A Case for Nucs


A Case for Nucs

Many beekeepers shy away from purchasing nucs.  They are more expensive and, especially to the new beekeeper, seem like a bigger leap into the world of beekeeping than starting with a package.  The truth is that Five Frame Medium Nucs are a great way to get started and have many more options down the road than are possible with package bees.  Nucs are a great value.  Here is a case for why nucs are a great alternative to package bees.

Much of the stress of starting a new colony with a package revolves around the colony accepting the queen, drawing out comb and getting the workforce developed and dispersed so that the colony can begin to thrive.  This process takes a minimum of three weeks since no young bees will be introduced to the colony until the queen has laid her first eggs and they hatch 21 days later.  Four weeks is really a more accurate timeline.  The colony is doing nothing but dying off for the first 3-4 weeks.  This is not the end of the world though!  Honeybees are incredibly resilient and adaptable.  Thus, the newly created colony will, in most cases, accept the queen, enable her to begin laying and move toward becoming a thriving colony.  After four weeks the colony will daily be adding around 1,500 new bees to its numbers per day as the young larva hatch out.  This helps offset the numbers of dying bees which occur daily as the oldest of bees reach the end of their lives in the foraging force.

Established:  One major advantage of a Nuc is that all of those important steps mentioned regarding a new package are already established.  A nuc is a smaller version of a full fledged hive.  It has a queen which is established and is functioning in her role.  She has been fully accepted and is being nourished and cared for by the nurse bees of her colony.  When the customer takes possession of their nuc colony, they are getting a queen that is laying 1,500 eggs per day.  On top of that, the nuc contains bees in every stage of development.  Thus, there is every stage from day old eggs, to larvae, pupae and newly hatched bees.  On top of that, there are bees carrying out every duty required for a hive to not only survive but thrive.  The colony has nurse bees to care for feeding uncapped larva and nourishing the queen.  It has transport bees, a cleaning force, guard bees and of course, the crucial force of foragers which bring in the nectar and pollen to keep all of the other bees fueled as they process and store honey.

Cost: Packages cost $125.00.  A nuc costs $190.00.  How can a nuc be worth that much more?

Population:  A nuc has at least three pounds of bees as does a three pound package.  However, the nuc bees are at all ages thus they are capable of carrying out all of the jobs required for the hive's survival.  Package bees are predominantly nurse bees and need to further develop before they can become foragers. 

Resources:  Starting a colony with no drawn comb adds work to the fledgling hive as it attempts to establish itself with no resources.  Many new beekeepers try to purchase drawn comb from other beekeepers to help alleviate some of the bee's stress of preparing cells within which the queen may begin to lay.  The going rate is around $6.00 per frame for drawn comb.  On top of that, drawn comb is a hot commodity as it is essential for hives to function.  It can be very tough for one to find a beekeeper who is willing to part with his or her quality drawn comb though, especially in the springtime when beekeepers are trying to help their hives build up for the first honey flow.

Value:  The nuc comes with 5 frames of drawn comb.  I'm no math magician but that's probably close to $30 worth of frames.  It's not only drawn but it is filled with pollen, nectar, bee bread, honey, eggs, larvae and pupa.  And that is priceless!  The nuc comes with a corrugated plastic box which is a great tool to keep for making splits, catching swarms, open feeding of pollen supplement, or storing extra frames in a portable, packable, stackable, box.  New, these boxes are worth around $15.00.

Strength:  The nuc is most likely to be strong enough to provide the beekeeper with a good honey yield (at least several gallons) in its first season or be strong enough to split mid-season.  A gallon of honey weighs 12 pounds.  Honey sells for $10/pound.  If one is wanting to get a return on their nuc investment they could sell some of their yield by the 1 pound bottle. 

Splits:  If expanding one's apiary is the goal, one could turn that single nuc into two or even three going into winter.  Most beekeepers purchasing a nuc see it as a hive they will multiply.

 Package bees are the standard for starting hives here in this region.  Otherwise, purchasing a nuc is an option.  You can see how in many ways, purchasing a nuc is a great option and for some, maybe the better choice when deciding to start up a new hive or several new hives.  

Well, that's my case for nucs!  If you would like to order yours, you may secure your order at www.LocalBuzzBees.com.

Have a great season!

Dave Pearce