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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am just starting to learn about beekeeping and was wondering if it was possible to keep bees in a smaller container than the standard size boxes with 8 or 10 frames. For someone who may not have as much room to have a larger hive, is it possible to keep them in a nuc, one box or two, all year round?

If you, can what are some of the challenges and advantages?

Thanks!
 

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Yes, you can but there are some limitations. Some very successful professional beekeepers use a method where they keep supplemental colonies in the manner you consider - stacked 4/5 frame nucs. Google "Michael Palmer" videos or visit Micahel Bush's website to learn more about the topic (he's also a regular commenter here).

Most people use nucs as a form of insurance and to increase hive counts over time (me, for instance). I don't know of any who do it as the primary colony method, but I'm sure there are some.

Issues vary by region, but in general margins are smaller. That means you need to pay more attention because a colony that is building fast will max out your smaller space in much less time, for instance. Let it go too long and you'll find your bees looking for new housing. Winters are easier the more bees you have in a colony. Likewise, a smaller colony in distress has less margin to recover. Of course, if you are looking to produce honey your surplus will be limited, as well. But if you just want to keep bees as part of a hobby, then nucs could work. One upside is that tightly packed spaces are easier for the bees to handle things like Small Hive Beetle and Wax Moths.

The size differential between an 8-frame and a 5-frame is measured in bare inches. I never want to discourage someone, but if your space is that limited you might want to wait a little bit before digging in?

Good luck.
 

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Yes you can but you will probably have to monitor them more often. They will grow fast and want to swarm. So you will need to either add boxes or split. You will split more often with nuc size boxes rather than the traditional 8 or 10 frame boxes. Nucs are good for resources if you keep them in there. You take from them to give to bigger hives that need help or create more. You can add as many boxes as you please but after 4 deep boxes it gets unstable and could topple over if you dont strap it down.. if you create more nucs you can keep them or sell them to pay for your needs beekeeping is not cheap. You would be better off starting out with a 8 frame vs a 5 frame nuc. The people mentioned above do it and they sell bees and start bigger hives with nucs not just keep them to keep them. Just my opinion anyway.
 

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I keep several Observation hive (OB) that are 4 frames by 4 frames side by side, the equivalent of a 4 over 4 nuc. Managing such a configuration requires a great deal of monitoring. as they grow quickly, especially in early spring. My OB have the advantage that I can monitor them without opening them up. I have to split them two or 3 times a year simply to ensure they do not swarm. For me that is Okay as I have use for the splits. However if your space is such that a smaller hive is necessary, What are you going to do with the splits? You could sell them but this would tax the equipment resources of a small single hive operation. Letting them simply swarm is not an option as by doing so you are forcing your neighbors or others to have to deal with your swarms. You also want to be fair to the bees! bee keeping is hard enough to get a firm handle on these days. to attempt to start under such tenuous circumstances will surly be even harder and result in many loses.
Many beekeepers often recommend that beginners start with two hives, So as to have comparison, and resources available when needed throughout the learning process. It is my feeling that starting with long term goals of keeping bees limited to a single nuc would be an up hill battle at best.
If you do not have the space for a full size hive, then find someplace where you can. Two would be better. IMHO
 

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IMO, they'll outgrow it and swarm quickly. The only way I've ever kept them in a 5 over 5 nuc is to remove brood frames often. I used the double deep nucs to supply brood for making splits.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks everyone for your replies! I think it is probably best to find a place where I can give the bees plenty of room. For now, I will keep on learning. :)
 

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Treesaver - why not try an experiment regarding hive volume, with several sizes of hives?

Charles and Camille Pierre Dadant did exactly this back in the 1860's and 70's. Their conclusion was that a large brood box with 11-1/4 inch deep combs gave their best queens enough room to brood up a powerful colony. Seems like only Brother Adam copied them, others all fell for extensive marketing efforts for smaller boxes, which evolved into the current U.S. standard.

The Jumbo brood boxes were square. The Dadants eventually acquiesced to a "Modified Square Jumbo Dadant" beehive that was 19/7/8 inches square by 11-5/8 inches tall to be able to accept conversion from standard frame hives. They ran 2-queen systems in them up until they got to 4 or 5 frames of brood each, separated by an vertical, insulated division board, then moved one colony out and into it's own brood box.

A practical advantage occurs with the square boxes. The honey boxes can be set at 90 degrees to the brood frames, allowing access to all the honey frames at the same time. Further advantage can be realized while running a 2-queen system by reversing the honey boxes 180 degrees every time you visit them, filling the honey frames evenly.

Still further advantages can be found with the Jumbo boxes. If used with narrow frames (1.240 inch wide side bars and 7/8 inch wide top bars) and small cell 95.1mm) foundation, the bees can populate up several days earlier in the Spring. This is huge if you take the bees to pollinate early crops like almonds.
 

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to the OP, yes you can keep a smaller set up, but it depends on your reasons for keeping bees.
a 5X5X5 deep nuc arrangement would be on the large end for a natural nest, it would be swarmy and would produce a only a small harvest.
some guys in UT are marketing this kind of set up with 1/2 combs http://ecobeebox.net/honeybees/
my thought is the hives may be a bit of a challenge to mange.

by "space" do you mean space to set up the box? I am had pressed to think of a yard were the extra 6" or so(as GT points out) of an 8f box is going to be a deal breaker to keeping bees there
 
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