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I have a double deep nuc that seems to be struggling. Two and a half to three frame cluster. I am wondering do I intervene and help them or let them tough it out.

First a bit of history:

1. I have never overwintered a nuc, so this is a test, I currently have two double deep nucs. One that is strong, and one I mentioned above.

2. There is one major difference between the two nucs, the stronger one has a solid bottom board, and the weaker, a screened bottom board.

3. The weaker hive started the winter with a solid bottom board, but very early, this hive struggled with moisture. When I say struggled, I mean, I made a quilt box for them, and after a week I went back and checked, and the chips in the quilt box were dripping water, so I removed the quilt box and solid bottom board. Now no moisture problem.

4. From time to time, on warm days, I will pop the lid of the nuc to see how they are doing, they have two large chunks of sugar blocks they were given, and on warmer days, they are up there eating away.

Should I swap the bottom board back to solid bottom boards, or let this nuc be and see if they can survive? Is there anything I should be doing to help them out?

I am in our 5th winter, successfully overwintering 3 of the 4 winters previous (the one year we lost the bees, it was in the fall, because of a personal medical reason.) We have yet to lose a hive in winter as long as they have made it to winter.

I think the issue I may have is the size of the cluster, usually we have overwintered with triple deep or double deep and a super or two into winter, those are some large hives, lol.

Talk me off the edge and tell me to leave the bees alone ;)
 

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did you drill holes in the side of the quilt box? strange that the chips would be soaked. But sounds like its doing its job. Do you clear the bottom entrance? I'd put the bottom on to help them keep warm and figure out why the QB isnt working.
 

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did you drill holes in the side of the quilt box? strange that the chips would be soaked. But sounds like its doing its job. Do you clear the bottom entrance? I'd put the bottom on to help them keep warm and figure out why the QB isnt working.
It did have holes - I have never had a hive with moisture like that before, it was nuts, I was thinking of putting a shim with a vent ontop and go to a bottom board instead?
 

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It did have holes - I have never had a hive with moisture like that before, it was nuts, I was thinking of putting a shim with a vent ontop and go to a bottom board instead?
I had an issue with a nuc before like this using a quilt box. I had holes in the sides and pushed them together. The result was the middle one didnt have any crosswind and it was therefore wet. Since then i make holes on all sides of the quilt box. I also make the bottom of the material inside of the qb a few inches up from the bottom of the wood bottom. I drill a half inch hole in the front angled up for a winter entrance and ventilation. this space also allows putting sugar cakes without the need for a shim
 

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Get rid of the screened bottom board. The bees will continue to struggle with it in place. A mid level or top entrance will help with the moisture. Did you feed syrup late? I guess in my dry climate I cannot relate to those living in humid areas. My 1" entrance bored in the upper brood box right below the handhold is all the entrance required to keep my colonies dry. Bees chose a cavity with one smallish entrance and seem to ventilate flippin gas tanks under trucks in the deep south without screened bottom boards. Sitting back and hoping is not beekeeping.
 

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Talk me off the edge and tell me to leave the bees alone ;)
Okay. Leave the bees alone..

You seem to have solved the moisture issue. One thing I've found important...an upper entrance. I use a 3/4 auger hole, 3 fingers below the top of the top box.

There's nothing you can do about cluster size. It is what it is. I've had some awfully small clusters make it through my winter. Surely less than a three frame cluster.

How did I do? :)
 

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Second the motion, leave the bees alone. I am in Richmond and my weather is similar to yours. I have 5 of my 9 nucs overwintering with around three frames of bees in single deeps on SBB with the plastic inserts in place. No quilt boxes and no moisture issues. Keep them well fed and you should be fine. Our Spring is just around the corner and your bees should already be brooding up.
 

