From the polystyrene nucleus hives (polynucs) I’ve seen, owned or butchered, the Everynuc sold by Thorne’s is the one I like. They have a separate OMF floor and Varroa tray, are simple to paint and are made of dense, robust and thick (i.e. well-insulating) polystyrene. The entrance is a gaping maw, but that may be easily fixed with some wire mesh pinned set up. The beespace can also be a concern because of the compromises created to accommodate both long-lugged National and short-lugged Langstroth frames, however this could be fixed easily and cheaply (though it’s a bit irritating having to ‘fix’ a box which costs almost £50 ?? ).
Colonies overwintered during these boxes did well and were generally at the very least pretty much as good, and sometimes better, than my colonies in cedar hives†. Although I’ve also purchased a few of the Miller-type feeders it’s actually much easier to prise up one end of the crownboard and just drop fondant – or pour syrup – in to the integral feeder in the brood box. Checking the remaining fondant/syrup levels takes seconds from the clear flexible crownboard and barely disturbs the colony whatsoever.
On account of work commitments I haven’t had time this current year to handle high-maintenance mini-nucs for hive tool, so have already been exclusively with such Everynucs. With all the vagaries from the weather inside my part of the world it’s good not to have to hold checking them for stores during cold, wet periods. It’s also great to do business with full-sized brood frames that permit the laying pattern of the queen to get determined easily. I raise a number of batches of queens in a season and also this means I’m going out and in of your dozen roughly of such boxes regularly, which makes them up, priming these with a sealed queen cell, inspecting them for a mated queen etc. I start them off as 3 frame nucs, dummied down, to conserve resources, allowing them to expand with successive batches of queens.
One of many nice features of these boxes is their internal width that is almost yet not quite sufficient for 6 Hoffmann frames. You therefore need to use five frames along with a dummy board to prevent strong colonies building brace comb from the gaps in one or each side of your outside frames. One benefit from this additional ‘elbow room’ is that these boxes can accommodate slightly fatter brood frames, for instance as soon as the bees build-up the corners with stores rather than drawing out first step toward the adjacent frame. There’s also ample space introducing a queen cell or caged queen, check out emergence – or release – in a day or two then gently push the frames back together again.
Much better, by removing the dummy board there’s enough space to work from a side of the box on the other without first removing, and leaving aside, a frame to produce space. The frames really do need to be removed gently and slowly to avoid rolling bees (but you do this anyway of course). However, since I’m generally seeking the nicotqueeen mated and laying queen ‘slow and steady’ is really a definite advantage. Within the image below you will see the area available, even when four in the frames are reasonably heavily propilised.
Sufficient space …
To produce frame manipulation easier it’s worth adding a frame runner within the feed compartment (it’s the white strip just visible from the photo above) as described previously. Without it the bees often stick the frames to the coarse wooden lip from the feeder with propolis, thereby which makes it tougher to gently slide the frames together (or apart).
The brood boxes of such Everynuc’s stack, meaning you can easily unite two nucs into a vertical 10-frame unit using newspaper. The vertical beespace is wrong (the boxes are appreciably deeper when compared to a National frame) therefore the resulting colony ought to be moved to a typical 10-12 frame brood box before they build extensive brace comb. As the season draws to an end it’s therefore possible to take pairs of boxes, take away the queen from one to requeen another hive, unite the colonies and after that – per week roughly later – have a great 10-frame colony to get ready for overwintering … or, naturally, overwinter them directly over these nucleus hives.
† The only real exception were those who work in the bee shed that have been probably 2-3 weeks a little bit more ahead in their development by late March/early April this coming year.
In beekeeping courses you’re always taught to appear carefully in the underside of your queen excluder (QE) when removing it incase the queen will there be. If she’s not you can then gently put it to just one side and begin the inspection.
I inspected this colony last Sunday and my notes said such as “beautifully calm, behaving queenright but looking queenless … frame of eggs?”. The colony was on a single brood using a QE and another super, topped having a perspex crownboard. The ‘frame of eggs’ comment indicated I assumed it could be smart to give a frame of eggs to the colony – once they were queenright they’d simply raise them as worker brood. However, should they were queenless they’d utilize them to increase queen cells.
I was not having enough some time and anyway wanted eggs from the colony in a different apiary. If the colony were likely to raise a brand new queen I needed it into the future from better stock. Alternatively, I’d wait and give them certainly one of a recently available batch of mated queens after they had laid up an effective frame or two to demonstrate their quality. I closed them up and made a mental note to handle the colony later within the week.
