First the disclaimer. I began keeping bees myself last year so I’m no expert. Before then I had helped other people with their bees off and on for the best part of 60 years.
I was ending the winter with three colonies of bees, two of them quite strong and one a bit precarious. I decided to buy in some queen cells as soon as they became available. That meant preparing queenless nucs so they would hopefully nurture the queen to be and become her subjects.
A week ago I opened up my strong hives to move frames of brood into the supers. These would later be separated into nuc boxes ready for the coming queen cells. I wanted to be able to insert a queen excluder below each super to keep the reigning monarch away from the selected brood. The idea is to ensure all brood is a minimum of three or four days old when the nucs are created. This stops the queenless nuc colonies from making queens of their own.
One of the strong hives was fantastic: plenty of brood, plenty of capped honey, plenty of mixed pollen. The other strong hive looked OK at first too, until I saw the queen cells. There were probably a dozen or more. They were capped and a virgin queen could emerge at any time. I took the opportunity to split off a couple of nucs straight away. That still left a reasonable amount of brood to sort into the super.
Three days ago I checked my hives. The nucs were going reasonably although I didn’t go looking for their virgin queens. Most of the brood in the source hive had hatched and there was no more coming on. I saw an empty queen cell so presumably the virgin queen is in the hive somewhere. There was a scattering of drone brood in the selected frames. Not much but I put a top entrance for them. I think drones can get stuck if they try and squeeze through a queen excluder. It’s also quite possible I have trapped the virgin queen in the super. She needs to be able to enjoy her nuptual flights so I didn’t want to confine her.
I’ve inserted the two queen excluders and tomorrow afternoon I will make up the additional nucs. Because of the unexpected splits I made last week, I’m running short of nuc boxes. I spent the last couple of days converting two of them into little duplex queen boudoirs. Here’s a dozen pics showing what I’ve been doing.
This first pic shows the sugar feeder. It fits underneath the migratory cover and takes the place of an inner cover. The central strip of ply fits snugly against the underside of the lid, dividing the feeder into two equal troughs. The little hammer “Kamikaze” is there to provide a sense of scale. Kamikaze appears in a few of the pics.
Here the troughs are being filled with granulated sugar. The sugar is placed in layers and sprayed with water to make it lump together. Thanks to Michael Bush for this and many other useful, practical suggestions.
The nuc base needed modifying to divide it in two. A central strip of timber over the mesh and a few wedges to keep each side separate. I’m not at all sure how well the bees will distinguish their particular half of the queen boudoir duplex. I’ll find out soon enough I guess.
Here’s what a bee would see as it flies into the entrance. The floor and roof wedge from about 20mm to a double bee space of 9mm. The entrance then turns vertically upwards for another 9mm.
Here is the inside view of the entrance. there is a grid type beetle trap below the final vertical passage. I’ve now been using this entrance design for six months and the SHB populations in the hives have been very low. The 3mm bottom screen is the maximum recommended aperture for SHB control. It is possible for a worker bee to squeeze through but it doesn’t happen very often.
Here the body of the hive box is in place. It’s designed as a five frame nuc but the partition will reduce the total capacity to four frames, two a side.
The central partition divides the nuc box down the centre. It’s made from a core of 15mm expanded polystyrene foam board with 5mm corflute, urethane glued on either side. The divider fits snugly up against each end with little blocks of ply filling the frame hanging rebate spaces.
Here the inner cover/ dual sugar feeder is sitting in place. The spaces at the ends allow for ventilation and bee access.