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New Beekeeper – Question about Nucs

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    Shane Holahan

    Hello All,

    I am very new to Beekeeping (1 week in fact) and I live in NSW Australia. I have to admit that I became interested in Beekeeping for purely selfish reasons after I was given a jar of Raw local honey in November last year and had never tasted anything like it! I then started researching and quickly realised that with the issues bees and their keepers were facing, I wanted to play my small part to help. Its as they say, “if you aren’t part of the cure, you’re part of the problem”. It is no longer about honey for me, it is about doing everything I can to help the situation. I have read as much as I could over the last 4 months and I purchased my first Nucleus 1 week ago. I am wanting to keep my Hives chemical free and with the exception of the frames that I received as part of the Nuc, I will be using foundationless frames. I’m sure you guys know how the story goes, you get your first lot of bees and you cant help but watch them coming and going for hours on end! They are absolutely fascinating. But one thing that I have noticed is that the bees are taking a lot of pupae out of their hives and dumping them. For the first few days I’m pretty certain that the ones they were removing had been killed or hurt when they were transported to my place and were in their early pupae stage. But for the last 2 days, they have been dragging live pupae (black-eyed) out of the hive. I have been checking them and can find nothing visibly wrong with them. They have been removing at least 50 to 100 a day and in the grand scheme of things, this is only a small percentage compared to what the Queen lays daily. I completely understand that bees know what they are doing and there is a reason that they are housecleaning. I am trying to watch my bees and allow them to show me and teach me but I can’t quite put it all together just now. I was wondering it anyone can confirm that this is normal behaviour for a new Nucleus? As they have a recently introduced queen, I don’t want to open the hive and take a look for at least another week. I also don’t want to disturb them unnecessarily simply because I cant quite understand what they are trying to show me.

    I would greatly appreciate any help or reassurance that anyone can give.



    Rob McFarland

    Hey Shane!

    Welcome to beekeeping! You sound like a great fit for the hobby and that you have all the right ideas. I wouldn’t worry about them removing pupae from the hive -typical hygienic behavior. They can detect infected brood and remove it from the hive. They could be infected with bacteria that wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye. If you notice a peculiar smell, that could be an indication of bacterial infection. The good news is that requeening and giving the hive a brood break is a solution to bacterial brood diseases. The drawback with purchasing nucs is that you inherit the previous keeper’s problems. If the bees have a history of being treated with miticides & antibiotics, transitioning to treatment-free might be rough. Since your living isn’t tied to your bees, you can afford to be experimental and give your bees the opportunity to grapple with these issues without our chemical / microbial interference.

    (Shameless self-promotion warning): Our book has lots of insights into keeping bees without treatments –

    Thanks Shane, keep us updated on your progress!


    Shane Holahan

    Hi Rob,

    Thankyou very much for taking the time to reply to me, I greatly appreciate it! My bees did come from a beekeeper that was treating his bees in the usual fashion so it is definitely going to be a challenge regressing them and keeping them treatment free. I am also fortunate in that a lady from my work has had a very strong “wild” colony (I don’t use the term feral as wild is more respectful) in the wall of her house for 15 years and is allowing me to re-locate them this winter. I am going to be keeping the 2 colonies and comparing them and seeing how I go. Interestingly enough, I became very interested in treatment free beekeeping when my best friend bought me a copy of “Save the Bees” for Christmas! So you guys are the inspiration for that one!

    So thankyou once again Rob and look forward to keeping you all updated!

    susan rudnicki

    Hi, Shane—wonderful to have a Aussie connecting with us! As Rob points out, the genetic history of bees that have been raised with chemicals to suppress mites and vectored diseases are not going to do well without their meds. Often, the queen in the nuc is not related to the workers, and could be poorly mated as a result of rushing the mating flights required by a virgin queen (or she could be artificially inseminated—you would have to inquire about this) I really recommend you join the TreatmentFreeBeekeepers FaceBook group that has beeks from all over the world giving advice and exchanging information on using treatment free stock.
    There are some Aussies in the group, too. That group of “wall bees” sound like the winners in the resilience stakes! Just see that you get some good help and expert assistance in doing the cutout and re-framing of the combs to accomplish the most stress free transfer.
    Here’s one thing, though—I wonder what the beek you bought the nuc from is treating for, as I have been under the impression that varroa had not showed up in Australia yet. All sorts of detection schemes are set up at ports and airfields to catch any freeloaders coming in.
    Be sure to check out Michael Bush’s book “The Practical Beekeeper—Beekeeping Naturally” No hard copy must be purchased as the whole thing (and index) is available on-line. Here—

    This book is all about treatment free and foundationless beekeeping with survivor stock. He’s the best!

    Shane Holahan

    Hi Susan and thankyou for taking the time to reply to me!

    You are very correct when you ask what the beek I bought the nuc from would have been treating for as we don’t have Varroa in Australia. I am more specifically talking about the residual build up of pesticides and insecticides in commercially purchased foundations. Over here, we are very closely aligned with Asia and the majority of foundation purchased by Australian Beekeepers is imported from there. The Asian countries have doused their crops in pesticides/insecticides and if I am correct, the level of residual chemicals present in foundation as a result is alarmingly high.

    As an interesting side note, we have also been experiencing CCD in Australia however it has been going largely unreported by beekeepers. At this stage we have no need to treat our bees but funnily enough, when commercial beekeepers take their bees to feed on crops treated with neonicotinoids, in a number of cases, the hives are succumbing to CCD. The beekeepers response is to get their bees out of this area and never take them back to that location. It makes me wonder wether neonicotinoids is a larger factor in CCD than is being suggested.

    In response to front line defence for pests and diseases, the Government does have a very good system in place at International airports and Shipping ports across the country. Once again, if my understanding is correct, they seem to be more worried about Tropilaelaps Mites or “the Asian Mite” as it is commonly known. But yes Varroa is still certainly a threat for us. The treatment for Asian Mites is expected to be similar to that of Varroa.

    Thanks for the heads up about the Facebook group and I will definitely check it out in the next few days!

    Am also loving Michael Bush’s work too! I’ve been watching his presentations on YouTube and spent hours on his website. And yes, even though it’s available online for free, I’m one of those ones that had to have a hard copy. Arrived on Thursday and am really enjoying his logical, common sense, down to earth approach.



    susan rudnicki

    Hi, Shane—well, regarding this— ” At this stage we have no need to treat our bees” there is NO treatment for it anyway, as you may be learning. CCD, which is actually falling out of parlance here, is more a multi-pronged problem related to things that can’t be “treated” Lack of diverse, clean forage, in-bred genetics, trucking for migratory pollination, feeding HFCS and sugar and fake pollen made from soy, and beekeeper applied treatments to the colonies (the latter the one issue the media NEVER articulates) The bee gut environment is disturbed and the pH is raised through the feeding of HFCS and sugar. This compromises immune response.
    And, yes, I have read of examinations of residues in foundation of upward 144 chemicals. Bees don’t need foundation.
    The US Environmental Protection Agency (a cynically named bureaucracy, for sure….) is conducting right now a review of the major neonic, Imidacloprid, and taking citizen remarks about its use. There is a Federal entomologist, Jon Lundgren, who has been with the USDA for 11 years as one of its top scientists, and is filing a Whistleblower complaint for having been smacked down for his implicating neonics in pollinator declines.
    Read about that here—

    There is MUCH in our government that is thoroughly corrupt and malevolent. The attitude to honey bees is one of them.

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
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