Package bees into 4 frame nucs
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  1. #1
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    Oct 2013
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    Default Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    I'm considering introducing 3# packages into 4 frame deep nucs to try to maximize the density of the bees on the frames, with the hope that they would do better with a 4 over 4 arrangement than they would in a 10 frame single deep Langstroth. My thoughts are that they may be better able to keep a larger volume of the comb warm (and suitable for the queen to lay up) and thus become stronger faster. I have drawn comb.

    Has anyone had any experience with this approach to establishing package bees?

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  3. #2
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    Decatur / Cullman, also. 35603
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    I have a similar question. I'm doing everything in med frame . I thought about my 2 , 3 lb. Packages into a ( 1)10 frame med. , or I built , and 1 into a 5 frame med nuc with a double stack. So it would be a ten frame med nuc. 2hichnwould work best for me Also?

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    Hope.we get some.answers on this cause your post made me think about this. I'm gonna do one of each I think. I'm just guessing the double nuc would work out great for both of us. I've read that some have good success with nucs like this. I'd say they would populate very fast in the nucs. Also, I have 10 frames of drawn comb to pop into mine. Im looking for an explosion of bees !!! Fingers crossed for us both.
    Last edited by Richinbama; 03-13-2018 at 09:51 PM.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    Bees have been doing fine for millions of years moving into larger than necessary tree cavities. Sure they will be warm and comfy in a smaller cavity, but you will have the extra work of modifying it soon after. A small amount of combs can become packed quickly with stores and brood, I prefer to give them ample space from the get go.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by odfrank View Post
    Bees have been doing fine for millions of years moving into larger than necessary tree cavities. Sure they will be warm and comfy in a smaller cavity, but you will have the extra work of modifying it soon after. A small amount of combs can become packed quickly with stores and brood, I prefer to give them ample space from the get go.
    OD: Locale (climate) plays a big role in my thinking about this. In March, when the first packages begin to be available from Georgia in my locale (New Haven, CT), the days aren't getting much above 48 degrees Fahrenheit (on average), and temperatures can dip below freezing at night. If my temperatures were more moderate (like yours, you Californian, you), I'd be less apprehensive about their ability to set themselves up in a standard 10 frame Langstroth deep (with appropriate entrance reduction, etc.). Connecticut beekeepers won't see any swarming until the last week of May or early June, so that when we move them from Georgia north to Connecticut, I'm just thinking we should consider how best to help them thrive.

    If I didn't have a bunch of 4 frame nuc boxes made up from scrap lumber, it wouldn't be a question I'd be asking...I'd just use a follower board to reduce the width of the cavity in a 10 frame deep Langstroth to match the number of frames they could cover. I have some divided deep supers that I can stack the 4 frame nucs onto, so I'm able to do this without much difficulty. Having the colonies side by side may help with keeping the colonies at the right temperature for the queen to go around and drop eggs over a larger area of the comb.

    I have the opportunity to do something a little different, and am wondering if others may have tried something like this before. Maybe I'll set up a few for comparison, side-by-side, all scientific-like. If only I had a graduate student to measure brood comb surface area!

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    I find in my locale, it makes a difference in April. It doesn't make much difference in the middle of May. The nights are still pretty cold (possibly freezing) in April and even the first part of May. I have installed a package in as small as one five frame medium nuc. This doesn't work with drawn comb as there isn't enough room, but with foundation or foundationless, it works. With drawn comb, an eight frame medium is about the minimum space for a 3 lb package. An eight frame medium is the equivalent of a five frame deep.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Knisely View Post
    I'm considering introducing 3# packages into 4 frame deep nucs to try to maximize the density of the bees on the frames,
    We had an incursion into the bee yard last fall by a 4 legged critter, so did 6 package starts this spring. We started them on March 3, which is well before there is any natural forage in the area. I put 4 of them them into 5 frame boxes set up with 4 and a feeder, the other two went into 10 frame boxes with a similar setup. At this time of the year it's pretty chilly out, all the other bees were clustered and not flying when we put these packages in the boxes. We make up warm syrup for the install, pour some into an empty frame, the rest of a 2 liter batch goes into the feeder. Box configuration is feeder, empty with syrup poured in, empty, empty, honey frame. The honey frames came from one of the knockover hives last fall. In our case the bees came in 1kg New Zealand packages, so your 3lb box will have around half again more bees. The candy was half eaten in the queen cages, so after shaking the bees into the box, I opened the cage and let the queen walk into the cluster of bees, then closed up the lid after putting on half a patty. I went back 3 days later to check that they were all ok, found eggs in all of them and they were starting to make a dent in the patties. They looked like this:-



    I checked again on March 12, they all had brood on the two center frames and there was only a small remnant of the patty left, I put on another half patty. The frame beside the feeder was mostly filled with syrup, and they have a honey frame, so we probably wont be giving them more syrup for a while.

    The thing to remember on a package start, population will decline for the first three weeks, bees do still die off but there is no brood emerging yet. The population should stabilize after 3 weeks, then start to climb, will get back to the original size by 4th week if they went onto empty drawn comb and the queen could lay right out of the gate. Postpone these dates by 3 or 4 days if you do a candy release, and at least another week if they went in without empty drawn comb. These went in on March 3, and by my bee math calculations, will be ready for more space in the second week of April. We should see first brood emerging around March 25, which is good timing for us, we usually see the dandelions starting in around that time.

