Russell Apiaries

Quality Bee Keeping Tools and Resources

Managing Mini Frames Year-round

 

Mini Nucs are a key tool in controlling the size of a nucleus colony for easy access to the queen... However, whenever you deviate from standard size equipment, you add to your work load as the new equipment must require special care... This additional workload can wind up being more than the time saved by using smaller nucleus colonies... So for smaller operations, one must keep this in mind and either only consider mini frames for a period when the operation has grown or develop specific practices that ease the burden of care and production for the special frames. Hopefully, these instructionals will assist with that.

Well the first thing that any frame needs is to be drawn out... this can be done in a nucleus of course, but at the expense of a great deal of nurse bees and energy, so I only recommend doing this as a way to reduce the speed of development for the nuc (which you will find is very important during a flow)... So instead of building the small frames in small colonies, I recommend building them on full sized hives... This can be accomplished by using a cross-bar in a equal depth super to allow 20 mini frames to take the place of 10 frames, or if using our 4way mating nucs which can simply be placed on a full-sized colony...

 

 

 

 Mini Frame Supers (Holds 20 Mini Frames aka Half frames "Not the tiny ones used in the small styrofoam nucs")

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Types of Mating Nucs

As with all things in beekeeping, there are many ways to mate queens... Here I will be just be going over a few of the ones that we have used, so as always, go for what works for you and remember that the more that you try, the more you will learn and the more likely you will find what works for you.

Mini Duplex Mating Nucs

 

  

 

 

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Note how the brood in the picture above is plugged with honey... This is an easy way to identify a queen that has not emerged from the cell, or has not returned from a mating flight...

 

  The pic below shows our old home mating yard (well about half of it anyways)... These little nucs are singles that held 3 half frames and a feeder. You may notice a piece of red cloth hanging out from under a few tops. That was used to help seal the bulk bees in during stocking. Although tiny, about 30% of these little nucs would be strong enough by the end of the year that we would leave them be and see what made it through winter... About 70% of them wintered just as they are... This may be an option for folks in a warm climate that can make these tiny pine boxes and use bulk bees and empty frames (which by the way were hand made and very cheap... I will post a few pics of them as well)...

 

   

Feeding Mating Nucs

 

Our mini nucs (half length frames) have solid bottoms and the only shb issues that I ever have with them is if I need to feed them during an unusually long summer dearth... I'm telling you guys, syrup and shb are an explosive combination... that's why I try to rotate to capped honey frames instead of feeders after the first or second cycle... in the case of the brushy mountain fourway, the spaces in the bottom are the only air way period, so being a crack is asking for trouble... yes adolescent shb can get through #8 hardware cloth, and can even get between the screen and the wood... but anything that slows their entrance enough for the bees to catch on to their attempts to enter will give the bees a chance to defend it better... sbb's are problematic mainly after a swarm in a full sized hive... the nucs are vulnerable all of the time though because they are constantly suffering big fluctuations in brood and food... my threeways do have partial screened bottoms on them for air flow, but I use aluminum door screen which has the downside of having to be torn out and replaced once or maybe twice a season due to heavy propilizing... screens on the bottoms of mating nucs can cause troubles as you guys may have already noticed if you use them... the scent of rival queens that close can be overwhelming for a young queen... so a fully screened bottom can lead to odd absconding, "un-neighborly" visits, and queens that just don't seem focused on what they are suppose to be doing... so my partially screened threeway bottoms are simply a 2 1/2" hole cut into the rear for hole #1, the front for hole #2, and the center for hole #3... then the aluminum door screen is stapled over each hole tightly... note, I recommend that the screens go on top of the bottom boards (inside the nucs) so that it doesn't create a "catch trap" for debris which will give wax moths a place to get started...

I like to dip mini nuc feeders in melted wax, letting it fill the inside and cover the outside at the same time, then lift them out for a moment and then pour out the wax and let them cool... the trick is getting the wax to the right temp so that it isn't too hot in order to get a nice thick coating on the inside and out... this encourages the bees to build comb in the feeders, which is exactly what you want so they will have a safe ladder to get to the syrup on... the next trick is to know when to pull the feeders and switch to capped honey frames... 

Another trick that works well is a small petri dish in the bottom with a thin cut of foundation around the rim... this can be filled at night with just a splash of syrup to allow them to take it up quickly before day break to prevent robbing... 

 

  Here are the gavanized ones... they are made of 18 gauge galvanized steel sheet metal formed on a simple break press then sealed with adhesive and then coated in wax...
A piece of foundation is placed inside to give the bees something to walk on to reach the syrup safely...