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This is my first year grafting and rearing queens. That being said, I have ~20 hives and I am torn as to what type of mating nucs I will use. If I graft 20 queens at a time, what would the best option for me? Not sure I have enough resources, bee-wise, to make 20 5F Nucs for mating nucs. Would 2F mating nucs be an option? Thanks in advance!
 

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5 ,8 ,10 frame, and long Lang
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Where will the Queens go once mated?
Are you going for Increase?

Maybe do 10 at a time more times if the Mating NUC can be reused.

GG
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Mann Lake offers a styrofoam double mini mating nuc that only requires a handful of bees to populate. I used trhem last year with limited success and plan on using them again this year with a few modifications to my technique, ie, making sure I am putting only nurse bees in them and keeping them closed up for three days after inserting a queen cell. It pays to follow the instructions and not go rogue. Kirsten Traynor uses them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Mann Lake offers a styrofoam double mating nuc that only requires a handful of bees to populate. I used trhem last year with limited success and plan on using them again this year with a few modifications to my technique, ie, making sure I am putting only nurse bees in them and keeping them closed up for three days after inserting a queen cell. It pays to follow the instructions and not go rogue.
Thanks! I thought about those as well, but was sure how successful they were. Cost does play a role in it as well. There are just so many options out there!
 

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I plan on using about 5 to requeen current hives and the rest will be for increases.
When you take the Queen out for "requeen" you can time it to have another Cell, or time it to remove the queen when the cell is ready. that covers that 5 or so.
I presume you have the hives boxes for increase, so once mated the NUCs can be moved into the hives, then reused, you would need more frames of bees of cource.

If you have 20 hives, And I presume you want some Production, I would put the best 10 into production out of the gate.
Of the remaining 12, I would make the first batch of NUCs say 5-8 out of the 2 or 3 worst hives 3-4 frames each. Get your first batch of Queens going, maybe do 10 at a time. Some of the requeens could be done with a cell. Some put into NUCs, cycle thru 3 or 4 batches , cull as needed.
Hopefully you can pull a frame or 2 from each of the non production Hives, to make up the NUCs each round, and get it done. To do more you could split the hives 3 ways into your new gear give each a cell, 10 hives would be 30 ish splits. Doing all at one shot would require more NUCs and if you happen to get bad weather could turn out bad, 1/4 at a time would allow some reuse of components and time for hive to rebuild and then steal more frames of bees.
 

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Practice makes perfect or at least better. Do you really want 20 queens with the quality of your first attempt? trials before full bore makes sense. (advice I never follow)

Lowest cost is two frames to mate adding more bees only after queen is laying. Dense bees produce more bees. Transferring frames of eggs to nucs or getting the nucs to draw foundation while unemployed takes juggling but will increase stocks.

In the end it is bees and comb, not queens, that limit you.
 

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I am a big fan of minis my self. They take 1/10 of the bee resources needed to stock a 2 frame nuc (counting the brood)
if your hard up on $$ you can make 16 of them out of a $15 sheet of foam insulation or get them for about $12 a pop on fleabay shipped in from china
 

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Here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5aQPFyey9c

Will make fine Sam Comform style minis - just add few skewers with glued comb chunks, punch a hole, and done.
Will take a cup of bees like MSL is saying.
Really well insulated.

I get these boxes free from a recycling dumpster.
Look into local recycling - these could be laying around.
 

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I am a big fan of minis my self. They take 1/10 of the bee resources needed to stock a 2 frame nuc (counting the brood)
if your hard up on $$ you can make 16 of them out of a $15 sheet of foam insulation or get them for about $12 a pop on fleabay shipped in from china
Can't argue with that logic. The alternate logic is if you keep a split working it is not a cost, it is a diversion of assets. Drop a frame of empty drawn comb into a hive a week before adding a cell and make it part of the split. Steal eggs and young larva for the split to work on while the QC is hatching and mating. ( No I do not get it done, plan on it but time conflicts win out)
 

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Well I have used Palmer/ Webster methods of overwintering nucs for many years now. I do have quad (4 way) mating nucs. Mr. Webster recommended not to use quads until you are producing 300+ queens a season. Better to use what you have. I have around 100-120 4 frame nucs (50-60 divided boxes). All my BB's have the landing board cut off. One side is for full colonies the other is for side by side nucs. When resources are low I do what I call a progressive splits. You use your 4 frame nuc boxes. Add one frame of capped brood, and one honey, and a queen cell plus a division board feeders to take up the empty space. Center these as its only 3 frames worth. Once the queens are laying probably 2 weeks or a bit more. You go back to your production colonies and take another frame for each nuc. In this way you never deplete your strong hives. After another 2 weeks set up the next batch of nucs just as before. Count back 10 days and do your graft again. Two weeks later add another brood frame. Good strong hives can spare 1 frame of brood every 2 weeks pretty easily. In this way you keep your apiary growing instead of being set back because you take to much at once. Feed syrup and pollen sub lightly as weak colonies have a hard time foraging. Hope this makes sense.
 

