Managing Your Overwintered Nucs


For Maximum Survival and Yield!

Your overwintered 4-frame nucleus is a live unit of honeybees from the Russian stock, with a laying queen introduced during the summer of last year. The queen is the daughter of Pure Russian Breeder Queen, who underwent a number of tests designed to select for traits desirable to genetically enhance resistance to brood diseases and mites, such as: American Foulbrood, European Foulbrood, Chalkbrood, Sacbrood, Nosema, Varroa, and Honeybee Tracheal mites.   The queen in the nuc was open mated in our mating apiary, where we maintain only Russian colonies (open and closed mated), producing Russian drones in large quantities. The drones present in the mating apiary should carry the selected genes for the desired traits mentioned above.

Therefore, the queens should be pure Russian, and the resulting bees in the nuc should be for the greater part Russian.

According to our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices over several years, we have greatly reduce using   hard & soft chemicals, and antibiotics, without harmful effects to the bees.

  • Your nuc has not been treated with Check-Mite, Apistan, Oxytetracycline or Formic acid last fall or this spring.
  • Your nuc did receive an oxalic acid treatment last fall.
  • Your nuc is capable of producing a crop equivalent to a full-size colony this summer.
  • Your nuc need care and attention from you the beekeeper to maximize its potential for production.
  • Please follow the guidelines outlined below.


