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How to care for a 5 frame nuc

Congratulations!! You have brought home the nuc that you so anxiously waited. But wait, how do you care for the nuc?
If you have kept bees before, you know what to do. If you have never kept bees, it is very important that proper care be given to the bees. They depend on you. Please plan to spend a reasonable amount of time caring for your bees. In return, you will have a healthy and robust hive that will go in and come out of winter strong. There is a wealth of information online to help you. Here we are giving you some basic information, which is more like a check list, rather than a comprehensive guide.

The hive to receive the nuc should have been set up before you bring the nuc home. It should be a Langstroth type hive. Decide whether you want to use 10 frame or 8 frame hives. Once you make this decision, every other component that you buy should be of that selected size.

  1. Hive Stand: The hive must be raised off ground about 14 inches. A simple stand can be made with 2 x 4 wood from Home Depot.
  2. Bottom Board: Set up the bottom board on the hive stand. The bottom board should have a solid bottom, not a screened bottom. Screened bottoms let too much air in to the hive which slow their growth.
  3. Hive box: Place the hive box on top of the bottom board. Use a 9-5/8 inch deep box. The frames in the nuc will not fit in any other type of box. As you are getting 5 frames in the nuc, you need additional frames to fill the rest of the box. You cannot leave any gaps as bees love to build comb in those extra spaces. The frames ideally should be made of wood with wax foundation. If you have frames with comb you can use them. If you are using a 10-frame box, you need 5 frames (10 -5). If you are using an 8-frame box you need 3 frames (8 - 5).
  4. Inner Cover: Inner cover is like the ceiling of a room. It separates the living quarters from the roof. Another advantage of the inner cover is that food can be placed on top of it.
  5. An Empty Hive box: Place an empty box, preferably another deep box, on top of the inner cover. The purpose of this hive is to protect sugar syrup that you place on top of the inner cover from outsiders.
  6. Telescoping Cover: This is the roof of the hive. It protects the hive from sun and rain

Where to setup the hive

The ideal location for the hive is a place which is exposed to sun most of the day. Place the hive with the entrance facing south.

After you bring the nuc home

Place the nuc right next to the hive that you have already assembled. Take off the telescoping cover and the inner cover. Remove the frames that you have put in the hive and place them next to the hive. Before opening the nuc make sure that you are wearing clothing and gloves that will protect you from bee stings. Don't let anyone not wearing protection stand next to you. Bees are stinging insects and they can and will sting when provoked.

Now slowly open the cover of the nuc. The bees will start coming out of the hive and start flying. Now remove one of the frames from outside edges of the hive. You can use the hive tool to separate this frame from the one next to it, as bees usually glue frames together with propolis. Do this very slowly. We don't want to hurt the queen if she happens to be on this frame. Place this frame inside your hive box. Now using your hive tool push the frame next to the one you just removed away from the adjoining frame. This way you are creating a small gap between the frames so this frame can be safely pulled out. Place this frame next to the frame already in the hive box. Repeat these steps until all 5 frames are transferred from the nuc to the hive box. Make sure they are in the hive box in the same order they were in the nuc. Push them together so there are no gaps between them. Also those frames should occupy the center of the hive. Now place those frames that you removed from hive box back in the hive box to fill the gaps on outside edges.

The queen is most likely to be on one of the middle 3 frames of the nuc. You can try to spot the queen during the transfer if you wish. But don't worry if you don't see her right away. Although the queen is marked, it is still posible to miss her. You will find her on your future inspections.

At this point the bees have been transferred to your hive box and frames have been added to fill the gaps. If you are using 10-frame equipment there should be 10 frames, or if you are using 8-frame equipment there should be 8 frames in hive box. Now gently place the inner cover on top of the hive box in such a way the hole is facing up and pointing to the front of the hive. If the inner cover you bought did not have a hole you can make one removing wood of the size 1/2" x 3/8". You might find a lot of bees now crowding the top of the hive box and it is difficult to close the box with the inner cover without crushing a lot of bees. You can gently blow some smoke to the top of the box to force the bees to move away from the top of the box, and place the inner cover on top of the box. It is almost impossible to work in the hives without crushing a few bees, but we can minimize it.

At this point you have transferred bees to the hive box, filled the gaps with frames with foundation or drawn comb and covered the box with inner cover. You will still see a large number of bees flying around, but don't worry, those bees are not going anywhere. They will join the rest of the hive. Now place the empty hive box on top of the inner cover and the telescoping cover on top of that. This completes the installation.

Feeding

The bees that bring nectar and polen in to the hive are known as foragers. These are older bees who fly as much 3 miles from the hive looking for flowers. A strong hive normally has a large number of foragers, and if there are a lot of flowers blooming (known as the "flow"), they can gather a large amount of nectar and pollen, over and above the current requirements of the hive, which are stored for future use of the hive. A nuc may not have a large number of foragers and therefore may not have enough food coming in to the hive. When that happens queen will limit the number of eggs that she lay, to prevent the hive from starving. Sometimes, even if there are enough foragers in the hive, there may not be enough flowers blooming (known as the "dearth"), for them to gather food. A good beekeeper will make sure that his or her bees have enough stored food at all times. A malnourished bee hive will not survive too long. The essential part of bee diet is carbohydrates, which comes from nectar. We can make something similar to nectar by mixing sugar and water (sugar syrup). The syrup is made by mixing cane sugar with water in 1:1 proportion, by weight. Don't use other type of sugar, only cane sugar.

There are various methods of feeding sugar syrup to bees. There are entrance feeders, hive-top feeders, frame feeders and others that you can purchase from various vendors. You can feed your nuc without buying any of those feeders. All you need is a quart mason jar or similar bottle. Make a few holes with 1/16 inch drill bit. Fill the bottle with the syrup, close it with the perforated cover, then turn it upside down over the hole in the inner cover. You can easily build a small stand to keep the bottle slighly raised with a piece of plywood and a hole saw.

The question always comes up. Do I have to feed my nuc? The short answer is feed if there is a need. This answer is valid anytime of the year. Too much feeding can cause problems. There are times when feeding is necessary to encourage comb building. Even then, you must constantly evaluate and adjust feeding schedule according to the need. Bees are hoaders. They will take syrup even if there is no need. Too much stored syrup can clog the broodnest and queen will not have anywhere to lay. The hive will swarm in short order.