Thursday, May 19, 2011


The bees.

They are here.


Nucs lined up after delivery at the Added Value Red Hook Farm.

It was a warm night, and the nucs were quite crowded, so there was a bit of bearding on the fronts of some of them.

On Wednesday night I took delivery of 11 nucleus colonies ("nucs", 4 or 5 frame mini-hives) for myself, Added Value, Brooklyn Homesteader, and others, trucked up overnight from Florida. It was quite an experience and since they were brought up under a screen with the entrances open, there were bees everywhere. (2 stings, left middle finger and right palm.)

Check out that spider.  BFFs forever?

I like nucs. The bees have already drawn out several frames of comb and stuffed it full of brood and stores, so they have a significant head start compared to a package installed on foundation. The queen has been laying for weeks with the colony, so there are no worries about her getting accepted like there are with package installations, and since they have developing brood, the chances of them absconding are practically nonexistent.

Friday afternoon nuc install at Added Value.  Hives are set up in the background and the two nucs for the farm on the right.

Suiting up a brave volunteer.

The downside is that nucs, as mini-colonies, sometimes have the same problems (diseases, pests, parasites) as full sized hives. Since most bee diseases are carried by the comb and brood, not adult bees, nucs are more likely than packages to get (or already BE) sick if not managed properly, so it is very important that you keep a close eye on them for any signs of distress or heavy mite load. While the presence of brood at all stages of development is seriously advantageous to a new colony, it does limit the treatment options available to the beekeeper.

Smoking the first nuc.

Pulling the first frame.

Jim Fischer, the instructor for the New York City Beekeeping Group, is an outspoken advocate of treating all packages coming into the city for varroa mites preemptively with oxalic acid, a seriously effective (but non-pharmaceutical) chemical treatment. Oxalic acid is great for treating packages because it doesn't harm adult bees, but it isn’t a good choice for nucs because it kills brood. Nucs need to be treated with a brood safe method, such as formic acid pads, sugar shakes, grease patties, or drone comb removal. I think packages are a better option and experience for a NEW beekeeper, but they are a great choice for anyone with enough field experience to spot problems and solve them effectively.

Transferring the loaded frame into the hive.

Shaking out the remaining bees clinging to the interior of the nuc.

The bees themselves seemed to be in good health and I installed two hives at Added Value on Friday, during open volunteer hours.

Installing a nuc is as easy as pie. The only thing that needs to be done is to transfer the full frames of brood and bees from the nuc boxes to the full sized 10 frame hives, filling the remaining space with drawn out comb or empty frames. As nucs are essentially small complete colonies, they must be treated as such. They should be smoked prior to opening, and the frames should be transferred quickly and carefully to minimize disruption and avoid losing bees or rolling (accidentally squashing) the queen.

Friendly bees!

Smoking the second nuc.

The transfer to the full sized hive is also a good time to take a quick look at the brood pattern, check for any signs of disease and try to spot the queen. I didn't see her this time, but the nucs were extremely crowded and the brood pattern looked solid with plenty of new eggs so I'm not too worried about it.

Inspecting the bees, comb, and brood pattern of the second nuc.

With the help of some (brave) volunteers from the farm (and one in particular who donned a veil and actually gave working the bees a try!), it was a quick and *almost* painless job. (1 sting, belly.)

Brave volunteer touching bees!

Whoops.  Note to self: pull pants up, pull suit down.

The bees were calm and happy to be flying free. I even saw a few with full pollen baskets already!

I'll be back there this weekend to give them their first real inspection.

All done!  Hooray!  Hives!  Bees!  Added Value!  Pollination!

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