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My Nucleus absconded


I have a little nucleus that I have been nursing for months. I made it out of two very weak late spring swarms I combined. I checked up on it around 4 weeks ago and all was well- I saw the queen- there was brood in all stages and a goodly amount of bees. Two weeks ago I noticed that there wasn’t much activity at the entrance- but I saw a few bees fly in…

Well- I went to have a look a few days ago- and the entire colony has gone. There were only 3 dead bees under the frames- no honey, pollen, etc- just a few dead capped brood left behind. As there were no bodies I assume the colony just flew off one day? There were some small ants in the frames collecting whatever remnants of honey are there. I wonder if they are what caused the bees to abscond- though I think it’s likely they just turned up afterwards.


Hi Jack,

What sort of box were they in?


A five frame Nuc. A very nice one two:

  • fussy then eh?

Did you feed them any sugar syrup?


I did feed them a few months ago - I hope that didn’t attract the ants in. When I last inspected they didn’t have much in the way of stores. But then I saw pollen coming in… That hive has a screened bottom and no coreflute installed. Im wondering if they didn’t like that. Who knows? There is another stronger colony right beside and I wonder if they absconded sans queen- into there? Or maybe they flew off into a tree to live wild and free??


I had a relatively weak hive abscond around this time last year that was between two strong hives. I think that a bit of a dearth hit, they were worried about being robbed & decided to move to a quieter spot.

I know that professional bee keepers keep a massive numbers of hives together, but I think that works because they are constantly moving them to areas with a large flow, or feeding them when not.

With fixed beehives the bees need to survive through all by building and using reserves, and I think this might need relatively low densities of bees and a good spacing between them.




Yes it looks lazer cut like the flow hives. It’s so dang cute!


Greeting Jack !!

That’s a very nice wood 5 frame Nuc. Like the sloped roof n bottom board landing porch. Do you have a super available for it. I’ve got several wood Nucs I’ve built n two to three supers for each. Is that the “crown board/inner cover I see under the roof ?! I’m guessing so …

I have top feeders for each of my 5 frame Nucs so I lessen chances of neighboring Bees coming for dinner n robbing it out. Looks like your entrance was reduced okay … I have two apiary areas about 15 miles apart (one at my home n a smaller beeyard {2 colony} at my daughter)… . If I see evedense of robbing I do have the option of moving 2 or 3 Nucs to her home.

Sorry you lost them. Don’t give up the ship. Just chock up to learning experience n move on. Pull your frames n study to see if n what might have caused them to fly the coop. Often I see something (a maybe) n sometimes only a guess or no clue.

I’m working to keep a weak 10 frame going right now. It happens to us all. I’m
feeding n reduced to single brood box. That’s less to guard, heat n etc. I might even toss in a 5 frame Nuc n haul to my daughter house. Still thinking :thinking: on that. Got cancer treatments next week so running out of working days. I’ll be weaker for couple days so trying to wrap up loss ends. Couple buddies will help if I need it.

How many colonies to you have total ?! I’ve got three active to start the season with (Yellow Jackets killed three last fall) . Gọt the new Replacement Nucs due mid April so should be up to steam again mid May.

Good Luck :four_leaf_clover: Bro,




no worries gerald- I have plenty of colonies (12) and I am not to bothered about this absconding hive- just surprised how they suddenly upped and left. It was made of two very weak swarms- which had trouble getting established for months. I thought they were finally happily after I combined them a few months back- last time I looked in there were quite a few bees and fine looking laying queen. Maybe they were just too small to defend themselves and got robbed- and decided enough was enough. I hope they are doing better wherever they went :wink:



Good to hear it was just try n you are well vested in colonies. I’m trying to get above the winter over 3 mark … my new Nucs in April will bump me back to 6 hives once again.

My first season back the varroa nailed. We have these mites pestering us back in the 1950 n 60’s era. Heck of a welcome back to beekeeping!! A wake up more !! 2017 I got onboard more with the learning curve on mites (experimenting, good mentor n not ignorant anymore) then yellow jackets did there best to mske my hives have a challenge n me too so back down to 3 hives again.

We’ll see if Wx, dreath, mites n hungry Jacket fair me better. I’m trying to stay on top of it all. Heck ! Are we having fun yet ? :smiley::smiley::smiley:

Saturday I will be going off to a field Beekeeping class. I’ve befriended the teacher, my mentor n friend so will be Danny’s “Go-fer” n helper all day. Allot more Beekeeping exposure n learning after dealing with over 60 hives in several apiary.

Oooh ! Didn’t know you had 10 or so colonies … your profile is a bit weak on info …

Well, guess I’ve bent your ear long enough here.

Cheers bro,


Jack, I spent a lot of time on that topic a few months ago trying to convince you to build the numbers up.

