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Nucs VS Packages

Many beekeepers both new and experienced, are making plans for starting new colonies of bees in the coming year. It is great to know that you are one of the many that currently considering venturing into the amazing world of beekeeping. You will soon understand the excitement that comes from bringing home your package or nuc (Nucleus Colony) from your local apiary. If you are a first-time beekeeper you will soon become one of the members of a very secretive society as you become a BEEK (bee keeper). Sorry, I was just kidding about the secret society stuff.


As a new beekeeper you will soon be asking, “Which is better to start with? A package of bees, or a Nucleus Colony (nuc)?”

An even better question might be, “What is a nuc? “


What is a Nuc? - pronounced as NUKE

A “Nuc” is short for nucleus colony (hive). A Nuc is a relatively small colony of bees that usually consists of 5 frames in a small wooden box. The name is derived from the fact that a Nuc hive is centered on a queen, the nucleus of the honey bee colony. These bees will have some honey, pollen, baby bees in various stages of development and a queen that is an egg laying machine all working together to bring that small colony up to a full-scale hive that can contain upwards of 50,000 – 60,000 bees. With favorable conditions, this can be accomplished in a very short time, and you could enjoy your first honey harvest sooner than you think.

 

The advantage of starting with a Nuc is your bees have a head start. They will have drawn comb – which is a huge plus. It takes approximately 8 lbs. of sugar or nectar to draw just 1 lb. of comb.

 

The down side to Nucs is you’ll have to wait until mid-spring in order to get a one. The bees will need this time in order to build their house. Patience can have its reward with a colony that is off to a strong start.

 

The cons to starting a Nuc really boil down to just two things:

(1) they cost about $50 – $100 more than a package

(2) you’ll have to wait for a nuc till mid to late spring before they are available.


With a package of bees, you get bees in a screened box, 1 can of sugar syrup and a queen the bees never met until she was caged and put into the same box as they are in. They will actually have nothing more than the stripes on their backs!

 

If you get a package of bees the main advantage is:

You can get them sooner than you could a nuc. This is great for those of you that have been waiting all winter long as it is. This may possibly be the only advantage of purchasing a package of bees. They have to start from scratch. This means YOU will need to feed them sugar unless you are in the middle of the spring honey / nectar flow. It’s a good idea to plan on feeding just in case of a slow start. Your new bees could be counting on you to feed them since they won’t forage if it’s rainy and cold.

 


Package bees will at times abscond, abandon the gorgeous new home that you have provided them. Even though it is probably painted really fancy and looks like the perfect beehive, like you see in the magazines. Sometimes it’s the smell – bees are very sensitive to smells even those you are not aware of as you’ll soon discover. They may leave your gorgeous bee mansion to go live in an abandoned building or a under a neighbor’s back porch. They’ve done it more than you think. With Honey bees it is best to expect the unexpected.

 

So, to recap

The pros of package bees:
(1) they cost less than a nuc
(2) you’ll get them earlier in the spring.

 

The cons of package bees:
(1) they might not accept the hive you put them in
(2) you need to feed
(3) they have nothing started yet.


Now that you fully understand the difference between starting a Nuc or a package of bees you’ll need to decide the best route for you to take. But by all means, get started! Don’t let any fears or uncertainty you might feel hold you back from starting this amazing journey.

 

My best advice to you is to seek out a mentor. We beekeepers do enjoy talking about bees.

 

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Content

3lb Packages
include a
Caged & Mated
Queen Bee


Tennessee's Honey Bees