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Mini-frames of bees/brood/honey were harvested from the mating nucs that successfully wintered in the 2012-13 winter. Excess combs of brood and honey were left with the old queens...the mating nucs are made up queenless to accept ripe cell the following day. These expand onto additional mini-combs, saving the queens for re-queening colonies at a later date. The 4 way mating boxes are set up the last week of May and the first week of June. Each has 4 mini-combs. The mating yard consists of 4 groups, set up 4 days apart...over 12 days. Each group has 4 circles of mating nucs, with 8, 4-ways in each circle, for a total of 128 nucs per group. One group is caught every 4 days, in rotation, during the queen rearing season.

Catching Queens





At the last catch for each group...the last group was caught on July 31 this year...one queen from each side of the central divider is caged. The feeder is pulled, the 4 combs from the caught nuc are given directly to the queen-right nuc by shoving them over, and the feeder is located at the sidewall. There is no fighting or queen loss doing this.





The mating nucs, now 2 way with 8 combs and a feeder each are moved to their wintering yards. These are areas with a decent autumn flow from goldenrod and aster. If any of the nucs are queenless or have population issues, they are re-queened or boosted with those leftovers that have been summering on mating nuc combs. All mating nuc boxes get a second story containing 10 mini-frames each. Some of these are drawn combs from breaking down the leftovers, and some are new combs drawn by the nucs during the mating season, and placed in storage until needed.





The nucs build up on the Autumn flow and get quite populous. I feed them, if they need it, during the second half of September so they can ripen the feed. Most need a gallon of 2:1, and some a little more.





I wrap all my bees, mating nucs included. The most important things are insulation above the cluster, and an upper entrance to allow excess water to leave the hive as vapor. I include wrapping with black paper for added solar gain on those clear, cold winter days. You may not need such extra protection.







Anyway, I'm taking a little over 125 of these mating nucs setups for something like 260 queens into winter. I expect I'll have something like 200 left coming out of winter, if they winter as I think they will. Overall, the clusters look good. I am experimenting with some singles on individual stands, and some singles stacked together on stands, to see how they do that way. One of the issues with having the mating nucs wintering on so many combs, is...what to do with all the bees and queens come mating season. I know. Tough problem to have, but swarming from the mini-combs can get out of control.

And who says you can't have northern raised queens in April...
 

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Bee envy is such a terrible disease.

"Excess combs of brood and honey were left with the old queens...the mating nucs are made up queenless to accept ripe cell the following day."

You have already restocked deadouts by then, the old (overwintered) are your sales?

Your new nucs have bees in a strange hive and from more than one hive? Does that help aceptance or not make any difference?
 

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"One of the issues with having the mating nucs wintering on so many combs, is...what to do with all the bees and queens come mating season. I know. Tough problem to have, but swarming from the mini-combs can get out of control."

Michael, our bee club would be happy to help you restore some law and order if things do get "out of control." Nothing worse than too many northern-raised, overwintered fresh queens (and bees!) in April!

Your posts are always informative and an inspiration. Thanks, and please let us know how this works out.
 

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Good thread to read. Keep us posted.

I started this year with some divided nucs, 4 frames on either side, supered with a 4 frame box on each side, after listening to you talk at EAS in Vermont in 2012. I had 4 of these boxes (making 8 colonies of 8 frames each) going at one point in time over the season. I liked the configuration, and appeared to work well. Although a few threw off late season swarms (July and August) which complicated things for me.

I also built a few 4 way mini mating nucs, like you have above (divided feeder included), for use this past season. But I think I started them too early. I didn't have drawn comb in the mini frames, so I threw foundation and a ton of syrup on them, giving each mating nuc a cell and a cup and a half of bees. When the temps dropped at night, the bees didn't cluster around the cell, and instead moved toward the feeder. The vast majority of the cells died, and with no cells, no drawn comb, and no brood in any of the mating nucs, the bees eventually just left. I was thinking about starting a little later this year (probably mid March for me), and also cutting out some drawn comb and brood from a few regular deep frames and inserting them in mini frames to anchor the workers. Also thought about throwing a few 4 way mini boxes on top of singles come February 1, while THROWING feed at them to get them to draw out a few of the mini frames. Hoping for better success this season.

