Just wanted to give an update on the bee yard. Your support helped make it possible to order four nucs. The first two were installed into their new hives five weeks ago with queens imported from Italy, more on this in a minute.
A nuc (short for nucleus colony) is essentially a 'starter hive', usually with four frames of bees, brood and a laying queen. These frames are then installed into a full hive box with ten frames. Usually the bees would have to build out new wax on the rest of the frames which can take several weeks if not a whole season. Because I already have fully drawn out comb and honey from the colonies that died, the bees will have a good head start. The queen will have space to lay her eggs and the workers can begin filling the comb with pollen and nectar. Nucs usually have around 10,000 bees, and a typical colony grows to 50-80,000 bees in summertime.
So, why imported queens? Queens take 16 days to hatch from the egg, and then need time to mature, go on mating flights, and finally start laying brood - about a three week process after emerging from her queen cell. Most queens and nucs from local suppliers won't be ready until mid to late June. Importing mated queens in springtime give beekeepers a head start on the season, potentially an extra four-six weeks - significant considering our short Canadian summers.
The first two colonies are doing well and were simply packed with brood, honey and pollen a week ago. The next two nucs will be ready to be picked up soon but it's good to hear the yard buzzing again. Go bees.