Making nucs and swarm prevention

Starting at the end of April into early May, I heard about swarms occurring in my area and though I kept expecting to find them I had not seen swarm cells in the orange hive, Melissa. That hive is the stronger one and I used it’s brood to donate to the purple hive. Obviously, by taking away some of the brood, I weakened the hive a bit and kept it from strengthening enough to make swarm preparations.

After donating brood for a few weeks to the purple hive, I received a message from Peter (the one who started me on beekeeping) asking me if my hives were strong enough to make a nuc for him. Turns out his lovely, strong hive died in Wisconsin. As it was located on the grounds of a monastery he didn’t get to check it as often and it appeared the hive’s entrance was completely covered with snow. Thankfully, he asked me in early April and was planning to be in my area in early May, so I had time to plan. I watched the hives and monitored their status; though I knew I wasn’t making the nuc with Demeter, the purple hive, I had to make sure it was strengthening enough without more added brood which would allow Melissa to build up some more before I used it for a nuc. I have to say, making a nuc out of a very strong hive takes a long time with one person, I was in there a good hour but I also moved frames and condensed the brood.

Deep nuc box, waiting for bees
Deep nuc box, waiting for bees

Queen waiting safely in the queen catcher, to make sure she doesn't go into the nuc too
Queen waiting safely in the queen catcher, to make sure she doesn’t go into the nuc too

I added a frame of pollen, a frame of honey and brood, an empty frame for them to work on, a frame of eggs and a frame of mixed brood. Hopefully they successfully make a queen.

As to the state of the hive in general: Both hives kept their brood facing inward toward the middle of the hive stand. It clearly was less windy there and easier to maintain brood temps. Unfortunately the brood was going straight up to the top of the hive and I needed to keep the queen down and at least make her use more of the space down there. I shifted all of the brood downward that I could and condensed it. I have a suspicion I’ll be moving some more frames around.

I plan to increase my hive numbers to four at most (we’ll see how that goes!), I think I’ll be making nucs as a matter of course to keep them from swarming. I’m remembering reading about another technique, where you purposefully end up with a temporarily queenless hive and because there’s no brood the workers focus on honey production. Hmmm, I may try that.


One comment

  1. We’re in Frederick, MD and just started beekeeping, having installed our first 2 hives a few weeks ago. I started a “bee journal” blog as a way of tracking our activity and building a knowledge base – Am excited to have a bee reference in our area and will look forward to hearing more about your bees!

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