Starting a nuc
Hi, I am thinking of splitting my hive. When would it be to late to do this and have the split make a queen? Thanks, Goofmike
We'd recommend to do it as soon as possible.
If you are letting the split make a new queen, the process takes 4 to 5 weeks. Only then the new queen can start laying eggs and you want to make sure she's mated before there are no more drones and that she's up and running before your colony has to make "winter" or "fat" bees.
One thing to consider is that once the nectar flow is done, the bees may not be able to make more comb. If you feed them, they may be able to continue producing beeswax and making comb while temperatures are high.
So, if you already have frames with comb for the split, you could do it later in the season. but if the bees will have to start from new (foundation) frames, you need to give them more time and make sure to feed them.
In the North of the USA, your colony will need about 75 to 80 pounds of honey to survive winter (that's about 10 deep frames or 15 medium frames). First, they will need the comb to be made. If they have the comb but not the honey, you can feed them sugar syrup before winter to help them pack the 80 lbs. You will be able to feed 2:1 sugar:water syrup in fall while temperatures stay above 50F (again, only if they already had made the comb on the frame).
All that advice was for making a split to go from one colony to two colonies. In the case you just want to start a nuc for making a backup queen, you can do it anytime you see drones flying. Now is a good time and I wouldn't recommend making a nuc in September, because if we get a patch of cold weather, the colonies may kill drones and your new queen won't be able to mate.
You will need to feed the nuc with sugar syrup (1:1) to make sure they have enough food to raise a queen. When you set up the nuc, we'd recommend taking some frame that has pollen in it, since the nuc could be short on foragers (there's pollen available through the season in most regions, even though there may not be nectar available, but a nuc could have a small number of bees and not enough foragers for high-quality pollen).
We do not recommend feeding pollen substitute (aka pollen patties, which actually do not have pollen on them) since that would produce a lower quality queen. A frame with bee bread will provide good quality feed (bee bread is pollen that was packed into cells with added honey enzymes to make it easier to digest when used).