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We have one NUC on the front porch in three medium five frame boxes and Alison has left it alone other than checking on food two weeks ago on a particularly warm day when she was also checking the full colonies for the same. They were mildly active yesterday when it hit 58ºF so they are handling the winter so far, including the "deep freeze" we had on Monday when it was a balmy 7ºF with a minus 13ºF wind chill. I agree with the pros that have commented...let them, um...bee... :)
 

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I think the quilt box either had rain or snow entering it near the top of the box for it to be dripping wet in only one week. A leaking or bad sealing cover might be the cause, but I'll bet it was windblown rain or snow that came in through the ventilation holes above the chips. You got rid of the quilt box and the excess moisture issue stopped. Coincidence or not?


3. The weaker hive started the winter with a solid bottom board, but very early, this hive struggled with moisture. When I say struggled, I mean, I made a quilt box for them, and after a week I went back and checked, and the chips in the quilt box were dripping water, so I removed the quilt box and solid bottom board. Now no moisture problem.
 

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I have a double deep nuc that seems to be struggling. Two and a half to three frame cluster. I am wondering do I intervene and help them or let them tough it out.

First a bit of history:

1. I have never overwintered a nuc, so this is a test, I currently have two double deep nucs. One that is strong, and one I mentioned above.

2. There is one major difference between the two nucs, the stronger one has a solid bottom board, and the weaker, a screened bottom board.

3. The weaker hive started the winter with a solid bottom board, but very early, this hive struggled with moisture. When I say struggled, I mean, I made a quilt box for them, and after a week I went back and checked, and the chips in the quilt box were dripping water, so I removed the quilt box and solid bottom board. Now no moisture problem.

4. From time to time, on warm days, I will pop the lid of the nuc to see how they are doing, they have two large chunks of sugar blocks they were given, and on warmer days, they are up there eating away.

Should I swap the bottom board back to solid bottom boards, or let this nuc be and see if they can survive? Is there anything I should be doing to help them out?

I am in our 5th winter, successfully overwintering 3 of the 4 winters previous (the one year we lost the bees, it was in the fall, because of a personal medical reason.) We have yet to lose a hive in winter as long as they have made it to winter.

I think the issue I may have is the size of the cluster, usually we have overwintered with triple deep or double deep and a super or two into winter, those are some large hives, lol.

Talk me off the edge and tell me to leave the bees alone ;)
1. If there are only 2 1/2 to 3 frames of bees in this double deep nuc, I recommend that on the first half way warm day to open the nuc and determine what if anything is in the upper box. If it is possible, remove any frames of honey/pollen in the upper box while at the same time removing any empty frames in the lower box. If you can swing it, compact all of the frames with either bee or food resources into the lower box and remove the upper box to condense internal hive space. This will cut by 50% the amount of space the cluster must occupy and maintain livable conditions in.

2. If you have a solid bottom board ready to go, swap it under this nuc or at minimum install the plastic corrugated sheet to cut off as much draft as possible.

3. A quick and easy although not always the best solution to moisture is to install and Imirie Shim with a small 3/4 inch notched opening in it to allow water vapor to escape and provide an upper entrance. You can substantially reduce condensation of water vapor by insulating the top of the hive so the water vapor does not have a really cold surface to condense on. I cut a piece of 1.5" thick polyisocyanurate foam insulation board that is a perfect fit INSIDE a nuc brood box. You can place this directly against the inner cover or what I do is place a 3 hole sugar syrup feeder box that is built out of a medium (or you can use a deep) brood box and I place 2 half gallon sugar syrup feeder jars with the hole punched lids in 2 of the holes and leave the third hole open for ventilation. I place another empty deep nuc brood box on top of the feeder box and then install 2 or 3 layers of the foam insulation board. This accomplished a couple of things. It mitigates thermal energy loss through the top of the hive SUBSTANTIALLY and it also serves to keep the sugar syrup jars from becoming so cold the bees will not take the sugar syrup, and it helps to maximize the inner top cover area temperature to reduce the amount of condensed water vapor. See the attached photo of the insulation board.

4. Sugar blocks work too but see if you can find a way to put them in the hive under the layers of foam insulation board.