    The other thing to keep in mind, is how bees cluster if overnight temperatures are dropping, which they are in our area. The bees will try form a sphere with the outside layer being the 'heater bees'. In the 4 frame setup I show above, that sphere will essentially cover with the width of the 4 frames, and an equal length, they will NOT use the entire box when overnight temps get cold. For a 1kg package, this is a large enough volume for them to cluster reasonably, and the two frames where they have brood will NOT end up wall to wall brood, the patch will be as large as the cluster can incubate. I have a photo taken of a side by side 4 frame wintered duplex that shows this very clearly, this was taken on our second round of spring patties, you can see the way the cluster forms on the center divider and forms a circular shape. This is the bottom box of a 4 over 4 duplex set.



    This cluster had consumed almost half of the supplement we put on for the first round on Feb 12, photo taken on Feb 18. The cluster on the other side looks similar, a mirror image also centered on the divider. Between the four boxes, they form one large sphere. Altho it doesn't really appear that way looking at the bees on the top of the frames, this cluster has a LOT more bees as compared to the package in the first photo. they are packed tighter and occupy two boxes per colony, with one large cluster using space in 4 of the 4 frame boxes in total. When overnight temps start to rise in April, this colony is primed to explode, they still have a good population of winter bees, and the first round of replacements are already emerging.

    The two I put in 10 frame boxes are intended to grow out to fill those boxes and get placed on a flow in May. The 4 that went into the 5 frame boxes are being managed differently. By mid April temperatures will be such they can grow up into a second box above, then in early May the plan is to split them so we can grow out two full size colonies in time for the trip to fireweed in mid July. I have queens wintered in mating nucs to use for the early May splits.

    Ask me in June which configuration grew out better, I'm keeping detailed notes for future reference.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    Grozzie: Thank you for your detailed post (and the pictures). I'm optimistic that this might be the way to get them started. For that first month, while the colony re-establishes a brood nest and begins to hatch out mature worker bees, having a space that will help them cover their brood and help them harass and keep in check any small hive beetles that may have come along in the package is what I want.

    Looking at the weather forecast, it's not predicted that we'll get above 50 in the next 10 days, and every night but one will dip below freezing. The package bees will be ready for pickup on March 28th. Maybe it'll get warm right about then, but even if it doesn't, I'll be as ready as I can beto get them tucked into their new homes.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    My foray into my divided deep Langstroth hives this weekend showed good brood patterns. No need to super up yet. I hope that their buildup continues unabated. I was pleased with their performances. I’d recommend this approach to getting package bees started in the North on deadout drawn comb.

  11. #10
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    Saint Louis MO
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    [QUOTE=grozzie2;1608323 Box configuration is feeder, empty with syrup poured in, empty, empty, honey frame]

    I'm planning on doing the same thing this year with some packages. Can you tell me what capacity and width that feeder frame is? Looks like it fits nice and snug inside that 5 frame box. I noticed most retailers have several different widths and capacities. Thanks!
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  12. #11
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    I put two packages in double 4/4 nucs last early May.....those nucs exploded last year...was tough to keep up with them....got me 100lbs of honey too...but I'll never do that again.....they are my resource hives and I'm keeping them to be resource bees. I lost both this winter.....they were from California, not here in WI...so not winter hardy...and I've grown into a firm believer in winter hardy local stock.

    Edit: I just looked back at the videos I shot. I had actually installed them in 5 frame nuc boxes to start on May 2nd. By May 15 they expanded into 5/5 boxes. I transferred them out to 4/4 double nuc box on June 1 and stole two frames of brood from each nuc for some splits I did and added queens. ..... but like I said....they were full go for the July honey flow.
    Last edited by KevinWI; 02-22-2019 at 07:38 PM.
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  13. #12
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    Jun 2015
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    I have installed numerous packages on drawn out comb in early April into 4 over 4 double nucs for the last 2 years with no issues at all. I spray sugar syrup into the empty comb and feed syrup when temps allow. I also throw some sugar bricks and pollen patties on for good measure when starting.

    The good queens grow fast so you will need to stay on top of them. A third box gets added when needed and foundation is mixed among the hive for them to draw out. I use these as resource hives to feed my first cell builders. I pinch the queens after my first cells have hatched and mated and introduce to the packaged hive. I do this in my home yard not my mating yard as I dont want Italians in my bee genetics.

    I also take a few strong hives and transfer to a single 10 frame deep with excluder and honey supers to pull honey.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    York, York County, SC
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    289

    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    Love a resource hive. Im not in the north but the same principles work here. They are stronger earlier and contribute to the other hives. WP_20190205_13_52_01_Pro.jpg

  15. #14
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    Jun 2018
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    Bellingham, MA
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    AAindigo - Im right over in Bellingham MA, Grew up in Franklin. Is your apiary in Franklin?

  16. #15
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    Jun 2015
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    Franklin, Ma
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    Default Re: Package bees into 4 frame nucs

    Yes,
    2 yards in Franklin. Mating yard in Dover. Northeastbees.com

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