Methods of Making Increase Colonies
Methods of Making Increase Colonies
by John Connor
My first beekeeping book, Increase Essentials, was first published in 2006. A great deal has happened since then. Colony Collapse Disorder appeared. Many beekeepers moved away from package bees to increase nucleus production, and developed a wide array of amazing methods to make increase nuclei. Many routinely winter these colonies with different levels of success. So, as we work to produce a second edition of Increase Essentials, we will put both new and updated materials out to the thousands of people who have purchased the book. For them, I hope that they will see it as an upgrade, and for those who have not read the book, I hope it will incentivize them to read it. In this issue we continue the discussion about making increase nuclei.Nuclei to mate and hold queens.
Make up small nuclei if you plan to produce, mate and hold queens during the season. The key is to keep these nuclei small all summer, allowing each successive queen to fill the brood nest with eggs before she is moved to another hive or sold. I recommend using three to five-frame deep or medium Langstroth frames so you do not have unique sized frames and boxes in your operation. A ten-frame hive may be divided into two or three mating units and an eight-frame hive may be divided into two sections. Such colonies require special management so they do not become too strong and promote swarming—remove extra frames of brood and bees and add them to mating nuclei that have had a queen failure or any colonies that are weak. Or use extra frames of brood to boost honey production colonies just before the nectar flow. If you mate and store laying queens in these units, you will be able to requeen hives used for honey production at any time without being forced to order queens on a rush basis. Here are some simple steps to establish these colonies:
Select one brood frame. Go to one of the colonies you have selected and managed for increase colony production. Find a frame of brood that is sealed, ideally with young adult bees emerging from the center of the brood cluster. This ensures you will have the stronger nucleus with and increasing number of young bees.
Check for queens. Carefully examine this frame for a queen bee. Your records may indicate that the queen is clipped and marked, but 10 to 20 percent of all spring colonies have two queens (mother and daughter) existing side by side. So even if you have found a marked queen in a colony, continue to check the frame for another queen! A second set of eyes is very helpful while making nuclei colonies.
Move the frame to a prepared nucleus box: There are wood, plastic, and cardboard versions of nucleus boxes. You may divide a ten-frame hive body into two sections by using a thin plywood or Masonite™ sheet as a divider. The double five-frame nucleus allows the two colonies to share heat and build up better.
Give each nucleus colony an entrance facing a different direction. You do not want all the entrances on the same side of the box if more than one nucleus colony is being setup inside. Place entrances at opposite sides so the bees remain separate.
Add another shake of bees. Select another brood frame covered with bees. Again, carefully check the frame for a queen. Gently shake (or brush) the bees from the frame into the nucleus box. Your objective is to cover the brood with bees. If you do not think you have enough bees, shake bees from one or two more frames to finish the job letting the older bees fly home.
Add a frame of honey and pollen. This will provide food for the young bees that emerge, and for any brood that is still unsealed. You may add the frame of honey and pollen in advance, or pull a frame from a colony in your apiary.
Add a queen. Install a purchased queen in a push-in cage or another introduction system. You may use a queen cell you have produced yourself, or purchased from a local beekeeper. Install the queen or queen cell on the brood frame so it will be covered and cared for by nurse bees. Do not let such a small nucleus produce its own queen—it may be substandard and subsequently superseded.
Add drawn combs to fill the nucleus box. Then close up the hive body.
Position the increase hive in the same apiary or in an out apiary. If you only add nurse bees, few bees will fly back to the parent hive. If you shook bees from the outer frames where foragers are located, you should expect to lose part of the bee population if left within 2 miles of the source apiary. Move new hives least 2 miles away.
Feed the increase colony. Use a division board (frame) feeder, top feeder, or a sugar syrup jar on the top of the nucleus or in a feed shell. Keep feeding for at least a month or as long as you are putting new queen cells into the colony for mating.
Reduce the entrance. Limit the entrance of the hive since small increase colonies are vulnerable to robbing by stronger hives. Use screen vent holes to avoid overheating the colony during hot weather. Protect the colony from strong winds and provide the bees with a water source.
Manage this unit. Once a mated queen has been producing eggs long enough to fill the frames with brood, she may be used to requeen another colony. Use the old queen you removed to keep this nucleus going until you are ready to replace the her. If you ....