I thought about overwintering a few of the minis on 8 frames, like in your second pic. If I needed warmth, I'd put them over top of a single. My 4 way bottom boards have screened bottoms, so heat can transfer up but bees can't go up or down. That will have to wait until next year.

Only issue I see with your strategy (and you may not think it's an issue) is the need for yet another piece of special equipment. Your top box that houses 10 additional half frames. Other than overwintering, what other use do they have? Can you use them for mating nucs during the normal season? Or do they just take up space in a storage unit? At $5 a piece (which is probably a fair estimate as to it's value), needing 250 of them, that's an easy $1,250 to drop in more equipment. Seems like you could just take a standard 10 frame box, throw a divider down the middle, kinda like the bottom box is situated, and you could accomplish the same thing without "dedicated" equipment. You wouldn't be able to open one side without opening the other, which is why I know you have it set up the way you have it now, (although you could just put the top box down on a flat surface, avoiding the cross over problem) but how many times do you need to do that between September and March? A few times to add some feed, and inspect some frames, but I wouldn't think it would be "dozens."

Just a few thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Of course I read it and enjoyed your approach. From what I've seen in your posts, and your ability to make equipment, you shouldn't be afraid to winter more and more. You just have to get your resources built up.


I've been wintering nucs with mini-combs for years, although this is the first year with the second story. Previously, I wintered the doubles on top of a production colony. Because I hate moving bees than any other bee job, I'm going in another direction. I have wintered doubles stacked, and they did well. Now I'm experimenting, comparing singles on a stand, and two doubles stacked on a stand. I think the doubles with a super have to be better come spring.
 

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I appreciate your thoughts...


>>Only issue I see with your strategy (and you may not think it's an issue) is the need for yet another piece of special equipment. Your top box that houses 10 additional half frames. Other than overwintering, what other use do they have?

For holding queens after the wintered nucs have been split up for queen rearing. As a source for additional bees and brood for re-stocking failed nucs. For use in re-queening production colonies. And, when I get far enough ahead, sold as established queen-right 4 way mating nucs.

>>Can you use them for mating nucs during the normal season?

Yes, of course.

>>Or do they just take up space in a storage unit? At $5 a piece (which is probably a fair estimate as to it's value), needing 250 of them, that's an easy $1,250 to drop in more equipment.

They have about 5 bdft at 40 [email protected] is only $2 and I build them.

>>Seems like you could just take a standard 10 frame box, throw a divider down the middle, kinda like the bottom box is situated, and you could accomplish the same thing without "dedicated" equipment. You wouldn't be able to open one side without opening the other, which is why I know you have it set up the way you have it now, (although you could just put the top box down on a flat surface, avoiding the cross over problem) but how many times do you need to do that between September and March? A few times to add some feed, and inspect some frames, but I wouldn't think it would be "dozens."

No, it's too big an issue. You have to be able to inspect them individually. Things like estimating weight by lifting super wouldn't be possible with a divided deep. Checking for swarm preps without disturbing the other nuc. Too much opportunity for queens to cross over or more likely under the divider.
 

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Mike,

I winter my mini nucs as you describe and am very happy with the outcome. My mini nucs are like your “supers”, each box holds 10 mini frames and has a movable divider, similar to your feeder. I run deep frames and mediums and find that both tend to winter better as doubles, although that doesn’t stop me from wintering singles if they are there. Most I push together for winter so that they can share the heat and a single cover. They also seem to do just fine as an individual unit. Come spring time those little units will surprise you with their explosive growth. Conserving that heat in a smaller space and creating a “chimney” so that the bees can move up really helps. I learned this system from the Hawaiian queen breeders, believe it or not, they have used this box and system for a long time, although for slightly different reasons. Wish I had taken their advice many years ago.

