Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner

1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
286 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I am well along in my winter prep - my hives are condensed down to winter colonies (single deeps), bees have been treated with MAQS, winter tops are on, and I'm feeding to top up their stores. In a little over a month the colonies should go broodless, at which point I'm planning on a OAD and putting on the winter wraps+fondant...then its time to cross my fingers and hope they make it to spring.

Since the season is winding down, I'm now thinking towards next season and beyond - mainly in establishing a more stable apiary. Right now I have 2 colonies; if both make it through winter I plan on doing spring splits to get up to 4 colonies - at which point I think I am done expanding. Obviously, this means I need to build a bunch of boxes over the winter, and to manage my colonies in spring to keep them healthy.

Where I am struggling with my planning is in the longer-term maintenance of the apiary. It is inevitable that I will loose colonies, and even in years with no losses, hives will need to be requeened. While I have no opposition to purchasing queens/nucs, I also like the idea of letting my colonies make their own queens. What I was wondering is if using nucleus colonies is a viable plan for long-term stability. I was thinking of performing late summer (August or so) splits, essentially making two 5-frame nucs from my strongest two hives. I would then over-winter those (e.g. 6 colonies total over winter), essentially "hedging" against losses. Come spring, if a nuc is lost its not a big deal, but if a primary colony is lost I can replace it with a nuc, or even use the queen from a nuc to requeen one of the larger colonies. I figure most winters, having 2 extra nucs in addition to 4 hives should leave me with 4 colonies come spring, assuming normal-ish losses.

Is that a reasonable plan? Obviously I'd need well-insulated nucs to deal with the smaller colony size, but it seems reasonable to a newbie.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,518 Posts
Quite reasonable.

August is a tough time to be making up NUCs. NUCs need to have plenty guard bees to prevent robbing and wasps. NUCs are a lot easier in last half of May until mid July. If the two colonies come through the winter well, you will need to do some population control to prevent swarming. In late May, pull a couple of frames of brood, a frame of pollen and a frame of honey, install a queen and make up a NUC. Can pull more frames in a couple of weeks. Once NUC is strong, you can move the queen and a frame of brood to a new NUC(also move a couple of frames from a strong hive). Leave the first NUC alone for a month and they usually raise a nice queen. Making syrup available with the NUCs really helps with drawing comb and building up.

For wintering pushing two double deep NUCs together or pushing them in beside a single deep works really well to have a bigger mass and share some heat. I put a two inch piece of Styrofoam between my NUCs to account for the overhang of the outer cover. I then put two inch of Styrofoam around the perimeter and add a black wrap.

Attached pic is a bank of five double deeps with a 2 1/2 feed shim with a top entrance and individual quilt boxes. All colonies survived the winter. These got insulated individually so ended up with two x two inch styrofoam between. The extra width and a barrier helps with drifting(bees moving into colonies with queens with stronger pheromone)

P1010383.jpg
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,051 Posts
The advice from post #2 is, ---- well, golden;)

Nucs survive very well and I think you will find they will grow to two or three boxes high by close out time. Almost enough frames for a double deep. Beautiful frames too as nucs draw little or no drone comb.

My experience was that if you have mite levels near zero and the hives plenty heavy with good pollen levels, insulate the tops and control ventilation, that your winter losses will run well below 20%. Zero losses was also the experience of Enjambres for something like 5 winters till we both encountered European Foulbrood. That rather ruined our survival records last winter.:rolleyes:

As for having your bees self requeen, the desirability of the surrounding drones will influence that. My son has bees near Ottawa and most are from local requeening. They are a whole lot hotter to work that my bees. Up until the last year I have been isolated from other bees so they have kept their disposition. U of G produce some nice bees. I think they have an isolated drone rearing area so can maintain their lines. From their videos working their bees with no protection I think temperament is high on their list!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,313 Posts
I think having 2 nucs to support 4 working hives is an excellent plan. Suggest in Year One of the plan you create the nucs as early as practicable in order for them to build-up ready for winter. For over-wintering itself you might want to consider sandwiching each nuc (if say, 5-over-5's) between a pair of hives, or having a pair of 5-frame nucs sitting on top of your strongest hive. Same basic principle. Many ways of skinning the proverbial cat.:)
Then, at the beginning of Year Two (assuming all colonies make it through winter), sell or give-away one of the nucs, and 50/50 split the other to make your two early season nucs again ... this could be done ad infinitum.
LJ
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,291 Posts
In my area i like making 2 brood frame splits as early as possible, in beginning of april. It gives thrm all year to grow and mother colonies will still produce a good crop. Making splits late after May is risky as drought can set in and they may stop growing.

I just try to be always making a few new colonies to replace those that die out, abscond etc. Loss is inevitable.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
286 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks everyone, that is a bunch of great advice! Glad to see I wasn't too far off base (other than my timing).

That said, given some of the feedback, I'm wondering if my nuc plan is unnessisarily complicated. I run single-deep broods for all my hives (which is the norm for most keeps around here). Given how big a properly split nuc will get, I'm wondering if I forgo dedicated nucs and just make splits into single-deep 10-frame broods?

@Crofter, my split this year was one where they raised their own queen, and the new hive is quite docile (I rarely need anything other than a veil, unless I do a total disassemble), very similar to the mother hive. Like I said, I have no issues purchasing a queen, but if the local population breeds true to my current split, I think I'll want to keep them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,518 Posts
Ian's blog is a very good reference. Look back into May June time frame or split videos.

On your strong singles, add a second brood box. Let bees build up into for a month.

Use top brood for the split. If you take the top brood and the queen, this becomes the new colony. Let original lower brood raise a new queen. Obviously need a frame of eggs/young larvae left in bottom brood. Take mostly capped brood with the split and leave open brood in original location. Foragers return to original location and food will be incoming for open brood.

Or if buying a queen or using a queen cell, leave queen in lower brood at original location. Can locate her and ensure she is in lower brood or shake all bees into lower brood, install a queen excluder and come back a day later to remove top box. Install queen or queen cell in top brood, located at a new location. Again take mostly capped brood to new location.

On the day you shake the bees or locate the queen, decide if you want to make an equal split or want a strong hive in original location and want just a couple of frames of brood to be removed for new hive.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,051 Posts
There certainly are advantages to sticking with one size of brood box. I have accumulated a lot of different size equipment and gadgets and it soon becomes a storage problem.
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top