What is a Nuc? A nuc or nucleus colonies are becoming a regular with beekeepers today. Earlier individuals preferred buying packages of bees to start as a beekeeper or re-hive. However, nucs are fast gaining popularity today with all beekeepers. Even packages are made available for purchase in nuc boxes. It is important to understand – what is a nuc?
A Nuc is a small colony of a queen bee and a few thousand bees. They create them from larger colonies of honeybees. You can keep these colonies of bees in specially designed boxes called nuc boxes.
What Is A Nuc Box?
A nuc box is a structure that holds bees. They usually use them to hive small colonies such as a package, split and swarm. Also, they are available in all shapes and sizes in regards to the size of the bee colony. The most common nuc box is a five-frame box. However, they are available in variants of 2 or 3 frames. For bigger colonies, nuc boxes can hold 7 frames.
These boxes come in varying width sizes to suit your specifications. You can also find one that is a double story to house your bees.
One of the best nuc boxes in which you can invest in is the standard size because that way you do not have to worry about the frame widths. Any nuc colony you buy will fit easily in it, and you would not have to disturb the bees. Also, a three divider with at least 4 sections or 5 sections is a good idea. If your nuc is without a queen bee and you are planning on introducing one, then having separate entrances can be a good idea. With, dividers in the place you also have the flexibility of expanding a section by removing the divider.
Why Should You Maintain A Nuc?
Nucs are smaller versions of your hive. It is always a good idea to maintain nucs, so you are essentially never without a queen bee. These days it is easy to buy a queen bee, however, why pay extra when you can nurture one in your own backyard. Here are the many benefits of maintaining a nuc:
1. Queen Bee Is Always Available
There will be many times in your beekeeping experience that you lose your queen, drop her on the floor or do something else that might render your hive without a queen. There can also be natural causes for a queen bee to leave a hive. Whole hives have been known to be destroyed without a queen bee. It is imperative you introduce a new queen bee quickly to maintain the integrity of a hive.
By maintaining a nuc, you always have the option of a queen bee available at all times. Sometimes you could even have nurtured multiple queen bees. This way you are never without an option and always have ready solutions to protect your hive.
2. Protect Honey
Beekeeping essentially starts and ends with the queen bee. If you have been a beekeeper for long, then you know how unfortunate it is to lose the queen bee. Your hive will re-queen itself. However, if you wait for a hive to re-queen itself, then you can say goodbye to half your bee population.
Lesser worker bees means less honey for you that season. Also, if it is a flowerless season, then there will be additional pressure on your bees. You might try to make up by leaving sugar syrup in the feeder, but that will not get you the same amount of honey without a queen bee.
With, the help of a nuc queen you always have an option ready to re-queen the hive yourself. It will take time and patience, but you will preserve bee population as well as the honey.
3. You Do Not Have To Rely On Others
Beekeepers usually have a tight network. Chances are, you would buy all bee related equipment and hives from the same seller. There are a lot of benefits to this loyalty. However, you miss out on building connections with other sellers. Usually, when there is a bee disease or some other such calamity that affects queen bee, the demand for these bees increase. There can be a chance that you are too late with your seller and miss out on buying a queen bee.
By maintaining your own nucs, you can make sure you do not have to depend on anybody else. You are self-sufficient and never without a queen bee. Also, there are some months of the year in which queen bees are not available for purchase.
4. Boost A Weak Hive
There will be times when your hive dwindles and does not produce much honey. In such situations, you can always boost the production of a hive with the help of a new queen bee. However, it is important that you maintain all precautions while re-queening as in some cases the bees can feel threatened by a new presence and kill the new queen bee.
If you are not ready for re-queening, you can also boost the production of a weak hive by transferring out some frames from the nuc to a weak hive.
How To Buy A Nuc
Now, you already have the answer to what is a nuc? It might even tempt you to rush out and buy a nuc for yourself. However, there are a number of people who would take you for a ride if you are not careful. Yes, fellow beekeepers are also affected by the capitalistic attitude of making a profit. There are two important factors you must consider while purchasing a new nuc.
Many beekeepers will try to pass off old frames on you. These might be full of pests and other diseases. To ensure the best health and care for your bees, you need to ask the seller whether the frames are new or old. In case they are partially used, you need to dig further. Buy a nuc only when you are completely satisfied that the frames are disease free.
Also, ask about the foundation used in nucleus frames. You do not want to be surprised with a plastic frame when you were hoping for a wax foundation.
Every queen bee has different traits and is of multiple varieties much like dog breeds. The common queen bees are Caucasian, Carniolan, Italian or Ligurian, or crosses of these as hybrids. You need to be aware of the race of a queen bee while purchasing one. Also, make sure that the queen bee is only a few weeks to a few months old. You do not want to take home an old queen bee to your apiary. If you are a new beekeeper, then make sure you mrk the queen That way you can locate her easily.
What Are The Uses Of A Nuc Box?
If you have purchased a nucleus colony and have already merged them with an old hive, then you are with an empty nuc box. Do not throw this away. There are multiple benefits of keeping a nuc box. However, make sure you keep the box pest and disease free.
- You can capture swarms by using it as a bait box.
- Use it to hold frames while inspecting a hive
- It functions as a mating nuc when you want to raise queens
When your nuc box becomes too old you can even use it as a handy toolbox for the yard.
How To Raise A Queen Bee In A Nuc
The best and easiest way to raise a queen bee is by transferring a frame from any populous hive to the nuc. Make sure that the frame swarm has a lot of nurse bees covering the brood in order to keep them warm. All you need to do is then put a frame of honey or an internal feeder next to brood and let the bees do their thing.
Alternatively, you can also pass on the swarm cell and simply transfer a brood frame containing eggs or young larvae. This method takes longer and does not always provide a good queen bee.
Now that you know the answer to the question, “what is a nuc”, you can get started. Keeping a nuc box handy is always a good idea even if you are not planning on raising a nucleus colony. There are a lot of benefits that are provided with a pest and disease free nuc box. You can easily split a swarm and transfer some into the nuc box. In many ways, they can even function better than hives.
There are a lot of advantages to nurturing a nucleus colony as well. You will always have a ready queen bee which in itself is a big insurance against beekeeping calamities. With nucs, you can also keep your swarms separated if you are worried about a disease outbreak.
Nucs come with their box and frames which make them a good option when your box are Langstroth. However, if you work with Top Bar or Warre, then nuc frames will not fit. A decent nuc will cost you anywhere between $120 to $200 and are worth every penny saved.