Sunday, January 10, 2016

Winter Bees

No pic for you today because the bees are under a bit of snow, but we saw them flying earlier this week so fingers crossed they'll make it the rest of the winter.

Since hope springs eternal around here, Eric and I went to a class yesterday on Queen Rearing and Nuc* Overwintering in the Michael Palmer style.   It was really interesting.  We hope these bees make it through and we can grow the yard a bit this year for real.   I ordered 2 more nucs from the instructor, who raises local genetics and doesn't treat.   They're more expensive than ever this year [$175 each] but the local, disease resistant bees would be worth it if I can grow the yard.  

We took the class at Stuart Ratcliff's apiary in Bedford, Indiana.   He's on facebook:  Ratcliff Beekeeping.    He taught us all about grafting and raising queens and then overwintering the nucs.   Grafting doesn't interest me much, but there are graft free ways of making your own queens and I'll be trying some of those this year if we come out of the winter with live hives. 

In class, Stuart asked us what our goals for the yard are and I realized that I've been so focused on getting the bees through the winter that I hadn't really thought about anything beyond March.  So we've all been talking about it.  This will be our 5th year with bees.   If these hives make it, then we'll grow them for honey.  We'll be converting the long hive into nuc spaces - a quadruplex with a window in the back.   The screened bottom will have to be replaced with a solid bottom.  We'll have to make tiny inner covers for each section and tighten up the dividers between nucs.   It's likely we'll cut it down to a medium, but we can always put mediums in a deep and not the other way around.  

This is one of the problems with having to buy nucs [and typical starter kits that have those discounts on equipment].   Nucs are deeps and perpetuate the need for at least some deep boxes in the yard. Starter kits almost always have 2 deeps per hive.    We'd really like to go to all mediums.   I think we'll be able to do that eventually by only using deeps for the very bottom boxes, when we have to.  If we use mediums for all of the rest of the boxes, then in the spring when it's time to reverse the boxes, we'll have a medium on the bottom, can take the deep away [cut it down or save it] and can use mediums only on that hive from there on out.  

There are a lot of options for us.   We'll see what the rest of the winter brings.  

* For definitions of many bee terms, see my bee page tab above.


  1. Yeah, I haven't really been gung-ho on doing grafting. Besides I don't think I have enough space to raise a large number of queens. Another benefit of using the nucs is the break in the brood cycle for mite population control. Very cool and good luck!

    1. It is amazing what people are able to do with bees. And amazing how people think about bees. It would never occur to me to think about things the way these guys have figured out how to raise queens. There's good money in it if you can make it work though. Since the bees have been a real money pit so far, that makes it tempting.

    2. Yes, I had been thinking that the only way to make money with bees would be to sell nucs. I could build the boxes and once I had hit the max number of hives I wanted, I could just do splits and sell them. Hasn't worked out yet since I need some hive to live through the winter first!!

    3. That's exactly my situation. It's warm today and I just went out to have a look at the hives. The larger one is flying. Something tried to get into the smaller one [and failed], but it usually flies much later in the day, so hopefully I'll see something there in a few hours. Fingers crossed.


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