Every Beekeeper should Start with 2 & 1/2 Hives?
en I was the Missouri Ho
ney Ambassador, I got to travel a lot around the state promoting beekeeping. A gentleman named Gregg Hitchings was teaching a class and he said, “Every beekeeper should start with two and a half hives.” When I heard that, my attention was piqued because I'd been around beekeeping a long time, but I’d never heard anyone say such a thing. As I paused and considered that statement, I began to realize all of the benefits there are to the beekeeper who keeps a few nucs in his/her apiary. If one of your hives goes queenless, you have another queen ready to go and you don’t lose any ground. If you wait for your colony to re-queen itself, that takes at least a month and the population will drop such that you won’t get any surplus honey for that year. If you don’t want to re-queen a hive, but it’s a little weak, you can transfer a few frames from the nuc into the weak hive and boost the population of that hive. Swarm Control. When a hive is ready to swarm, move the old queen to a nuc, or take frames of bees and swarm cells and move them
to a nuc. You can re-queen at times of the year when queens are not normally available for purchase. Now some beekeepers come to the point where they don’t want anymore hives. What are you supposed to do with these nucs? Well, I like to let these nucs grow and then combine them with production hives just before the honey flow, usually keeping the newest queen. Sometimes I overwinter bees in
nucs or singles and in the spring sell them to other beekeepers. Another thing I like to use nucs for is comb building and comb rotation. Drawn frames of comb are like gold in any beekeeping operation, and you can never have enough of them! What I like to do is make my nucs up with old comb that needs to be removed from the hive. While the nucs are growing and the queen is on mating flights, usually at least one frame will become empty and I can remove it and place a frame of foundation in its place. I also slowly move older frames to the outside, and once they are empty or filled with honey, I remove them and replace them with a foundation frame. Another way, which can be more challenging, is to make the nuc up with only a couple frames of comb and a couple frames of foundation. As the foundation gets drawn, replace it with fresh foundation and move that new comb to a different colony to replace old comb. If you’re running all deeps o
r all mediums you can use that new comb for honey. Switching frames between hives is okay within the same apiary, but remember that anytime you’re moving frames, you could also be moving pests and diseases from hive to hive. Personally, I prefer wooden Nuc boxes. I like
the wooden boxes because I can stack multiple boxes together to make two or three story
nucs. Or, if I’m overwintering nucs, I can put them right next to each other with the sides
touching, that way they will share heat through the common walls. I’ve had good luck
overwintering with 5 frames over 5 frames and havi
ng an extra box handy if I would need to
feed sugar. Coming out of winter I like to use nucs to fill deadouts, expand my honey production hives, sell as an overwintered nuc, or just sell the queen. Michael Palmer takes a deep box with a divider and then adds two four frame nuc boxes on top to have two nucs in one set up. While I like this method and have some boxes set this way. I find that just having wooden nuc boxes is more versatile. Also, the newer Pro Nuc boxes can be handy. I have a couple dozen that I like to use when I am first ma
king splits and moving nucs to different yards. The only downside to these nucs is the feeder options. Currently I use frame feeders in them. The bottle feeder feature is handy, but I don’t like cutting the holes in the covers, and I have one yard where coons like to pull the bottles off of the nucs. They are great for short periods of time when you plan on transferring the nucs into singles or selling them, but overall, in my opinion, the classic 5 frame nuc box is hard to beat. Like always, feel free to email me questions email@example.com or text/call (816) 654-5287.
Start of Sunny Day Beekeeping back in 2014.