Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs
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  1. #1
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    Mar 2005
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    Erin, NY /Florence SC
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    Question Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Been a while...I hope everyone has lived long and prospered! ..... We are switching to the 4 frames Styrofoam Mini mating nucs (similar to what Ian is using but with plastic frames) next spring at our South Carolina yards. Installing queen cells so they would hatch and start mating flights about March 16. We have nearby drone yards and usually have day temps around 68-70F as an avg. temp Mar. 18 for mating. We have both the solid bottom Mini's and the slide bottom ones. Guelph has a great video on them but they seem to like the slide bottom (for loading bees) and theirs are painted. I don't see much added ventilation or advantage in loading bees from the bottom and with fire ants occasionally building nests under them hestitant to use them. A couple of issues I have questions on?
    1) At what temps are bees drawing combs in the mini's if well fed (we are starting with a comb of drawn foundation per nuc) and how long to draw them
    2) We are using 200 + so would like to place them on pallets or on the ground vs blocks or raised posts what's anyone else using?
    3) Paint....I've used styrafoam nucs and frankly power washed them to perfect but these are likley to get banged and dirtier more....
    4) We have about an 80% success rate in our old system from cell to bred queen.....should we expect more? Less?
    5) How many rounds of queens before the mini's need restocking (bees)
    6) 2:1 or fondant?
    7) Planning on using 1/2 strip Queen Mandibular Pheromone on install to hold bees?
    8) like to transport these live 700 miles to our NY yards in spring after nucs....anyone transport these?

    Appreciate any thoughts!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    FRASER VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Hi Joel.

    1. In my experience bees draw the comb in springtime weather conditions. I would not worry too much about this part. Once the cells are placed, and the mini-nucs go a dark cool place to let the virigins hatch , the frames will be mostly drawn 3 days later when you take them out.
    2. We place 10 on a pallet on the exterior edge of the pallets.
    3. I would paint them, not only for the increased longevity of the nuc but mostly to help the virigins with orientation. We have a tendancy to keep everything very close together, so I think the paint helps.
    4. I wonder about the reasons you want to switch to mini-nucs? At 80% success rate with the old system, I would say, "if it ain't broke, why fix it?"
    It is unlikely you do better. We might get up to 80% in the summer, way less in the spring, more like 60%.
    5. They are prone to fall apart quickly, especially on the first round. If the virigin does not hatch nor mate for whatever reason, it's game over. The mini-nucs will need restocking. The QMP will certainly help some with this issue.
    6. 2:1
    7. I used these one season, it seemed to help but I have not tried it again. My understanding is that the QMP strips are no longer available. The manufacturer stopped making them afaik.
    8. I have moved them around a bit, but not that kind of distance. I have the ones sold by Mann Lake, 3 mini frames and a built in feeder. I don't see any problems on the first round but after 1 round of brood hatching , should still be ok, 2 rounds of brood hatching, looking for trouble. At that point the mini nucs will be very strong, boiling over wih bees.

    On a parting note, generally speaking the mini-nucs are quick to stock and re-stock. The stocking is quick if you have a large number to do, a crew and can work in an assembly line fashion. Part of that advantage is lost if you are a one man show. Another advantage of the mini nuc is the relative ease in catching queens.My biggest complaint of the mini nucs is that they seem to require a lot of cells. Essentially the mating success is too poor. This is especially true in a cool spring. We seem to get plenty of those around here.

    Personally I like using full size frames and 6 frame nuc boxes. This is way slower to stock but generally we will get a much better mating success in a cool spring. Once the queens are mated you can let the nuc grow to a full size colony or catch the queen a place another cell.

    This season I want to try my Dadant boxes again, that can be divided into 4 compartments. The frames are half length and at the end of the season all the bees can be married together to make colonies to overwinter. Next season they can be exploded again into mating nucs. There is a subtle change that I become aware of, since I stopped using them. We are supposed to place a strip of folded over poly stapled to the divider. The divider runs the width of the boxes and acts as a frame rest for each half length frame. The folded over plastic discourages queens from crossing over from one side of the box to the other. In the past I was loosing too many queens over winter, or so I thought. I will try again this spring. The grass being greener on the other side.

    Good luck Joel.

    Jean-Marc

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2002
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    San Mateo, CA
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    I tried 10 mini nucs last summer and liked them. Quick to stock with a tiny investment of bees. We used Mann Lake syrup and they drew the combs well. On the first batch we used the pheromone, and another time three days in the garage. We painted them and they mated well close together. They made emergency queens when we took our cells out and even they were good. One mated on 12/23 but got EFB this summer. This year I used deep frames in 5 and 8 frame boxes with framed feeders to take up room, and feed. Will only know this week on the mating success. One of two I checked early died emerging! What would cause that?




  5. #4
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    Mar 2005
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    Erin, NY /Florence SC
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Thanks for the excellent replies you guys really covered my questions well.

