I just did something I said I would never do. Based on predictions of unusually cold weather for the next week or so, I decided to move my three nucs into the garden shed. At the last moment, I decided to move the top-bar hive inside as well.
Now for those of you living in the frozen north, it doesn’t get that cold here in western Washington. Normal winter temperatures are in the 40s, maybe dipping into the high 30s at night. But we’re due for a week in the 20s, which is pretty cold for a small nuc without much bee mass.
How to move nucs inside
If it stays in the 40s a small nuc can get by without any help, provided it has a good store of food. But last year I lost two nucs when the temperatures went down in the teens for almost two weeks, and I didn’t want to risk losing more this year. So now they’re in the shed which stays in the mid to high 40s most of the time. They’re making a racket—so they’re probably annoyed with the whole “let’s move in November” concept.
I moved the top-bar hive in because of that old adage, “A swarm in July is not worth a fly.” The colony in the top-bar hive came from a swarm that moved in—much to my astonishment—last July 3. Colonies that relocate that late in the year are often low on stores because the summers often don’t supply much nectar. I’ve fed this hive, but it doesn’t seem exactly robust. I decided it needed the help. All the other colonies around here are going to have to fend for themselves.
Bees keep warm in the winter by staying in a cluster. They continually rotate their positions so that the ones on the outside go toward the center, and the ones that were in the center take their turn on the outside. This works as long as there are enough bees to keep the center of the cluster in the 90s. A very small cluster can’t pull this off, and temperatures below freezing hasten their demise.
And back out again
Like I said, I’ve never done this before so my plans are sketchy. I think I will put them back outside when the temperatures are normal. I had to screen their entrances so they can’t get out, but since they were able to take cleansing flights only a week ago, they should be okay for a few weeks.
I don’t know if they will make it, but I’m pretty certain they would not have made it through the cold snap, so I figure it is worth a try. I’ll let you know what happens.
Honey Bee Suite