Installing Nuc Boxes (Full of Honey Bees)

It’s November 2018 as I review this old post from 2010. It’s an excellent example of what not to do and how easily new beekeepers are misled. By this time I had watched many video of beekeepers putting blank frames between brood frames, which is a thing I still do under specific circumstances. But it’s not something I’d even consider doing with the tiny brood nest of a nuc. Luckily my bees survived my bad beekeeping thanks to some unusually warm weather we had at the time.

I installed my honey bees four days ago on July 18th, 2010. I picked up our nuc boxes from the a Newfoundland Bee Company on the west coast of Newfoundland the day before at $200 a pop (and a 1300km, 16-hour road trip).

This is the first hive after I installed the bees. The emptied nuc box on the ground still had a few bees in it that eventually flew back into the hive. The upside-down Mason jar is full of a honey-sugar mixture that I made from safe local honey. (Grocery store honey often contains spores for various diseases that can do serious damage to a honey bee colony.) The bees will feed on a sugar syrup mixture until the fall.

A few hours later the second nuc was opened. We smoked the bees a bit, but our smoker technique needs some work. These bees were more agitated than the others, buzzing louder and flying around more, but most of them were docile and didn’t pay much attention to us. Here’s a closer shot of the just-opened nuc box full of bees.

I’m guessing that’s about 10,000 bees.

Pulling out a frame full of bees. We can’t tell the difference between a frame full of brood, honey or pollen yet. We didn’t look too closely to find out. We just wanted to get the bees in as quickly as we could. We knew it was best to place a frame full of brood and a frame of honey close to the middle of the new hive, leaving an empty frame between each of the newly-installed frames because the bees are more compelled to fill in empty spaces than to work outwards. We took a guess at which frames were full of brood and honey.

Frame of brood in the middle, then an empty frame, then a frame of honey and so on.

Installing the last frame from the nuc box. It’s not heavy because it only has the beginning of some drawn comb on one side.

Now I dump the stragglers into the hive. That’s right, I tipped the box on its side, banged the box so the bees fell down to one side, then tipped it upside down and banged it again and the clump of bees fell into the hive. They didn’t seem to mind.

At this point we didn’t have all the parts for hive #2, so we had to put something together with scrap lumber and an old window pane. It doesn’t look like much, but having the glass top (with cardboard on top to block out the light) means we can look through the glass and watch the bees do their thing without bothering them. Exhibit A:

2018 Postscript: I don’t know what I was thinking with that honey-sugar mixture. And again, this was the one and only time I split up the brood nest while installing a nuc. I also only use mist on the bees when installing a nuc, if I use anything at all. No smoke. Keep in mind, too, that this is a great time to look for the queen to learn what she looks like. A nuc colony is usually easy to handle.