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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

How to Install a Nuc

In addition to my two hives from last year and the two swarms I have kept of the three that I captured, I had for insurance ordered three nucs for the season. They arrived yesterday and I drove down to Forest Park, Ga to pick them up last night. The nuc comes with a screened front door in a five frame box. You pick the nuc up in the evening so that the bees will be at home. I drove them home, set them in the spots where they will be hived, opened the screened door and that was that for the evening.

The weather this weekend includes rain and cold - actually the rain was supposed to start today, but we were lucky and had sunny weather instead (the better to install nucs with, my dear). I took my prepared box down to the site where the nuc was to be installed. This is a 10-frame deep and the nuc includes four frames so you can see that the box has four frames out of it to accommodate the frames from the nuc.
Here's the nuc still with the top bungee-corded to it, awaiting my transfer to the hive box. When you make the frame transfer, it's essential to put the frames in the same order in which they were in the nuc box. A nuc is made up of four frames from different hives, usually, so as you can see here, the frames were three of wood and one plastic. I set them into the box and then sharply tapped the nuc box over the hive so that the remaining bees would join their sisters.

All the bees never leave the original equipment when you're doing these maneuvers, so you always have to leave the nuc box and any other bee-clinging equipment sitting in front of the hive until all the bees are moved into the hive (that will probably be tomorrow morning.) After the bees calmed down, I put a feeder on each new box.

Thanks to my friend Tracy for the glorious blue and yellow paint. He's building a house and was kind enough to give me quarts of paints that didn't make the cut. I love my blue and yellow hives!

So in case you haven't been counting, I now have seven (7!!!!!) hives. Bermuda who has lived through two winters and is entering her third season, Mellona, entering her second season, two swarm hives, as yet unnamed and now these three nuc installations. I'll be working on Greek and Roman mythology tonight to try to find names for all of these.

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  1. Hi,
    Thanks for your informative post. I am getting ready to install a nuc of bees on Friday. A couple of questions for you:
    1. Do you use smoke when you are installing the nuc? OR just suit and veil up and use gloves to move the frames? From my several mentors, the use of smoke in this process is controversial (some say yes for a beginner, some say, no, no, never use smoke...)I want to have time to try to look for the queen, so maybe some smoke will calm them down for that? Any ideas...

    2. Should I put an entrance reducer on the hive once the nuc is installed? I have mice in my garden and was hoping to keep them out with the entrance reducer. It is also really cold and wet out here right now (but many carry on with bees nonetheless, we have our state bee field day this weekend...)

    Hope you can give some feedback! Thanks, Lisa

  2. To question 1: I don't use smoke when I am installing a nuc. I always suit up when I am working with the bees or at least I always wear long sleeves, my veil and gloves. I get a large local reaction to stings so I try to protect myself. But in installing a nuc, you'll be able to see the queen, if you look hard for her, but won't need smoke.

    As a matter of fact, I rarely use smoke for anything other than an announcement of my presence. I light my smoker on a hive inspection just so I can blow one puff of smoke into the door of each hive I am inspecting. The other time I use smoke is to smoke myself when a bee is a particularly vigorous guard and I want her to leave me alone.

    2. I would ask your local beekeeping organization about the entrance reducer. I think people sometimes staple #4 hardware cloth to the entrance to keep out mice, but you'd have to ask someone other than me. If I were a mouse I'd gnaw or push the entrance reducer aside if I wanted to get into the hive.

    I've used an entrance reducer in three occasions: to leave the hive less open in the winter, to keep robbers out when I had a robbing problem, and to reduce the amount of entrance a hive had to protect when the colony was very small.

  3. thanks so much, that is so helpful!
    the comments about the smoke was basically what one of the bee experts here told me, but another one said that beginning beekeepers should use smoke more often until they get the hang of it.
    I will look into the issue of the entrance reducer. I've placed my hives a foot or so off ground so hopefully it will make it harder for the mice to jump up there! (but mice are very crafty...)

    thanks again, good luck with your bee season!

  4. christie12:43 AM

    Wonderfully helpful, as I pick up my first nuc in the morning! Thank you! What a terrific find your blog is! Ciao from Spokane, Washington

  5. I pic up 2 nucs this morning and am very nervous because it is rainging:(
    I really have no choice tho. Wish me luck...
    Mary Jane from Malvern AR

  6. That's the EXACT color I just painted my hive boxes! Thanks for the tips about installing a nuc. "Beekeeping For Dummies" and Kim Flottum's book don't explain it at all, strangely.

  7. Is it advisable to install a nuc in a new hive and a package of bees in a very nearby new hive at about the same time? Will there be a robbery?

