You Just Got a Nuc. Now What?
Prepared by Bill Holmes
You will receive your nuc in a white waxed box which holds 5 frames. Treat your nuc carefully. Protect it from temperature extremes. If you are not traveling far, place the secured nuc in the bed of your truck and up against the cab to deter wind. You may want to tape down the lid or otherwise secure it from coming off.
Don’t let the nuc box turn over or get too hot. Plan to drive straight home or keep the box in the car with the air conditioning running. The bees do not have a natural way to cool themselves inside this transportation box.
Normally, bees will not escape from the box. However, if a few do then be prepared to stay calm and not freak out. You can wear your veil and gloves which will at least let other drivers know you’re a beekeeper.
If the weather is warm (60 degrees), you can go ahead and install your nuc when you arrive home. But, some beekeepers like to place the nuc at their new home site and open the entrance open so they can fly for a couple hours before doing the install. This would reduce the number of bees in the air while you’re trying to install them into a new box. The important part is to either set the nuc directly on the bottom board or right next to the new hive setup with the opening facing the same direction as their new home.
But what if the weather or your schedule prevents immediate installation? No problem, your bees can stay in the nuc box for a day or more if necessary, but you want them to be able to fly so pull the plug as soon as you can. Be aware that the nucs may be very crowded with bees and delaying installation increases the risk they will swarm.
Step 1: Prepare yourself by putting on your hat/veil or suit and light your smoker. A nuc colony may be more defensive than a package of bees. They have brood to protect.
With the nuc container right beside your permanent hive. Open the little access door on the front so the bees can come and go if you haven’t already. If you have previously set the nuc on the bottom board move it to the side and put your deep box on the bottom board.
Step 2: Puff a little cool white smoke near the nuc entrance. This does not harm the bees but it helps reduce an alarm response.
Step 3: Have 5 frames ready for your empty hive. (Assuming you are using a 10 frame Langstroth hive). Put 4 of the frames in the hive – 2 on each side.
Step 4: Open your nuc box. Start with one of the frames on the outside and carefully remove them from the nuc box. Be VERY careful. You don’t know which frame the queen will be on. Do not “roll” or squish your queen!! Install your NUC frames into the new hive body in the same order you removed them from the NUC box.
Make sure you have a queen before you remove any queen cells while you are installing your bees. If you are sure you do then find any and all queen cells and make sure you remove them. Make sure you look over each frame, you’re looking for eggs and larvae, and this is probably the easiest time to find the queen. If you don’t see her or eggs then let me know immediately. These are bugs and the suppliers guarantee is only a few days.
Step 5: Once you have all the frames (including the one with the queen) in the new hive. You can place the last empty frame on one of the ends, not in the middle. You now have 10 frame setup. If you are using an 8 frame box, you will start with 2 empty frames in the box and add 1 at the end.
If you find some bees lingering in the NUC box, this is normal. Move the NUC box a few feet away from your new hive and leave your lid off, the bees will find their way to their new home! But make sure your queen isn’t one of them.
Step 6: You are ready to close the hive and put your sugar water feeder in place. It is important to feed your nuc. Even though they begin with 5 frames of drawn comb, they still have a lot of work to do. A Boardman entrance feeder will work fine and will be easy to monitor and refill. Feed 1:1 granulated sugar syrup and add a little Honey B Healthy. If you have ½ of a fresh pollen patty you may install it now, however I don’t believe this is necessary and wouldn’t do it myself.
Step 7: One last thing for installing a nucleus colony, be sure to install your entrance reducer. You want the entrance to be a bit small until the population builds up.