Monday, June 16, 2014
Cardboard Nuc Boxes
Unfortunately, the woman who was minding the store where I picked them up gave me wrong information, and if I had done what she said, I would have been in quite a pickle.* Luckily, I didn't trust what I was hearing and I didn't do what she said. I don't want the same thing to happen to someone else, so here's a quick description of what's going on with these nucs.
1. The lids: My lids were not taped on. If they had fallen over in the car, it would have been a problem. I suggest a bit of tape across the tops, just in case.
2. The small holes at the bottom of each end: These are hive entrances. In the pic you can see the small hole is open on the right nuc box. Notice that there is no screen on this entrance - that's so the bees can get in and out like a regular hive. However! On the other end of the box, that small bottom hole is covered by white plastic mesh, so you can open the other side and they can get some air without getting out. [Clever ones will get out anyway.] Make sure that you know which end is which before you open the vent.
3. Larger holes in center of each end: Those are vent holes and the bees need those to be open when the weather is hot. In my boxes, there was mesh covering the large holes on both ends so that either end could be open for ventilation. That should have been explained to me and I should have been told to open the vents as soon as I got home and got the bees out of the car to rest before installing them.
4. The insides [Sorry no pics!]: There is a cardboard separator on each end of the nuc box that keeps the frames in place during handling and traveling. It's nice....except when it's time to install the nucs. Be really careful to let the bees know which end you're starting at so the queen can get away from that first frame you take out. It's very easy to roll the bees with that first frame. The separators prevent you from scooting the next frame over before you lift and take it out! I worked slowly and in both nucs, the queen was on the back side of the very last frame I removed. Smart girls.
5. Installation: I received no instructions on installation from the place where I got these bees and was not told to ventilate the bees or how.* I used common sense to get them home, out of the car and up to the site, where I put them in the shade immediately, then I followed these instructions for installation. Since I did not know where the mesh was in the boxes, I had to keep the boxes completely closed until installation and I was afraid I'd roast the bees. I waited only 20 minutes or so to let them rest after I got them home before I installed them. I prepped the new hives, smoked them a bit and opened the nuc. I tapped the side and top of the frame I would be starting from and lifted the first frame out carefully. Be careful not to roll the bees!
Tip: After you get that first frame out, you can sort of tilt the bottom of the next frame away from the others as you get it out. That will help prevent rolling in those cardboard nuc boxes. [I also have a plastic nuc box that I use as a swarm trap - it has no frame separators on the ends so it's easy to slide the frames over before you take them out.]
We checked every frame for brood, stores and the queen. Both nucs were full of brood and the queen was marked on one of them. I must say that the bees were nice and calm even though they'd just endured more than an hour in the car and the trundle up the hill and had been closed up completely for who knows how long.
I did not have to return the boxes. One of the reasons that nucs are so expensive these days is that suppliers are using more of these cardboard things and you're paying for them. They're plenty durable for a ride home, but they're not really keepable, so I stripped out the mesh pieces and recycled the cardboard.
*I can no longer recommend that store for bees or equipment. The beekeeper himself is wonderful, but the store manager has lost my business forever.