Can Palmer Style Double Nucs be used to produce Honey?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Northeast PA

    Default Can Palmer Style Double Nucs be used to produce Honey?

    Couple of questions about Double Nucs:

    1. What material, and what thickness of the material do you use as a barrier to separate the 5 frames from one another inside of a "double nuc box"?

    2. How about the honey supers? Can a 2X double 5 frame nuc box make honey the same as a normal double deep colony?

    3. How do they overwinter, exactly? If both queens have a queen excluder, how do you get both of the queens to access the honey supers for overwintering?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Salt Lake City, UT

    Default Re: Can Palmer Style Double Nucs be used to produce Honey?

    Disclaimer first: I haven't ever used double nucs to overwinter as Palmer does. I've overwinter nucs using conventional 5 over 5 nucs instead of the double nucs. Palmer is so far beyond that in volume that the 4 over 4 makes a lot of sense for equipment optimization. The small beekeeper who is overwintering two to half a dozen nucs can use regular five frame nucs in a 5x5 and just push them together and have better equipment utilization. The 4x4 leaves you with equipment that less flexible for the small beek even though its a huge advantage for large scale beeks who engage in queen production.

    However I have modified 10 frame boxes with divider boards to make mating nucs, which is the same kind of division used for double nucs, so I'll try and describe the division board, and describe how I do a division board using a different joinery method. When using a 10 frame box as the bottom of a double nuc, the nuc is a 4x4 nuc, four frames for each side. The top boxes are just 8-1/8" wide so that is the reason why they are four frames. The partition in the bottom box can be 1/4" thick plywood if it is made to slide into a dado groove, but the top bar that closes off the frame rest needs to be wide enough for the top boxes to rest on and still close off the chambers on each side, 3/4" to 1-1/2" wide. The bottom board and entrances must also have a division board to keep the chambers isolated from the top floor all the way to the basement.

    Instead of cutting a dado to slide a divider in I use pocket screws to secure dividers in place. Pocket screws have the advantage that I don't have to modify the box with a dado slot. By not cutting a dado slot I don't cut open the recessed handle. I can remove the divider later and the only thing left in the box is the screw holes. The thinnest divider board I can use for pocket screws is 1/2 inch plywood. Since the frame rest filler needs to minimum 3/4" wide then if you use pocket screws to secure the divider then you may as well make the divider from 3/4" wood and cut it as a single piece to go all the way to the top with the frame rest filler tabs included in the one piece. By making it out of the same material the hive body is made of it will expand and contract due to seasonal humidity with the rest of the wood and there won't be any small gaps opening up at the top of bottom edge for air to leak. The second story boxes of a 4x4 nuc are also four frame and they are made of 3/4" thick wood. They stack against each other with the inside walls resting on the top of the divider below so that the two chambers remain closed.

    Do not overwinter with a queen excluder. The queen must be able to move up to the food stores with the cluster. An excluder will kill the colony, either the queen freezes or the cluster starves because it won't leave the trapped queen and her brood (most likely the latter). Two small colonies in nucs that have a shared wall loose 25% less heat since they have shared heated space on the opposite wall. They use less food to stay warm. The narrow vertical space means that the cluster can easily get to all the frames of food. But a large colony will quickly exhaust the limited food.

    Double nucs are not intended to be a hive that produces honey. The way that using double nucs maximizes honey production is that the nuc keeps fresh late summer queens over winter so that come spring you have a mature mated new queen that is ready to lay eggs at maximum potential to raise a massive colony that will produce lots of honey. The colony is moved to a full size hive early in the spring. If it isn't moved it shifts into swarm mode and the honey production potential is lost.

    First focus more on getting full strength colonies through winter before worrying about how to get late summer mated queens with small colonies through the winter. I've got two late summer mated queens (one Aug, one Sept) and they are both going to over winter in full size hives because I can. Save the wintering in nucs for small resource-limited colony overwintering when you've got a dozen to hundreds of new queens. Until then a standard nuc, or even a full sized hive with internal XPS insulation to decrease it to five frames wide, will probably meet small apiary nuc overwintering needs.
    Last edited by JConnolly; 10-28-2019 at 03:21 PM.
    Zone 6B

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA

    Default Re: Can Palmer Style Double Nucs be used to produce Honey?

    >1. What material, and what thickness of the material do you use as a barrier to separate the 5 frames from one another inside of a "double nuc box"?

    Most people use one bys (3/4") and they only have four frames in the boxes. I would use 1/8" luan and put five in, if I were trying to do this. But I just use eight frame mediums. I did do this for a while.

    >2. How about the honey supers? Can a 2X double 5 frame nuc box make honey the same as a normal double deep colony?

    You can get honey out of any box you keep bees in... if you manage it well.

    >3. How do they overwinter, exactly? If both queens have a queen excluder, how do you get both of the queens to access the honey supers for overwintering?

    I've never seen anyone use an excluder on this style of hive. I don't generally use queen excluders except for queen rearing.
    Michael Bush "Everything works if you let it." 42y 40h 39yTF

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Great Falls Montana

    Default Re: Can Palmer Style Double Nucs be used to produce Honey?

