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Thread: Sufficient size colony for winter

  1. #1

    Default Sufficient size colony for winter

    Hi all,

    Is there a rule of thumb for determining what the minimum colony size is for overwintering? What's the smallest you would go with before deciding to unite it with another?


  2. #2
    Senior Member fatshark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Fife and Ardnamurchan


    Not a straightforward question to answer I'm afraid.
    Assuming they have low levels of DWV (so were treated early enough in the season to protect the overwintering bees) then very small colonies can be successfully overwintered with a bit if TLC. I've brought Kieler mini-nucs through the winter, keeping them in an unheated greenhouse with a tube connecting them to the outside for cleansing flights.
    However, assuming you're talking about full size frames then small colonies in full-size hives are in danger of being left with lots of space around them. Move small colonies to a poly nuc box if you can. Or, as you suggest, unite them.
    I'm just starting to unite mine, but based upon queen quality not colony size as most are pretty strong at the moment. If they're obviously weak now then I'd be concerned. It's not been a bad summer (you don't say where you are) and colonies should be strong. If they're not I'd be concerned about either disease or an underperforming queen ... both are often terminal in the winter. If they're disease free and small now I'd be uniting them ...

    You will have more success bringing one strong colony through the winter than two weak ones.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Adam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Norfolk East Anglia, South Scotland


    A decent 5 frame nuc should survive for me in my part of the world. (3 frames of brood and packed with food by the end of September). It would probably need feeding in spring though. If possible I will get bees into a larger box than that - I have a super for one and I have 6 frame ply and and 8 frame ply or poly boxes too which gives more space for food or for larger colonies. Having said the above, last winter was particularly mild and I go through colonies that would not usually survive - say a mini-nuc with 8 frames (Apidea size). Regular feeding from now will encourage the colony to rear brood over a period of time and grow to a viable size. I think regular steady feeding is better than just dumping loads of syrup on a colony at the end of September and wearing the bees out processing it.


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