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Nucleus Colonies

Various uses of honey bee nuclei

How to use small colonies of bees known as nuclei in various beekeeping contexts.

This where Poly Nuc units really shine in supporting small colonies and? are relatively cheap compared to the bought timber version. Beware the second hand ones as inevitably they never fit each other as I discovered after one of what I thought at the time was a best buy at an auction…. They were a nightmare of incompatibility and I burnt them in the end.

Nucs are very versatile and can be used in many ways. I use them for swarm control, for making increase, for sale and for relatively safe queen introduction.

I find that having a number of nucs to hand is extremely useful as they can be used to make up numbers in the case of queen failures, or to boost up colonies heading for the heather. They can be used for “banking” a valued queen to extend her laying life by reducing the pressure on her.
They can of course be sold as a way of balancing the costs of your hobby.

I get cells started in a starter box of young bees, and have them finished in the super of a strong queen right colony.

When I have the cells ready I make up my nucs by mixing frames of brood and bees from three hives. I spray the three, (which should not fight but…) with perfumed water to ensure they do not fight and add the cell. I then stuff with grass and leave for three days.

When mated I keep an eye on them for temper and so on to ensure I am not propagating traits I am not happy with.

As they grow, and they will, it can be a case of having to switch them around, swapping strong with weak to protect them from getting too strong. The trick is to have them bursting with bees just as winter sets in, and of course well fed too. If all else fails and they are all getting too strong then pull one or two frames of brood, but no bees, and make up a box of brood to put on a weaker colony and watch it take off!

Obviously you keep an eye on them from apiary visit to visit making sure they are disease free, have enough stores and also enough room to expand until your next visit.

I have ekes I put on top, poly ekes, so if needed I can feed fondant from January on to ensure if they fail it’s not from lack of food.

Beekeeping is always a numbers game and I like to have at least 30% of my hive numbers in nucs.

They are great fun to run, can be profitable, and they will if you allow them, teach you a fair bit too.


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