Once they behave queenright, perhaps these are …
I peeked from the perspex crownboard this afternoon while seeing the apiary and saw an exceptional looking bee walking about on the underside of the crownboard. Despite being upside-down it was actually clear, despite a really brief view, it was actually a small, dark queen. She was walking calmly about the super and wasn’t being hassled through the workers.
I strongly suspected she was a virgin who had either wiggled with the QE – perhaps it’s damaged or she was particularly small at emergence – and after that got trapped. Alternatively, and maybe more likely, I’d inadvertently placed a brood frame near to the super during the previous inspection and she’d walked across. This colony is incorporated in the bee shed and space is cramped during inspections.
I realize from my notes how the colony had an unsealed queen cell inside a few weeks ago so – weather permitting – there should still be sufficient time and energy to get her mated before she’s too old. I removed the super, located her around the QE, gently lifted her off and placed her from the brood box. She wandered quietly down involving the brood frames along with the bees didn’t seem by any means perturbed.
In the event you was able to find the queen in the image a fortnight ago you did much better than I have done … although she was clipped and marked, there was no sign of her inside the bees clustered round the hive entrance. Furthermore, once they’d returned on the colony she was clearly absent (an oxymoron surely?) with the next inspection – no eggs, several well developed queen cells along with the usually placid bees were rather intemperate. Perhaps she was lost within the grass, got injured or was otherwise incapacitated during swarming? Perhaps she did return and was then done away with? A pity, as they were good stock, along with already produced three full supers this coming year. However, I’d also grafted using this colony – see below.
I performed a colony split utilizing a Snelgrove board. The colony was clearly considering swarming, with several 1-2 day old unsealed queen cells present throughout the inspection. I knocked these back and introduced a frame of eggs from better stock. On checking the nominally queenless half on the seventh day they behaved like they were queenright (no new QC’s around the frame of eggs provided or elsewhere, calmer than expected etc.). I have to have missed a sealed cell (presumably a little one) when splitting the colony the week before. After some searching – it was actually a crowded box – I stumbled upon a little knot of bees harrying a very small queen, definitely the littlest I’ve seen this coming year and not really any greater than a worker. I separated most of the workers and been able to take a couple of photos.
The abdomen is not well shown in the picture but extends to just beyond the protruding antenna in the worker behind her. Overall she was narrower and simply fractionally more than the workers in the same colony. When in the middle of a golf ball-sized clump of workers she was effectively invisible.
The photo above was taken near the end of May, shortly before I removed the first batch of cells coming from a cell raising colony setup using a Cloake board. These honey gate were from grafts raised from the colony that subsequently swarmed through the bee shed. The cells went into 3 frame poly nucs arranged in a circle split, the queens emerged during glorious weather in the second week of June, matured for several days and – nearly the time they could be needed to mate – got kept in the colonies by 10 days of poor weather.
And they’re off
However, over the last week the weather has acquired, I’ve seen queens leaving on orientation or mating flights and the workers have started piling in pollen. Most of these are excellent signs and suggest that at least a few of the queens happen to be mated and laying … we’ll see at the next inspection.
I conducted my first inspections of colonies beyond the bee shed last week. One colony that had looked good going into the winter months had about 5-6 ‘seams’ of bees after i lifted the crown board … but several of the first bees to take off were big fat drones. Even without seeing them you are able to hear their distinctive buzz as they fly off clumsily. Something was wrong. It’s still too soon for significant variety of drones to get about as to what is turning out to become a late Spring.
Drone laying queens
Sure enough, the initial few frames contained ample stores and the frames in the midst of what ought to be the brood nest had been cleared, cleaned and ready for the queen to put in. However, the only brood had been a rather pathetic patch of drone cells. Clearly the queen had failed early this season and had turn into a drone laying queen (DLQ). The brood is at a distinct patch indicating it absolutely was a DLQ instead of laying workers which scatter brood throughout the frames. There are no young larvae, several late stage larvae, some sealed brood as well as some dozen adult drones. The lack of eggs and young larvae suggested that the queen probably have either recently cast aside or been discarded. There seemed to be even a rather pathetic queen cell, without doubt also containing a drone pupa.