    Ours are 3 (plastic) frame not 4, the same as you are using....my mistake. We are switching from the Queen Castles (10 frame box divided into 4 full deep sections) to the mini's to avoid having to transport so much equipment both size, weight wise and the divided cover pieces are a pain to deal with in transport. Also the masonite dividers are impossible to remove without damaging once they get propolized in or if they get damp. Needless to say we also have to transport a full size migratory cover for each unit. We are happy with the mating success rate but what about a 1/4 of the time we are trying to find a queen in a 2 space deep frame configuration if she is not on the comb, no fun. We are wanting to install queen cells around March 17 (avg. day temp 68F) in our South Carolina yards and thinking the nucs will help maintain heat for comb building. in our 60% is tolerable but not great. I am assuming I'm refilling feeders every few days?

    How are you attaching the foundation into the frames.....I saw a vid on waxing them in but I can't even imagine doing that 750 times!

    We did find the QMP strips at Mann Lake, Better Bee and also an outfit in Canada.

    Here's the link for the Guelph Video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL3HRd1n53g

    These guys seem to have it down.
    Last edited by Joel; 10-11-2018 at 12:29 PM. Reason: forgot something

  6. #5
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    San Mateo, CA
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    Default

    >How are you attaching the foundation into the frames...
    I sawed strips of Ritecell and hot glue gunned them in. Worked good and allows a strip of comb to remain if you remove the combs for next year .
    All of my opinions and suggestions are based on my five decades of actual beekeeping,
    not so much on book learning, watching YouTube videos nor reading internet sites.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Ants;
    Water based poly keeps the ants out better than paint. The little red ants we have will nest from the inside out, so I coat the inside now as well.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  8. #7
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    Jan 2003
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    We are switching to the 4 frames Styrofoam Mini mating nucs (similar to what Ian is using but with plastic frames) next spring at our South Carolina yards.
    Which vendor are you getting the nucs from? Most are 3-frame boxes, but I did see Ian's comment about cutting the the frame dividers - I'm assuming that this will give you 4 frames, yes? Also, are you planning to use singles or doubles? I bought the doubles which work very well. I have not cut out the dividers yet, but will probably do that this winter on a few to try for next season. I built my own frames using full-size frames as the initial material. I'm using wedge + groove style frames with pre-wired + hook wax foundation. It is really amazing how quickly 2 cups of bees draw out these frames. I followed Ian's guidance on paint and using an oil based product from Rustoleum. This paint works great - no issues melting the stryofoam.
    Last edited by AstroBee; 10-14-2018 at 07:29 AM.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Hi Astro...so good to see the old timers like you, ODfrank, Jean Marc and a few others I see still carrying the torch! Mine are the same single unit, 3 frame type Mann Lake sells except we cut out the middle man and ordered them direct. We only ordered a few with the slide bottom but most with the solid bottom as we are concerned about fire ants in SC. I've read some of Ian's post as well. For now I'm keeping the feeders. I have decided to paint based on Ian and Jean Marcs recommendation....if they post I know it's solid information. Drawing out foundation was a main concern but is sounds like as long as the queen cell takes they take off. I have all winter to get them painted so rustoleum it is, I think 4 seperat colors for virgins locating their nucs.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    I'm listening; "an oil based product from Rustoleum" , any specific paint?
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    I'm listening; "an oil based product from Rustoleum" , any specific paint?

    This is the product I used:

    https://www.rustoleum.com/product-ca...tective-enamel

    I believe that I bought it at Home Depot. I used the Gloss Royal Blue and the Gloss Sunburst Yellow. I used a 4 inch standard knit roller, which worked pretty well.
    Last edited by AstroBee; 10-13-2018 at 02:13 PM. Reason: Not a foam roller
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    still carrying the torch!
    Yeah, I'm still carrying it, just have a lot more trouble remembering where I left it...

    Good luck this spring with your nucs!!
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by jean-marc View Post
    Hi Joel.

    Personally I like using full size frames and 6 frame nuc boxes.

    Jean-Marc
    Why 6 frame nucs rather than 5? Deep or medium depth?
    "Too dumb to run too proud to quit."

  14. #13
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    May 2002
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    Default

    On 9/22 I made some late divides with cells. We can get away with that in our climate. My favorites as of today are the 8 frame boxes with two gallon frame feeders. Three frame divides....bees, brood, pollen.... three drawn combs to expand into and the wide feeder to take up space. These will be full size by the season start in February and all I got to do is keep a bit of syrup in the feeder.and replace it with more combs at some point. I realize this is too extravagant for you big boys but will work well for a little guy like me.
    All of my opinions and suggestions are based on my five decades of actual beekeeping,
    not so much on book learning, watching YouTube videos nor reading internet sites.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
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    132

    Default Re: Strofoam Mini Mating Nucs

    I bought ten of Mann Lake's double poly mating nucs this year. They aren't that much more money, and you get a double in about the same footprint. The frames are a bit bigger (IIRC) which I like as well. I tried to make a few starts this year, but half-assed it and they didn't work out. Looking forward to giving it a go again. I think it would be really nice to have those extra queens on hand heading into late summer, but not take away from a robust nuc that can turn into a qualified pollination unit come February.

    That said, I am a big believer in using 3-5 frame nucs for mating nucs. I think having a nice healthy population of bees and full frames to lay up really benefits the queen. It mimics nature more closely.

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