Home Queens Honey Production Employment Contact Us Research & Publications Tours Items For Sale LinksFAQs
 

WINTERING MATING NUCS


Mating Nuc Hive During the winter of 2007 - 2008 we experimented wintering 16 hives on mating nuc combs.  The purpose was to see if we could start stronger mating nucs earlier in the spring from over-wintered bees reducing the need to rob bees from our main hives.  It also would provide a way to bring more queens through the winter with which to requeen hives in the spring. Finally, it was an easy way to close out our mating nucs from the summer. 

Five of our mating nucs combs fit into a compartment 235 mm long x 205 mm wide x 140 mm deep.  Those five combs comprise a mating nuc that we refer to as a “baby nuc”.  To make up a mating nuc hive we used 4 shallow baby nuc supers filled with 12 combs each on a bottom board.  We wrapped them in packs of eight and covered them with snow as soon as there was enough snow to do it.
We were extremely pleased with the initial results. In the spring, of those 16 hives, 2 hives were dead, 1 hive was queenless, and 1 hive was weak.  We lost the weak hive during a snow storm.  Therefore the winter loss was 25%. We initially used the bees from the queenless hive to boost the other 12 hives and then broke up those 12 hives to start smaller mating mating nucs with brood.  As we hoped, our mating nucs were stronger requiring significantly less boosting from our regular hives. 

We put 48 of these mating nuc hives into  winter in the fall of 2008.  We ended up with 44 viable mating nuc hives in the spring.  Again we were quite pleased with a loss rate of about 8%.  

In the fall of 2009 we put 72 mating nuc hives into the winter.  However, we were expecting a high winter loss rate.  With the oddness of the fall, our management was poor.  We know that the mating nuc hives were poorly fed and did not entering the winter in top condition. As well, we did not treat them in any way for varroa mites.  To see if it was possible, about 1/3 of them were wintered in 3 storeys instead of 4.  In the end, we were left with 59, an 18% loss which was significantly better than the rest of our hives.  We could see no difference between the survival rate between the 4 storey vs. the 3 storey hives.  In 2010, these hives helped us both get a honey crop and make new hives.  We stripped these hives repeatedly in the spring to start mating nucs, saving our few strong hives to start cells and for honey production.

In 2010 we experimented by putting more 3 storey mating nuc hives into winter.  Like normal hives these are nicer to work, if there are fewer storeys and therefore fewer combs, to find the queen on or to clean.  Additionally, if we can winter them in fewer storeys, we can potentially winter more, which would bring more queens through the winter to requeen the normal hives.  By 2011, we wintered all of our mating nuc hives as 3 stories. By the spring of 2013, we had successfully wintered these mating nucs for 6 years and decided that these hives were a part of our normal beekeeping practice and are no longer experimental. 

Then in the spring of 2014 not one survived the winter.  What happened?  What did we do differently? And so we continue the research.

top

Pedersen Apiaries Logo
Revised: February 14, 2015.
Copyright 2002 Pedersen Apiaries. All rights reserved.
Original Design & Graphics by Karen Pedersen
Photographic images are under copyright and used with permission of John Pedersen or Karen Pedersen