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A note on mating nucs from Michael Bush:

In my opinion it makes the most sense to use standard frames for your mating nucs. Here are a few beekeepers who agree with that:
"Some queen-breeders use a very small hive with much smaller frames than their common ones for keeping their queens in till mated, but for several reasons I consider it best to have but the one frame in both the queen-rearing and the ordinary hives. In the first place, a nucleus colony can be formed in a few minutes from any hive by simply transferring two or three frames and the adhering bees from it to the nucleus hive. Then again, a nucleus colony can be built up at any time or united with another where the frames are all alike, with very little trouble. And lastly, we have only the one sized frames to make. I have always used a nucleus hive such as I have described, and would not care to use any other."--Isaac Hopkins, The Australasian Bee Manual
"for the honey-producer there seems no great advantage in baby nuclei. He generally needs to make some increase, and it is more convenient for him to use 2 or 3-frame nuclei for queen-rearing, and then build them up into full colonies...I use a full hive for each nucleus, merely putting 3 or 4 frames in one side of the hive, with a dummy beside them. To be sure, it takes more bees than to have three nuclei in one hive, but it is a good bit more convenient to build up into a full colony a nucleus that has the whole hive to itself."--C.C. Miller, Fifty Years Among the Bees
"The small Baby Nucleus hive had a run for a while but is now generally considered a mere passing fad. It is so small that the bees are put into an unnatural condition, and they therefore perform in an unnatural manner...I strongly advise a nucleus hive that will take the regular brood-frame that is used in your hives. The one that I use is a twin hive, each compartment large enough to hold two jumbo frames and a division-board."--Smith, Queen Rearing Simplified
"I was convinced that the best nucleus that I could possibly have, was one or two frames in an ordinary hive. In this way all work done by the nucleus was readily available for the use of any colony, after I was through with the nucleus...take a frame of brood and one of honey, together with all of the adhering bees, being careful not to get the old Queen, and put the frames into a hive where you wish the nucleus to stand...drawing up the division-board so as to adjust the hive to the size of the colony."--G. M. Doolittle, Scientific Queen-Rearing
"Where queen breeding is the prime object, the tendency is to use as small hives and as few bees as possible, so that the largest possible number of queens may be reared with the bees and equipment available. However, many of the most successful queen breeders find serious objections to baby nuclei and small mating boxes, and advocate nothing but standard frames for mating-hives."--Frank Pellett, Practical Queen Rearing
 

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My mating nucs are the two deep frame type (used the plans at barnyard bees). Advantages are frame interchangeability. That is a huge advantage I think for small scale queen rearing. I can instantly transfer extra frames with capped queen cells to two frame nucs. Caught swarms can be quickly broken and given new queens. Once I have a laying queen I can bank her in the mating nuc for a while by swapping out brood comb for empty comb and brood bomb another hive. And I keep one along with me when inspecting because it makes a handy quiet box. The disadvantage is that they do take more resources than a mini-frame when you are setting up mating nucs for grafted queen cells. The other disadvantage, which I posted about a couple of days ago, is that they are easy to knock over or drop and spill, as I've done more than once.

I am in the process of building frames for a medium depth quad mini but then I'll need to get the frames drawn before I can use it (this type)

As far as your first attempt at grafting goes, don't expect that you'll have a high acceptance rate. I've been grafting since 2015 and I still suck at it. I graft twice as many as I think I want. I just got a new grafting tool that has more bends than a yoga class, maybe it will help.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
My mating nucs are the two deep frame type (used the plans at barnyard bees). Advantages are frame interchangeability. That is a huge advantage I think for small scale queen rearing. I can instantly transfer extra frames with capped queen cells to two frame nucs. Caught swarms can be quickly broken and given new queens. Once I have a laying queen I can bank her in the mating nuc for a while by swapping out brood comb for empty comb and brood bomb another hive. And I keep one along with me when inspecting because it makes a handy quiet box. The disadvantage is that they do take more resources than a mini-frame when you are setting up mating nucs for grafted queen cells. The other disadvantage, which I posted about a couple of days ago, is that they are easy to knock over or drop and spill, as I've done more than once.

I am in the process of building frames for a medium depth quad mini but then I'll need to get the frames drawn before I can use it (this type)

As far as your first attempt at grafting goes, don't expect that you'll have a high acceptance rate. I've been grafting since 2015 and I still suck at it. I graft twice as many as I think I want. I just got a new grafting tool that has more bends than a yoga class, maybe it will help.

Good luck.
Thanks everyone for your input! I think I’m gonna try the 2 frame nucs for now and see how it goes. Being able to have the frames be interchangeable is a big advantage for me. I will let you all know how it turns out!
 

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For expansion I would consider 4 or 5 frame nuc best for mating. Make 2-3 frame split into it and add cell. If you don't have a dummy board just fill the box with empty frames (no comb or foundation). Then you can give them extra brood frames, give them comb to fill, or let them build the comb they need. As they are supposed to grow into an overwintering hive I see no sense in running a mini and then transfering that into a nuc! Minis are great for pumping out multiple queens for sale but not for making increase. Also the bigger nucs won't swarm as quickly so a back yarder won't lose as many. Minis need a lot of tlc....
 

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A stand-alone 2-frame nuc box is inherently unstable due to it's narrow footprint.

If you want to create a 2-framer, suggest you use a 5-frame box and dummy down the excess space. Dummy frames are the easiest things in the world to make - dunno why they're not used more often.
LJ
 

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I have a similar number of hives. I like the double Mann Lake nucs. They're a little bigger than a true mini and still take minimal resources to set up. Just a couple of ladles of bees and a cell and you're set. This leaves your other hives strong to make a honey crop. Just to see if I could, I overwintered one (North Texas, just south of OK). Not an extreme winter here and I did have to feed them a couple of times along the way but they made it. Mann Lake also sells a "growing box" for these frames. I plan to overwinter in these this year. They are also easy to feed, move around, etc.... I haven't used two frame nucs because they have such a radical departure for a normal nest shape. Also my time is precious to me and making two framers doesn't seem like a good use of it. I know many people use them to good effect though. I've noticed that as I've started dabbling with queen rearing, many people want to buy them. So you'll likely have plenty of opportunity to raise several rounds. Good luck!
 
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