They probably absconded the small hive volume because they had a new queen & probably thought that they would quickly outgrow that hive so they absconded rather than buildup & swarm later. They probably didn’t have much brood to sacrifice while absconding.

If they were in a bigger box with more brood to care for (that is brood added by you), they probably would have stayed.


jeff: I did strengthen it by combining two together. And the hive was nowhere near ready to fill that box it had only fully built out two of the 5 frames. The others were about 50% built out. I could have given it more brood but only at the expense of some other productive hive. I have been moving frames around to help various hives but there are only so many I can steal. Anyhow like I said- it was really just a spare nucleus- and it’s not such a great loss. I was just surprised it disappeared like that.

On a good note- the hive that swarmed in spring and has failed three times to produce a good queen- finally seems to have one. Last inspection there were a few full frames of eggs and some 5 day old small larvae. So it seems the autumn queen managed to find some drones. Since spring I have donated maybe 5 frames of brood over time to that hive- which managed to just keep the population going. It was getting grim mid-summer but they finally made it. Swarming really did totally destroy that hives productivity for this season- and probably would have been the end of it without a it of intervention.


Hi Jack, personally I have never viewed the loss of a weak colony with the attitude that it’s not a great loss. Rather I try to figure out the “mind of the colony” to see what I can do to avoid it happening next time.

If I make the effort to catch even the smallest colony, I’ll do whatever it takes to bring it up to a reasonable strength. The brood from previously caught swarms can be put to good use.

Only last year a weak colony absconded out of a nuc box of mine with a young queen. An inspection revealed that not much brood was started. Straight away I tried to figure out why. I came up with the conclusion that I mentioned earlier, that they didn’t have much brood to leave to die by absconding to find a more suitable nest.

I should have given that weak colony brood frames from a previously caught swarm, for example, or even a productive hive so that the colony would think twice about absconding.

Since that happened, I don’t leave colonies in nuc boxes for very long.


Hi Jeff ,
What if you had fed them a good quantity of 1 part sugar to two parts water with a rapid feeder, say for a week or two?


Hi Dan, I’m not sure. I tried to figure out what the bees were thinking. In my case, my theory was that they had a new queen in a nuc box, why not abscond while there isn’t much brood to leave behind & find another more favorable hollow somewhere. Somewhere where they can build into a sizeable colony before they have to make swarm preparations. Also somewhere where they can store quite a bit of honey to carry them over winter. I’m starting to realize that a 4-5 frame nuc box is way too small for the long term.

If a swarm moves into a nuc box or small bird box, that’s a different story. That was what the scouts of that swarm decided on & that suited them.

I think that the decisions one colony makes, in certain circumstances could vary from the decisions another colony makes.


True. Perhaps if fed heavily they would be preoccupied with processing the syrup, raising new brood (as the syrup is meant to promote this) and content with their current home, which has turned into a great source of tucker?


I think that only works if they had enough pollen too. I had 2 hives side by side this year. In late winter, one had massive honey stores and very little pollen. The other one had moderate honey stores and around 3 frames of pollen. Guess which one had wall-to-wall capped brood a couple of weeks later? The one with pollen, of course. So we fed the other hive with a pollen substitute patty, and now they are booming too.

Everything is a balance, and sometimes it is hard to know which factor is out of whack. :blush:


Hi Dan, I know what you’re saying. However keeping bees is one long learning curve. When I first started out, the man that I reckoned told me the most, my main mentor told me to use a frame of brood when catching a swarm. It works almost every time. He never said to use a frame of honey. It’s brood that will most likely hold a colony. The more open brood the better.

There has been 2 other situations where colonies absconded on me. Once when I presented a colony with a box that had been freshly scorched. One frame of brood wasn’t enough to hold them.

Another situation was when a bee customer gave me a brood box full of sticky frames that went rancid. Again, one brood frame wasn’t enough to hold them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d abscond from a freshly painted box, or a box from a hive that had been slymed out by SHB. Scorching would fix that, but they don’t like freshly scorched boxes either.

It’s giving a colony LOTS of open brood to look after that will most likely prevent absconding. That’s been my experience.

A parallel with humans would be a young couple with no children can freely move around. A couple with children at school, especially if they are into team sport would find it much harder to pull up stumps & move around.


I do listen to your advice Jeff- and my three swarm nucs have provided me with quite a few frames of brood to hold swarms, build queens and boost weak colonies.

The one that absconded had only half filled it’s nuc- I’ve had others packed to the brim before I’ve transferred them. Haven’t had any swarm yet. I did actually give that one a frame of brood a few months ago.


too right Jeff…and it is a curve that keeps going. It is amazing to reflect that after a lifetime of beekeeping, we could only expect to know a fraction of what there is to know about bees. Keeps it interesting…