Moving frames between colonies and damaged frames

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New Bee
Sep 22, 2010
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Saffron Walden
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I have three questions that combine inter-colony infection, bee housekeeping and social etiquette!
I’ve been adding frames of brood from my main colony to a borrowed mini-nuc, in an effort to build up the latter. The last time I did this I chose to swap a full frame of brood and stores (from the main colony) for one that had no brood and only about 30% uncapped nectar and pollen in the mini-nuc. My first question is this: am I right to feel wary about transferring the spare frame taken from the (weak) mini-nuc back into my (strong) main colony? The main colony now only has nine frames, but I thought the mini-nuc frame in question showed slight signs of mould (the mini-nuc is a bit ancient and dilapidated). Also, the main colony has been treated for varroa. I’m not sure whether the mini-nuc has.
I then misguidedly attempted to cut out the affected cells of the frame with my hive tool, hoping that my workers would be able to repair the gaps. That was a mistake! I just ended up with a mess. I now have a frame with badly damaged comb containing uncapped nectar and pollen. My follow-up questions are therefore: should I now attempt to cut out the damaged areas cleanly with a sharp knife (and give it to the main colony to build up again)? Or, should I just melt the wax down or throw it away? I don’t want to do anything to upset or offend the chap who very kindly leant me the mini-nuc in the first place. It’s his frame. I’ve no issue with replacing it with a new frame but he may feel that it could or should be repaired.
You will probably have realised by now that I am a novice. All guidance will be much appreciated. Thank you.
Diary of a nervous beekeeper
If that is the frame in question, it looks long beyond it's use-by date already!

You are really referring to a nuc, not a mini-nuc I am guessing?

Melting down one brood frame in isolation is hardly worth the bother. Probably better to buy a new frame and foundation. At 'bulk secondsi n the flat' rates it would represent about a quid to replace and ten miutes, or less, work to construct, even for an amateur!

Regards, RAB
Many thanks for the reassurance and advice. It wasn't so much the cost of replacement as not wanting to throw away a frame that didn't belong to me and that its owner might have felt wasn't beyond repair.
On the first point, am I right to be careful about the state of frames being swapped between colonies, or is that just a risk you take when trying to build them up? Obviously, I checked very carefully for signs of varroa.
For what it is worth the frame does not look too bad, the foundation/comb IS well past its sell by date. I would cut the old comb out scrape/boil the frame to remove residual crud then fit new foundation.

swapping frames from one colony to another within an apiary is common practice where it is assumed that all the colonies are disease free. When you transfer brood to boost a weak colony it is inevitable that you will transfer varroa too because they will be hidden in sealed cells. Just be aware and treat as necessary.
You also say the nuc is weak is there a reason why they are weak? Have you tested them for nosema? as you may be infecting your strong hive with frames from the nuc.
I haven't tested for nosema but I believe there was a legitmate reason for the nuc to be weak; it was comparatively new and hadn't been fed when I received it (2-3 weeks ago). Since I began feeding it it has become noticeably stronger.
So far the frames have only gone one way - from the main colony to the nuc. Having effectively reduced the main colony from 11 frames down to 8 however, I had contemplated swapping this last from from nuc to main colony, rather than waste the nectar and pollen on it. Under the circumstances I think I'll leave both as they are now, though.
Many thanks for all your thoughts. They've been both helpful and reassuring.
Depending on your real location (UK is a big place, weather-wise) both your colonies are now short.

The eight framer will likely not have enough stores and needs dummies or a divider to reduce the effective space and/or feeding to fill the box for winter.

I am of the opinion, now that you tell us your main colony is that depleted, that you would perhaps have been better uniting into one strong colony. However, location may make a difference to that decision.

Ah, well that rather brings us back to my reason for borrowing the nuc in the first place: I accidentally squashed my queen. The nuc was an insurance policy in case the new queen didn't take. So I can't combine the two. One of them doesn't belong to me. Because I'm a novice (and because I was distracted by having lost my queen) I didn't harvest any honey this year, so 7 of the 8 frames are pretty chokka with stores. So much so that I was concerned at one point that there might not be enough room for the new queen to lay, so last week I added a frame with foundation (the 8th frame). They've begun drawing it out. I've also been feeding them continuously since August. Last week they hardly touched the feeder.
In in north Essex if that helps.

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