Hello all. I am hoping I can have some of you evaluate what I plan to do this year. I've always liked getting opinions and have never had a hard time handling constructive criticism.
Firstly where I am now. I have three hives filling most of an 8 frame deep. I also have two nucs. One nuc is 1-2 frames of bees and the other is about 4 frames. I plan on buying a singular package this spring as an insurance policy. Dandelions normally start early to mid May and they are the first real nectar around here.
Now this year I intend on doing a couple of things. Firstly I plan on queen rearing using a cloake board. I have never reared any queens before so I am pumped. I'm not sure when to start my first try, but I have two goals for this. Firstly to requeen my over wintered hives. Secondly to create nucs. I am building some poly nucs just for this. I figure that whatever nucs I create early on can be possibly split in late summer. I intend on wintering nucs with heat tape as both of my nucs have made it through in this fashion and are likely going to be weaker than this years nucs. After doing some reading on nucs and queen mating I think I'll create them using a frame of open brood, frame of honey, whatever extra comb I have, and a shake of bees from another frame of open brood. These will all be 5 frame deep nucs.
At this point I intend to do two rounds of queen rearing. The first being like in mid to late May and a second in July. In May I'll create a 2-4 nucs depending on how my existing hives are doing. If all 5 make it through I figure at least 2 would be reasonable without killing honey yield. Then the second round of queen rearing will be to get my wintered nucs setup. This winter my nucs are in single story 5 frame wood deeps with 10 lbs mountain camped over head. They have barely touched the sugar whereas my full hives have devoured everything I give them. Next winter I aim for two stories and 10 lbs of sugar overhead as an insurance policy. After creating the nucs I will feed them until it gets cold. Then apply the heat tape underneath and wait until a warm day in jan/feb to check in.
I strongly believe that queen rearing and nucs will be my key to obtaining a sustainable apiary. I had intended on doing this last year but last winter I had a 100% loss. If I can go into winter with 10 nucs and have a dreaded 50% death rate...I will still have 5 nucs come spring along with whatever full sized hives make it through. I intend to keep between 6-10 full sized hives every year. Whatever I have extra I figure I'll just sell.