A World of Difference Between 2016 & 2019 Nucs

I know it’s horrible of me to complain about having too many bees, but man oh man, I’ve never seen so many bees packed into a single hive so late in the year.

That seems like one seriously massive cluster of bees for this last in the year. (Oct. 13, 2016.)

That seems like one seriously massive cluster of bees for this time of year. (Oct. 13, 2016.)

It’s exactly what I saw in one of my other hives two weeks ago. My best guess, other than excellent genetics and well-mated queens, is the dry summer. The lack of rain didn’t give us a complete nectar dearth that stirred up much robbing, but less rain means less nectar, so the bees that couldn’t get enough nectar switched to collecting pollen — more protein for baby bees. So instead of getting a lot of honey this year (I didn’t), I got a lot of bees. A bit too many bees because I don’t have any more room for them.

There are more bees clinging to the bottom of this escape board than in most commerical nuc packages. (Oct. 13, 2016.)

There are more bees clinging to the bottom of this escape board than in most commercial nuc packages. (Oct. 13, 2016.)

I don’t have enough hive components to give these bees any extra space. I have no desire to dismantle and move a hive so packed with bees, but I’m contemplating a switcheroo, moving a less populated hive to this hive’s location and moving this hive to a new location, thus boosting up the weak hive and knocking this one back to a more controlled level.

UPDATE (30 minutes later): I moved the hive. That was fun. I’m pretty sure the top deep is completely packed with honey. I nearly broke my back lifting it. The bottom deep was heavy too. Every frame everywhere was covered with bees. They’re doing just fine. They’re not so happy with their human overlord, but I think they’re okay.

I put a smaller colony in the hive’s place (not necessarily a weak colony, just smaller), so now most of the returning foragers will join the smaller colony to give it a boost going into winter. Both hives have at least one deep full of honey on top, so I think they’re okay.

I probably would have been better off doing nothing, because any kind of move like this could potentially kill the queen and the bees know better than me anyway; they’ve got it all worked out. But I still have a lot to learn and for me, being a mentorless beekeeper with pretty much no experienced beekeepers to learn from and talk shop with, I won’t learn anything unless I experiment and try things I haven’t tried before. Granted, my approach of wilfully making mistakes may at times do more harm than good and may seem foolhardy, but it’s a fairly accurate description of what I’ve have had to do since I began beekeeping in 2010. I put in countless hours of research before I make any new move in my beeyard, but otherwise, going it alone 99% of the time, I don’t have many options other than to go for it and hope I don’t make any catastrophic mistakes. (I think I have a pretty good record overall.)

At any rate, I hope I didn’t kill any queens today. And I’m curious to see how this move will affect both of these colonies. Will the smaller colony grow stronger? Will the over-populated colony recover from its traumatic move? The answer to both of those question is: I hope so.

August 2019 Postscript: What a difference between the nucs I had in 2016 and the nucs I had in 2019. It could be the weather; it could be the bees; it could be the time of year. Both nucs were from the Newfoundland Bee Company, but they’re complete opposites. The 2016 nucs, which arrived around mid-July, expanded like they were on fire. I believe I used all drawn comb and may have boosted them up with brood from other colonies. My 2019 nucs didn’t arrive until the end of July (losing a crucial two weeks of good weather) and didn’t show interest in building new comb and were slow to grow. I wasn’t able to boost them up with brood from other colonies and I didn’t have a great deal of drawn comb on hand. But seeing how that’s how most new beekeepers will start out (with few resources), it’s my feeling that nucs in Newfoundland need at least two frames of solid capped brood, not one or one and a bit; they should be 5-frame nucs, not 4, or at the very least, the 4th frame should be drawn comb, not blank foundation; and if they’re not ready by mid-July, they should only be sold to people with an excess of resources (namely drawn comb). Otherwise, it’s just too damn hard to build them up to full colonies before winter.

5 thoughts on “A World of Difference Between 2016 & 2019 Nucs

  1. Is that screen on to deter robbing, or as a mouse guard? That is one monster amount of bee’s, looks like they’d be happy with a 3rd deep to chill in. Good luck with the move!

  2. The move has been made (check out the update).

    The screen is a quarter-inch mesh to keep shrews out. My basic rule now to cover all entrances by the first week of October.

  3. I’m not complaining, though. I’d rather have more bees than less (most of the time). Once the bees hunker down deep for the winter, I plan to load up the top bars with sugar cakes, just to be safe.

  4. By the way, the bees in the hive that were moved, are VERY pissed off. All I need to do is go near the hive and they come pouring out with their butts — and their stingers — in the air. I may wrap the hive, add a moisture quilt and sugar cakes in November, but I can do that all at once in about ten minutes, probably in three or four weeks. Until then, I won’t go anywhere near these bees.

    And hopefully I didn’t kill the queen.

    I made the mistake of dismantling and moving an extremely populated hive at a time of year when the bees are naturally more defensive, and doing it without smoke was the mistake. I used mist instead. I should have used smoke to drive them deep into the hive before cracking off the top deep. Not doing so resulted in a fair number of squashed bees when I put the top deep on over the bottom deep in the new location.

    I also should have had another person with me (someone with hefting strength) so we could have taken a deep each at the same time and dismantled and reassembled the hive in probably less than a minute with coordinated efforts. I do most of my beekeeping alone. I prefer it that way, especially if I know I’m doing something potentially dramatic. I don’t need anyone’s potential stress stressing me out. But in this case, regardless, a second body would have been a great help.

    I gave away a couple deeps worth of drawn comb earlier in the summer thinking I had enough for myself. Wrong. Even if it was older drawn comb I would have melted down soon, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. It’s so much easier to just add another deep of drawn comb to give room for a growing colony than any kind of switcheroo maneuver.

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