Spring in the beeyard

Nuc production is core of my beekeeping operation. My normal practice is to purchase queens from a reputable queen producer before spring scheduled for a mid April delivery. The unknown factor is how many hives will be strong enough to split so I can determine how many queens to order. In past discussions with other beekeepers, I find that they face the same dilemma. I normally don’t have any trouble finding a home for any extra queens so I tend to order more than I anticipate needing.

Last year around this time the area had unseasonable low temperature and rain making nuc production difficult for the weekend beekeeper. I pushed through that problem making splits in the cool and wet weather and because bees are amazing creatures, mostly it worked.

This year the weather could not have been more perfect, around 70º F, a light breeze, and full sun. As an added bonus, two other beekeepers that had gotten queens from me joined  the fun. We had a big time making nucs. We all learned a lot, saw different hive conditions and queen status. We re-queened a few, split like crazy and bumped into some mite induced issues.

New to me this year was the use of a queen castle. This one, purchased in February in a fit of spring bee fever, is a medium size, 10 frame super divided into three sections. Each section holds three frames. The plan was to use the queen castle for swarm cell queen production later as swarm season got into full swing.

Beekeeping from my perception, is about dealing with the unplanned conditions bees always seem to offer the beekeeper. So it was no real surprise when one hive had several frames with fully developed, capped swarm cells. Not one to miss an opportunity to add to my success or failure beekeeping list, I grabbed the queen castle and added all the frames I could get into it. As one would guess, there is a plethora of ripe queen cells in each section.  May the better queen win the upcoming adjustment!

The queen castle as it was purchased, did not have an obvious way to feed each section. As the sections only hold three frames any internal feeder would be too much. I had several Mason jar feeder lids (the type for external front entrance jar feeders) and a 2 ¾” hole saw. With reckless abandonment, I cut holes in each section’s top board and stapled 1/8” screen over the inside surface.  My thought is that when refilling the jars the bees need to be blocked from coming out of the sections. I put an empty medium super over the jars and a top cover over it. The only other though I had is about ventilation. There is no defined way to get air flow through the sections. I almost drilled holes into the top of each section but have not done so yet. If I find moisture issues that will be the next modification.

I’ll post how it is going later. Happy spring beekeeping!