The polystyrene frame feeder supplied with Kieler mini mating nucs occupies one third of the box (see image right from Modern Beekeeping). Although it can be used to feed syrup or fondant it only fits the bottom box and is too deep to be used in the upper body. To overwinter queens and small colonies in these boxes they usually need to be double depth. This causes two problems – the feeder is often below the cluster and refilling it, or even checking to see if it needs topping up, requires separating the upper and lower body. Even during the queen rearing season the supplied feeder is not ideal – by occupying a third of the box it takes valuable space bees and brood could occupy. To overcome these problems I build simple frame feeders to take fondant. Using scrap wood and some offcut queen excluder they occupy half the space of the supplied polystyrene feeder. With 21 mm softwood for the frame these can take ~200g of fondant. They can be used in either the lower or upper body of the mini nuc. I place them at the opposite end of the box to the entrance, immediately below the plastic sheet used as a cover board. Checking them only requires lifting the corner of the plastic and replacing them takes just a few seconds – in mid-winter this can usually be achieved without disturbing the colony at all. Finally, unlike the supplied poly feeder, I’ve never had brace comb built within one of these frame feeders and so the queen doesn’t enter them.
Overwintering queens in mini-nucs is usually possible in the UK and will be covered in a future post.