What is a BEE NUC and what is a BEE PACKAGE?
A bee nuc (nuc is short for nucleus) is a small colony made up of bees taken from a larger colony. It’s normally sold in a box with five frames standing side by side. A couple of those frames usually already have honey stores.
A bee package is typically sold in wooden frame boxes with screens on two sides. They are sold by the pound, and it takes approximately 3,500 bees to make a pound. A three-pound package, therefore, contains about 10,000 bees.
Inside a bee package is a can full of a sugar syrup mixture. The bees feed from this during transport. Bee packages can be mailed to you via USPS. Each package also contains its own small wooden box covered on one side by a screen. This tiny box holds the queen and a few worker bees to tend her.
Bees in a package can come from different hives. The bees in a nuc are generally from the same colony. Bee packages also tend to be less expensive than nucs. However, with a package, you’ll need to build the colony by transitioning the bees into your existing hives. This requires a greater education in beekeeping. For that reason, using nucs is typically less stressful than using packages.
Which one should you get?
Beginners would do well to begin with a 5-frame nuc rather than a 3-pound package of bees. If you are a beginner, starting with an already established colony is going to increase your success rate immediately. Beekeeping has a huge learning curve. Starting with a 3-pound package introduces a whole new set of elements that you have to learn before you start keeping bees.
Not only are you new at this but now your package bees are starting from scratch too. They have no foundation, no comb, no brood, no nectar and no pollen. And although you have a mated queen in a cage, she’s technically not laying because she has nowhere to lay yet. A nuc already comes with all of those elements.
So you’ve got your nuc, now what?
- Place an entrance reducer on hive opening.
- Open the nuc hive and gently smoke your bees.
- Remove 6 frames from your bottom deep so you have room to place the nuc frames in the deep. You removed one additional frame to provide some space to more easily slide your frames of bees into the box.
- Transfer frames of bees from the nuc to the middle of your hive in the same order as in the nuc. Gently place a frame of bees in a box without rolling them against bees on another frame by putting the frame in an open space and then using your hive tool to gently push the frame next to the already in the box.
- Gently place the last frames at the outside of the box.
- Place the container next to the hive entrance and any remaining bees will work themselves into the hive.
- Feed the bees until the bees have drawn out all the frames of foundation.