One of the current problems that bee keepers are having relates to low hive survival rates, particularly over the Winter. A lot of hobbyist bee keepers just accept the losses and buy replacement bees in the Spring. I think I need a more sustainable approach.
I would prefer to just have one single beehive. Unfortunately, it seems that you need to keep at least two to allow reinforcement of week hives and moving bees out of crowded hives to reduce the risk of swarming.
With my recent experience in getting the bees to make new queens, I have decided that using what I learned in the process I should be able to cover normal winter hive losses by running a couple of small (NUC) hives just for bee and queen building. This would allow me to breed my own queens for annual replacement as well as providing insurance hives to cover me if one of my main hives succumbs to winter. I have most of the woodenware (and bees) to do this, so I guess I have a plan.
The plan then, is to go into Winter with two hives and two NUCs. If I do well (no losses) I will have two hives ready to take advantage of our Maryland Spring nectar flow. If only half survive I can populate the main hive losses by moving the NUCs over and have a great start on our short spring nectar flow with built out comb without having to buy bees and wait.
If the NUCs survive I will unstack the boxes making four 5 frame NUCS, place an “egg layer” frame in the best hive. Once it has fresh eggs (larvae less than three days old) I will move the frame into a queenless NUC and let the bees there make new queens. These will then bred in the four NUCs and the best two will be used to replace the queens in the main hives later in the year (June or July).
I’ll move the old queens from the main hives into the NUCs (pinching the queens there) and restack the NUCs to build for the following winter.