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Overwintering a nuc in VA for the first time

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I made some late splits this year to barter with, and kept one. They are in a 3-story nuc, and I had planned to move them into to a regular box, but never got around to it. Several people said they should do fine, so this will be my first attempt at overwintering a nuc box.

We had our first frost this week, with daytime temps in the 40's and 50's. All the other colonies are flying, but not a single bee has come out of the nuc. It almost looks dead.

After no life since Monday, I decided to check on them and insulate if they are still in there. Last year, I insulated my 4 hives, and they all survived and came out of winter booming.

So, today I checked on them. I took a quick peek and saw some bees, not moving much. They looked cold. I cut some R-13 to fit and taped it into place. Then I took some black 6-mil plastic and made a fitted cover that I could drop over the box to keep the insulation dry, catch some solar heat and mainly block the wind. I didn't make it super tight, but I am pleased at how it came out. Looks like something you would buy. I'll take some pics tomorrow.

I've heard several say to not wrap your hives with plastic. What is the consensus on this? I don't normally do it on my regular sized hives, but this one seemed to need all the help it could get.

I've heard some say they have never gotten a nuc to survive winter and others say it's no big deal.

Any thoughts?

-Tony
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
One more thing - When I went back to make the plastic cover, several bees came out of the nuc and buzzed me. It was maybe an hour after insulating. Not sure if the insulation was helping that quickly, but it was good to see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thanks, Harry. Good information. It was definitely the right move, insulating that nuc colony. The rain fly seems okay, too, since it doesn't go all the way to the bottom. I wish I'd gotten it moved to a regular box, as they were 3 boxes high (15 frames), but hopefully, they will do okay as-is. I'll move them once the weather breaks, as long as they survive.

Here is a pic of the insulation and wrap:
Wood Gas Waste container Trunk Automotive exterior
 

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I've never had moisture problems in full size hives, but the same configuration in Nucs ie 3 boxes I have had moisture problems and had to put a box on top full of absorbent material. Your much warmer than here you may be ok?
 

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Is your nuc pushed up against your big colonies? If not, it should be so they can block the wind and help share the heat on one side. In coastal Virginia, we can overwinter healthy nucs without any issue. Our biggest "problem" is keeping the feed on them since we have such warm winters and they break cluster almost daily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I haven't had moisture problems, but this is my first time actually using a plastic cover over the insulation. Will be watching that closely.

It is between bigger hives, yes. But with the telescopic lids, I can't really push them tightly together.

Ruthie, you are always warmer down there than here in sight of the mountains, but we get warm winter days, too.
Last winter, I did open feeding on warm days, and it was very successful. Maybe too successful, as I had swarm cells starting in early March, while we were still getting snow and ice. Still trying to figure out a balance point.
 

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But with the telescopic lids, I can't really push them tightly together.
You could probably use foam board to work around the tele lids, like this:



Photo linked from here:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ruthie,
I have a simple fondant recipe I was thinking of trying this winter.

I've never given sugar bricks, but I gave granulated sugar my first winter. (2 hives) I thought they were eating it, but it turned out they were just hauling it out of the hives. (Little ingrates!) I then tried pollen/sugar patty on the top bars, and the bees ignored it, but the beetles dove right into it, filling it with maggots. No more patties for me! I guess the bees just didn't need any feeding.

So my 2nd winter, last winter, (4 hives) my hives felt a bit light, so I open fed dry pollen sub and syrup in Feb and March, and that worked well, as stated above. All of my hives have survived the winters so far, but I've got 8 hives now, so we will see if that trend continues.


Radar,
That is exactly what I did the first year, and it worked pretty well. Last year, I added R-13 batt insulation to some of the hives, and it worked just as well. So this year, I'm using both. I guess the main thing is to help them conserve energy by holding in some of the heat they produce longer.


Tomorrow night is supposed to drop into the teens, by far the coldest temps this year. Tomorrow afternoon, I'm going to pull any syrup jars left and wrap the rest of the hives.
 

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@thill Try not to overthink it much in your area (IMO)...I have some 5 frame nucs under a couple of feet of snow.No Insulation.Jar feeders in place still..20 mile an hour winds...No they won't make winter like that?..
I'm gonna (help)them when I can..
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Wow, that is food for thought. You must be somewhere near lake-effect snow, or out west?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wow, that IS food for thought. You get a lot colder than we do up there.
Stay safe in the snow!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Tomorrow night is supposed to be in the teens, with 20 mph winds, wind chill into the single digits.
This is what I did for the nuc- wrapped in R-13 with a black fitted wrap:
Wood Gas Waste container Trunk Automotive exterior
 

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5f nucs are my favorite method to winter. I've never gone 3 deep with them but 1 deep + a feeder shim is the best wintering setup imho. 2 deep is good if the top is all honey but I think 1 is better. I push all my boxes together and put a sheet of insulation on the top the whole row. It keeps the rain & snow off plus helps them regulate heat.

Warmer is not necessarily better.

I believe the 5f setup works so good because it is less space for them to temperature regulate and with sugar on top they are always in contact with food.

I'm north of you in 6a. My nucs explode with growth in spring compared to full size colonies. Also, if you use fondant put wax paper under. I tried fondant a few years back and didn't know about wax paper. It melted down the frames and smothered the clusters. Sugar bricks for me.
 

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If you want a real eye-opener, try this:
Get your 5F nucs up to wintering weight and weigh them.
Go out and weigh them periodically through the winter and early spring months.
I send our nucs into winter at around 48 lbs.
You will find that their food consumption goes down to nearly nothing during the winter and skyrockets in late winter / early spring.
Try it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Steve,
Thanks for sharing your experiences with overwintering a nuc. That makes me worry a lot less. It's a great little colony that I want to keep going. We got a little frost, and that box completely shut down, so I got concerned and went ahead and wrapped it. Today was back around 60, and they are just as busy as the others.

This was my first year growing nucs, and the 5F nucs definitely outgrew the splits that I started in bigger boxes. I'm definitely going to be making more nuc boxes for spring.

Harry,
I absolutely believe you, based on the growth rate of the nucs. I don't know what that box weighs, but it's very heavy. They filled up a 5F deep and TWO 5F mediums as a late split. Once I fed them syrup for winter weight, that box feels like lead. If I get time, maybe I'll see if I can wrestle it up onto a bathroom scale, but that sounds like a project for next year. Thanks for that info, though. The more I read, the better rounded my knowledge becomes.
 
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