A Nucleus hive or “Nuc” as they are more commonly called is essentially a small colony of bees. The queen is present and well accepted, there is brood (eggs/larvae) present, and lots of workers!
In my area Nucs are available in early to late spring, once the temperatures are a little higher. My particular bees were driven up from Georgia. I ordered my bees through a well-known member of the bee association of our area. There were around 275 other nucs in the same delivery as mine.. that’s a lot of bees!
Your hive should be all set up, painted and ready to go before the bees arrive. I wanted to make sure the paint has enough time to dry, set and air out too so I had that done at least a week before. We have the typical 10 frame Langstroth hive. They also make 8 frame Langstroth hives that has many advantages for certain people, they are smaller, lighter so its easier to handle. We ordered our hive fully assembled from a local beekeeper. When looking at the price difference between assembled and unassembled it just make a lot more sense to pay extra and save a lot of time and headache, setting up hive is pretty complex and needs to be level, square ext. If you work with wood and power tools everyday though, it might not be much of a challenge.
Other Items you’ll need for the day your bees arrive are:
- Jacket with veil
- Duct tape
- Gloves (optional but encouraged for new beekeepers)
- Smoker with lighter smoking material (pine needles/straw/ext.)
- Hive tool & bee brush
- Sugar Syrup & Feeder
I took the car instead of the truck to pick up the bees since it was about a 50 minute drive. I was a tiny bit nervous about having 10,000 bees in my back seat, but come to find out it’s really no big deal! Once I arrived I told them my name and they crossed me off the list. There was one guy taking the customers out and showing them the nuc before closing and taping it up. He’s a long time bee keeper with lots of hives (hundreds at least!) so people were asking him questions and such. I put on my veil jacket and gloves & followed him around while others got their hives. Finally it was my turn 🙂 he opened up the box and smoked the bees down a bit, my box had quite a bit of “bridge comb” which is made by the bees to fill in gaps, there was a small gap between the frames and the top of the box. He pulled up one framed and showed me the brood pattern. Brood pattern is important because it signifies the laying quality of the queen. He taped it up and I went and loaded into my car and drove home. I put it in the back seat, on the floor between the front and back seat so it fit snug. I didn’t want to mess around with trying to strap it in or let it slide around. It fit perfectly!
All those white boxes are each a Nucleus colony!
I wore my jacket on the drive home (with the veil behind me for easy access just in case lol). Once home Hubby was already set up with lots of pine needles for the smoker, I brought the box over to the new hive. We had one deep 10 frame “brood box” with additional undrawn frames, and one 10 frame shorter “super” with undrawn frames to put on top. I guess it is ok to just have the 10 frame deep as well, but we wanted to give the bees some extra space and encourage them to start drawing out more frames so we put on a “super”. Learning about beekeeping is like learning a whole new language.
We lit the smoker and gave it a few puffs to get it going, waited probably a minute or so for it to cool down a bit. As Hubby removed the tape, I puffed some smoke onto the bees and they went down further into the box. Using the hive tool we VERY GENTLY broke apart and lifted each frame.
We wanted to make sure we saw the queen too, luckily she was right on the first frame, right in the middle! The queen looks significantly different from all the other bees with a much longer abdomen, and ours was lighter in color. But it’s kinda like where’s waldo, not always easy to spot at first.
It’s very important to be gentle and conscious while moving the frames, its super easy to squish bees if you’re not careful. I think they’ll get mad if you start smushing their friends. Each frame was beautiful and really mesmerizing in my opinion, extremely fascinating!
We loaded each frame from the nuc into the deep brood box, I put the queen right in the middle and the other drawn frames surrounding her, added a few empty frames towards the outside to fill up the box. There were some stragglers so we used the bee brush to help them into the new hive, but left the nuc box in front of the hive for any bee left over. Hubby used the hive tool to remove the bridge comb that was covering the top of the frames. Once that was removed we were able to put the smaller super on top, then the inner cover and outer cover.
We made some sugar syrup using a 1:1 ratio with hot water to dissolve it. My mentor told me to not boil the water when making sugar syrup, he said if the sugar/water is boiled it can kill the bees. Hubby thought this was odd and unnecessary so I did a little more investigating on google and it turns out that if the sugar gets burned it can be deadly to the bees, so it’s probably a good idea to not boil the water to eliminate the chance of burning the sugar. We used the plastic baggy method of feeding, as I never purchased a “feeder”. It wasn’t really easy (probably since its out first time) it got a little heated between hubby and I as we were getting frustrated, but we got it done and on and hopefully the bees are getting to it easily enough.