Whether you’re just beginning with bees or trying to grow your apiary, you have a couple of different options. You could buy a fully functional complete beehive from a beekeeper. However, these are difficult to find and can often be pretty expensive. You could also purchase a package of bees. A package usually consists of a small cage with about 3 lbs. of bees and a queen that has been added to the hive. Packages are generally the most affordable option, but there is a small risk that the queen will be rejected. Additionally, the package contains no brood, resulting in a slower start for the hive. The better option is to buy a nucleus hive, generally referred to as a “nuc”. The nuc is normally a small hive that will accommodate either 4 or 5 frames. On these frames, you will normally get some brood, some honey, and some pollen. Along with full frames will be a healthy bee population and a laying queen. For all intents and purposes, the nucleus hive is essentially a miniature hive.
So if you’ve chosen to purchase a nuc, either for apiary expansion or to begin your journey as a beekeeper, there are some simple techniques to ensure success. I generally like to set the nuc on top of the hive I plan to transfer the bees into. I also orient the nuc in the same direction as the hive. I leave the nuc here for a few hours until I am ready to transfer. This gets the bees, specifically the forager bees, used to their new location. Then when I transfer to the hive, any foragers who happen to be out and about will find their way into the main hive upon their return.
Prepare the main hive by removing the appropriate number of frames so that you can move the frames directly from the nuc to the main hive. It is also important to remove these frames from the middle of the hive. Bees prefer to build their hive out and up. Placing your new frames in the middle of the hive encourage maximum space utilization within the hive. At this point, I remove the top off of the nuc and if necessary puff a little smoke inside to keep the bees calm. From here it’s as simple as transferring the frames over. Be careful to not crush any bees in this process, especially the queen. It is also wise to maintain the order of the frames as you’re transferring them, so as not to disturb the brood nest any more than necessary.
Once the swap is done, there’s not much left to do. I like to put an entrance reducer on the hive for a couple of weeks. This is simply because the hives numbers are low at this point, and the reducer makes it easier for them to protect the hive from robbers and predators. I also like to provide some feed to help them get a jumpstart on hive build up. Below is a quick video demonstrating the installation of a nuc. Thanks for reading and watching! Subscribe for more and send me a message if you have any questions or requests.