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

The Back of the strong hive; Front of the nucleus : standard set up

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

hive collar height differences

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

Laying in the news paper

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

cutting the holes

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

adding the second excluder

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.

That’s the news

About brookfieldfarmhoney

Brookfield Farm, a small off-grid apiary in Maple Falls, WA focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness. I sell honey from our bees, whose naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives are home to bees who fly Washington’s mountains and farmlands. Herbal salves and lip balms from Brookfield beeswax. Delicately infused honeys and vinegars. Varietal honeys from independent Washington beekeepers. Karen Edmundson Bean: beekeeper, photographer. Her love of the wilderness inspires her to discover new ways of bringing the wonders of nature to others. Brookfield Farm : the tastes, textures, sounds, and images of nature.
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1 Response to Preparing Bees For Winter Part 3: Nucleus Hives in Winter

  1. Karen, what is your approach to overwintering nucs these days? That is one skill I must develop!

    And BTW the riveting discussion of generating cash flow to the apiary is just that…riveting! I need my bees to at least mostly pay for themselves, and it is honey and bee sales that make that possible. Last year I realized I had to get serious about generating a list of honey customers I could depend on, planning to contact them all once the honey is in every year and hope to sell my crop more quickly than I do now. Plus as of 2018 I will be selling spring nucs, with a mental note to generate a contact/customer list for that as well. The local beekeeper can’t keep beekeeping without some form of apiary generated income. Between paint, new equipment to replace the old, medications and feed, there are substantial costs even if you make all your own bees.

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