Transferring a colony
Now you’ve got your bees. Here is what you will need to transfer the bees from a nuc and into a beehive.
- Hive floor and entrance block.
- Brood box
- Six DN4 Hoffman deep frames and foundation, or five if using a WBC hive.
- A dummy board or an additional frame of foundation.
- Crown board.
- Empty super to hold feeder. (Or a lift for a WBC).
- Feeder. Either contact or rapid feeder.
- Hive Roof.
Move the colony to its new site.
- Collect your nucleus hive of bees in the evening, when the bees have stopped flying. Treat them gently and don't cover them up to keep them warm. The must NOT overheat.
- Place nuc hive in position on the hive stand where the colony will live.
- Open the entrance. The bees may tumble out to see what’s going on, They may not, however if you’re nervous then pop a veil on.
- Leave bees to fly and to settle down for a day or a few days.
- Choose a warm sunny day when the bees are flying well.
- Move nuc hive to one side and place your new hive on the stand, with the entrance block in place to reduce the entrance.
- Place one frame of foundation in brood box.
- Open nuc hive and gently smoke your bees from the top. A waft over the top bars is all that's needed. Don’t be in a rush; after a little smoke leave them for a minute or two for the smoke to permeate through the hive and for the bees to start filling themselves with honey. Your gentle actions will result in better behaved bees than if you crash about.
- With your hive tool, break the propolis that holds the first frame in place. If the nuc is newly populated, then there may not be any propolis. There will be a little extra space to allow you to slide the first (outside) frame from the second. Lift out the first frame of bees and place in hive. If the nuc is full, be as careful as possible not to roll or damage the bees with this first frame removal - this is the hardest bit.
- Now there is space after the removal of one frame, you can slide each one across before lifting it out. Continue to transfer frames of bees, making sure that they are the same way round as in the nuc hive. As you put each frame in, ensure that it is pushed up against the previous frame. The self-spacing parts of the frames ensure that they go together with the right distance apart. If you see the (marked) queen on the comb, all the better. She will often be on a brood frame close to the centre. You should see frames with brood of all ages – eggs, larvae and sealed brood - some sealed and open honey and some pollen.
- Add the remaining frames of foundation and the dummy board (or frame of foundation).
- As an option - if the colony is particularly strong, you can put one frame of foundation between the outside frame of stores and the brood. When the colony has nearly filled the brood box with drawn comb you can then swap an outside frame of foundation or partially drawn foundation with the one next to it. If you are unsure about this, then ignore paragraph 8!
- Shake (jolt) any bees still in the nuc hive onto the top bars of the new hive. In the unlikely event that the queen is in the nuc (check before you shake), rather than shake her in, place a comb with brood back into the nuc and wait for 5 minutes for her to walk onto the comb where she will be happiest. Then transfer her on the comb into the hive.
- You can leave the nuc a couple of feet away and any remaining bees will find their new home after an hour or two. Fit crown board (smoke over the top of the frames to get the bees down if needed) and an empty super which will be used to house the feeder. If you have a rapid feeder, this can be placed on the crown board over the hole in it (the bee escape needs to be removed).
- Fill in new hive record card.
- Fit roof. The feeder is in the space created by the empty super.
- The same evening, give the bees a feeder full of syrup, 1kg sugar mixed with 1 litre of warm water. (If you feed when the bees are flying you may cause confusion or possibly robbing, so it is good practice to feed in the evening). If you have a rapid feeder it will be in place already so it can be filled with syrup. Whilst walking up to the rear of the hive you should not be bothered by any bees. If you are nervous, by all means put a veil on.
- You now have a hive of bees. For an early summer colony, it should quite easily fill the brood box by September. You may be lucky and get some honey.
- Continue feeding over the next few weeks until the bees have drawn out all the frames of foundation. However, if the weather is good and bees are flying well, they may not take the feed or you can leave the feeder to become empty as they will be gathering enough. As you do your weekly inspections you can decide if they need more feed or be left to their own devices; the equivalent of two frames of stores is enough. Be warned that a rapidly growing colony can run out of honey quite quickly if the weather is poor. The 'June Gap' is a real problem in some parts where there is little forage for a few weeks. Conversely the colony could swarm if over-fed. In addition if the colony is doing well and a super is put on, you don't want syrup to be transferred to the super if you want honey from it. Being a beekeeper is understanding the bees and their needs which part of the challenge!