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Discussion Starter #1
I recently split a hive, and added a purchased queen to the split. In the meantime, they raised 5 or 6 small sized emergency queen cells and have capped them. Not the best looking queen cells but who knows?

The new cells should hatch around Wednesday, and I don't have many bees to donate to the new splits, so I was thinking of making some very very small nuc boxes, maybe 8x8x8 with miniature popsicle stick sized frames with some pieces of comb wired in, cutting out the queen cells, shaking in some nurse bees, and sticking them in various places around the yard to hopefully mate. Probably with a single 3/8 entrance hole to keep the robbers from getting in.

Will it work? Can a super miniature hive survive? How small can I go?

If nobody has done this before i'm going to call this new sport "bonzai beekeeping"
 

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They do sell Styrofoam mini mating nucs that only have 3 small 4" frames and a feeder in them. Just like what you are describing. Other people say you can do a queen castle with 2 standard frames. The 4 entrances are on all 4 sides of the box. Definitely have to feed somehow, but entirely do-able. I have also seen some crazy setups with a 6" or 8" plastic flower pot with a board across the top. Bees build free-form comb on that board and there is a small hole in the side of the flower pot. Shake in 2 cups of bees and somehow hang the queen cell inside.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So i've seen the mating nucs, but decided to go even smaller, appx 6x6x8.

I'm planning on cutting out the sections of comb with the queen cells a day or so before they hatch, and hanging each cell from the chopsticks with some paper clips, string, rubber bands, along with a strip of comb on each bar so the bees know what to do. Need to make some mini feeders, maybe some drink bottles with holes in the top.

Once I get a laying queen, i'll just cut the box apart, and wire the comb into some langstroth frames. That's the idea at least, but we all know that bees will do whatever they want.

nuc1.jpg
nuc2.jpg
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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> Can a super miniature hive survive? How small can I go?

I am a firm believer in strong splits. I think it's an interesting question, but not the right question when trying to make increase. I can reliably start colonies in a two frame nuc with one medium depth frame of brood and one of honey and one frame of brood shaken in. They will build up over time, but not very quickly.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
> Can a super miniature hive survive? How small can I go?

I am a firm believer in strong splits. I think it's an interesting question, but not the right question when trying to make increase. I can reliably start colonies in a two frame nuc with one medium depth frame of brood and one of honey and one frame of brood shaken in. They will build up over time, but not very quickly.
I totally agree, and I'm not really trying to increase right now. Already maxed out on splits and spread as thin as I dare in my main hives, my bees are very swarmy. But I needed to get these queen cells out of the original hive as I have a nice laying marked queen, so I figured i'd experiment a bit. In a month or so I should have a lot more available bees, so if these guys survive until then I should be able to give them a boost of workers.
 

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I think that's a super interesting idea. I've seen some of those mini-nucs that queens supposedly emerge, mate, and begin laying in. I have a hive that may be starting to build some emergency cells from some feral eggs that I added. If they make a huge number of cells I might try something like this with a very small box. If nothing else it's a small number of bees lost and an "fun" experiment that at worst leads you to shake out a couple cups of bees to find their way into another hive.
 

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They do sell Styrofoam mini mating nucs that only have 3 small 4" frames and a feeder in them. Just like what you are describing. Other people say you can do a queen castle with 2 standard frames. The 4 entrances are on all 4 sides of the box. Definitely have to feed somehow, but entirely do-able. I have also seen some crazy setups with a 6" or 8" plastic flower pot with a board across the top. Bees build free-form comb on that board and there is a small hole in the side of the flower pot. Shake in 2 cups of bees and somehow hang the queen cell inside.
I like those 3 frame styro nucs. Quick to set up and very easy to find queens. If you don't find her in about 10 seconds, just dump all the bees on the ground and she'll show herself.
 

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I have several mini mating Nucs that I have made similar to what you describe. I have had a little sucess getting comb built and keeping the bees in them. They worked best by using a queen cell vs a virgin. But 1 or 2 out of 10 was my sucess rate. I would be willing to give you a few boxes if you can figure it out and let be know how to do it. I live about 70 miles from San Mateo. I also have 20 queen cells that will emerge about the same time as yours if you would like to use them.
 

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That seems like a lot of effort. If you are doing it "for fun" that's fine of course. If you are doing it to mate/raise queens I personally no longer buy queens from breeders that mate queens in these. There is no way to judge the quality of a queen in those mini nucs. Most breeders check these nucs and if there are eggs they sell the queen. Everyone knows there is a huge problem with commercial queens and I, for one, feel a large part of this is the fact that there are gobs of poor queens being sold.
If I had your situation I would destroy those cells and build on what you have. Everyone wants more bees/hives etc. There is a huge problem when the concentration on this slims down strong colonies IMO. Rushing your hive numbers is a mistake. M Bush and I are huge proponents of 5 frame nucs. imo having a nuc for every two hives is a minimum but they have to be built using conservative growth principles. Nucs are so underrated and they take nothing away from honey production when an aviary is geared toward keeping them.
Good luck
 

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Yes big splits are best. But one can make 12 to 15 mini nucs from 5 frames of bees. Use them for mating queens not for making little hives. Then when you make your splits you can have mated queens. Both work but I like having large mated queens on my splits so that there is no coming back and fixing the duds.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Ok I changed my mind a third time on what to do with this frame. Since I keep my hives in a horizontal langstroth, I made one of the hives 16 frames wide, with a divider in the middle with two entrances, like a queen castle, and checkerboarded the frames.

Sitting over the middle spanning both "hives" is a queen excluder. On top of the queen excluder, some honey supers. On one side I have the existing queen, on the other side the queen cells.

So in theory, the queens can't get to each other, but the workers can move from hive to hive. Like a double queen hive, except both queens are on the bottom. So I shouldn't lose any production while this queen mates. The only problem I can see would be if the virgin queen returns to the wrong entrance after her mating flight, but i'm doubtful that would happen.

I'm going to make some cages for the new queens to hatch into, as opposed to trying to cut out pieces of comb with queen cells, so I can evaluate the health of the different queens before letting them kill each other. Also a lot of the queen cells are in close proximity so i'm doubtful I can cut them out cleanly.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
So I checked out the split on monday, and one of the queen cells had hatched a shrimpy worker sized queen. I also noticed that the workers preferred the original entrance and had left the new entrance unguarded, and weren't really making the journey up through the excluder and back down again, and that I had a bunch of new worker bees that hatched out from my last split, so I stuck some of those worker frames with the new queen and separated the hives.

I'm going to check again on the 14th and see what happened.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I was away for the weekend, came back and noticed very little activity in the new split.

Only a handful of bees left, found the queen dead on the floor of the hive. One of her wings looks damaged.

Not really sure what happened so I combined them with another hive.
 

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Challenger: "M Bush and I are huge proponents of 5 frame nucs".- Seems you just told us you did 8-10 3 frame mating nucs in another thread. Seems to be a little misunderstanding... But good luck,
 

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>Challenger: "M Bush and I are huge proponents of 5 frame nucs"

Not sure of the context, but I use two frame (standard medium frames) nucs for my mating nucs. For increase I like 16 medium frames of bees, brood and honey and then add another 16 empty combs for them to expand into. In deeps this would be 10 deep frames of bees, brood and honey and 10 deep frames for them to expand into.
 
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