of drawn comb (other than what may come in the nuc), and so I know I need to keep a close eye out for swarm cells & whatnot...I guess I'll have to make my best judgement whether, when I see them, if its time to make a split or if I should try to prevent swarming and keep the hive intact. I'm guessing the number of frames of brood in the brood chamber will be the best indication of whether I should split - i.e. if I don't have half a box of brood or so, a split is probably going to be a bad idea. My plan (assuming I split) is to buy a mated queen for the split, rather than letting them raise their own.

    @Steve in PA
    You're just slightly south of me, so we probably have similar summers. Hopefully my hive will grow like yours and I can get a split off of it. I'm reading through your linked thread and there's some good info there.

    @MTNBees/Michael Palmer
    Our climate here is pretty mild (outside of winters) and summers are long (by Canadian standards, at least) - our climate is pretty much identical to Western New York, Ohio, etc. Like I said in my OP, the local bee keepers I've met and the apiary I am buying my bees from all have told me that I should expect to need to split my hive in the first year. It appears to be the norm in this area, presumably because of the specifics of our climate and nectar flows. I'm not heart-set on splitting and will try to let the bees "tell" me what to do, but a split appears to be something I need to be prepared to do.

    Again, thanks everyone for the information and suggestions.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    53,601

    Default Re: Approximate time from installing a nuc to splitting

    >I should expect to need to split this hive sometime in its first year.

    I would not expect anything. See what happens.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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