You mention that you pull one queen and slide the feeder over to combine nucs with no fighting or queen loss. I found that I lost a small percentage of queens following that method. My nucs are usually pretty packed late summer and early fall, when I begin combining them, so I started shaking the bees out of one side before combining them. This did a couple of things. It reduced queen loss, provided extra bees for use elsewhere and served as population control for these little nucs.

Always enjoying hear how others make their system work!

Joe
 

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For holding queens after the wintered nucs have been split up for queen rearing. As a source for additional bees and brood for re-stocking failed nucs. For use in re-queening production colonies. And, when I get far enough ahead, sold as established queen-right 4 way mating nucs.
I think my point was, if you put the supers on a divided bottom board, could you use them that way? Do you?

Obviously the FRAMES of brood have a use. Do the supers though, other than as staked on top of a 4 way to overwinter.

They have about 5 bdft at 40 [email protected] is only $2 and I build them.
@ $0.40 /bd ft, comes to about $1.88 each, not counting labor, nails, glue, or paint. But fair enough.

I think I had this conversation previously, but I think you might be the only person I've met that can buy wood that cheap (other than getting it for free). Cheapest I can find it locally is $0.56 bdft, and that's an hour and a half away, costing me another $0.10 a bdft in travel expenses. And it's not the BEST wood, so about 10% is unuseable knots, holes, ect. So in the end it comes to about $0.73 a bdft. If I made them it would cost me $3.41 per box, plus labor, nails, glue, and paint. All of that is for Southern yellow pine. A denser and longer lasting wood.

But when I try to find wood closer, even from a sawmill, they tell me I'm nuts to walk away from wood being sold at $0.56 bdft, regardless of the location or quality. Cheapest I can find SYP wood anywhere else in the state (or even two surrounding states) is $2.20 bdft, or $1.65 bdft for white pine. At those prices, the same box would cost $10.32 and $7.74 respectively, each exclusive of nails, glue, labor, paint, and wear and tear on parts, of course. Those boards would be clear, so no issues on an unuseable percentage.

End result, while you may have a fantastic wood supplier, and it might not be that expensive for YOU to produce them, as a system, you still have added costs in the same percentage as anyone else. And for others attempting to duplicate your system, it might not be as cost effective as it is for you. Since these parts are not manufactured by anyone (that I can find), they need to be made by the beekeeper, and the cost would be relative to the local wood prices they can find. Assuming, of course, they can do simple woodworking.

No, it's too big an issue. You have to be able to inspect them individually. Things like estimating weight by lifting super wouldn't be possible with a divided deep. Checking for swarm preps without disturbing the other nuc. Too much opportunity for queens to cross over or more likely under the divider.
How is it too big an issue when you have a nuc divided half way, but not when you have a box divided into four? When you have a four way box, you have the possibility of having a queen transfer sections while you have it open. So you put a piece of cloth over top (or keep wooden blocks, inner covers, feed bags, or whatever you use) to prevent the transfer. Why would this not work for having a divided box (not separate boxes) over another divided box? Why couldn't you place the top box on a piece of cloth, or some blocks of wood, inner cover, feed bag, or whatever while you work the box? Why couldn't you place a second over top?

I just don't see how the risk is higher.
 

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I was going to be funny and say something about your phone in picture #1 but the post is too great for that. Keep us updated, I'd like to see how everything pans out in spring.
 

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I was going to be funny and say something about your phone in picture #1 but the post is too great for that. Keep us updated, I'd like to see how everything pans out in spring.
Go ahead. Make fun of my phone. I'm a big boy. :)

Photo's from 2007. I've got modern now, complete with internet so I can check up on you all from my apiaries.
 

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>>I think my point was, if you put the supers on a divided bottom board, could you use them that way? Do you?

Yes, I did this spring. Allowed the 2 ways to build up into them before splitting. After splitting up into mating nucs the old queen remained in the super and build up into one or two more...drawing out foundation. Yes, you could put them on a single bottom or a divided bottom and use them as mating nucs. I already have enough active mating nucs.

