Picking up & Installing your Nuc
Before your Bees Arrive
You’ll want to have your hive leveled, set up and ready for their arrival before you pick up your bees. You’ll need a single deep Langstroth (8 frame or 10 frame) brood box to start, and have a second box ready for when they’re covering about 80% of the frames in the first box. This may happen within a few weeks with a 10 frame deep, and if you’re using 8 frame equipment you may want to give them their second box right away since they can get overcrowded fast. If you’ve had bees previously and still have drawn comb and/or frames with capped honey, that will help get your bees up and running faster.
When your bees fill 80% of their second deep, we recommend adding a 3rd deep instead of shallow or medium honey supers if you can. This will put you in a position to have extra resources for your bees going into winter. One of the biggest challenges is having enough equipment ready to go in the second year once your bees overwinter, so having deep frames that are already drawn can be a big help, since it’s always a good plan to have an extra hive on hand for spring splits!
We also recommend using screened bottom boards and a slatted rack for good ventilation and varroa control. In Loveland (5,000 feet) we leave the screened bottom boards open year round.
Picking up Your Bees
Your bees will be packed in a 5-frame plastic nuc box for the ride home. Please run the A/C or open windows for them on the drive, and ensure their ventilation holes aren’t blocked as they can easily overheat. Do NOT make any stops along the way. Just like a dog or cat, your bees can quickly get overheated or die if left for even a short period of time in a hot car. You’ll need to take them straight home and install them in their hive the same day. Your nucleus colony is growing fast and needs more space to expand, so you need to have your hive set up and ready for them – do not leave them in the nuc box!
Installing Your Nuc
To install your bees, just put the 5 frames from your nuc in the center of your deep box in the same order (keep the frames from your nuc together, do not insert empty frames between them) and add empty frames on either side.
If you are providing drawn frames or frames with honey for your bees, honey frames can go to the outer edges of the first deep box or in a second deep box above the brood nest, and frames with empty drawn comb surrounding your nuc frames in the center.
Your nuc will come with a good supply of pollen and nectar, so you probably won’t need to feed them if you live in a downtown area with a lot of forage and blooming trees. As long as your bees are bringing in nectar and drawing new comb you generally don’t need to feed sugar water or pollen patties (and in many cases feeding can do more harm than good!), but that depends on the season and the forage in your area. Due to this year’s late Spring freeze, it will be important to closely monitor the nectar your bees are bringing in and provide additional food if necessary.
You’ll receive a photo of your queen bee along with your nuc when you pick it up. All our nucs include a 2022 queen bee that was raised by the colony and has successfully mated with the local drone population. We do not bring in queens from other apiaries. We don’t mark our queens, and strongly recommend that you keep her unmarked and learn how to find her instead. To spot your queen, it is helpful to know the different stages of brood and to be able to spot eggs, which will stand on end in their first day. Your queen is usually near these freshly-laid eggs, either on the same frame or a frame over in any direction. She will almost always be found on brood frames. If you don’t spot your queen but do spot new eggs you can rest assured that she is there and doing her good work.
The plastic nuc box that your bees come in is helpful for a variety of reasons. You can use it for creating new colonies from your bees if you successfully overwinter them, or for catching swarms. We recommend that you keep it on hand, but if you want to get rid of it please contact us and we will send you a return shipping label and use it for new nucs in the coming year.
Many of our colonies have shown some natural resistance to varroa, but it’s a highly variable trait and you’ll need to have a plan in place for counting and treating for mites as the summer goes on. Because our nucs are created from splits they have had a brood break & have effectively been treated for mites this spring. If you do find that your colony needs to be treated for mites in summer/fall we recommend natural treatments that work by lowering the pH in the hive, like oxalic or formic acid.
You should not plan to take any honey in a colony’s first year, since they need about 100 pounds to get through a Colorado winter. Feeding sugar syrup in the fall can raise the pH in the hive and make bees more susceptible to varroa infestation and robbing, so don’t take honey the bees can’t afford to spare! It’s far better to have a little extra in reserve in case your bees need it in Spring. Even if the honey crystallizes over the winter the bees can still use it.