3lb Packages and 5 frame Nucleus hives - Order your 2021 Honey Bees Early
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5 frame Nucleus Hive

Nucs, or nucleus colonies, are small honey bee colonies created from larger colonies. The term refers both to the smaller size box and the colony of honeybees within it. The name is derived from the fact that a nuc hive is centered on a queen, the nucleus of the honey bee colony.


A nuc hive has all the features of a standard 10 frame Langstroth hive except with a reduced width. A link shows a United States Department of Agriculture USDA layout for building a nuc. A typical nuc has 5 Langstroth frames arranged side-by-side.


Nuclei can also be created using other hive dimensions, with the British modified national hive being the most common in the United Kingdom. According to FERA's National Bee Unit guidelines, the nucleus should be between 3-6 frames of bees, including a queen, workers, brood in all stages, and honey stores.

Care and feeding

A nuc is extremely vulnerable, as it possesses in some cases less than a tenth of the workers in a normal colony. Nucs are almost always fed using a Boardman feeder or frame feeder. Feeding allows the worker bees to remain in the nuc, acting as nurse bees for developing brood. Because of their small population, Nucs are vulnerable to robbing, in which a stronger hive steals all the nectar, honey, or syrup from a weaker hive. The bees from a robbing hive will kill any bees that defend the nuc. Robbing can lead to starvation in days.




A nucleus colony can be used to stop overcrowding in a larger, healthy colony by splitting some of the population off to a new colony. A nuc can also be used to care for spare queens. The loss of a queen in a large colony can set the colony back by up to a month. A nucleus colony can be combined with the larger colony to re-queen it with a much smaller break in brood rearing. A nuc can also grow into a full-sized colony, given proper time, favorable weather, and appropriate resources.


The terms 'nuc' and 'split' are not strictly interchangeable. While a nuc may have a number of different uses, a split more often refers to dividing a colony for the purposes of growing the removed bees back to a full-sized colony.


A nuc is not normally intended for overwintering, as nuc colonies do not possess a large enough winter cluster to survive winter in harsher climates. Beekeepers often combine Nucs together in the fall to produce a single, strong colony. This results in the loss of all but one queen but provides a colony capable of surviving winter. In warm climates, Nucs can overwinter. Nucs can also survive winter indoors, or in an observation hive.

We do not ship Queens, Packages or Nucleus Hives of Honey Bees.

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