This has been a busy month. Work, bike riding, yard tending, getting ready for a high school graduation, and of course bees. That last one has made for a rather interesting month. I have three updates that I will split into three posts so this doesn’t get too long. A Star Wars theme is never bad, so we’ll do this via the original episodes.
The first story is about my efforts, successful in the end, at making and selling some nucleus hives.
Despite much angst and consternation, I made and sold three nucs. I put my name on our local club’s nucs-for-sale list and a local conferencing center asked about deep-frame nucs. They were hoping to start 10 hives on the grounds this spring (which seemed like a lot to me). My fellow beekeeper Karla, who has a rather large operation, agreed to supply seven so that I could agree to provide the other three.
My hive Ganymede came out of winter as a strong two-deep hive, and was quickly in swarm mode. After finding some queen cells, I split her into four to make two nucs and two deep hives. The week before pick-up (on May 14), I intended to find the queen in one of the deep hives and make a third nuc. Seemed straightforward, what could go wrong?
I made the nucs in cardboard boxes, which only last so long, and covered them with corrugated metal to keep the rain out. It was a mistake to put weight on top, as this caused one of the boxes to bow outward. The bees chewed up the box and built additional comb in the sides.
Fortunately I had an extra cardboard nuc so was able to replace this one the day before delivery. I learned to put supports on the sides to take the weight of the corrugated metal off the boxes.
For the third nuc, the plan was to pull five frames out of a deep hive a week before pick-up. I could not find the queen on May 7, though I did see eggs and brood. So she was there somewhere. I finally gave up and just split the hive: 4 frames in the cardboard nuc, and 4 frames in a wooden nuc (a two-box medium, actually, which was what I had), plus an extra foundation frame in each.
On May 13, I expected to find larva in one hive and capped brood in the other. Unfortunately, this was only 6 days later so my eggs from May 7 were still larva on May 13 (it takes 8-9 days before worker brood is capped). After going through each hive twice, I finally found the queen in the cardboard nuc. Success!
The actual sale was the easy part. Karla dropped off 7 hives on Friday, I closed everything up Saturday night, and the 10 nucs were picked up Sunday morning. When closing the hives, one hive in particular kept investigating my light so it took three tries and 11 pm before the nucs were sealed and ready to go.
So what did I learn? Committing to having a specific number of nucs on a specific day is stressful. I was worried the entire time, especially after making nucs and before the queens started laying. It was probably a good experience for me, or something.
Another lesson is that the cardboard nucs are great for a couple weeks. I kind of stretched their limit, so if I do this again I will definitely invest in some actual wooden boxes.
May the force be with you (A New Hope)
As I mentioned, a Star Wars theme is never wrong. The signature farewell from the movies asks that the power of the universe be on your side. As Wikipedia puts it: The Force is a metaphysical and ubiquitous power in the Star Wars fictional universe.
The first film, released in 1977, was simply called Star Wars at the time. The story is actually the fourth episode in the series creator George Lucas eventually envisioned, so when the subsequent movies were released the original film was re-titled “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.”
For our purposes, May is Star Wars month (celebrating May 4 as “May the fourth be with you”), and the unseen hand of nature (the Force) had as much to do with my success at making nucs as anything else. So an appropriate title for making nucs in May, and in the end all was fine and I created not one, but three new hives.
May you prosper and find honey.