Nucs: Day 6 – Removing Bare Foundation

I installed three nucs six days ago. Each nuc contained a frame of capped brood, a frame with bare foundation, and two frames with a mix of empty comb, pollen and honey (and maybe some small patches of brood). Each nuc was installed in a standard 10-frame Langstroth deep super with a frame feeder full of thin sugar syrup spiked with anise extract. The frames were placed in the deep in the same order and orientation as they were in the nuc box. I used frames of drawn comb to fill up two of the nuc hives and bare foundation in the other. I recorded a video of me installing the bare foundation nuc because most new Newfoundland beekeepers will probably begin their first nucs with bare foundation, not drawn comb. My intention was to provide an ongoing and honest record of what new beekeepers in Newfoundland are likely to experience during their first year of establishing a colony from a nuc. But what I found in that nuc hive today has compelled me to change my plans.

Nuc colony installed 6 days ago. (July 23, 2016.)

Nuc colony installed 6 days ago, and not much new brood. (July 23, 2016.)

I found some new comb with fresh brood on the original bare foundation frame that came with the nuc, but not much more new brood other than that. In my other two nucs that were full of drawn comb (not bare foundation), I found at least twice as much new brood — a full frame of capped brood and at least another frame of fresh brood. Bees were covering every single frame in the deep (compared to bees covering only four frames in the above photo). That’s a huge difference. The nuc colonies with drawn comb are expanding at least twice as fast. So…

As much I’d like to provide an honest guide for first-year beekeepers in Newfoundland, I’d rather have twice as much brood in my colonies. So…

I removed the top three frames of bare foundation from the nuc hive (as shown in the above photo) and replaced them with drawn comb. (The frame closest to the feeder was already full of new comb and syrup, so I left it alone.) Now the queen will have free reign to start laying immediately. She won’t need to wait for the worker bees to build comb over the bare foundation first.

Drawn comb is worth its weight in gold. I’ve never seen such a dramatic demonstration of that fact. (Sorry I don’t photos of the other nucs full of bees. Technical difficulties.) Okay then…

The only problem I experienced other than that was the bulging honey from the original nuc frames that screwed up the bee spacing between the frames (see Bulging Honey for more details).

Bulging honey on brood frame from nuc box. (July 23, 2016.)

Bulging honey on a brood frame from nuc box. (July 23, 2016.)

The bees continued to build the honey out into the empty frame next to it, which made a big mess when I had to remove the frame. All three nucs had bulging honey like this and I should have scraped it all off before I installed the nucs.

Bulging honey making a mess. (July 23, 2016.)

Bulging honey making a mess, breaking off and leaking honey everywhere, and screwing up the bee space. (July 23, 2016.)

Scraping the honey was somewhat perilous. I did my best to make sure the queen wasn’t on the frame of brood. Then I put the frame aside and scraped off the honey with my hive tool. Honey gushed out everywhere. But having removed the bulging honey, it was easy to slip the frames in and maintain the proper bee space. Hopefully I didn’t kill the queens in any of the nucs when I scraped off the bulging honey.

And that’s it. The bees had taken maybe about 2 litres of syrup. I topped up the feeders and put some cork in the bee ladders instead of wood chips (which had sunk to the bottom). In the nuc hives with drawn comb, I inserted some of the empty drawn comb between frames of brood to help expand the brood nest quicker. I’ll probably top up the feeders in three or four days just to be safe and then next weekend I’ll do another semi-full inspection and we’ll see what we find.

3 thoughts on “Nucs: Day 6 – Removing Bare Foundation

  1. This has got to be our single, most significant challenge when starting beekeeping here – the lack of empty drawn comb! It’s not just for our nucs. We have nothing to book-end the expanding brood nest with in the spring other than undrawn, raw foundation. And so our colony feels honey-bound and starts swarm preparations. I’ve come to the conclusion that until such time that I have lots of empty drawn comb on hand, I will do splits on new colonies ASAP every spring in order to try to manage swarming…. Yes, feed the shit out the nuc in order to get comb drawn and lots of honey/pollen stored away in both deeps before the cold weather sets in, but plan on doing splits the following year.

  2. That’s honey-bound if the brood nest is book-ended with honey, but when book-ended with undrawn foundation, the bees may not be interested in drawing, or able to draw comb on the foundation. These are not young wax-making bees at this point in the year; lots of old winter bees waiting for the brood to hatch….

  3. I didn’t have any extra drawn comb until my third winter when I lost my first colony.

    The lack of drawn comb is a challenge everywhere, though it’s probably particularly bad in NL considering that most beekeepers here (that I’ve met, anyway) just haven’t been at it very long and haven’t had time to build up enough hives to have spare drawn comb on hand, or to sell any off to anyone.

    “We have nothing to book-end the expanding brood nest with in the spring other than undrawn, raw foundation. And so our colony feels honey-bound and starts swarm preparations.”

    I insert single frames of bare foundation (or even frames with no foundation) in the middle of the brood nest. That usually shuts down the swarming tendency, at least for a little while.

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