I have also attached some thermal images of my current over Wintering nucs that are also insulated on the outside as well as how I have described above. You can see in the dark areas where thermal energy loss is at a minimum. The bright lit areas in these images are the boxes that contain the sugar syrup feeders that ARE radiating thermal energy but above that area is much darker and where the foam insulation boards are stacked inside the empty nuc box on top of the feeder box which shows very little thermal energy loss.

I have Broodminder kits installed in a number of my hives which help me to see the effects and benefits of the insulation. In my opinion, the best benefit from the insulation is that it stabilizes or at minimum dampens out the wide temperature swings Tennessee is experiencing right now. Even a stable temperature of 50 - 60 degrees which is 20 - 40 degrees warmer than ambient temperature is far and away MUCH less stress on the over Wintering nuc cluster. At these temperatures the bees can still break out of the cluster to obtain honey, pollen, bee bread to sustain the cluster whereas with much colder internal hive temperatures the bees will refuse or are unable to break cluster to feed and can starve to death less than a 1/4 " from honey stores.
 

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Okay. Leave the bees alone..

You seem to have solved the moisture issue. One thing I've found important...an upper entrance. I use a 3/4 auger hole, 3 fingers below the top of the top box.

There's nothing you can do about cluster size. It is what it is. I've had some awfully small clusters make it through my winter. Surely less than a three frame cluster.

How did I do? :)
Ive had ( i think) a similar issue with my MP Overwintering nucs ( OWNs)
I had 11 going into winter and 15 larger full size colonies
The 1 nuc that was on its own died out early in the winter.
I went in yesterday to give winter patties and i think that 3 more of the OWNs are dead. They may be in the bottom box still i didnt do an inspection just quickly cracked up the quilt box and put the patties on top of the top box frames.

Im wondering if next year they need to be 3 or even 4 boxes tall rather than two?

All 15 of the larger colonies are rocking along.
 

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wondering if next year they need to be 3 or even 4 boxes tall rather than two?
Yep, some do. Depends on when they were made up. I find any made before July 4 will need 3 boxes. They'll be built up strong by goldenrod, and will swarm if not given more room. I insert a box of comb, or a mix of comb and foundation...between the top and bottom box. I've had these early made nucs need a 4th. Often get a box of honey from these. Nucs made up after the 4th might need more room, depending on buildup and flow. You have to keep on top of them.

So do you think the dead nucs swarmed? I've found that if they swarm, even if they raise a new queen, they don't winter well.
 

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I had some similar issues. I used dry sugar on top of a hive putting news paper under it directly on top of the top bars. The Newspaper I simply put under the shim and it wicked moisture in and the sugar was soaked. I lost a couple strong hives this way. Wet drippy sugar isn't good for the bees. As was stated this could have happened with your hive.

Also I would totally agree with MP in that I'd leave them alone. I would close the SBB and if there isn't any upper ventilation an 1/8" shim on 2 corners of one side will give you plenty of ventilation and not too much with this cold weather we're having. I also wouldn't move all of the frames around as was suggested. I've messed with a hive I thought was suffering only to really help them to suffer and die within about 2 weeks. They are clustered. Put dry sugar or some kind of sugar patty above them and let them go.

Lastly depending upon your breed they may keep smaller clusters. I had one nuc that I started late in the summer that I didn't have enough frames to get them up to 5 frames. They had 3.5 frames drawn at the time of overwintering. I fed them as much as I could, put dry sugar on top, wrapped them in black tar paper, snuggled them next to another hive so that the bottom and one side was covered, put a 3/4" foam insulation board on top and let them go. They came out in the spring a very strong nuc however when I was feeding them and when they stopped taking the sugar the cluster I couldn't see under the feed jar. I invert a qt jar inside of an empty box on top of the hive. I put it directly on the top bars and the cluster was under a jar that was only about 5" in diameter. That's what I started with and they did great.

IMO if they're still kicking with this cold we're having now then they should be good to go.
 
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