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Transferring a Nucleus - Honeyfields Bee Farm

Transferring a Nucleus - Honeyfields Bee Farm

Posted by Sam Barber on 14th Apr 2023

Transferring a nucleus colony (nuc) into an empty full-size hive can be an exciting and challenging task for new beekeepers. It involves moving a small colony of bees from a temporary nuc box into a larger hive that will serve as their permanent home. This process requires a little planning before to ensure the health and safety of the bees.

Here are some steps to follow when transferring a nuc into an empty full-size hive:

Choose the Right Time:

Ideally Transferring a nuc into a full-size hive is best done during a warmish, dry day when bees are active and less likely to be agitated. Unfortunately, the Great British weather isn’t always on our side. If you have ordered an early overwintered nucleus in a correx box, your nuc will need to be transferred on the day of collection due to possible cold/freezing night time temperatures.

Prepare the Full-Size Hive:

Before transferring the bees, make sure the new hive is clean and ready for the bees. Your full-size National hive should consist of:

  • A floor
  • Entrance block
  • Brood box
  • Crown board
  • Feeder
  • Roof
  • Extra brood frames
  • Queen excluder
  • 4 supers with frames and foundation

Move the Nuc Box:

  • Move the nuc on to the hive stand in the exact location where the full-size hive will be placed.
  • Open the entrance to the nuc box and let the bees orientate for an hour or so.
  • The bees will quickly get to work and you should start to see pollen being collected as long as it is warm enough.

Transferring the Nucleus:

  • When the bees have had enough time to orientate, remove the Nucleus from the hive stand and place the full-size hive back on the stand.
  • The hive entrance should be in the exact same position as the nuc entrance was to prevent the bees from getting disoriented after the transfer.

Smoking the Bees:

While transferring the bees lightly smoke the colony in the nuc box to calm them down. This makes the transfer easier and less stressful for the bees. Avoid over smoking.

Move the Frames:

  • Gently remove the frames from the nuc box one at a time.
  • Carefully inspect each frame for the queen making sure she is safely moved over. She should stand out easily as she will be marked accordingly with the colour for the year.
  • Place the frames into middle of the full-size hive keeping them in the same order as they were in the nuc box.
  • Add the empty frames to the hive placing them either side of the frames with bees on.
  • DN4 frames are designed with built in spacers that need to be pushed right up against each other. Avoid leaving a large gap between the frame spacers as the bees will fill this with comb and make inspecting your colony hard work.

Shake the Bees:

After all the frames have been transferred over, gently shake the remaining bees from the nuc box into the full-size hive. If the bees do no all come out with a shake you may need to give the bottom of the box a little pat.

Feed the Bees:

  • Once all the bees are in the new hive, put the crown board on along with the feeder.
  • Feed the bees with sugar syrup even if a flow is on. This will give them a little extra help to pull the foundation out and also reduce the risk of the bees starving with inexperienced beekeepers.

Close up the hive:

Put the roof on and leave the colony alone and let the bees do their thing for a few days.

Monitor the Hive:

After transferring the bees, closely monitor the hive:

  • The bees may use the first feed if syrup very quicky. If they are hungry or still in the process of pulling foundation then offer them more syrup.
  • If the bees have expanded across the brood box and have plenty of food stores it may be time to add a queen excluder and a super.
  • When the bees are up the in the first super, add another and another when needed. Certain crops such as OSR can lead to bees filling supers very quickly.
  • Weekly brood box inspections are very important for keeping an eye on colony health and also for signs of swarming so preventative action can be taken.

In conclusion, transferring a nuc into an empty full-size hive requires careful planning, preparation, and execution. By following the steps outlined above, beekeepers both new and experienced can ensure a smooth and successful transfer, giving their bees a safe and comfortable new home to thrive in.