Novice Beekeeper

Are you a Novice Beekeeper?

Most beekeepers get a Nucleus Hive as their first venture into beekeeping. A good nucleus Hive, or ‘Nuc’ as they are commmonly called, is a small colony of bees which has a young Queen laying on 4 – 5 frames of the 6 frame nuc. The first task of the novice is to move this colony into a full hive, containing 11 frames, so it can grow to full size.

The ‘summer nucs’ are normally ready in June, which gives the colony plenty of time to settle and develop in its new home. This hive will normally require feeding so the bees can draw out the wax foundation into new comb for the queen to lay in. Most of the nectar collected by the foraging bees is used in this process and surplus honey is usually not collected. The novice must wait to the following year before the hive can provide honey for consumption.

An ‘Over-wintered Nuc’ is the same size as a summer nuc but is available in April. These nucs are made later in the summer and have been brought through the winter by the beekeeper. If you have purchased an over-winter nuc it will contain a mature queen from the previous year. She will be laying strongly and can quickly fill your new hive and provide some surplus honey for harvesting in the same year. However, a note of caution for the novice – over-wintered nucs should be managed like full hives from the beginning. You must have a ‘swarm’ management plan in place, including all the extra equipment needed for this task.

​We recommend a summer nuc for the novice as they can grow in experience with the hive, while avoiding the more complex management issues in their first year.

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Did You Know ?

The task for the novice is to build the strength of the new hive so it can survive the long winter months. To do that the hive needs all 11 frames drawn and filled with stores. A full hive needs to store 15 - 20 Kg of honey to survive the winter.

Did You Know ?

Winter hive losses are recorded annually across Europe by COLOSS. They reported an average annual winter loss of 16% of hives across Europe in 2017-18. Over-winter losses In Ireland in the same winter were 12% based on 348 respondents.
Journal of Apicultural Research May 2019

Did You Know ?

When we put 'supers' on a hive, the bees store the honey above the nest in the super. When we remove the honey the brood box (nest) is often devoid of stores. We normally feed the bees after the honey harvest to tide them over the next week or two until they gather sufficient stores to replace the harvest.

Did You Know ?

Leaving the supers on the hive over the winter is not recommended as the volume of the hive will be too large for the bees to ​keep warm. They can burn up their winter stores trying to heat the larger volume of the hive and could starve to death before the new spring season arrives.