>>Obviously the FRAMES of brood have a use. Do the supers though, other than as staked on top of a 4 way to overwinter.

Just the uses in my last post. also...They make great chairs?

>>@ $0.40 /bd ft, comes to about $1.88 each, not counting labor, nails, glue, or paint. But fair enough. I think I had this conversation previously, but I think you might be the only person I've met that can buy wood that cheap

I understand that, but would still make them if the price for materials was higher. I look at them as a wintering queen not a single use box. How much is a quality queen worth to you when the first spring flows start? When all you can get is from someone in the deep south or California?


>>How is it too big an issue when you have a nuc divided half way, but not when you have a box divided into four? When you have a four way box, you have the possibility of having a queen transfer sections while you have it open. So you put a piece of cloth over top (or keep wooden blocks, inner covers, feed bags, or whatever you use) to prevent the transfer. Why would this not work for having a divided box (not separate boxes) over another divided box? Why couldn't you place the top box on a piece of cloth, or some blocks of wood, inner cover, feed bag, or whatever while you work the box? Why couldn't you place a second over top?

I just don't see how the risk is higher.


Yes, I could go to additional lengths to prevent cross-over just so I can use single boxes with a divider. I do anyway when the mating nucs are in the 4 way configuration. But that's extra work and not always successful...I have queens cross over in the 4 ways sometimes. I can't imaging having two sides of the box where the queens have an opportunity to cross. Wouldn't that increase the risk by twice?


But queens crossing over aside...how would you estimate the weight of the top box...for winter...if you couldn't pick up the top box individually? Pulling frames when there are many hundreds to check is out.
 

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They make great chairs?
Haha. Got a good laugh out of that one.

But queens crossing over aside...how would you estimate the weight of the top box...for winter...if you couldn't pick up the top box individually? Pulling frames when there are many hundreds to check is out.
I think I operate slightly differently than you do. Not for the better or worse, just different. I know you have, in the past, actually weighed singles or nucs to see how much they weigh. I don't remember if you still do. Then it's a simple formulation on if it needs to weigh X lbs more, I feed it Y gallons of 2:1. Nothing wrong with that. But I don't do that. I tilt up on the back of a hive (works for a single, double, triple, nuc, double nuc, whatever you have). Does it feel heavy? Then it doesn't need feed. Does it feel light? Then it needs feed. Give it a gallon of feed, and check it again when it's taken it all. I know what 65 lbs feels like. So I can tell if the hive is heavier or lighter than that. Probably can't tell you if it's 60 lbs or 65 lbs. But after a few years you can tell if it's 50 lbs or 70 lbs. That's all that really matters. I can tilt it and tell if all the honey is on one side or the other. Same would work with side by side nucs, whether full deep frames or half frames. As a matter of fact, that's what I did on the side by sides that I did. I didn't pull the top box off and lift it up to check it's weight. I just lifted on the bottom board. That and peered in the top. Does the top look full? Good to go. No? Is it light? It needs feed.

I can check a whole yard in about 10 min that way. No need to suit up, light a smoker, crack open hives, ect. It works for me. May not for you.

I would concede that it's possible that one half packs on 80 lbs and the other half packs on 55 lbs. I think I'd tell the difference in the distribution of weight. But it's possible that I wouldn't. But so what. I'd be able to tell when I lifted up on them in two months, and noticed it was super light and needed emergency stores. Now if one side weighed 80 lbs and the other side weighed 30, I can tell that. You can too.

I just don't think the time spent lifting the top box to determine it's weight is time well spent when you can determine the same thing via other means. Your back would certainly thank you for not doing it. And the bees appear to be doing just fine either way. So if you can accomplish the same means a different way, I just don't see the overarching NEED for specialized equipment that is not uniform.

But it appears you have a good thing going, and the downside of un-uniform equipment may not be a concern of yours.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Well, perhaps it's a matter of numbers. After I heft a couple yards, they all feel heavy.