    When I started dividing deep boxes to run double nucs, Being cheap I used 1/8"tempered Masonite and easily ran five frames in them. I got the idea from a now disappeared site in Manitoba "French bee farm" There common operation was apparently breaking down colonies into five frame nucs, reqqueening them and running the divided doubles for honey production. All you do is put on a queen excluder WITH NO RIM! and super up. I was drawing a lot of comb at that time so I threw on deep boxes with foundation and the young queens weren't swarm minded and the bees happily drew the foundation, sometimes several boxes. When the flow was over, I extracted the deeps and put the frames in a deep divided with 3/8" plywood and put it on the divided double as a second and fed it full of syrup and wintered the double deep.

    The following spring as per French bee farm practice, I moved the bees from each side of the division into their own deep hivebody, put on an excluder and ran them as a single for honey production. After the honey flow, I gave them a second, fed it full of syrup and wintered. The next spring, they got split into nucs with new queens and I started the cycle again.

    When I decided to stack a second divided deep on, it was a total PITA to match 1/8" Masonite dividers, so I started using 3/8" plywood for the dividers and can still get five frames in each side. Cheap plastic excluders appear to do the best job of separating queens in this system. Your frames should come to the top of the lower box to ensure separation of the queens.

    I was assured on this forum when I asked the question that it would not work and I would come to spring with only one colony. If one queen dies or fails over winter, that is indeed what you get and the bees from the failed side join the surviving queens colony. The bees otherwise happily co exist storing honey together and in the winter consuming Mountain camp supplemental feed and pollen patties. So yes Palmer style doubles can be run the way you posit. Or French bee farm or Gilbraith style too

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Covington County, Alabama, USA

    Default Re: Can Palmer Style Double Nucs be used to produce Honey?

    They can produce a LOT of honey. There are many variations. The picture is one of the strangest configurations I have tried. It is 3 medium 4 frame nucs beside 2 deep 4 frame nucs. If I were a good carpenter, there should have been a 5/8" difference in the stacked heights. But I am not a good carpenter, so they stacked roughly to the same height. Made of 3/4" plywood.

    Unfortunately, the only picture I took was of this wonky medium/deep combo. Most were either one or the other (all deep or all medium) so don't let that confuse things.

    Palmer's set up uses a single deep box on the base that has a divider within the single box, with 4 frame nucs stacked on top. I didn't do that. I just stacked up 4 frame nucs. Once entrance pointed at the camera. The other away from the camera.

    I laid a plastic queen excluder across the tops of my nucs. Probably could have used metal excluder, but thought the plastic one might mold a little better to my carpentry "imperfections."

    Then I put regular 10 frame medium supers above the excluder. The workers shared the supers. The picture shows three supers on it. The set up in the picture filled six supers in a season.

    A Palmer nuc is nothing more than two honey bee colonies. Palmer designates them for resources and treats them as such, robbing them for other purposes. You could name any one of your hives a "resource" colony and do the same. The nuc configuration with young queens, according to Palmer, seems to make them draw out comb and lay brood like mad. I have seen some of that. But otherwise, there is really nothing special to it. They will make honey if you leave them workers. They will make workers if you keep removing brood and supplying new frames.

    It is the way Palmer integrates them in his operation that is the "secret sauce."

    Double Queen2.jpg

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada

    Default Re: Can Palmer Style Double Nucs be used to produce Honey?

    I used a standard deep hive body for the bottom. A piece of nominal 2 inch stock 1 1/2" wide is fastened in center of a standard bottom board and a standard deep hive body with the same 1 1/2 material divides the bottom deep. That divider sits tight on the bottom board divider. From there up 4 frame nucs are stacked. The sum thickness of their two inside walls exacly matches the bottom box divider. Notice the two screws that locate the bottom box divider.

    I did not appear to have a problem with the bees mixing or fighting at the side by side entrances and they mixed and worked together drawing out and filling the completely common super.

    Each one of the combined colonies weighed around 190 lbs. I did not let them finish filling the supers as I wanted them to fill the broods.

    I wanted to try the experience but the following spring I had the onset of EFB. The bees winter well in that format and at three high you have 12 frames that quickly jumps up to full hive when put in double deep configuration. I am not sure it is worth the trouble as the joined hives are harder to work and keep track of the queens. A bit of a pain to when one side gets a box ahead of the other.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Albany NY


    In upstate NY I often split into Palmer boxes. I'd like to winter them stacked 2 high (8 frames each). I also sell nucs out of them; leaves 3 frames to raise a queen or get a cell, depending on what is available. When they are queen right and starting to get strong I often put a queen excluder on top and super them as 1. They don't make more honey than a production colony but they do make more than a single nuc. For winter I want them as 2 colonies: supers and qx removed. Sometimes there are too many bees to force them back into 2 boxes and I have to leave 3. Important to winter separately and pull supers early or feed as the bottom boxes are often totally packed with brood. Easy to starve! Management is more difficult. Worth it because you can get honey from smaller colonies, winter more queens in fewer boxes and great for overwintered nuc sales!
    Happy beekeeping!

  9. #8
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Castle Rock, Colorado, USA

    Default Re: Can Palmer Style Double Nucs be used to produce Honey?

    A plastic frame can be adapted as the divider - attach wood filler strips to the frame top & bottom, and frame or box ends. My bees like having a "shared" frame in the middle, and they get an extra half frame of space to work with there. A plastic frame can also be cut down ( one side shaved off) to provide for another 1/2 frame of comb on the outside edge. Using both allows for 5 total frames of comb on each side of a divided 10 frame box. Pics of the setup were posted here a few years back, when I first came up with the idea.

    I've never run excluders in the winter, per JC's logic.
    After 40 years of beekeeping, I've come to realize that the bees can fix most of my mistakes.


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