Preparing Bees For Winter Part 3: Nucleus Hives in Winter

My nucs are given the same 3 weeks of feed and are treated for mites, just like the strong hives.  But after that, their lives take a different turn.

Reminder: I prep the hives for winter starting in the third week of September (following harvest in the second week).  I just don’t have time to write it all up then, thus what follows occurred from Mid-September to Mid-October.

Overwinter Nucs: 

The nucleus hive front entrance on a Winter Hive Separator set up at Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

If the nucs are strong, I place them on top of a stronger hive using a solid divider.  The divider has an accessible space above the stronger hive where I can put fondant if the winter stretches longer than usual.  This system provides underfloor heating for the nuc.  There’s more about this system on last year’s blog. 

This Year’s Nuc Experiment:

I’m trying something new this year with 2 small nucs. I have placed them on stronger hives, but instead of a solid divider there are two queen excluders, which are separated by a wooden collar, which is not as tall as the ones I normally use.

A standard bee hive collar and smaller collar compared : at Brookfield Farm Bees And HOney, Maple Falls, WA 2012

This should, in concept, allow the nuc to not only get heat, but also access the stores of the lower, stronger hive.  Neither nuc would make a large impact on the strong hive’s stores.

When they were first placed together, a piece of newspaper was inserted below the lower queen excluder.

Preparing the 2012 over wintering nucleus hive experiment at Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

Then cuts were made in the newspaper through the excluder.  This will, hopefully, allow a more gentle combination of the hives.  The newspaper would be removed one week later.

Over wintering nucs experiment: cutting holes in news paper at Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

A collar, with entrance holes, was placed on top of the first queen excluder.  The second queen excluder was placed on top of the collar. The nuc was set on top of all of this, with burlap and insulation on its top bars.

Second queen excluder positioning : part of a photo series of over wintering nucs at Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

The idea was to wait a week and remove the newspaper on a warm day.  I had to wait a bit more than a week, as, in the tradition of this area, a storm moved in for two weeks.   But in the end, the set up was (reading from top to bottom):

Insulated collar (with entrance)
Nuc’s honey
Nuc’s brood and pollen
Queen Excluder
Collar with entrance
Queen Excluder
Stronger hive – four boxes tall
Screened bottom
Concrete Blocks

What will happen?  I’ve no idea.  I have had 2 queens run in the same hive in summer separated by boxes of honey.  In this case the strong hive / nuc combination would be separated by two components:

1) Physical space bounded by 2 queen excluders, so the queens could never touch each other.

2) Until spring, 2 full boxes of honey on the stronger hive would act as a barrier to the queens meeting.

I’ll write up the results of the experiment in the spring.

What’s happening now: Just finished sealing the floor of the honey shed. Doing some shameless self-promo for an upcoming talk. Working on expanding my wholesale market. Riveting isn’t it?  So much more interesting to talk about beekeeping.  And yes, we’re into our third week of rain (we did have one nice day, yesterday, the pack goats, retired goats and I loved getting out and about for a bit in the dry).

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey in Maple Falls, Washington.  I’d be very interested in hearing about how you over winter nucs.  I’m always looking for new ideas.

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