From the polystyrene nucleus hives (polynucs) I’ve seen, owned or butchered, the Everynuc sold by Thorne’s is the one I enjoy. There is a separate OMF floor and Varroa tray, are super easy to paint and are made from dense, robust and thick (i.e. well-insulating) polystyrene. The entrance is actually a gaping maw, but that may be easily fixed with many wire mesh pinned in place. The beespace can also be a concern as a result of compromises made to accommodate both long-lugged National and short-lugged Langstroth frames, however this is often fixed easily and cheaply (though it’s a little irritating needing to ‘fix’ a box which costs almost £50 ?? ).
Colonies overwintered in these boxes did perfectly and were generally at least nearly as good, and quite often better, than my colonies in cedar hives†. Although I’ve also purchased some of the Miller-type feeders it’s actually much easier to prise up one end of the crownboard and merely drop fondant – or pour syrup – in the integral feeder within the brood box. Checking the other fondant/syrup levels takes seconds through the clear flexible crownboard and barely disturbs the colony in any way.
Because of work commitments I haven’t had time this year to cope with high-maintenance mini-nucs for hive tool, so have already been exclusively using these Everynucs. Using the vagaries of your weather within my portion of the world it’s good to not have to hold checking them for stores during cold, wet periods. It’s also great to use full-sized brood frames that allow the laying pattern in the queen to be determined easily. I raise a few batches of queens inside a season and this means I’m going out and in of your dozen roughly of the boxes regularly, which makes them up, priming them a sealed queen cell, inspecting them for the mated queen etc. I usually start them off as 3 frame nucs, dummied down, in order to save resources, letting them expand with successive batches of queens.
One of the nice options that come with these boxes is internal width which can be almost however, not quite sufficient for 6 Hoffmann frames. You therefore need to use five frames as well as a dummy board in order to avoid strong colonies building brace comb within the gaps on a single or both sides of your outside frames. One advantage of this additional ‘elbow room’ is these boxes can accommodate slightly fatter brood frames, for example as soon as the bees build up the corners with stores as an alternative to drawing out foundation of the adjacent frame. There’s also ample space to introduce a queen cell or caged queen, check out emergence – or release – in a couple of days and after that gently push the frames together again again.
Much better, by eliminating the dummy board there’s enough space to operate from a single side in the box on the other without first removing, and leaving aside, a frame to make space. The frames should be removed gently and slowly in order to avoid rolling bees (but you do this anyway needless to say). However, since I’m generally looking for the nicotqueeen mated and laying queen ‘slow and steady’ is really a definite advantage. Within the image below you can observe the room available, regardless if four of your frames are reasonably heavily propilised.
Adequate space …
To make frame manipulation easier it’s worth adding a frame runner within the feed compartment (it’s the white strip just visible inside the photo above) as described previously. Without it the bees tend to stick the frames towards the coarse wooden lip of the feeder with propolis, thereby rendering it more challenging to gently slide the frames together (or apart).
The brood boxes of the Everynuc’s stack, meaning you can actually unite two nucs in a vertical 10-frame unit using newspaper. The vertical beespace is wrong (the boxes are appreciably deeper compared to a National frame) therefore the resulting colony ought to be moved to a standard 10-12 frame brood box before they build extensive brace comb. As the season draws with an end it’s therefore easy to take pairs of boxes, get rid of the queen from a single to requeen another hive, unite the colonies and after that – weekly or more later – have a great 10-frame colony to get ready for overwintering … or, needless to say, overwinter them directly within these nucleus hives.
† The sole exception were those in the bee shed that had been probably 2-3 weeks further ahead with their development by late March/early April this coming year.
In beekeeping courses you’re always taught to check carefully in the underside in the queen excluder (QE) when removing it incase the queen can there be. If she’s not after that you can gently put it to one side and begin the inspection.
I inspected this colony last Sunday and my notes said something like “beautifully calm, behaving queenright but looking queenless … frame of eggs?”. The colony was on one brood by using a QE and something super, topped using a perspex crownboard. The ‘frame of eggs’ comment indicated I assumed it could be a good idea to put in a frame of eggs for the colony – should 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 had been running out of time and anyway wanted eggs from your colony inside a different apiary. In the event the colony were planning to raise a new queen I wanted it in the future from better stock. Alternatively, I’d wait and give them one among a recently available batch of mated queens once they had laid up a great frame or two to indicate their quality. I closed them up and created a mental note to deal with the colony later in the week.
