After years of studying, six weeks of classes, and several months of waiting, our girls were finally ready to move into their new home. We picked them up from a local bee business in nucs. Nuc is short for nucleus, and it’s a small colony of bees with a queen who has proved she can lay eggs and workers who have accepted her. For absolute beginners, I think it’s a little easier than package bees.
A package of bees contains worker bees along with a queen who has mated, but may not have laid eggs and probably hasn’t been around these worker bees before. To keep the queen safe in a package, she’s in a private cage with a retinue of her own workers. When introduced to an unfamiliar queen, workers may kill the queen. Her cage is blocked with a candy cork, and by the time the worker bees eat the cork, they’re (hopefully) ready to accept their new queen.
Our nucs consisted of five medium height frames in a cardboard box with screens added to keep the bees from escaping. We had an interesting drive home because there was a tiny break in one of the screens on one hive! There were a few bees loose in the car trying to figure out where they were.
We set the nucs in the shade and got to work getting their new homes ready. Here’s how the hives looked before we started.
We set the hives up so we could transfer the frames from the nuc as quickly and gently as possible. We started out with two supers (boxes) stacked on each other. The bottom super has 3 frames with wax foundation and will be filled when the five frames from the nuc are added. The second super has 8 frames of foundation, so the bees will be working to fill 11 new frames with comb, start raising brood and storing up honey and bee bread.
The Chief of Implementation lit the smoker and got lovely cool smoke going to calm the bees. Possibly the smoke confuses them. Beekeepers aren’t sure WHY smoking bees works; they just know that it does work.
We smoke the first nuc, waited about 30 seconds and then began carefully transferring frames from the cardboard box to the hive.
Each frame was transferred to the hive with a minimum of disturbance to the bees, being VERY careful not to drop any bees off. There’s always a chance that the queen is one of the bees that falls on the ground, and she’ll most likely die if that happens. Notice that the nuc box is very close to the hive here.
We also made a point of keeping the frames in EXACTLY the same order they were in in the nuc: no need to traumatize our girls any more than needed.
When the box was empty, there were still a LOT of bees in it, so we left the box close to the hive hoping the bees would find their way to their new home.
We added a third box to hold a feeder, and fed each colony a gallon of sugar water so the girls could get right to work building comb in their new home.