Nucleus Honeybee Colonies by Honey Mountain

It is vital to site the mini nucs in the apiary with the best drones

mating via mini-nucs

Whilst most of our new queens are destined for nucei, we now mate from Paynes' poly hives, some of our queens are mated in mini-nucleus boxes (now mostly Apideas), designed for that purpose. They are taken to the apiary having near-native colonies selected for improving varroa tolerance, hopefully via varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH) or grooming and biting and having copious drones. Once mated and laying, they are left to prove the progeny is all-black with a good pattern, without chalk brood, then the queens may be sold or used carefully to replace a poor queen. The Apidea queens may be moved into larger nuclei, using standard frames and fed so they grow into full-sized colonies. They can also be kept until they can be united with a colony which needs a replacement queen. The minis are too small to use as starter colonies, since they are primarily mating nuclei, though Apideas can be supplemented by one or two extension boxes, overwintered and either replaced into super frames or placed over a new hive.

The queenless mini-nucs can be reused by adding a protected queen cell and getting the bees to support the replacement queen.

mating in standard (National hive) nucs

Our most successful matings are normally from standard nuclei. These may be 3-frame nuclei with one frame of brood, one frame of stores and one frame of foundation. 6-frame nuclei are preferred for early sale or a late harvest. Starting with 2 frames of sealed brood, they expand rapidly to 5 frames of brood and are usually ready within 5-6 weeks from queen emergence. When early queens are reared in strong nuclei, once the new queen is laying and the colony growth is stimulated correctly, they are suitable for a late harvest, such as heather, or, if reared early enough, can give a good surplus on the July bramble flow.

A queenless colony can be requeened using a nucleus with laying queen over newspaper

Nuclei for sale!

uses for early reared queens

Early reared queens are particularly useful: to re-queen a swarming colony which had been split and all cells removed; for sale in nuclei with reasonable hope of a summer harvest and to replace unsuitable queens, especially in bad tempered colonies. As an example, in 2009 we replaced two highly defensive colonies with strong nuclei which had been moved into full sized boxes, having moved the replaced colony nearby. This allowed the flying bees from the defensive colonies to augment the new colonies and we used the frames of brood and young bees from the poor colonies (minus the poor queens) to augment those colonies and some other nuclei to build them up quickly.

It is a nice job for a sunny day to make up nucleus boxes from our own kits

Our 3-frame and 6-frame nucleus boxes are made to the same design as our full sized plywood based boxes (Rodger Dewhurst design) with one exception. As they are more easily managed with top bee space and a flat lid, we add 7mm or so to the height of the side boards and augment the top edge pieces by 7mm. [Note: It is more difficult to stack these when nucs are encouraged to grow upwards in the spring (or later) because of the double bee space between frames. This is done by sharing the brood frames between upper and lower boxes to conserve warmth and encourage foundation to be drawn outwards.] A local woodworking shop makes up timber to the correct profiles for top and bottom edges (British National design is more complicated than the National Commercial, Langstroth and Smith hives, their long frame lugs requiring an extension to the hive width). We now start our nuclei in Paynes' poly hives with 1 or 2 frames of brood, bees and a newly emerged queen as they can be moved and dealt with more easily. Experience with the poly hives and seeing the new Maisemore designs suggests these would be easier to use.

honeybee nuclei for sale

Selection and mating are as above plus the parent colonies are all good-tempered and as near native as possible. This means they will fly in poor weather, even in drizzle, in cool conditions (typically 6.5°C), keep good pollen stores and are frugal in winter, over-wintering well and responding to nectar input. No guarantee is given about the performance of our bees when moved to another site and managed by another beekeeper. Temper will be observed on transfer at collection time. No smoke or gloves will be used to demonstrate to docility of our dark bees.

All nuclei will be sold only with brood in all stages and expanding rapidly with emerging bees laid by the nucleus queen. They will have pollen and honey (or syrup) stores. BBKA standards apply. They are ideal as starter colonies for new beekeepers or more experienced beekeepers who wish to compare the performance of our near native (Apis mellifera mellifera) colonies with their own or who wish to expand their apiaries more quickly. Collection will always be timed depending on readiness. Nuclei with proven all-dark workers are being over-wintered. It is now too late for most beekeepers to take summer reared nuclei although once the ivy flow is on, colonies will take off. Nuclei should always be transferred immediately to a full-sized brood chamber on their new site and fed steadily until all new frames are drawn and stores laid down.

We prefer you to collect using your own hive. Nucleus boxes will not normally be supplied, though they may be loaned to an experienced beekeeper. Frames are best transferred into your hive late afternoon ready to take away when the bees have settled. This minimizes time involved and allows you to verify colony traits such as temper and health. Other arrangements may be agreed. Inexperienced beekeepers are required to bring a full-sized box which they can re-site without removing frames and risking damage to their precious queen. We will do our best to supply as and when required without lowering our standards (we aim to offer 4-5 frames with brood in all stages, though 3 is the BBKA minimum and we are prepared to sell a nucleus with 3 frames of brood) if it seems strong enough.

2018 prices and payment methods

To discuss the possibility of acquiring one or more nuclei, to confirm availability and approximate date for collection and agree payment method email James in the first instance. You may also telephone 01736 602192 or 07980 486245. Visitors are always welcome to see our colonies and how we work and bring on nucs.

I will take payment via Paypal (using the above email address) but I prefer internet transfer (BACS) directly from your account to mine as records are clear. Payment may be confirmed at the time of collection if instant transfer is made - otherwise beforehand or the easiest way is to pay cash when you verify quality at collection time and select the one you want.

Cost £200 to the above standard and conditions. A £20 discount per colony is given to beekeepers in Cornwall as we will profit from your new high quality drones. Always confirm your order by email. Cost £180 if the % of hybrids is significant (< 20%) because mating was with some hybrid drones as well as black drones. This will not affect drone production throughout the life of the queens as their sons will also be dark. To propagate dark queens from these colonies, queens will need to be selected before mating as they emerge from their cells. This can work very well.

In the event of having insufficient nuclei available we will pass on your enquiry to a member of CBIBBG.

Address for collection: 10, St. George's Road, Hayle, Cornwall TR27 4AH. or the apiary. Telephone or email as above for directions.

after sales service

It is likely to be important to inexperienced beekeepers to have immediate advice in case of uncertainty or difficulty. This will always be available via phone or email as above. My position is clear: there are no silly or stupid questions only a quest to learn. To seek to reduce ignorance demonstrates intelligence. Beekeepers within easy traveling distance may request a visit to deal with urgent or serious issues arising. All novice beekeepers are recommended to join their local Beekeepers’ Association and find a mentor who is able to talk constructively about differences in the behaviour of our near-native bees from imported bees and their hybrids. Sadly, some beekeepers are hostile to both conservation of native characters and selection for varroa tolerance, and the latter utterly defeats me.

Our colonies may build very rapidly and will need space – occasionally this may mean giving a second brood chamber – advice on managing this is available. If there is copious ivy locally, they may need two supers going into the autumn to prevent clogging the brood chamber. Some people do like ivy honey, but it can be diluted in spring and fed back to the bees. Scrape the cappings, immerse frames tightly together in warm water overnight and the resulting syrup will be welcomed by the bees to grow new bees.

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