Saturday, June 6, 2009

I Made a Nuc!

Today I made a Nuc!

In bee parlance, "Nuc" is short for "nucleus" and is basically a mini bee hive. A Nuc is used to incubate a new hive, so to speak. It holds 5 frames instead of the normal 10 (there are no frames in these pictures - I need to order some).

I recently got a new table saw, and this weekend went to get some wood to build it myself. There are plans on the internet for almost all of the wood needed for beekeepers. I was quite surprised it came out OK - there is a reason I did not go into the woodworking / cabinetry business. I couldn't cut a square angle to save my life! It probably took me 2x or 3x as long as someone with experience - I work with my brain mostly, and a little with a soldering iron.

I have been reading about the summertime being a prime time for a hive to swarm. When the hive decides, for reasons they don't yet understand 100%, that they've gotten too big or otherwise need to get smaller, the workers will start to create some new queen cells. A few days before the queen cells mature and are ready to hatch, the workers who will be leaving gorge themselves on honey, so that they will have some traveling food. Then the current queen will take about 2/3 of the bees and take off for a walk-about (or a fly-about). This is called a swarm.

The swarm usually stops a short way away in a big clump of bees, with the queen in the center. Sometimes they are on a tree (and up high). Sometimes in your BBQ grill. Or on a sign, a backyard swing, or fencepost. During that time, scout bees are off looking for a new place to leave. They scouts return and try to convince more bees to come and take a look. If enough scout bees like the new place, then the whole group takes off for the home.

It usually takes a day or so for the scout bees to find a new home. During that time, a beekeeper can "capture" the swarm (with the queen), and install them into a new hive, or in my case, a Nuc. I made my Nuc as a "just in case" for the situation where my hive swarms. I don't intend to start a second hive should I catch a swarm (don't want things to get too busy in my backyard), but I can put them in my Nuc and then see of anyone in the bee club I belong to would want them (there is usually someone who would want another hive).

Swarming is a natural thing (it's how hives propagate and multiply) but for a managed hive it is not desirable - you lose 2/3 of your workers, and you have a new queen who needs to mate before she can start laying eggs. It puts a big dent in your honey production, and if things don't pick up fast enough afterwards, the hive could be in jeopardy of not surviving the winter. As I mentioned, they aren't 100% sure what causes a hive to decide to swarm. But there are certain factors which contribute: 1) the hive has poor ventilation and overheats (in my hive, I have a screen on the bottom board and they have plenty of ventilation); 2) the hive runs out of space (with managed hives, beekeepers add new "supers" when the bees fill up frames, so there should always be plenty of space); 3) hives with old queens are more likely to swarm (my hive has a new queen, born this year, so it shouldn't be a problem).

A swarm of bees is quite a sight to behold, but the bees are the least aggressive when in a swarm (contrary to Hollywood's portrayals). Bees will sting if their home or their honey is threatened; a swarm has neither. Here's a video from YouTube of a couple of guys capturing a swarm. Notice they don't use any protective gear!

So I hope to never need it, but I have my Nuc just in case! Here are some more pictures. All I need to do is put a coat of paint on it and it's done.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! I'm learning so much from reading your blog. I still hope I never see a swarm of bees though! If I do I'll give you a call......


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