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Getting your nuc through winter

If you aim to keep 2 hives, it is a good idea to keep one nuc as well; this can be used to provide a queen/brood/stores in case of emergency. Nucs are smaller than a full size hive and as such more susceptible to the elements. Extra care should be taken to prepare them for winter and provide them with the best chances of overwintering successfully.

During winter preparations, while still warm enough to avoid chilling brood, if a colony has less than 4 frames of bees, unite it with another, over newspaper, after removing the less desirable queen. After you have united, wait one week and then arrange frames so that brood is together in normal type distribution - frames with lot of brood in centre and then decreasing amounts outwards.

For a nuc to get through winter, it needs to be well established by Autumn

It needs to have:

  • three frames of brood (take brood from more than one hive 1 hive to avoid depleting any hive too much)

  • a young queen, as she will keep laying late into the year

  • been treated for varroa (using 1/2 quantity for full hive treatment)

  • space for the queen to lay

  • food for getting young bees, not stores (light syrup)


In preparation for Winter:

  • ensure it has a sheltered site - no frost pockets, winter sun at midday and avoid overhanging branches or areas prone to flooding

  • remove unused frames

  • move in dummy boards / insulation if required (either side of brood if ‘cold way’ or can put dummy board at the back of the hive if frames are ‘warm way’)

  • add insulation under roof; use an eke or super to provide space

  • give ventilation (open mesh floor  - partially sealed off if exposed site or matches under crown board)

  • remember that bees need empty drawn comb to cluster

  • place fondant in contact with cluster; covered and insulated over (newspaper is adequate), which gives a warm zone for bees to cluster near food. Remember that milder temperatures lead to increased activity and increased food consumption; check the fondant levels at suitable intervals and replenish as necessary

In Spring:

  • there is an increased risk of isolation starvation

  • food requirement increases as brood rearing increases so keep checking that fondant

  • ventilation can be decreased

  • on a suitably sunny day with no wind, check on number of seams of bees. If they are covering all frames, move any dummy board and stores until you see brood (don't pull the frames, just look down the face) and insert frame of foundation either side of brood nest (or, better still, drawn comb if you have it) and feed small amounts of slightly warm, light syrup to stimulate the queen to lay. You can also scrape some cappings off stores near brood area - the bees will then readily use this honey.

  • use a contact feeder; bees are often unwilling to go ‘up and over’ to get at syrup in rapid feeder but can gather in warmth under a contact feeder to feed.

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