You’ve just got your NUC of bees! It’s going to be a fun and exciting journey for you, whether you’re a new beekeeper or seasoned pro.
Below, you’ll find information on caring for your new hive immediately after receiving it.
If, at the end, you still have questions, feel free to check out our upcoming classes. They are extremely informative and a great opportunity to ask questions directly of a local beekeeper!
Entrance Reducers or Robbing Screens
In the Bay Area, robbing from beehives is common, even in the spring when there is plenty of food. Robbing is when bees from other hives try to get into your hive and steal honey or sugar water. To help prevent this, we recommend putting an entrance reducer on your hive immediately; the entrance reducer will give your bees a smaller entrance to defend, therefore reducing robbing! There are two options on an entrance reducer, 4.5″ opening or 1″ opening. We recommend using the 4.5″ opening, as in the photo above. Entrance reducers can be put on during the day – simply gently push the bees out of the way and insert slowly.
Additionally, we also recommend putting on a robbing screen in July and keeping it on through the fall. Robbing screens need to be put on at night, so the bees can reorient to it the next day.
Feeding Your Bees
It’s stressful to the bees to be moved; in a whole new location, they need to orient themselves to where their hive is and then *find* all the good forage spots. If you feed them sugar water, it will tide them over until they are foraging on their own and give them something to eat during days of rain. We found a couple years ago that people who fed their NUC in the first month had hives that were one box bigger than people that hadn’t fed. Feeding them sugar water helps them make the beeswax more quickly for your new frames, enabling the queen to start laying faster in the new beeswax honeycomb, increasing your population earlier.
If you are a new beekeeper and the bees will be getting all new frames/equipment, we recommend you feed your bees for the first 1-2 weeks, and then again when you add a second box. These feedings will help them build out wax in the frames.
What To Feed
You feed sugar water to the bees in a 1:1 ratio. Heat up 4 cups of water without boiling, and dissolve 4 cups of sugar into it. Cool off and insert into a feeder.
Making greater quantities and keeping the extra in the fridge is common. If you have other hives with honeyframes, you can also give them honey frames instead.
Note: Sugar has been hard to get during COVID-19, so don’t stress about feeding, if you can’t get sugar.
How To Feed
There are 2 different ways to feed your bees:
The first option is an Entrance Feeder with a mason jar attached.
However, we recommend NOT putting the feeder at the entrance. Instead, it’s best to put the entrance feeder INSIDE your hive.
–Remove the outer cover.
–Place the assembled and filled entrance feeder on top of your inner cover.
–Put an empty medium super box on top and then your outer cover on top of the super box. This will encase the feeder inside your hive, so bees from other hives can’t rob it. The inner cover will keep the bees from moving up.
Frame Feeders are also a great option. They also prevent robbing as they are completely within the hive. They hold a lot more sugar water than the entrance feeders, needing fill up only once per week, rather than every 1-2 days.
However, this will replace 1-2 frames in your hives. Replace 1-2 outside frames by putting the feeder on the edge of the box.
Inspect Your Hive Weekly in the Beginning
We recommend inspecting your hive every week for the first month or two. Along with keeping an eye on the progress of your hive, its good to practice inspecting when the hive is small and less intimidating. In general, we recommend inspecting every two weeks from February to October to keep your hive healthy.
Add a Box
Generally, if the bees have built out the honeycomb on 7 or 8 frames in your Deep box, then it’s time to add a box on top. With Randy Oliver’s bees, we see that this usually happens in 2-3 weeks. Optionally, if they haven’t moved outward, see below for adding a frame in the middle.
When adding an additional box with new frames, we recommend supplementing with sugar water for 1 week to get them to build out the honeycomb in the frames faster. They need lots of food to make beeswax!
Adding a Deep Super Box
If you are adding Medium Super Box, there are no special steps, as it has a different size of frames; simply stack it on top!
If you are adding an additional Deep Super Box (same size as your bottom box), we recommend moving two existing frames up into the new box. Then push all the frames together in the bottom box and put in the two remaining frames on the outside. Often times the bees won’t go up into a new box; this trick gives them encouragement to do just that.
Inserting a Frame into the Middle
If the bees haven’t moved out to the outer egdes of your original box, we recommend putting a new frame in the middle of the NUC frames. This can also be helpful in the first week of getting your NUC, for example when you transfer the bees from the NUC box into wooden hive equipment.
The new middle frame can be either a brand new frame with new foundation or it could be an already drawn out frame that the queen can start to lay in right away. This will give them more space and prevent them from swarming.
This trick can be repeated multiple times, it will likely get your frames drawn out faster and give your queen new space to lay.
Look for Larvae!
White larva look like little white worms. This means you have had a queen laying in the past 10 days. The larva can be big and curled up in the honeycomb, or smaller and may have white milky liquid around them. Practice your inspecting: Can you spot the two stages in the photo above?
Tip: If you have a frame with capped brood in the center, look around the edges. There will likely be larva there. The queen lays in the center of a frame first, so those brood are older (capped) and the outer brood will be younger (uncapped).
If you see larva, then that means the queen survived the journey from Grass Valley to your location. If you don’t see larva, make sure you’ve really looked at every frame and moved bees aside to look. Then, report it to us. It’s helpful if you take high quality photos of the frames and send them through email.
Eggs take experience to see. They also take good light. Look at a frame with the sun behind you so you can shine the sunlight into the honeycomb and see the eggs. If there is an empty-looking frame sandwiched between two frames full of brood, it likely has eggs. Look into those cells and see if you can see eggs.
If for some reason your queen fails, please let us know ASAP. If it’s within 3 weeks of receiving your NUC, we’ll do everything we can to replace her.
Finishing an Inspection
At the end of each inspection, be sure to push your frames all together and center them in the box. This means that there will be a little extra space between the outer frames and the box. The frames have wood spacers that space them exactly the right distance so the bees can have an aisle to work between frames, this is called “Bee Space!”
When the frames are not pushed up against each other, the bees will make comb in the aisles to fill this space. This is very difficult to clean and cleaning it up makes the bees extremely defensive. Pushing your frames tight together is a wonderful housekeeping habit to adapt that will save you hours of future frustration and possible bee stings.
What is the Plastic Bell-Shaped Thing?
They are plastic queen cups that were used in queen rearing. The beekeeper chooses particular queens to breed each year that do well against varroa mites. The new queens are started in plastic queen cups so they can be easily transported. When the queen cell is capped, one is then put into each NUC – the plastic cup is easy to press into the wax comb. The queen hatches out, goes out to mate over 1-2 weeks, and starts laying. You may have more than one plastic cup because it’s there from past years or the queen didn’t mate the first time, and they had to add a second queen cell and repeat the process.
The short story is that you can pry them out with your hive tool and remove them.
We hope you enjoy your bees, care for them well, & that they thrive!!!! If you have any other questions, and the classes don’t answer them, please send us an email! We love hearing about your progress and helping to troubleshoot any issues.