When they behave queenright, perhaps they can be …
I peeked from the perspex crownboard this afternoon while visiting the apiary and saw an original looking bee walking about on the underside of your crownboard. Despite being upside down it absolutely was clear, despite having an incredibly brief view, that it was actually a small, dark queen. She was walking calmly about the super and wasn’t being hassled by the workers.
I strongly suspected she had been a virgin which had either wiggled with the QE – perhaps it’s damaged or she was particularly small at emergence – then got trapped. Alternatively, as well as perhaps very likely, I’d inadvertently placed a brood frame near the super in a previous inspection and she’d walked across. This colony is in the bee shed and space is a bit cramped during inspections.
I realize from my notes how the colony had an unsealed queen cell inside a couple of weeks ago so – weather permitting – there should still be sufficient time for you to get her mated before she’s too old. I removed the super, located her on the QE, gently lifted her off and placed her inside the brood box. She wandered quietly down in between the brood frames along with the bees didn’t seem by any means perturbed.
In the event you managed to see the queen from the image a fortnight ago you did much better than I have done … although she was clipped and marked, there was no indication of her within the bees clustered round the hive entrance. Furthermore, once they’d returned to the colony she was clearly absent (an oxymoron surely?) on the next inspection – no eggs, several well developed queen cells along with the usually placid bees were rather intemperate. Perhaps she was lost from 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, and had already produced three full supers this year. However, I’d also grafted from this colony – see below.
I performed a colony split utilizing a Snelgrove board. The colony was clearly considering swarming, with a couple of 1-2 day old unsealed queen cells present during the inspection. I knocked these back and introduced a frame of eggs from better stock. On checking the nominally queenless half in the seventh day they behaved as though these were queenright (no new QC’s about the frame of eggs provided or elsewhere, calmer than expected etc.). I have to have missed a sealed cell (presumably a very small one) when splitting the colony a few days before. After some searching – it had been a crowded box – I stumbled upon a compact knot of bees harrying a tiny queen, definitely the smallest I’ve seen this current year and not really any greater than a worker. I separated most of the workers and was able to take several photos.
The abdomen will not be well shown inside the picture but reaches just beyond the protruding antenna of the worker behind her. Overall she was narrower and simply fractionally beyond the workers inside the same colony. When flanked by a golf ball-sized clump of workers she was effectively invisible.
The picture above was taken near the end of May, shortly before I removed the first batch of cells coming from a cell raising colony set up by using a Cloake board. These nicot queen rearing system were from grafts raised from your colony that subsequently swarmed in the bee shed. The cells went into 3 frame poly nucs arranged inside a circle split, the queens emerged during glorious weather from the second week of June, matured for a while and – pretty much the time they could be anticipated to mate – got kept in the colonies by 10 days of poor weather.
And they’re off
However, throughout the last few days the weather has found, I’ve seen queens leaving on orientation or mating flights and also the workers have started piling in pollen. Every one of these are good signs and suggest that no less than some of the queens are actually mated and laying … we’ll see in the next inspection.
I conducted my first inspections of colonies outside the bee shed last week. One colony who had looked good going into the wintertime had about 5-6 ‘seams’ of bees as i lifted the crown board … but several of the first bees for taking off were big fat drones. Even without seeing them it is possible to hear their distinctive buzz because they disappear clumsily. Something was wrong. It’s still too early for significant variety of drones being about in what is turning out as a late Spring.
Drone laying queens
Sure enough, the first frames contained ample stores along with the frames during what needs to be the brood nest had been cleared, cleaned and prepared for the queen to lay in. However, the sole brood was really a rather pathetic patch of drone cells. Clearly the queen had failed early this coming year along with develop into a drone laying queen (DLQ). The brood is at a distinct patch indicating it was actually a DLQ rather than laying workers which scatter brood throughout the frames. There are no young larvae, a number of late stage larvae, some sealed brood as well as some dozen adult drones. The absence of eggs and young larvae suggested that this queen could have either recently abandoned or been disposed of. There was a rather pathetic queen cell, without doubt also containing a drone pupa.
