Undercover Beekeeping – Transferring from Nuc to Hive

Well, that wasn’t quite what we were expecting to do with our first nuc of bees, but when we collected them from Bill he seemed pretty insistent that we didn’t leave them in the nuc box for too long. He said they were packed in pretty tightly and needed to get out as soon as possible. Certainly by first thing in the morning and possibly earlier.

We paid Bill for the box of buzzing box of insects and put them in the back of the car, you could feel the heat coming off them as we did. We then slowly doive home wondering what we’d let ourselves in for and then assessed the situation once we got there. We were going to have to lift the lid a bit to allow some of them to get out in the morning, so whilst we were doing that we may as well go the whole hog and actually transfer them. This was reinforced by the fact that the wind had eased a little but was forecast to be blowing a hoolie in the morning.

So, depsite the fact that it was 10pm and pitch black outside, we donned our beekeeping suits, boots and gloves, Morgan was into his in seconds – there was no way he was going to allow himself to be left out of excitement, and possible disaster, of this magnitude. We got the smoker going and set up a light to shine on the hive so that we could see what we were doing.

We placed the nuc box right next to the hive. We have decided to name our hives for identification purposes and this one is called ‘Clettwr’.  We removed the roof and crownboard from the hive and then got ready to open the buzzing box full of bees. Having never seen inside a nuc box before were weren’t really sure what to expect. As I opened the lid bees boiled out everywhere. I quickly but calmly set about trying to move the first frame of bees from the nuc box to the hive. The first frame was a little difficult to move as they were packed into the box pretty tightly, but with my hive tool in my hand I soon had a grasp on it and slowly lifted it out and across into the hive.

As I lifted it across it was literally dripping with bees, some fell back into the nuc box, some into the hive but most stayed on the frame. We had a quick look for the queen but soon decided that was going to be a fruitless task for three complete ‘bee-ginners’ under torch light. So, keeping the orientation of the frame the same as it was in the nuc box I lowered it into the hive and then repeated the process with the four remaining frames. I placed them into the hive in the same order and same orientation as they had been. We didn’t think about it at the time, but my Dad’s workmanship had paid off as the frames fitted perfectly.

We were then left with a nuc box and lid with thousands of bees in. We weren’t sure what to do with these. Some people just leave it outside the hive allowing the bees to crawl into the hive themselves. We were paranoid about losing the queen though and as we hadn’t seen herdecided the best course of action was to simply tip the box upside down over the hive and shake the bees into their new home. We wanted to get as many of them as possible into the hive as we had read stories about the queen being left in the corner of the nuc box. I picked the box up, position it over the hive and shook. It seemed to work, the bees fell into the hive and very few went astray. There was probably about 10,000 bees in the nuc and we now had all of them (except for probably 50 stragglers at most) in the hive.

We then filled up the hive placing brand new brood frames with foundation wax in them either side of the frames from the nuc. Again we were paranoid about getting the spacing between them right and not squashing the queen, but we were pretty gentle and soon had a brood box with five full frames from the nuc box and 6 fresh empty frames in it.

On went the queen excluder and then, as we had decided to feed them, a jumbo feeder into which we poured a couple of litres of sugar syrup that Anna had made up ready for them. On with the crown board and the roof. We then paced the nuc box which still had a few lone bees in it next to the entrance of the hive, took one last look at our handy work and retreated. Clettwr was now a complete hive with it’s very own, very real colony of bees!

Considering we’d never done it before, or even seen it done, it was our first time with our new bees and it was in the dark we think we did OK. All was cool, calm and collected. We hadn’t seen the queen which was a shame, but there was little we could do about that under the circumstances. We just hope that she’s in there, she’s happy and we didn’t squash her.

I’ve just been down to take a look at the hive. The sun is rising but there is no sign of activity. The few stragglers that were in the nuc box seem to have perished overnight. There are only about a dozen of them though so we didn’t do too badly and I’m glad we tipped all of the others into the hive. There are a few other dead bees around the hive but again only a very small number in total. Otherwise there is no sign that there is anyone at home.

There is however a viscous NE wind blowing at around 30-35 knots (force 7) that won’t exactly entice them out of their cosy warm hive. I think the wind that is blowing down in the apiary (yes, we can call it that now!) at the moment would have made the transfer a good deal more difficult so it was probably a good thing that we took the decision to do it last night even if it did mean wandering around the garden in bee-suits in torch light – I don’t know what the neighbours must think!

We’ll report back later once we see some activity from them.

Nuc number two arrives this evening, and we’ll get to see how it really should be done.

3 Responses

  1. Sunday, May 1st, 2011

    […] last nights excitement with the arrival of our first bee colony we were keen to see them get off to a good start today. Unfortunately for the bees, Ivor, our local […]

  2. Monday, May 2nd, 2011

    […] Our second Nuc of bees arrived on Saturday evening. This time Jim brought them around and transferred them for us before it got dark. He did exactly the same as we did though so it looks as though we got it right first time. […]

  3. Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

    […] we are back to square one and will have to buy some more. We started out with two nucs a couple of years ago, but probably can’t afford to buy two this year so will soon order a single nuc and see what […]

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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