Buying Honey Bees In a Nuc
Learning how to buy honey bees is an important part of becoming a beekeeper. There are several ways to get bees. One method is to purchase them as a “nuc” or nucleus colony. A larger investment, buying honey bee nucs is a quick way to grow a colony.
What is a Nuc or Nucleus Colony?
The word nuc (pronounced “nuke”) is used in the industry as a short form of “nucleus”.
The nucleus or center of the colony includes: the queen, workers, drones and young bees. But that is not all..
Unlike package bees, a nuc includes frames of honeycomb. These frames contain brood (baby bees) of all stages, as well as, food. Honey and pollen should be visible in the comb.
From any size nucleus, a colony can grow to be large and productive given the right conditions. The only thing needed is time and space to grow.
Nucs Provide a Jump Start on Colony Growth
Colony growth with a nuc will happen more quickly than package honey bees.
This is because much of the honeycomb has already been built. And, new bees are developing and will soon join the work force.
The size of a nuc can vary but the most common size is 5 deep frames. Buying a 3 or 4 frame nuc is also a good idea but it will take longer for your new colony to grow.
Once the beekeeper arrives at the bee yard with the nuc. It is time to move this small bee family into a regular 8 or 10 frame hive to allow growth.
Placing the occupied frames in the middle of the brood box and adding enough empty frame to complete the fill.
Advantages of Nucs
Purchasing bee nucs does have some obvious advantages. A lot of work has already been done by the bees. This small colony will grow fast.
Honeycomb has been constructed, food reserves collected and young bees are developing in a good nuc.
Also, the colony contains a queen bee that is already accepted by the workers.
You can see why a nuc bee colony arrives with a head start in development over packages.
Disadvantages of Nuc Colonies
Nucs are not without a few disadvantages. They are more expensive than package bees. And, Nucs are often not available for early Spring delivery.
If you live in an area that has an early honey flow, the majority of the bloom time may be past before your nuc arrives.
The biggest concern with nucs is the increased possibility of transmitting pests and disease. Honeycomb can contain a multitude of bacteria and diseases.
There is also a bigger risk of obtaining pests in any hive with comb. With thousands of bees busy on the comb, it is often difficult to check before arriving home with the bees.
If you decide to try a nuc, be sure to purchase from a reputable beekeeper who will stand behind the bees in case of disease or other problems.
The challenges involved in buying a nuc of bees is different than that of package bees.
You do get a jump start on growth but must weigh the possibilities of disease and pests.
A good quality nuc will be bursting with bees. Be sure that you have your equipment ready to put your nuc into a larger box as soon as they arrive.
Here is a great post to help you understand the difference when installing nucs – How to install a Nucleus Colony.