  1. Install As Soon As Possible
    • 1. Upon reception of your nuc, bring it immediately to its permanent apiary and transfer it into your own equipment.
    • 2. If you need to wait because of inclement weather or other reasons, position the nuc box in its permanent location, cover the screened top with an outer cover, and open the entrance to let the bees fly freely, until you can come back and transfer it into your equipment.
    • 3. Do not store it away with the bees confined any longer than necessary. 
  1. Clean Equipment
    • 1. Use new equipment if you can or disinfect with a propane torch by scorching brood chamber, inner cover and floorboard.
    • 2. Use frames of foundations or new empty combs to fill the supers. Plastic frames or foundations are OK.   They should be coated with beeswax from cappings preferably.
    • 3. Be aware that beeswax coming from brood combs or   unknown sources may contain pesticides residues (coumaphos, fluvalinate, amitraz…), which are known to potentially harm bees.
    • 4. If you reuse combs from dead colonies, be aware these combs may contain infectious spores. Inspect thoroughly. It is now recommended to fumigate dead-out brood chambers with acetic acid.
    • 5. Do not use combs of honey from AFB or EFB infected colonies, they may contain disease spores in the honey.
    • 6. Discard or cull old dark combs, the ones you cannot see through when holding up to the sun. These also carry all kinds of spores, resulting in added stress to the new colony.
  1. Good Location
    • 1. Locate your nucleus in a permanent location that will enhance its productivity.
    • 2. Choose a sunny area, sheltered from dominant winds.
    • 3. Keep away from wet locations where melted snow tends to accumulate in the spring, or where heavy rainfall might also make the immediate environment soggy and humid. Bees like a dry location.
    • 4. Elevate your colony from the ground by placing the hive stand on cement blocks or a pallet, about 6-9 inches from the ground.
  1. Least Disruption Possible
    • 1. Install your empty equipment in place, ready to receive the bees and their frames from the nucs.
    • 2. When transferring the frames of brood and bees into your full-size equipment, take care not to injure the queen. Do it delicately, trying not to crush any bees if possible.
    • 3. Remove all empty frames from the brood chamber, or remove the 4 center frames.
    • 4. Begin transferring the nucleus by removing the frame of foundation first. Put in the brood chamber or put aside for later use.
    • 5. Gently pry apart the other frames and remove them one by one and transfer them into the brood chamber.
    • 6. Keep them together in the center of the box, making sure they are positioned the same way they were in the nucbox, in relation to one another.
    • 7. Replace or add empty frames on either side to fill the box.
    • 8. Reduce entrance. Install the inner cover.
  1. Feed Immediately
    • 1. Your objective is to stimulate and give some food stores to your nuclei.
    • 2. You want to prevent starvation and dwindling.
    • 3. Even if a strong flow of nectar is on you should feed your nucleus to help it develop and grow fast.
    • 4. You can feed it continuously using a top feeder, a feeding pail, a frame feeder, or an entrance feeder.
    • 5. Use thick sugar syrup (2 parts sugar – 1 part water) by weight or volume.
    • 6. Do not feed heated honey, brown sugar or molasses.
    • 7. If you elect to supply the nuclei with combs of honey, make sure it is not granulated honey and free of disease or contaminants. There should be empty cells surrounded by honey to help the queen lay eggs.
    • 8. Feed a pollen substitute patties continuously until you are ready to add honey supers for the main flow. Global Patties or Bee Pro are proven patties that work well. Bees love them and they do not harden like rock.
    • 9. Do not underestimate the potential of your nuclei.   The goal is to ensure the nuclei builds up without interruption because of inclement weather in the spring. It takes a lot of feed to raise lots of bees.
    • 10. Stop feeding whenever the nuclei has about 4 frames of feed, and the brood chamber is full of bees; unless you add a 2nd brood chamber on top. In this case, continue feeding.
    • 11. Do not overfeed, because the queens need enough room to lay eggs.
    • 12. A brood chamber full of honey in June is not a good sign. Instead, it should be full of bees and brood, with about 1 frame of honey on either side of the brood nest, and some honey surrounding the brood area.
  1. Medication
    • 1. The nuc you received should be free of brood diseases, therefore there is no need to treat this nuc for now. The amount of mites present should be minimum.
    • 2. You need not treat again for AFB or EFB or mites before next fall.
    • 3. It is not recommended to install a Check-Mite strip in your nuclei. Be aware that this product is very strong and can kill the nuclei instead of helping it. This product is not intended for small colony of bees.
    • 4. Do not use the formic acid pad Mite-Away II on a small nuclei. It is not intended for colonies smaller than 5 frames. The harmful vapour will also kill the nuclei or the queen.
  1. Summer Management
    • 1. When the population has reached about 9-10 frames, add another brood chamber or a queen excluder and several honey supers. It is OK to add more than 1 super at a time. The colony needs a lot of space to store incoming nectar and evaporate it daily. It also helps to prevent swarming.
    • 2. Visit each colony every 7-14 days approximately.
    • 3. The colony must not become full of honey. Make sure to add supers as they are needed to make sure the queen has enough room for her to lay abundantly. The queen must not become honey bound, or her population of bees will dwindle in the fall and they won’t winter successfully. The queen’s brood nest must not be restrained from May until August. The queen must be allowed to maintain a large population of bees until the end of summer. Otherwise, the bees will be too old to spend the winter, leaving the colony with too small a cluster.   The colony needs lots of young bees being produced in August & September.