Drone laying queen …
I feel this colony superseded late last season so the queen might have been unmarked. In addition, it might explain why she was poorly mated. However, a brief but thorough sort through the box neglected to locate her. I used to be lacking equipment, newspaper and time so shook every one of the bees off of the frames and removed the hive … the hope being the bees would reorientate towards the other hives within the apiary.
I tidied things up, made certain the smoker was out and packed away safely and quickly checked the location where colony was sited … there was a very good sized cluster of bees accumulated around the stand. It had been getting cooler and it was clear that the bees were not gonna “reorientate towards the other hives in the apiary” as I’d hoped. More likely these folks were going to perish overnight because the temperature was predicted to lower to 3°C.
I never think it’s worth mollycoddling weak or failing (failed?) colonies early in the year as they’re unlikely to do well enough to get a good crop of honey. However, In addition, i make an attempt to avoid simply letting bees perish as a consequence of insufficient time or preparation on my own part. I therefore put a small number of frames – including one among stores – in to a poly nuc and placed it in the stand instead of that old hive. Within minutes the bees were streaming in, in much the same way like a swarm shaken out on a sheet enters a hive. I left those to it and rushed returning to collect some newspaper. Once I returned these people were all in the poly nuc.
Since I Have still wasn’t certain the location where the DLQ was, as well as if she was still present, I placed a number of sheets of newspaper across the top of the brood box over a strong colony, locked in place by using a queen excluder. I made a number of small tears throughout the newspaper with the hive tool and after that placed the DLQ colony at the top.
The next day there seemed to be lots of activity at the hive entrance as well as a peek from the perspex crownboard indicated that the bees had chewed by way of a big patch from the newspaper and were now mingling freely. I’ll check again in some days (it’s getting cold again) and definately will then take away the top box and shake the remaining bees out – if there’s a queen present (which is pretty unlikely now) she won’t learn how to come back to the latest site.
Lessons learned† … firstly, prepare yourself during early-season inspections for failed queens and possess the necessary equipment handy – newspaper for uniting, a queen excluder etc. Secondly, there’s no need to rush. These bees have been headed from a DLQ for the significant period – going by the amount of adult drones and small remaining level of sealed and unsealed drone brood – another couple of days wouldn’t make any difference. As opposed to shaking them out as being the afternoon cooled I’d have been better returning another afternoon using the necessary kit to get the best of your bad situation.
I checked another apiary later inside the week and discovered another number of hives with DLQ’s ?? Within both cases the queen was either unmarked and invisible, or AWOL. If the former they’d have again been supercedure queens because they should have been marked white and clipped coming from a batch raised and mated at the end of May/early June last season employing a circle split. However, this period I was prepared and united the boxes likewise over newspaper held down using a queen excluder. All of those other colonies I checked were strong. However, these three DLQ colonies – all nominally headed by queens raised a year ago – would be the most I’ve ever had in one winter and make sure just what a poor year 2015 was for queen mating.
These three failed colonies – in addition to the presence of variable amounts of drones or drone brood – were also notable for your a lot of stores still within the hive. Although it’s been unseasonably cold this April (with regular overnight frosts and strong northerly winds keeping temperatures – along with the beekeepers – depressed) healthy colonies remain building up well, using remaining stores after they can’t get out to forage. Because of this there’s a genuine chance of colonies starving. In contrast, colonies with failed queens will likely be raising a minimum of brood, so the stores remain unused.
A vertical split describes the division of a colony into two – one queenright, other queenless – on the same floor and under the same roof, using the purpose of allowing the queenless colony to boost a whole new queen. If successful, you find yourself with two colonies from the original one. This approach can be used a means of swarm prevention, in an effort to requeen a colony, so as to generate two colonies from one, or – to be covered in another post – the starting point to build a variety of nucleus colonies. It’s a hands-off means of queen excluder … without the need to graft, to get ready cell raising colonies or perhaps to manage mating nucs.
Wally Shaw has written a fantastic guide to simple ways of making increase (PDF) which includes numerous variants of the straightforward vertical split described here. You will find additional instructions located on the Kent beekeepers website by Nick Withers (Swarm Management – Under One Roof … when 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 number of further embellishments. For simplicity I’ve restricted my description to some situation once you have one colony – on single or double brood boxes, possibly with supers on top – and wish to divide it into two.