Drone laying queen …
I do believe this colony superseded late last season and so the queen would have been unmarked. Furthermore, it might explain why she was poorly mated. However, a brief but thorough search through the package failed to locate her. I had been short of equipment, newspaper and time so shook every one of the bees off of the frames and removed the hive … anticipation being that the bees would reorientate for the other hives in the apiary.
I tidied things up, made certain the smoker was out and packed away safely and quickly checked the place in which the colony have been sited … there was a pretty good sized cluster of bees accumulated on the stand. It was actually getting cooler plus it was clear how the bees were not planning to “reorientate on the other hives from the apiary” as I’d hoped. Very likely these were likely to perish overnight as the temperature was predicted to decrease to 3°C.
I never think it’s worth mollycoddling weak or failing (failed?) colonies in the Spring as they’re unlikely to complete sufficiently to get a good crop of honey. However, I also make an attempt to avoid simply letting bees perish as a result of deficiency of time or preparation on my own part. I therefore put a small number of frames – including one among stores – into a poly nuc and placed it around the stand rather than the previous hive. In minutes the bees were streaming in, in much exactly the same like a swarm shaken on a sheet enters a hive. I left them to it and rushed to collect some newspaper. By the time I returned they were all in the poly nuc.
Since I still wasn’t certain the location where the DLQ was, or perhaps if she was still present, I placed a few sheets of newspaper across the top of the brood box over a strong colony, kept in place by using a queen excluder. I made several small tears from the newspaper together with the hive tool then placed the DLQ colony at the top.
These day there is lots of activity on the hive entrance as well as a peek with the perspex crownboard revealed that the bees had chewed by way of a big patch of your newspaper and were now mingling freely. I’ll check again in certain days (it’s getting cold again) and can then eliminate the top box and shake the other bees out – if there’s a queen present (that is pretty unlikely now) she won’t understand how to come back to the brand new site.
Lessons learned† … firstly, be ready during early-season inspections for failed queens and possess the necessary equipment to hand – newspaper for uniting, a queen excluder etc. Secondly, there’s no need to rush. These bees had been headed by way of a DLQ to get a significant period – going by the numbers of adult drones and small remaining quantity of sealed and unsealed drone brood – another day or two wouldn’t make any difference. As an alternative to shaking them out because the afternoon cooled I’d are already better returning another afternoon using the necessary kit to make the most efficient of any bad situation.
I checked another apiary later inside the week and discovered another handful of hives with DLQ’s ?? Both in cases the queen was either unmarked and invisible, or AWOL. In case the former they’d have again been supercedure queens because they needs to have been marked white and clipped coming from a batch raised and mated in late May/early June last season by using a circle split. However, this time around I used to be prepared and united the boxes in the same manner over newspaper held down using a queen excluder. The rest of the colonies I checked were strong. However, these three DLQ colonies – all nominally headed by queens raised just last year – will be the most I’ve ever endured in a single winter and ensure what a poor year 2015 was for queen mating.
These three failed colonies – besides the presence of variable levels of drones or drone brood – were also notable for your huge amounts of stores still present in the hive. Although it’s been unseasonably cold this April (with regular overnight frosts and strong northerly winds keeping temperatures – and the beekeepers – depressed) healthy colonies remain accumulating well, using remaining stores whenever they can’t get out to forage. Because of this there’s a true risk of colonies starving. In comparison, colonies with failed queens will likely be raising virtually no brood, therefore the stores remain unused.
A vertical split describes the division of any colony into two – one queenright, other queenless – about the same floor and within the same roof, with all the intention of allowing the queenless colony to improve a brand new queen. If successful, you end up with two colonies in the original one. This method can be used a way of swarm prevention, as a way to requeen a colony, so as to generate two colonies from one, or – to be covered in another post – the starting point to produce a number of nucleus colonies. It’s a hands-off means of nuc beehive … without the need to graft, to put together cell raising colonies or perhaps to manage mating nucs.
Wally Shaw has written an excellent help guide simple methods of making increase (PDF) including numerous variants in the straightforward vertical split described here. There are actually additional instructions available on the Kent beekeepers website by Nick Withers (Swarm Management – Under One Roof … wherein the ‘split board’ described below is termed a swarm board). Wally’s article is extremely good, but includes complications like brood plus a half colonies and a host of further embellishments. For simplicity I’ve restricted my description into a situation in case you have one colony – on single or double brood boxes, possibly with supers at the top – and want to divide it into two.