Beekeeping Basics: Installing a Nuc

Most new beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland (and many other places on the planet) will start up their first colonies with what is often referred to as a nuc, or a nucleus colony, or a starter hive that contains a laying queen, at least one frame of brood, a frame or two of pollen and honey, and usually a blank or empty frame to give the worker bees something to work on while they’re stuck in a 4-frame nuc box for up to a week. The frames from the nuc are usually placed inside a single hive body (in Newfoundland, it’s usually a deep) with empty frames to fill in the rest of the box. A feeder of some sort is installed. And that’s it. The following 24-minute video demonstrates the entire process.

I’ll post a condensed version of this video at a later date, but for now it’s probably more helpful to show how it plays out in real time (more or less) so that anyone new to all this, or anyone thinking about starting up a few honey bee colonies next year, will have a realistic idea of what to expect when it comes time to install their first nuc. I plan to post follow-up videos to track the progress of this colony right into next spring, again so that anyone hoping to start up their own hives in the future will have a non-idealized take on what to expect.

It was well over 30°C (86°F) by the time I finished installing all of my nucs. The sweat was pouring off my face and stinging my eyes. Expect that too.

Here’s a breakdown on the video for people who don’t have time to watch it all at once:

00:00 — The video begins with me yakking on about nucs in general.

00:53 — The difference between drawn comb and bare foundation (using bare foundation for this demonstration nuc).

02:25 — Reviewing a few things about frames and feeders and Langstroth hives.

03:40 — Filling my modified 7-litre frame feeder, explaining why I like it.

04:55 — Explaining my imprecise method of mixing sugar syrup and why it works for me (because it’s easy).

06:16 — “Spraying” the bare foundation with sugar syrup to attract to the bees to the foundation.

07:28 — Why I use standard dishwashing gloves instead of leather gloves.

07:48 — Using a spray bottle instead of a smoker.

08:33 — Opening the nuc box.

09:00 — Removing the first frame from the nuc box with my frame gripper, a frame of pollen and nectar and some honey. Placing the frame in the hive body.

10:00 — Removing second frame from nuc box, the empty frame of foundation. Spraying the bees a little more, explaining what I use in my sprayer and how I use it. Placing frame in hive body, maintaining the same frame arrangement as the nuc box (for now).

10:51 — Removing the third frame, a frame of capped brood, placing it in the hive body.

12:12 — Removing the 4th (and last) frame from the nuc box and spotting the queen.

13:00 — Problems installing the last frame because of honey bugling out. Sliding the frames closer together so they all fit in, despite the bulging honeycomb.

14:56 — A summary of what I’ve just done, explaining how I’ll expand the colony by inserting blank frames between frames of brood, etc.

16:00 — Adding my improvised top cover (a piece of plywood), shaking some bees out of the cardboard nuc box. I should note that I quickly removed the cardboard nuc box from the area because many of the bees were still attracted to the queen’s pheromones inside the box (that’s not in the video).

16:58 — Adding my no-frills entrance reducer (a block of wood), explaining how it works. I decided afterwards to remove the entrance reducer until after the bees were oriented to the hive. I am so overheated by this point, I can barely speak coherently.

18:30 — Summarizing how I plan to feed the bees throughout the summer, etc.

19:18 — Close-up of bulging honeycomb in another nuc, showing how it prevents me from spacing the frames properly, which can cause problems down the road. Noticing, too, that the nuc only contains a single frame of brood, which isn’t much. I plan to add frames of brood from other colonies to boost up some of my nucs.

21:55 — A look at one of my other nucs, me yaking about how the bees are orientating, and a suggestion to take this opporunity, while there aren’t many bees in the hive, to look for the queen.

P.S.: I wrote this post on July 21st, but I backdated it for July 17th to reflect the actual date the video was recorded.

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