Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Toys from Mann Lake!

I decided to put in an order with Mann Lake Ltd., a beekeeping supply house. They have free shipping on orders of $100, which is pretty darn easy to do for beekeeping equipment! Well, the order arrived today!

I decided if I was going to try to raise queens, I needed to have mating nucs. I have a few 5-frame deep nucs, and even a pretty crappy queen castle I made last year. I did some reading in the bee blogs about mini mating nucs, and they have positive and negative points about them. I thought about making some, but I saw in Mann Lake's catalog that they were less than $17 if you buy 4 or more. So I bought 5.

The mating nucs are made of dense Styrofoam (polystyrene). Here's the unit closed up:

And here is what it looks like opened up:

Let me describe what it consists of, from front (nearest the bottom of the picture) to back.
  • Sliding entrance closure (white Styrofoam) - you can close off the nuc
  • Ventilation grate (yellow)
  • Three mini frames (more on that later)
  • Division with a small queen excluder (yellow)
  • Chamber for feed / syrup
There's also a sliding bottom to more easily plop in the bees when making up the nucs.

Here's a picture of the mini frames:

Those frames are about 5 or 6 inches across (I should have included a ruler for scale in the pictures).

The theory on these is that you only need about a cupfull of bees to populate the nuc. The bees draw out wax on the mini-frames and the queen can lay eggs there (I also bought some plain foundation to put some starter strips in the mini frames).

The pros of these mini-nucs is that it doesn't take many bees to populate it. You can make a lot more of these with the same resources.

Some of the cons are that the frames are special, only for these nucs. What do you do if/when the queen fills up the frame with brood? Plus, what do you do when you are done with queen rearing - the frames don't fit in a full-size hive?

I'll probably see if I can make some frame which hold multiple mating frames. That way when I am done I'll put the mini-frames in a full-size hive and let the bees hatch out.

I gave the hives a quick peek at the feeding jars on Tuesday. The brown hive had emptied theirs (that hive is by far the strongest); the green hive had about 1/4 left in each jar; but the pink hive had over half of a jar left. I still don't know what that hive is doing - I see a few bees flying in and out with pollen, and it doesn't look like robbing. But I'll know better this weekend. Hope the weather holds out!

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