Starting Out: Package or Nuc

At the January meeting of the EMBA club, ordering bees for this year was one of the topics covered.

The club has, for the past several years,  ordered packages of bees and queens and have had great success. However, this year club is looking into the option of purchasing nucs instead of packages.

A decision on which to order will be made in the next few days; I can't wait to see which method I'll be using to start my hives.

Of course I could order and use which ever method I prefer on my own, but the club discounts are good and I'm open to either method.

Lets take a look at the definition of a package and nuc, and then the pros/cons of each.

Packages of bees can be ordered, usually containing 3 or 5 lbs of bees and a queen in a wooden cage with wire screen on the sides.

Packages of bees are created by gathering bees from existing hives, dumping them into the wooden package, and adding a newly mated queen (inside of a queen cage) to the package.

The beekeeper will need to unpack the bees, and place them into an empty hive, where they will begin to draw comb, and create brood.

  • Packaged bees are mostly not related to each other and definitely not related to the queen
  • They have no brood for a boost in population
  • Packaged bees will give the beekeeper a better understanding of how the bees create a colony from scratch
  • Packaged bees allow you more flexibility with size of hive bodies, whereas nucs require deep hive bodies.
  • Packaged bees can sometime arrive half dead and are susceptible to an approx 5% abscond rate, and approx 30% supersede rate.

Nucs, or Nucleus Colonies, are small honey bee colonies created from larger colonies. The name is derived from the fact that a nuc hive is centered around a queen - the nucleus of the honey bee colony. (Wikipedia)

A nuc is essentially a box with 5 Langstroth frames arranged side-by-side containing brood, bees, honey, pollen and possibly a queen.

If the nuc does not contain a queen or queen-cell, the workers will create a new queen from one of the eggs.

The beekeeper will simply need to move the frames of bees from the nuc into the empty hive and add additional frames to fill out the rest of the 8, 9 or 10 frame hive body.


  • Nucs have bees related to each other and to the queen
  • Nucs have brood to give them a good boost in population and usually has a frame of stores also
  • Nucs don't allow for any other size hive body than deep, as nucs are usually made with deep frames.
  • Nucs could contain disease or mites from the supplier if they didn't use new comb to build the nucs with.

UPDATE: The club has decided to order nucs this year! This means that getting hives up and running should be a little easier, and the chance for honey crop the first season is a little higher.

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