Bee season is on the way! Things are about to warm up and my bee packages from New Zealand will be coming soon (most likely mid-May, more on that later). This means that these bees will need a home. Over the next couple of weeks I will be building hive supers and frames and transferring my bees from last year into nucs… these beekeeping terms may be confusing, let me explain...
The pictures below compare a typical hive and a nuc. A hive can be composed of many parts and houses a larger colony to produce a honey crop for the beekeeper. A nuc is, as you can see, half the size of a hive ("nuc" is short for "nucleus"). Its purpose is to care for smaller bee populations, house bees from an overcrowded colony, care for spare queen bees, or rear new queen bees. I will be putting my bee colonies into nucs this week because they did not overwinter that well and having a smaller home is easier for them to take care of and keep warm.
The next picture below outlines the components and pieces of a hive. Starting from the bottom, there is a bottom board which is intended to be a base for the hive and a landing platform. The brood chamber is where the queen lives, lays eggs and gives rise to brood (bee larva). There may be one or two brood chambers at a time (depending on the beekeepers style.) The queen excluder stops the queen from going to the top of the hive (since she is full of eggs, her abdomen is to big too fit through the grate.) This is to avoid eggs being laid among the supers. The supers are where the honey is stored. As the season goes on, more supers are added to the top to make way for more honey storage. There may be as much as 5 or more supers near the end of the honey flow, depending on how strong the hive is. And lastly, the hive cover tops it off to complete this bee shelter.
Inside both the brood chamber and super, there are frames of honey comb. There are usually 9 – 10 frames per box as you can see in the picture below. My hive equipment I got last year was bought used from some guy in Manitou, and you can tell just how used by the color of the honey comb. The dark color is from many uses in the brood chamber. The frame darkens as more larva hatch out and shed their cocoons. Honey comb not used in the brood chamber stays nice and bright. You can also see the crystalized honey on the side of this frame which means that this frame will be great for putting into spring colonies.