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  • Writer's pictureMatt

Nucleus Colonies

There was audible buzzing in the air this week in London, Ohio as the warm weather caused maple trees to bloom, offering one of the earliest sources of pollen for honey bees. This is an important time for bees. The influx of pollen allows hives that have been dormant all winter to begin building their populations in preparation for the spring nectar flow. This is also an important time for beekeepers, as we make sure new equipment is assembled, old equipment is repaired, and all planning and arrangements are made for the busy spring season. One of the activities this beekeeper will be occupying himself with this spring is making up and selling nucleus colonies, or "nucs" for short.

Nucs. Honey bees for sale. London, Ohio. Dunham Bees.
Two nucs with with syrup feeders on top.

A nuc is essentially a complete bee hive in miniature. It consists of a box with a few frames (usually four or five) containing honey, pollen, and developing bees, along with a queen and enough adult bees to attend to her and her offspring. Being around one-fourth the size of a standard beehive, nucs are easy to transport and require a minimum of resources. They allow a beekeeper to efficiently expand his or her operation or replace failing hives. Nucs provide an excellent means of swarm control by allowing the beekeeper to reduce the crowded population of overly-strong hives. These surplus nucs are often in excess of what is needed to sustain one's own beekeeping operation, and so can be sold to other beekeepers, making for a convenient source of income beyond honey production.

Bee hive. Nuc. Dunham Bees. London, Ohio.
This hive is packed with bees, honey and pollen. Pulling out some frames will give them some breathing room.

For those interested in getting into beekeeping or expanding their own beekeeping operation, purchasing nucleus colonies is an excellent option. While it is still common to buy package bees (a box filled with a few pounds of loose adult bees and a queen, but no frames of young bees or honey) nucs build up much faster and have a far lower rate of queen rejection than packages do. A package will usually require at least a month to catch up to a nuc, and that's if everything goes right.

Often, there is not much of a price difference between nucs and packages either, further increasing the practicality of buying nucs. In fact some of the more extravagant packages of bees cost more than a reasonably priced nuc, which ought to make choosing a nuc a no-brainer. Why pay more for less? There are plenty of local beekeepers producing good quality nucs here in Ohio.

If you are interested in purchasing a nuc from Dunham Bees, you can reserve one here:

I hope the blog post was entertaining and informative, and as always, thanks for reading.


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