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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wondering if this is a case of a cold snap killing my nucs or something else and if anyone has experienced this before. I split these nucs on February 28th. They’re in regular wooden nuc boxes. These were the healthiest splits I had ever done. Picture perfect eggs, brood, pollen, and a full frame of honey each. Probably about two/3 full frames of nurse bees shaken into the nucs.
I have made nucs with less than robust resources which had been successful in the past. I placed an apivar strip into each nuc and left them alone. Because of the large amount of honey I decided to wait until today to feed. And give the bees time to raise a queen.

We had a 4 day period where the weather dropped from 70s to low 30s over night.

Every time I looked at the front of the entrances everything seemed fine.

Today I opened them to feed and 3/7 are dead. Some of the original brood, from the split never seemed to have actually hatched. There was chalky mold in spots all over the frames but I’m assuming this is normal considering the frames we’re probably empty for days or more. Oddly there wasn’t really any bees inside on the floor of the nucs.

Could this be a moisture issue? As well.
 

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The big clue you have given here is that despite plenty of honey, some of the original brood didn't hatch. This can only mean that the bees were unable to care for it, ie, large numbers of bees abandoned the splits, presumably returning to the parent hives. Combine that with some 30 degree nights and you got dead brood and a split that cannot recover.

Something to be mindful of making early splits is that spring hives can have a large percentage of old bees, which may appear to be nurse bees and may be acting as nurse bees, but will return to the parent hive.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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I posted about the same thing happening to me on a split I made the same weekend as you did. Had the same problems with too many of the bees being foragers and abandoning the brood. Lots of chilled brood there. Even the split that stayed put had some chilled brood on the edges. We got to around 20° two nights in a row. The first queen cells they made died too. Had to give them another frame of young larvae and start the process over.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I’m pretty sure this is exactly what happened. Most of the shaken bees must have drifted back to their parent colonies. Such a bummer.

Would a good plan of action be to freeze the dead out nuc frames to kill any pests/eggs that could have gotten in there and then give those back to the parent colonies to clean up. Then, swap those frames when swarm cell frames emerge in the next few weeks or so? I’ve only located one swarm cell so far this week. But there must have been some I missed. I’ve had 3 swarms already. Catching back two and it’s still very early.

If I find one frame with several swarm cells attached, is this sufficient to start a new nuc with? The question I’m asking is, What is a minimum amount of frames I need to start up a new colony? Could I start one with some shaken bees a frame of swarm cells and a frame of honey? I don’t want to remove too many frames from my parent colonies. Only enough to slow down their urge to swarm.
 

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Would a good plan of action be to freeze the dead out nuc frames to kill any pests/eggs that could have gotten in there and then give those back to the parent colonies to clean up. Then, swap those frames when swarm cell frames emerge in the next few weeks or so?
Yes, excellent plan. Wouldn't even bother freezing the frames unless there is something especially obvious. Normally with frames of dead brood they can be put in the middle of a strong hives brood nest, and the bees will clean them up quick smart.

If I find one frame with several swarm cells attached, is this sufficient to start a new nuc with? The question I’m asking is, What is a minimum amount of frames I need to start up a new colony? Could I start one with some shaken bees a frame of swarm cells and a frame of honey? I don’t want to remove too many frames from my parent colonies. Only enough to slow down their urge to swarm.
Generally one frame with a swarm cell is not enough, there should be brood on the other side of the swarm cell also, to ensure the bees will cluster all over it and keep the cell up to temperature. Another trap for new players is using a frame with the swarm cell on the bottom, or some other place where the bees are not going to properly cluster on it in a smaller hive.

Although not wanting to remove too many frames from the parent hive is understandable, consider that maybe you didn't take enough with some of the first splits, and the result was didn't work and whatever you did take, was wasted. A little more given the nucs for insurance, could more have than repaid.

But looks like in this case the main issue could have been lack of adult bees in the nucs.
 
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