Perhaps it's a matter of economics. An apiary of honey bee colonies is like a gymnasium full of hungry teenagers. They all have hollow legs, and will consume all you place before them. Feeding an extra 10 pounds of 2:1 to every colony I have would cost thousands.

Perhaps it's a matter of location. I don't believe in emergency feeding when the feed level is getting critical and the weather isn't fit for feeding bees. Rather, I get it right the first time and am done with it. My winter doesn't allow for mistakes.
 

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After I heft a couple yards, they all feel heavy.
Ever do deadlifts? If you deadlift 150 lbs for 10 reps, then deadlift 100 lbs, they both feel heavy, but you can tell which one is heavier.

Perhaps it's a matter of economics. An apiary of honey bee colonies is like a gymnasium full of hungry teenagers. They all have hollow legs, and will consume all you place before them. Feeding an extra 10 pounds of 2:1 to every colony I have would cost thousands.
I wasn't, nor would I suggest, feeding an extra 10 pounds of 2:1 to every colony I (or you) have. Obviously that would cost thousands and is a massive waste of money. I hope you didn't think I was suggesting that.

I may underfeed one colony, and over feed another. It happens. But overall I'd say we balance out about the same (as much as two people from totally different climates could). I'd say our losses are probably fairly close as well. I spend significantly less time doing it though. To me time is extremely valuable, as I don't have days to weigh hives. Maybe it's different for you though.

Perhaps it's a matter of location. I don't believe in emergency feeding when the feed level is getting critical and the weather isn't fit for feeding bees. Rather, I get it right the first time and am done with it. My winter doesn't allow for mistakes.
Perhaps. My first red maple bloom is Feb. 1. I'm often in hives middle of January feeding sub to get them going a little early (some, not all hives). I know that isn't possible where you are at, as sometimes you can't even get to hives in mid January. So if I'm in there in January feeding sub, it isn't a big deal to add a fondant patty. It would be a huge deal to you.

I would challenge your contention that you "get it right the first time" though. You probably get it as right as any other beekeeper. To say you "get it right" though, we both know isn't totally accurate. You have losses from starvation over winter just the same as anyone else. When a hive starves, did you get it right?

Having never lived in VT, I can't say what I'd do if I kept bees there. But right now I'd suspect I'd do the same thing, only expecting larger weights on the hives (and probably more boxes). Perhaps its easier to tell the difference between 65 lbs and 50 lbs, than it is to tell the difference between 100 lbs and 90 lbs. I don't think so, but who knows.
 

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>>Ever do deadlifts? If you deadlift 150 lbs for 10 reps, then deadlift 100 lbs, they both feel heavy, but you can tell which one is heavier.

Only bee boxes :)

>>I wasn't, nor would I suggest, feeding an extra 10 pounds of 2:1 to every colony I (or you) have. Obviously that would cost thousands and is a massive waste of money. I hope you didn't think I was suggesting that.

The extra would come from colonies you gave a bit more to be sure.

>>Perhaps. My first red maple bloom is Feb. 1. I'm often in hives middle of January feeding sub to get them going a little early (some, not all hives). I know that isn't possible where you are at, as sometimes you can't even get to hives in mid January. So if I'm in there in January feeding sub, it isn't a big deal to add a fondant patty. It would be a huge deal to you.


My bees' first cleansing flight this spring was on April 1, and the first pollen was on April 15. Considerably different. And I don't like dragging fondant out to the bees with snowshoes and a toboggan. After a few winters of that, you would feel the same.

>>I would challenge your contention that you "get it right the first time" though. You probably get it as right as any other beekeeper. To say you "get it right" though, we both know isn't totally accurate. You have losses from starvation over winter just the same as anyone else. When a hive starves, did you get it right?

Of course I have a handful starve, but less than 10 starved in the entire operation of some 1400 colonies is pretty much getting it right the first time, no? Most of those that do starve are stupid bees and it wasn't operator error.
 
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