The following was completely rewritten in March 2019.
To build up a honey bee colony in Newfoundland from 4-frame nuc in July (nucleus hives usually become available around mid-July), I feed it sugar syrup and I don’t stop feeding it until the end of October when it’s too cold for the bees to take down any more syrup. I just keep feeding sugar syrup until the bees fill all the frames of the first deep. Then I add a second deep and continue to feed until they’ve filled all the frames of the second deep. It’s unlikely that all the frames will be fully drawn out even at the end of October. But the key is to feed them sugar syrup and never let the feeders run dry. That’s basically it.
Here’s video I made in 2016 that shows exactly what a typical nuc from Newfoundland looks like and how I install a nuc into a standard deep.
I scraped off a large amount of burr comb full of honey from one of our nucs during a hive inspection recently. I left it on top of the inner cover afterwards so the bees could eat up the honey. This is what the burr comb looked like a couple days later.
The bees took all the honey from the comb and then began working on the comb, sealing it to the wood and creating a set for a yet-to-be-produced science fiction film.
Yesterday was the hottest and most humid day of the summer, and the bees were feeling it big time.
Bees bearding after a hot humid night. (August 30, 2011.)
That’s the bees in one of my hives bearding outside the hive. (The Star Trek symbol is used as a distinctive homing marker for the bees. It probably doesn’t make any difference to them, but too bad.) The photo was taken around 7:30am this morning. They were bearding twice as much last night. It was about 30°C (86°F) when I went to bed around 10:30pm.
From what Rusty Burlew tells me, bearding is a behaviour that’s triggered by excessive heat or humidity, which is made worse by over-crowding and a lack of ventilation inside the hive. The bees leave the hive because it’s cooler outside. You can read more about bearding at Honey Bee Suite.
The hive already has a screened inner cover and a ventilation rim to help with ventilation, but it looks like it could use a screened bottom board too. I’m building one today and hope to have it installed soon. My foundationless hive has a screened bottom board and it looked like this at the same time Hive #1 was bearding this morning.
Bees with a screened bottom board not bearding so much after a hot humid night. (August 30, 2011.)
March 2019 Postscript: For the casual joe just poking around the internet for neat looking beekeeping photos, the ones in this post might not seem like much, but as a guy who’s been experimenting with beehives for almost ten years now, I’m intrigued by my early-beekeeping powers of observation, especially when they uncover things like this. I haven’t messed around with screened bottom boards for two or three years now. My homemade ones were left outside one winter and rotted into mush and I haven’t used them since. But now I’m wondering if I should try them again. The photos in this post and others I’ve uploaded show a significant difference between hives that have screened bottom boards and ones that don’t. I’m thinking I might get a small mirror that I can place in front of a bottom hive entrance and if the mirror fogs up, then it might be a sign that the hive could use a screened bottom board, or least some extra ventilation of some sort. Interesting.
I started up two hives from nucs around July 10th, and they’re doing so well, I’m concerned the queens may become honey bound. Here’s a frame from one of the nucs I inspected yesterday:
Most of the top box had frames just like this, 90% honey with a small patch of brood in the middle. Both of the young hives are filling their top boxes fast. Neither of the hives I started from nucs last year did this well. So what did we do differently this year?
I made a mistake with the follower boards I installed in one of my nucs a few weeks ago. The follower boards (a.k.a. dummy boards) were installed on the bottom box. Then I expanded the hive and added a second box. But the second box didn’t have follower boards. Follower boards shift the alignment of the frames so that they’re half a frame off the normal alignment. That means the frames in the second box were misaligned with the frames in the bottom box — which means there was an empty space above every top bar in the bottom box. The bees didn’t just build burr comb in that space. They built comb three or four inches high. It was a mess.
It doesn’t show up well in the photograph, but that burr comb is about four inches high. I cleaned it up and it wasn’t a disaster. And now I know: If I’m going to use follower boards, I need to use them in both boxes right from the start.
Other than that, I haven’t had any problems with the follower boards. Both boxes in the hive have follower boards now, and the hive is booming.