SPRING IS IN THE AIR!
It's exciting! You have purchased your first NUC, (Nucleus of a hive). You have everything you need in one little box:
A mated queen
Three frames of brood (bee babies)
Two frames of food
I highly recommend you purchase your bees from a local beekeeper because shipping bees from out of state or from different climates is hard on the bees. You will have better success with bees who know the local flora. I live in central Florida and have had the best success with Italian bees and queens. I tried Carniolan Queens and although they were nice and they did produce more honey, they were very quick to swarm! Within a few months of getting a new queen she was ready to leave. I found this to be a frustrating trait and so I prefer the Italian because they typically don't swarm till the second year.
Place your hive in FULL sun if possible. This is best in Florida as we have LOTS of pests such as small hive beetle and all types of ants. Typically these pests can't regulate their body temps so they prefer shade but the honeybee can keep itself cool. Make sure your bees have access to water and plenty of native flowering plants. ( more on this to come in future blogs!)
EQUIPMENT YOU NEED
Safety equipment - bee suit, gloves and boots
Smoker, fuel and lighter (I use a standard bail of hay and keep some in a bag in my truck, I also like pine needles when I can find them)
I use pine pellets (found at tractor supply, chewys or local feed n seed). Put the pine pellets, just a few, in the bottom of your smoker, then light your hay or pine needles and stuff into smoker.. squeeze billows repeatedly to get a LOT of smoke coming out.. this is good initially, but keep squeezing and stuffing in fuel until almost to the top.. add another small handful of pine pellets and then more fuel and put the lid on the smoker.. you should still have a bit of smoke coming out and it should NOT be hot.. keep your smoke cool or you will injure the bees. you will have to add more fuel pretty quickly initially as it burns down, but after that it will last you awhile.
Hive components : lid, deep brood box (either 8 frame or 10 frame) , frames to fit , and a bottom board.. I use screened bottom boards year round. Ventilation is very important in Florida and also the screen helps with Varroa mite control. As the bees clean off the mites they fall down through the screen to the ground below and can't get back into the hive.
Stand for the hive - can be cinder blocks, wooden stand or metal stand, but keeping them off the ground is best for your back as well as pests and possible flooding.
* There are different types of beehives such as top bar hives and horizontal hives, but for my blogs I will only write about 8 or 10 frame Langstroth hive because I use 10 frame boxes and have experience with those.
INSTALLING YOUR BEES
Light your smoker - this takes time to learn.. keep practicing!
You will need 5 more deep frames if you are using a standard 10 frame deep box. I prefer this as it provides the much needed space for food as well as brood for your new queen who will want to quickly explode with egg laying during the first honey flow season (spring). Place two of your empty frames (drawn comb would be preferable if you have some) against the hive wall and then frame by frame carefully move the bees from the NUC into the deep box. Keep the orientation of the frames the same as they were in the NUC. Doing so is less upsetting to the queen who knows where she has laid eggs. Finally, place the last 3 frames in place keeping all the NUC frames in the middle. Place the lid in place very carefully and reduce the entrance especially if you plan to feed the bees as this can attract pests such as ants and wasps.
Inspect your bees after one week to be sure the queen is laying and that they have enough food and pollen. Also check for infestations of pests such as spiders, ants, roaches, small hive beetles, or wax moths. Feed again if necessary .. they should have at least 2 frames of full of nectar and pollen mixed in.
I would love to hear from you! Reach out to me with any questions by filling out the form in this link.