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Boosting a Weak Nuc Above a Strong Hive

Updated: Apr 30

Coming out of winter, we had a handful of nucs that were not building up like they should be. They were queenright, but just had too small a cluster left to really get much brood going. We decided to boost them by placing them above a really strong colony so that they could benefit from the heat and the addition of some nurse bees who we hoped would move up to help things along.

Full disclosure: This was an experiment for us this spring. We had heard of others doing something similar and decided to try it out on 6 of our nucs that we had more or less written off as hopeless. It worked really well on all 6 and so we have just done the same with another handful of nucs that were not as strong as we'd like.

There are other things that you can consider doing with a weak nuc before you try this somewhat risky strategy:

  1. Use the queen from the weak nuc to replace a lost queen in an otherwise strong hive

  2. Borrow a frame or two of brood from another hive to boost the weak nuc

Here's the how-to for boosting a weak nuc above a strong hive:

The quick and dirty instructions for those of you who don't love videos:

  1. Bring the nuc to the site of the strong hive.

  2. Leave your strong hive where it is and just open up the top.

  3. If either colony needs food, insert a feeding shim and place the food above the original, strong colony

  4. PUT A QUEEN EXCLUDER ABOVE THE STRONG COLONY (in all caps because if you miss this step, none of this is going to work!)

  5. Put a 10-frame box above the queen excluder.

  6. Move your nuc into the centre of it and add empty/blank frames on both sides to fill the box.

  7. Place the inner cover on with the opening down to allow access

  8. Make sure the top entrance stays open when you replace the lid.

  9. Check back in a week!

And by special request, here are my super duper diagrams in case you want to take them as a cheat sheet to the bee yard with you:

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