Never having actually seen a nuc before, we had no idea what to expect when we picked up our nucleus colony on Saturday, which turned out to be a fairly educational day. Nothing compared with what was to come, but educational nonetheless. First, a weak nuc is called a "dink." Second, nucs sealed with duct tape probably have holes not covered with duct tape. If you are choosing a nuc to bring home, don't forget to look at the bottom of the box, too. If there is a hole there, someone will get squished and then many someones will be unhappy. Our nuc box had four holes.
After being chased around the Backyard a bit, we settled the nuc onto the hive stand so the bees could orient to their new location. Bees are quick to fixate on a spot (apparently one day is enough) but fearing they were "feisty" bees, we left them alone for two days. Besides, the nuc didn't seem very full. It wasn't a dink but it certainly did not act crowded so we had time to relax.
It turns out Grampa's Gourmet Ol' School Survivors are mellow bees. We transferred the frames of bees into the Sacre Bleu! box without incident and walked away. (View the slideshow above for photos of the procedure.) Later that day, the bees came out for Play Time, forming a large energetic cloud of bees in front of their new hive. Every colony picks a different time, but once you figure out if it's 1:00 or 5:00 or some time in-between, it's a pretty predictable daily occurrence. After a year off of beekeeping, it was a sight to see.
So 24 hours after that first Play Time, we expected to see them hovering or flying in lazy spirals in front of the hive. We did not expect a humongous cloud - in the neighbor's yard - loud enough to hear 20 feet away. That's against city ordinances, bees! Within 15 minutes the swarm settled unretrievably near the top of the neighbor's pine tree.
Hmmm... what to do? The Hardison Hive we recently built isn't ready (no roof) but we baited it anyway. The upside to having lost three colonies is that we have three queens preserved in tiny jars. One of them was soaking in a tincture of propolis and 100 proof vodka, so we soaked a cottonball with the queen substance and dropped it into the hive. Another went into the now empty nuc box. We jury-rigged the nuc box with top bars and left it on the deck, walking away with our fingers crossed. I read somewhere that when bees swarm, they take enough honey with them to last three days. While I knew the clock was ticking for them to find a new home, with so many unknowns three days seemed like an eternity. Would they choose the nuc box or the Hardison Hive? Would they just fly off? Would it happen quietly and unnoticed? Or would it be loud and crazy like when they swarmed? If you follow my tweets, you already know what happened. If not, you'll just have to wait for the rest of the story. I'll tell you all about who got stung where.