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What's a nucleus ( Nuc )?


What’s a nuc? Thought it would be good to have a good description here and maybe some pictures, etc. because nuc’s are being referred to quite a lot.

Beekeeping Basic Essentials - What do you need?

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Okay cool :smile: So you reckon most people will need a nuc before they can put bee’s straight in their hive?
Can they put bee’s, Queen, etc, straight into their new Complete Flow Hive? Maybe it’s different depending on location, e.g. in the summer in Australia we wouldn’t need to worry so much about keeping the bee’s warm?


There are some mentions of how to procure bees and the options for installing into a hive see the links below:


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A nuc vs. package bees: A nuc is like a very small hive of only 5 frames that can be purchased to place in your own hive. The benefits are: 1) The queen is accepted and proven to be laying. 2) There are eggs and larva present. 3) Drawn comb has filled out a minimum of 5 frames. 4) When placed in your own hive a nuc is already established and fully functioning with all castes in working order. As a result there is no time wasted for hive build up.
Package bees: 1) The bees gathered to put in a package don’t necessarily come from the same mother hive. 2) The bees are randomly thrown together and you might not have all the castes. 3) The queen is not theirs so there is a lag time just waiting for them to accept her. 4) There is no comb so they bees are starting from scratch. 5) The package bees usually have to be fed so they may catch up to the season and the rest of the hives.

A nuc is used as temporary housing before it is sold. Some people use nucs to house small splits. I feel if you have to use a nuc to split then you are rushing the bees. Usually small swarms are ones that have been out in the wild for awhile and circumstances have dwindled their numbers. They do need to be placed in a nuc to generate heat for the brood and many times they are starving and need feeding.
Hopefully people are listening to us when we tell them to start their bee hives BEFORE they get the Flow Hive. They will get much needed experience before having to learn everything at once. If their hive is strong enough they could then make a split to move frames straight into the Flow HIve.


Thanks, I like your description and different options so everyone is aware of what they potentially need.


There is a certain amount of ambiguity in the name “nuc”. Some people are referring to the boxes. Some are referring to the colony. It could be either. An awful lot of beekeeping is managing space. Bees in too much space do not thrive. They have to heat and cool and protect all that space. Bees in too little space swarm. One of the reasons for nuc boxes is to put a small number of bees in a space they can manage. It is also how bees are often sold in the spring to people staring colonies and it’s how people overwinter bees to start new colonies int he spring. In the north it’s difficult to raise your own queens early enough but if you overwinter a nuc you have a queen and a colony early that has a shot at making a crop that year.



My interpretation of a nuc is 4 or 5 frames covered in bees with or without a queen, there could be 3 frames of brood & the rest honey in a queenless nuc, so the bees can make their own queen. I’d have that in a normal super with the bees having the ability to expand into the rest of the super. The rest of the frames could be fresh foundation, foundationless or empty drawn comb.


Nuc colonies are expensive so it’s worth the buyer making sure that what he’s buying is not something just “made up”.
A nucleus is a well balanced colony on between 3-5 brood combs. The frames should be drawn, not foundation. It should have bees, food, brood and a queen.
There should be a current or previous season’s laying queen and she should have produced all the brood. She should be clipped and marked if requested. I don’t think it is acceptable to sell a thrown together nuc with a caged queen and call it a nucleus.
There should be healthy brood and eggs in all stages with no brood cycle break. Not less than 30% of the total comb area should be sealed brood. No more than 15% of the total area should be drone comb.The brood should have a good pattern with no drone brood in worker cells.There should be no active queen cells at any stage of development.
There should be enough food to last two weeks should the weather preclude foraging.
The frames should be well covered with good tempered bees.


Hi @Dee, I learned something new today, I had no idea a nuc was so specific. I always thought a nuc was as I stated in my interpretation of a nuc. Weak, strong, queenless, with queens, in a wood box, in a cardboard box, no box at all, with frames, without frames, pick up or delivered & priced accordingly. Depending on what the customer requires… PS, Wikipedia gives a good description of a nuc. Possibly from an American point of view.


You are,of course, right if you are qualifying/quantifying the description and us beekeepers talk about just that. What I was trying to describe is what a beginner should expect as a good basis to build on.
You can have an empty nuc in which case you would add box. :smile:


Nice description. Very specific, but as you said, you’re advice on what a beginner beek should look for.
I wonder though if they were a newbie how would they know their nuc had all the above? Maybe they would have to be with an experienced bee keeper/bee club when they received it so they could go through it all in detail.


Hi @Dee & @Faroe, yes for sure, thank you. I agree. I guess with the internet & so much information for new beekeepers out there, I guess they are making up their minds based on more than one piece of information. Sometimes I wonder if there’s too much information out there. A bee club would certainly be a good place to start. A lot of people want to get it right, right from the word go. But it might not necessarily work out like that, every new beekeeper will make mistakes & hopefully learn from them.


Absolutely valid point and in my opinion no beginner should be in a position where they don’t have some sort of help. I remember just how out of depth I felt in my first couple of years but luckily I could rely on an experienced mentor.
I consider some sort of guidelines vital with beekeeping becoming increasingly popular in the light of so much “Save Our Bees” publicity. I have seen some terrible stuff passed off as nucleus colonies with every Tom Dick and Harry cashing in on the unwary.
Nevertheless it does help having some sort of standard of livestock and equipment, even for the experienced



Started another Nuc hive mid July. It’s now in a double 5 frame deep hive. I’m occasionally feeding to help with new comb making n colony build up. If they winter okay … I might be able to start another larger hive, flow-Hive or help someone having problems. Next Spring is a long cool/wet winter to get thru successfully. Here’s a few pix’s.

. I’d like to eventually keep several Nuc’s on hand for resources n in house emergencies…

Ta ta,



Just a quick video of me transferring a colony to a larger box. This was from a removal I did a month ago, all the frames are full of brood, so the population is about to really grow. Decided to give them some more space. The box they were in was meant to go to another new beekeeper, but they never got back in touch with me. This is on a roof of an apartment complex in Los Angeles, they are doing really well and expect the top frames to be completely filled in a few weeks, if not sooner.

Here’s a double deep 5 frame nuc.