I am just wondering about activity levels in cold weather. I installed my nuc on Saturday. It is now Tuesday morning. I don’t want to look into the hive too may times, too early, but I have been spending a lot of time watching the entrance. After installing, we had a very odd cold snap and hit in the 40’s the last few days (F). When the sun is up and it’s warm the hive is very active. I constantly see about 50 bees around the entrance, coming and going with pollen on their legs, etc. I put a 1 gal 1:1 sugar syrup feeder on the top. It’s one of those upside down bucket feeders with the screened hole. It matches up perfectly and I drew a circle on my inner cover to ensure it’s aligned easily. It appears that in the last 3 days, they have only taken about 10-15% of the feed. I peeked under the inner cover today when checking the food (did not disturb them very much, just took a quick look. My 5 nuc frames are looking great, but my 3 foundationless, new frames are bare bones. Is this normal? In my head I saw so much in and out and pollen coming, etc. that I had envisioned more comb building. I am probably paranoid. Watching the hive has been interesting. Day one, I saw a carpenter bee try to get into the entrance, only to be bum rushed by about 5 bees and take off in a hurry. It was truly impressive to see how quickly they started foraging and bringing back pollen. We have had a late start here with a freak snow storm a few weeks ago and a longer winter than normal.
Hey Mark, welcome I’m in PA and we’ve had similar weather fluctuations this spring with the general trend of cooler than usual. On the one hand, the flowers have lasted longer and have had plenty of rain to produce nectar for a very good spring flow, but on the other hand the bees are pretty taxed by the effort it takes to forage and keep brood warm enough in lower temps. The pollen you’re seeing is for bee bread to feed brood, and soon the colony will have enough workers to dedicate to wax-building. The fact that so little of your feed is being taken means there’s plenty of nectar out there to keep the small number of foragers you have quite busy at the moment.
That is what I was hoping. My hive is on the PA border, in Ohio, on the shore of Pymatuning Reservoir, backing up to the state park - lots of woods. Thanks for the input!
Those trees are a great food source for the bees Mark. You are doing fine, what you are describing is very normal. As we get to mid June you will see those two empty frames in high gear soon enough. Watching the entrance is a great way to learn what the bees are up to. I have found I can tell a lot by the flights; rapid in/out like a race usually is nectar flow, circular figure eights are orientation flights for new flying bees, hanging out en mass on the front porch/up the box may mean its too hot inside and ventilation openings need to be opened up a bit more (take off any entrance reducers for example or add an upper entrance). Keep watching and making notes of pollen coming in like you are-- pollen going in is a very good sign things are developing inside well. When you have a new Nuc its super hard not to take peaks. The bees in Nucs are usually so busy getting their new home setup they let you do that without too much hassle but watch for time of day/temperature so you aren’t disrupting them when its evening or cold or you’ll have a bad experience! Don’t ask me why I know
Welcome to the forum Mark, you will find lots of people here to help you along with good advice.
Bee activity will dramatically slow down in cold weather and in those conditions it is best to not open up the hive no matter how tempting it is.
Bees will totally ignore added frames to the hive if what they have is enough for their immediate needs, but when they want to expand those frames will be built out so fast it will amaze you.
Bees will be either foraging for nectar or pollen, a single bee won’t do both on the same trip, but bees in the same colony will do both. The small uptake of the syrup is a good indicator of good local foraging, they will prefer nectar gathered to the syrup.
What your saying is all sounding good and your doing well, but accept that bees do things at their own pace.
It’s been my observation that nucs have a difficult time building wax when they are dealing with cooler temperatures even when they are provided with syrup as you so generously have done…unless you have a way of keeping them and the syrup warm… and the population is large enough to pull off the wax building task in the first place.
We confine our nucs to small quarters for the first 2-3 weeks…using two 4 frame nucs one stacked on the other. The brood is placed in the top box and one heavy frame of feed…or a frame feeder…is placed in the bottom box. Of the total of eight frames, at least 5 are available space for the queen to lay in…as that mated queen really lays heavily when conditions are right. The top of this double story unit is sealed with 6 mil poly…then covered with a layer of foil insulation…then a lid. Three or 4 frames of brood and bees have no problem keeping the top unit toasty warm…preventing stress diseases and allowing for building/tearing down wax where needed.
In your case, you are building out foundationless frames that ideally should be inserted between 2 existing built-out frames. This could be done after the queen is well established…but be careful not to spread that brood nest if your night time temps are still cool. It becomes a judgement call on your part. Our night time temperature is supposed to drop to 4C (39F) with a risk of frost…but I just keep those hives warm with insulation in one form or another.
Here’s a video of us making up nucs that shows the double 4 frame unit that we find so suitable for our cooler climate.
That’s really good info. Luckily, the cold snap was only a few days, unfortunately it happened to be the days I picked up my nuc and installed it in the new brood box. I kept the frames in the order they came in and put two empties on one side and one on the other (5 frame nuc in an 8 frame box). I beat the rainstorm by minutes getting them home (1.5 hr drive) and into their new home. The weather has been pretty good this week. This group seems very helpful and I am very grateful for any tips and advice. I did find out the other day that I have a neighbor in town who has bees and I introduced myself. He offered to help out if I was in a bind. He is really interesting and makes all of his own equipment, including two top bar hives that he showed me.