Wednesday 15th April. Hiving a nuc.
Today was the big day... the arrival of my overwintered nucleus of bees from Honeybee Suppliers. Usually you would be offered a collection date for bees, (from the Hook Norton area) but with current restrictions, they are being delivered, movement of livestock being an exception to lockdown regulations.
I spent the run up to the big day scrubbing and scorching various hive parts, making up frames, and giving the lifts a coat of linseed oil, (I have WBC hives.) The bees arrived at 4.30, hot and cross, though Dave who delivered them had recently sprinkled them with water (he shouted to me from a safe distance!) They are delivered in a small wooden nuc box, with a wire mesh panel in the lid.
I moved the nuc to the (home) apiary, which by this time of day is quite shady, gave them another spray of water, and went to light the smoker. Some advise to wait a day before placing a nuc into a hive, but since late afternoon is supposed to be a good time for hiving bees, and the conditions were perfect, I decided to get on with it. By the time I had gathered all the bits I needed and suited up, the bees were much calmer in the box, probably thanks to being out of the car and in the shade.
Placing the nuc box close to the hive stand, I gave them a few light puffs of smoke through the mesh vent, and then removed the top of the nuc box. Obviously, the flying bees were off straight away, so I waited a moment for them to leave, and then it was much calmer. This nuc was 6 frames of BIAS (or Brood In All Stages) and stores, and my WBC hives are 10 frames. Again, I’ve seen advice to limit the number of frames to begin with when hiving a nuc, so that the bees aren’t in a big, echoey, empty box. But since my brood box would only have 2 frames either side of the nuc frames, and the time of year and weather forecast are good, I reasoned that it would be good for them to be able to expand quickly.
I really only needed to use the smoker to clear bees from the lugs when lifting out the frames, because these Buckfast bees generally have a lovely temperament. Removing the first frame from the box is the hardest thing, as there’s no dummy board, so not much room to manoeuvre. Just be slow and gentle so as not to roll the bees. You want to be moving the frame as short a distance as possible from the nuc box to the hive, as there is a slight danger that the queen could fall off into the grass. Once the first frame was out everything was pretty straightforward, just gently removing the frames from the box and placing them in the hive. I wasn’t really inspecting the frames as I did this, as Honeybee Suppliers are very thorough, but I did spot one or two bees just emerging from their capping, and on the last frame, the queen with her green mark for 2019.
Before putting on the crown board, I turned the nuc box upside down and gave it a good hard shake over the frames to dislodge any stragglers. There were still about 100 bees left, so rather than brush them in and risk damaging them, I placed the nuc box next to the hive so that they can fly or crawl in. The order in the brood box is now: 2 fresh new brood frames, and then the 6 frames from the nuc box (placed in the same order they are in the nuc,) followed by 2 more fresh frames and the dummy board.
All that was left was to give them a feed to supplement their stores and support wax production for drawing out the foundation. This is very easily made up with 1kg white granulated sugar to 1 litre of hot water, stirred to dissolve. I use a rapid feeder, as a frame feeder is very messy, invasive (you have to open up the hive to refill it) and bees can very easily drown in it. I am also trying a product called ‘Hive Alive’, a concentrate added to the feed in tiny quantities, which claims to increase colony size, reduce disease and increase honey yield. Watch this space!