    • 4. SUGGESTION:   Instead of running the colony with 2 brood chambers, install the queen excluder immediately above the first brood chamber, and add several honey supers in preparation for the main flow, which begins in late June until late July. The bees will move newly collected nectar above the excluder into the supers, and the queen will have enough room to lay eggs down below. Do not underestimate your bees! Make sure the bees have enough room to work to the best of their ability!
    • 5. Later at the beginning of August, you can add the 2nd brood chamber below the queen excluder, and the bees will work it in preparation for winter. To do so, move up into the 2nd chamber some brood frames from below, keeping it together in the center with the added combs from the 2nd super.   If you are using new frames of foundation, it is recommended to feed the bees from the entrance, to help build the new combs.
  1. Varroa Survey
    • 1. You should monitor the population of Varroa mites in your colony.
    • 2. You should survey your colonies at least once during the season.
    • 3. Beginning of September is the best time.
    • 4. Survey a minimum of 25% of your colonies.
    • 5. Make use of the screened bottom boards OR follow the method outlined below.
    • 6. Install a Sticky Board on the baseboard for a period of 24 to 48 hours approximately, to collect dead mites falling by natural death.
    • 7. A sticky board is a piece of white poster board covered with a sticky substance such as Tanglefoot, sold at Lee Valley Tools & Garden to catch fruit flies in orchards.
    • 8. Record the apiary or hive #, date and time in and out, so you can calculate duration of the survey.
    • 9. You must cover the cardboard with 8×8 mesh to prevent the bees from cleaning it.
    • 10. Insert the sticky board on strong colonies only.
    • 11. Later, retrieve the sticky boards and bring them home to examine.
    • 12. Count the number of varroa mites on each sticky board and record.
    • 13. Calculate the 24-Hour Mite Drop for each colony.
    • 14. 24-Hour Mite Drop = # of mites x 24 hour / (divided by)   # hours of survey.
    • 15. Calculate the Apiary Average for each apiary surveyed.
    • 16. Interpret the results and decide whether or not to treat for mites this fall for each apiary, or each colony.
      • 16.1. If 24-Hour Mite Fall # is 0-10 mites, you may elect to skip treatment this fall.
      • 16.2. If 24-Hour Mite Fall # is 10-20 mites, you may go ahead and treat as a preventative measure.
      • 16.3. If 24-Hour Mite Fall # is >20 mites, you should treat this fall, otherwise the colonies may be damaged during winter.
      • 16.4. If 24-Hour Mite Fall # is >40 mites, you should treat immediately, otherwise the colonies may die during the winter, or be severely weakened at the end of winter.
    • 17. The decision is yours to make. These guidelines are for your own information and are there only as a help. We do not make any guarantees in offering advices and accept no responsibilities if you suffer damage to your bees because you followed our advices.
  1. Fall Treatments
    • 1. Follow the recommended treatments as described in the 2011 Ontario Treatment Recommendations for Honey Bee Disease and Mite Control pdf file located on the OBA Website (Ontario Beekeepers’ Association).
  1. Feed Early
    • 1. Remove honey supers early in September and feed immediately before the daytime temperature falls below 15° Celsius.
    • 2. It is not necessary to leave surplus honey for the bees.   Honeybees overwinter well on refined white sugar honey. Fall honey granulates hard and fast, and the bees cannot feed themselves properly. If you want the bees to overwinter on their own honey, give them white honey from the main flow.
    • 3. Feed your colony early in the fall, in the month of September. This is to insure your bees has enough warm weather to help them evaporate all the excess water from the feed and keep them nice and dry for the coming winter. Moreover, the bees spend themselves tremendously producing the enzyme invertase to convert sucrose into honey. They need some time to recuperate before the cold weather sets in.
    • 4. Feed them using 2:1 sugar syrup (2 parts sugar: 1 part water).
    • 5. Give them enough feed: about 60-70 lbs per colony.
    • 6. To help the bees recuperate, feed them pollen substitute like mentioned earlier.
    • 7. Remember they have to last until the next dandelion flow in May of next year, and raise brood in early spring also.
    • 8. Sometimes the weather in April or early May is unreliable.
    • 9. That way you rarely have to feed them in the spring.
  1. Overwinter Properly
    • 1. Make use of wintering boxes with wood shavings, especially if you are running single brood chambers.
    • 2. Or else use equipment designed to protect from wind and rain. Do not forget freezing rain!
    • 3. Bee supply house have valuable winter packing equipment for sales. 
  1. Next Spring
    • 1. Monitor your colonies again, using the sticky board method.
    • 2. If you have done a good job last fall, you may not need to treat for varroa again before next fall.
  1. Support and Attend Beekeepers’ Association
    • 1. At the local level Local Associations, provincial level OBA Website and national level Canadian Honey Council.
    • 2. You can learn a lot from attending and participating at beekeepers’ meetings.
    • 3. The last research and techniques are discussed on a regular basis.
    • 4. They have hands-on sessions or how-to demonstrations.
    • 5. You can ask questions to experienced beekeepers.
    • 6. Experts in the fields show presentations of research results
    • 7. You can visit apiaries and honey house facilities.
    • 8. They organize courses for beginners and other topics.

Happy beekeeping!