A Heated Nuc Box

A nuc box (i.e., a converted swarm trap) heated with a 25-watt light bulb. (March 16, 2016.)

A nuc box (i.e., a converted swarm trap) heated with a 25-watt light bulb. (March 16, 2016.)


This is my attempt at saving the queen I found yesterday in the fist-sized cluster from the colony that I inadvertently starved all winter. Here’s a cropped-in shot of her:

Cropped in closer look of the raggedly looking queen in a micro cluster. (March 16, 2016.)

The first photo shows what is essentially a wooden nuc box with an exit hole drilled in one end. Inside the box on the left side are three frames of honey. In the top corner of those three frames of honey is the sad looking tiny cluster of bees from the starved colony, the smallest cluster of bees I’ve ever seen. Even more incredible is the queen walking around the middle of the cluster, still alive.

The duct taped extension cord has a 25-watt light bulb on the end of it to produce what I hope is enough heat to prevent the bees from freezing to death. I placed a dummy board between the light bulb and the honey to prevent the comb from melting (or igniting). The top of the box is a piece of plywood that’s secured in place with a form of technology called a rock. The seal between the top and the box isn’t perfect, but that’s okay because it’ll allow for some ventilation.

I know it’s not an ideal way to keep the bees warm, but I had about ten minutes to slap something together before the bees froze to death and this is the best I could do with what I had available to me. I predict it’s not going to work. The bees will be dead within a week.

However, I took a quick peek under the lid this morning and the bees seemed alive and well. The 25-watt light bulb kept the bees warm enough to survive the -10°C (-23°F) temperatures last night. I wonder if I should have used a 40-watt bulb for a little extra heat. If I have a chance, I might drop a thermometer inside to see how warm it is in there. I’m thinking anywhere between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius would be perfect. This is a total gong show and I know it. I would never normally try anything like this. But what do I have to lose?

UPDATE (later in the day): The white light bulb in the nuc is likely to attract the bees like moths to a flame. Not good. The best I have at the moment is a 50-watt amber-coloured light bulb. It’s better than pure white, I suppose, and the extra wattage will provide more heat. Judging from this photo, it looks like they could use the heat. If I had a 60-watt RED light bulb from the start, I think it would have worked. But as it is, it appears that the bees are dying. We’ll see if the 50-watt bulb makes a difference. I doubt it.

The world's smallest cluster of honey bees. (March 17, 2016.)

The world’s smallest cluster of honey bees. (March 17, 2016.)

MARCH 23, 2016: I’ve managed to keep the cluster and the queen alive for 8 days. But I made a goof yesterday that will likely be the final nail in the coffee for the remaining bees. I replaced the 50-watt amber light bulb with a 60-watt red light bulb to provide more heat with a light the bees wouldn’t be fatally attracted to. And then I forgot to plug the extension cord back into the wall. The bees didn’t have any heat last night and many of them died. I’m not sure how large the cluster is now, but I’d say it’s very, very small, probably less than 50 bees. I would steal a frame of brood from another hive if I could (even the smallest patch would do), but with the wind blowing at 100 kph at temperatures well below -10°C, that won’t happen any time soon. It doesn’t look good.

Continued in Red Light Heating For Honey Bees.

2 thoughts on “A Heated Nuc Box

  1. Hooray! You found the queen, and she’s alive! Where there’s life, there’s hope!

    A local beek gave a presentation last year on how he heats his hives all winter with a 25-watt bulb. Apparently, it keeps his bees warm and active the entire winter, and they don’t stop laying as a result. He has experienced remarkable successes (measured in honey harvested) this way. Fingers crossed that it works for you, too, to keep your girls alive until spring! (http://happyhourtopbar.blogspot.com/2015/04/a-different-approach-to-overwintering.html)

  2. “A local beek gave a presentation last year on how he heats his hives all winter with a 25-watt bulb.”

    Are you kidding me? I did zero research on this one and hoped for the best.

    The big hurtle is the size of the cluster. I’d say no more than 300 bees. Without the extra heat from the light bulb, they’d be dead. 300 bees don’t produce much heat. And if the queen doesn’t start laying soon, it won’t be long before she loses her worker bees to natural death.

    Stealing bees from another hive, introducing this queen to them in a queen cage, etc., would be too risky at this time of year when the temperatures (in Newfoundland at least) will be well below freezing for probably another month.

    So come on 25-watt light bulb, you can do it!

    UPDATE: That link you provided is very interesting. Not that I’d normally buy into that kind of thing, but not bad for if I’m ever in this kind of jam again. And perhaps I should pick up a red light bulb.

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