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Wintering Nuc Update

We had a few hours of sun today, before the drenching arms of Issac came through and it allowed me to check my Overwintered Nucs. I started 11 for this Winter, hoping to have 8 take (strong, laying queens) and 6 make it to next Spring. One had actually perished a couple of weeks ago (I have already combined it with another Nuc.) This one started getting robbed about 4 days after I created it. Since it was nestled among 4 others, I was worried the robbing would spread, but it didn’t. I even moved the thing and gave it another frame of brood/eggs from a donor hive, only to have robbing start up again. Experiences like these indicate to me that there is some kind of a ‘scent’ issue (the Nuc simply advertises that it is weak and available for robbing.) There are many possibilities – too many for me to touch on in this post. Regardless, I was down to 10 before I even got started! What irks me the MOST is that I tried to save it, even though I know better. It seems that some habits die hard and I am simply going to throw good bees after bad, every year, regardless of my experiences.

On a more positive note, all of the remaining 10 had a laying queen as of today. Of those 10, only 2 were slight laggards. I do not judge a queen by this measure, as a lot of a queen’s laying hinges on the resources available and coming in. These two Nucs may not have had the resources available to them to really lay. But, I start feeding my Wintering Nucs on Sep 1, so they all received two mason jars in an empty hive body on top. Depending on how the Nucs were set-up, I have differing strategies now.

Four of my wintering Nucs came from one hive that I broke down. This was my absolute nastiest, meanest hive. They could handle anything mother nature threw at them, didn’t like to swarm and could put honey away like nobody’s business. But, the second I opened this hive up (with or without smoke, morning, noon or afternoon), they would literally come pouring out of the thing! I never kept track, but I am willing to bet that if you counted up ALL of the stings I have taken from my hives, this hive accounted for over 50% of the total… They were so mean that I never could find the queen when I wanted to re-queen them (I typically do this in May, for an established hive). It’s hard to find a wiley little wench when all of her sisters are jabbing you from all corners! So, I chose this hive to create my wintering nucs from. As a side tale, I never found the queen IN the hive when I broke them apart. I actually found her afterwards, on the ground in a ball of bees, outside of the entrance to the hive. I wonder if she always jumped off the frame when I came looking. At any rate, she lost a head by my hive tool on that day.

But, back to the point, since these wintering Nucs came from an established hive, they actually started with a two Nuc body setup and with a decent amount of stored honey already there. My main goal with these hives is to see them cap off the upper Nuc. Based on my (limited) experience, this is will be a slam dunk for these hives. They’ll be set before the end of September and I probably will not check them again until January.

The other 6 Nucs are in single, deep bodies. I have the same goal for this group that I had for the ones previously mentioned – get a second hive body of capped honey on top of them! I plan to do a little experimenting here, dividing the group into 3 sets of 2.

Set 1 will receive my typical strategy. They will include 2 strong Nucs that will get 2 mason jars today to get them in the ‘nectar consumption’ mode. Once they finish these jars (I’ll check all Nuc feeders every other day or so), I’ll drop a second Nuc body on them with 3 or more drawn frames and one or two frames with foundation. I’ll continue to feed them my normal syrup setup until they draw/cap the entire upper Nuc body or until the end of October.

Set 2 will receive a revised strategy. They will be treated like Set 1, but receive all foundation for the upper Nuc. I am interested to see how much wax a Nuc will draw in September. These Nucs will receive Medium upper Nucs, as I can drop capped frames from some of my Bank supers on mature hives in late October, if this experiment fails.

Set 3 includes my laggard queens. My goal here is really to simply get them to fill out a single, deep Nuc. They are starting with all drawn wax, but they will have an uphill battle (at least I think they will) because of the low number of bees. I doubt they can get a really good nurse bee set until the end of September. They simply do not have a lot of bees to build up a good Winter cluster. I could ‘rescue’ these bees with a frame of capped brood from my mature hives, but I’d like to see them make a go of it. This is really a ‘resources’ experiment for me. I am trying to find the bare minimum that I need for a good success rate for wintering Nucs. These Nucs will receive a bit more attention from me, mainly because I don’t want to open them up in the Spring and find some pest has destroyed the frames. I may also give them some capped frames later on, depending on what I see (if I open them up and find a golf ball-sized cluster, I will not be trying to save them!)

 

 

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