Preparing for Nucs at a 700 Colony Operation

I’ve been helping a friend get ready for the arrival of new queens for nucs.  This is always “work under deadline” for all beekeepers, but this friend, Bruce Bowen of Bruce Bowen’s Bees in Mt. Vernon, Washington, has over 700 hives.  The new nucs will increase that number by a few hundred.

The new arrivals mean a lot of prep work.  New pallets had to be made – I did not join in on that.  Bruce, like most large-scale beekeepers, keeps four hives on each pallet.  My endeavors centered upon sorting out a frame order that had gone bad.

Beehive foundation frames and deep bee boxes on pallets & packaging

Stacked foundation frames, deeps (bee boxes), & discarded packaging

Bruce uses prebuilt frames with waxed plastic foundations.  The idea being that one can go straight out of the box and into the hives.  Only there was a slight problem in the manufacturing and no one caught it until the frames arrived at Bruce’s apiary.  Some of the frames had been stapled incorrectly.  Every frame had to be looked over.  There were about  3000 frames.

It was a nice way to help out. The location we were working out of is in open farmland. The sun was out.  Birds were singing.  I watched two bald eagles either squabbling or mating – sometimes it hard to tell the difference.  And, after two days, the good frames were sorted from the bad.

Beehive foundation in foerground as Bruce Bowen moves bee boxes to be filled

Bruce moves in empty boxes to be filled with foundation.

Then it was on to creating the nucs.  Bruce works in deeps.  Into each deep went: one feeder, one frame of honey, 4 frames of drawn (or nearly drawn) comb, and 3 frames of foundation.  These were the foundation frames that I had sorted out.

When the hives go out to the fields, the three foundation frames will be pulled out.  3 frames of brood and nurse bees from a parent hive will be put in their place.  Then the foundation frames will go into the parent hive.  Pretty much what all beekeepers do to create nucs.  Only there’s going to be a lot of new nucs for Bruce Bowen Bee’s.

A few of Bruce Bowen's honeybee boxes, soon to be supers and nucs

A few of Bruce's bee boxes soon to become nucs & honey supers

It’s always interesting working with other beekeepers as each of us has our own way of beekeeping.  I’d say Bruce and I agree on little about beekeeping, except that the bees’ health is of utmost importance.  Of course how we achive this differs.  I don’t use miticides or antibiotics.  Bruce uses both, but is exploring new options. My bees have a 1/8th inch wire mesh screen for a “floor”.  Solid wood forms the base of Bruce’s pallets.

The differences and similarities in our styles of beekeeping are reflections of our own personalities.  They reinforce the concept that beekeeping is both local and personal, which is one of it’s enduring charms and an endless source of fascination.

To experience part of running hundreds of hives is, for me,  a glimpse into a part of beekeeping that I respect, but do not wish to emulate.  700 plus hives is not in my future, but it is an interesting world to visit.

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