overwintering 5 frame nucs - when to feed?

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Tyro, Oct 16, 2010.

  1. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    I have several 5 frame nucs that I am going to try to overwinter in North Dakota. They are in good shape right now, with 4 to 4.5 frames of honey stored in each, a good queen and a good number of bees. they are stacked next to one another and sheltered from the wind.

    So far, the fall has been mild. Bees are still bringing in pollen from somewhere and, likely some nectar. My questions are:

    1. When should I expect them to be out of stores and need to begin feeding them? I do not want to be opening them on any regular basis overwinter - but I also don't want them to starve because I wasn't aware that they were empty.

    2. What is the best method for feeding them overwinter? Dry sugar, candy frames, something else? The nucs have solid bottoms and upper entrances, so it would be possible to just pour dry sugar into them if needed - is that a good plan?

    thanks

    mike
     
  2. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    Hi Mike
    With the severe winters you consistantly have in North Dakota, I would be inclined to use dry feed both sugar and pollen or pollen substitute, anything liquid I would think would freeze, as for outfitting them for the winter solid bottomboards, off the ground, perhaps with insulation wrapped around them not obstructing the entrances ( you mentioned upper entrances good to not have snow blocking them ventilation purposes). Cold seldom kills colonies wind will certianly do so if it gets inside the colony and freezes the clusters a wrap of insulation like tar paper- anything ( NOT PLASTIC PLEASE )to deflect the wind and keep it from entering the nesting area.

    Barry
     

  3. camero7

    camero7 Member

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    I made candy boards for my 5 frame nucs this year. Hopefully it will help with moisture control as well as extra feed in the spring. I mixed some Mega-bee into it also.

    Used this formula: http://www.megabeediet.com/candy.html

    I added some apple cider vinegar to help invert the syrup.
     
  4. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    Mike, i would lift the back of the nuc's now to get a feel of the feed they have now and compare it later on, like in Feb. and March. (in my area). Sometimes we have a hard frost and kills everything in bloom and then it warms up for weeks. The bees will fly and burn up energy,come back to the hive empty handed and hungry and eat on there winter supplies. If this happens you may have to feed earlier, we can't set a specific time or date to feed, you can tell alot by lifting the back of the hive or nuc.(without going into them). I brought some hives through last winter with dry sugar (mountain camp method) and was impressed. I think the newspaper and sugar above the cluster catches moisture (condensation) from the lid, that would drip on the cluster and kill (freeze) the bees. This is my thoughts on your questions, maybe river rat will see your post,he winters alot of nucs and can give you better advice. Good luck. Jack
     
  5. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    Thanks to all for the replies. I hadn't thought to just lift them to gauge their stores - but I will do that. The weather has been pretty mild here and on my last inspection of them, they each had at least four frames of honey (a couple had not filled the outside most half of the end frames). I suspect that is around 40lbs of honey each. My hope is that it will get them at least through January. We generally have a few days in February when it is mild enough that I can open the hives quickly and add sugar to the top.
     
  6. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    Mike,
    While I have never attempted to overwinter nucs, only full 10 frame, double brood chambers, I have always subscribed to the old rule of minium of 60 lbs of honey gonig into the winter cluster, and if a severe winter or too mild a winter, that might not be enough. The issue in not the cold but rather the inability of the cluster to relocate to get to thier stores. If the winter is too mild with no blooms to get provisions and warmer weather the bees get active and consume thier stores too fast--bearing in mind that the queen still is laying eggs but at a reduced rate--all contribute to the stores depleteing before a reliable spring flow starts. Dry feed would seem to be the way to go--I was in upstate NY for 18 years, and dry feed was the only way to go due to the frigid weather.
    Barry
     
  7. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    Mike,To estimate the amount of honey in the hive (nuc) a deep full frame will weigh about 8 lbs,a med. full frame about 4 lbs. rough but close. Jack
     
  8. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    Thanks to all for the advice. The nucs all have solid bottoms that are attached (see Betterbee for nuc design). I have hefted them to get an idea of how much they weigh. When they get light later in the winter, I plan on simply pouring dry sugar along the side to the bottom.
     
  9. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    1) dry sugar is emergency (starvation) feed and at least in east Texas the strategy of pouring loose grained sugar in one side will keep a hive from starving. I would question this particular strategy for North Dakota. dry sugar above the cluster on paper would be an improvement and a candy board one step above that (see #3).

    2) once brood production cease in the fall/early winter and they cluster tightly there consumption will be small. come brood up time in the spring food resource requirements will drastically increase. at least in an ideal world once 'the hive' is prep for winter, feeding should not really be much of an issue until spring time.

    3) almost anywhere in North Dakota you will likely face more problem with cold than starvation. sub zero weather for long durations has never been kind on bees. blowing cold weather is worse still. some feed easily accessed directly above the cluster seems to increase the heat generating capacity of a cluster as well as providing an insulating layer*.

    *at least here in Texas, where our winters are mild, even a cheapo freezer baggie feeder filled with 1 to 1 seems to accomplish the same two attributes.

    tells us how it goes and good luck..
     
  10. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    Tecumseh,

    Thanks for the advice. I will probably make thin sheets of candy for the tops of the nucs. They are stacked next to each other (so that the interior nucs are insulated by the exterior nucs - they exterior nucs have only 3 exposes sides). They are also well sheltered (protected on three sides by 6 foot stockade fencing) and will be wrapped in 30lb roofing paper.

    I will keep the board informed on how they do.

    Mike
     
  11. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    Please do keep us informed. I would not (if I was you??) expect a lot of success... that way if you get any, you can be pleasantly surprised. Also in these kinds of cases failure is only a real loss if you learn nothing from the endeavor.

    I suspect (based more on my exposure to northern commercial beekeepers a long time ago than anything else) that some kind of tight shelter or storm cellar may be the only way to have a modest level of success at your northern location. during my little visit to British Columbia the beekeeper I met there placed all his hives in a totally dark basement till spring arrives. Loose numbers for certain but I captured the idea that his winter time loss was about 25% by over wintering in this fashion.
     
  12. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    Well - this is my first time trying. I have improved each year overwintering my regular hives (had over 50% success last year for the first time). This year was a very good one for honey and bees up here - so I figured I would make nucs and see what happens.

    Because I have a background in experimental science, I couldn't help myself but try a couple of different strategies to see which worked best. The nucs I have been writing about are single story, 5 frame nucs. Each has a new queen and was established no later than mid-July. They drew out frames nicely and are now all about the same strength. The are lined up next to one another in a sheltered corner of my backyard.

    I have 4 other nucs though in another location. They were made a bit earlier. Each with a new queen this year. Their setup is different though. These are in standard deep hive bodies that I have modified with an internal divider. They are TWO stories each - with 9 frames total (either 5 over 4 or 4 over 5). I have these wrapped and sheltered (which is good, because we are presently in a snowless blizzard right now).

    But you are correct - if even 1 or 2 make it, I would consider that a success and try to determine why they did in order to emphasize those management practices in the future. Overwintering indoors might be an option down the road - I have a friend who has a number of outbuildings that he has offered to let me move bees into. They are secure, but unheated. That might work.

    Thanks again for all the help

    Mike