    Rich from MT

  8. Hi Rich, putting two hives in at the same time is fine.

  9. Anonymous4:11 PM

    My hive died....dead bees stuck to comb, ants in the hive and feeder and mildew on bottom board. Now what? Do I toss that hive and feeder and bottom board, or can I scrub it for my new nuc that is arriving tomorrow? I can't figure out how to post my name...that's why it's anonymous.

  10. As long as they didn't die of foulbrood, you can clean it up for the new nuc. If you have any doubts about the cause of death - sounds like starvation - then use a propane torch to scorch the inside of the hive and use it as if new.

  11. Linda, I'm a newbee and have ordered a Top Bar Hive (being made) and will make my Spring 2012 order of bees soon.(now November '11) My source has informed me they have nucs, not packages. What would I do differently with a TBH when installing bees from a nuc? The frames would not be the same shape as the TBH so would not 'fit'. I've emailed my sourse, but they haven't answered. Maybe they don't like TBHs.lol
    Thanks, Lin (short for Linda):)

  12. It's too late to help Lin (in comment above) but I feel bad I didn't answer. A top bar hive requires a package for installation. The frames in a nuc will not fit into a top bar hive. If you are doing a top bar, most people order packages. If you order a nuc, you just about have to install it into a deep Langstroth box....unless you've made special arrangements with your seller.

  13. Anonymous11:03 AM

    Do you put the queen excluder on top to stop her getting onto the crown board?

  14. The only good use I've found for a queen excluder is to use as a drain rack when I cut cut comb honey. I never use one on my hives. Well, once I did to prove that the hive had two queens - one in the top of the hive and one in the bottom, but that's the only time I've used a queen excluder in my bee hives.

  15. Anonymous9:12 PM

    I just got my first nuc and it is cold and raining (in the 40's). Tomorrow it will rain all day plus only reach a high of 54. It won't reach 60 degrees until Sunday afternoon (day after tomorrow). I understand that it is preferable to install the bees in their new hive early in the day, so my question is, should I wait till 3 PM on Sunday when it is 60 degrees, or do it earlier on that day when it is colder (in the upper 40's and lower 50's)?

  16. Wait until Sunday afternoon when it is 60. It would be unfair to the bees to do it in the cold. You should open the entry of the nuc and have the nuc sitting on top of the hive where they will be installed. That way they can come and go (which they probably won't want to do in the cold and rain) but they will be in a better mood when you install them in the afternoon. And they will be oriented to the hive location.

  17. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Thanks so much.

  18. We are picking up our first nucs in a few weeks. I can't wait to install them! I've only installed bee packages in the past. I am so excited!

  19. Anonymous1:09 PM

    I installed a two frame nuc two weeks ago. The bees are still
    congregated on the original frames and are not drawing comb
    on the adjoining new foundation and frames. Should I worry?

  20. The bees can't draw wax if there isn't a nectar flow. In Atlanta, the tulip poplar had a very short bloom period and we are out of the nectar flow so my bees aren't drawing comb. If there isn't any food in your area (you don't say where you are), then you may have to feed the bees. Generally after the main nectar flow, nectar continues to come in, just not in as large quantities.

  21. Brenda S9:48 PM

    Linda, I just found your blog on installing NUCS after googling for information. Thanks for a detailed description of the procedure. I have already set up two 8 frame medium hives. The only source for bees we were able to get were NUCS with deep frames. We are scheduled to pick up the NUCS next Saturday. Can I just stack two medium supers and install the deep frames from the NUCS in the top medium super or do I need to get deep supers to accommodate the deep frames in the NUCS.

  22. I got a Flow Hive and am picking up a nuc in the morning. Super excited and well prepared. I've seen most have just one brood box and then the super but I plan to add another box to give the bees two full boxes of their own in case there is a long winter.

  23. Brenda, You need a deep box for deep frames. You can stack two medium boxes but there will be empty space at the bottom and the bees will just build comb hanging off the bottom of the frames - makes inspecting a little difficult! Hopefully the nuc supplier also carries equipment.

  24. What cell size foundation is on your nucs? Have you had any problems installing nuc frames into a foundationless hive?

  25. I don't buy nucs, but back when I did, I didn't worry about foundation cell size. I just gave them foundationless going forward. In other words, the frames I added to the hives were foundationless. The general problems with foundationless beekeeping are that if you don't put new empty frames between fully drawn frames, the bees may color outside the lines.

  26. Brenda H7:06 PM

    I have drawn out frames from a hive that I lost from starvation. When I get my new nuc is it safe to use new or is it okay to put the already drawn frames. There are some pollen still in one of them?


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