Nucs or Package Bees – Which is Better?


Like any new hobby, beekeeping has some words that most people don’t understand.  When I first became interested in beekeeping I began to read everything I could online. Luckily, there is  a lot of information online for prospective beekeepers. However, one word kept popping up that I did not understand – Nuc.  What is a nuc in beekeeping?

In beekeeping, a nuc is a small colony of bees.  The term nuc is short for nucleus colony, and they typically contain 1 queen and a few thousand bees.  These bees are housed in a small hive containing 3-5 frames.  

Nuc vs Package Bees 
Both nucs and package bees are both used to start new colonies, but what is the difference between the two?
A nuc is different than package bees in that it comes with frames containing comb, pollen, honey, and brood.  The frames from the nucleus hive are placed in your own hive, then the colony can grow. Nucs can also be used to boost the population of a weaker colony.  

Package bees, on the other hand contains no frames. When you buy a package of bees you get a box of bees, usually sent through the mail.  The box will contain several thousand bees and 1 queen. Package bees are sold by weight and don’t require any installation.  

Pros of Nucs
Nucs are widely regarded as the easiest way to start a bee colony.  And it makes sense, because a nuc basically is a very small starter colony.  It comes with comb, honey, pollen, and brood.  

For these bees to arrive with all of those resources is a big advantage because they have a jump start on the season.  Compared to package bees, who arrive with nothing and then have to forage and start everything from scratch. Because of this you have the option of buying nucs later in the season than package bees.  
Another benefit of buying a nuc is that you don’t have to worry about the queen being rejected.  In a nucleus colony, the queen has already been accepted and established.  

Cons of Nucs
Nucs are harder to get than package bees.  Their fragile comb is difficult to transport. Because of this, nucs cannot be shipped like package bees.  That means in order to get a nuc, you must be within driving distance of a supplier.  
The cost of a nuc is also higher than that of package bees.  That is because of the extra work it takes to raise the colony and prepare it for transportation.  You can expect a nuc to cost a little over $200, where package bees typically go for $100.  
Pros of Package Bees
Because package bees are easier to transport, they are much more commonly used than nucs.  Package bees can easily be shipped just about anywhere. While many people may not have access to nucs because of their location, anyone can order package bees. 
Placing a package of bees into a hive is also easy.  All you need to do is open the box and dump the bees in.  

Package bees cost significantly less than nucs.  That is because they do not include the frames and comb.  For those that don’t want to spend a lot of money on a nuc, buying package bees is a better option. 

Cons of Package Bees
The queen provided in your package of bees still needs to be accepted by the rest of the colony.  She stays in a separate cage during shipping, so introducing her to the rest of the bees is up to you. This process takes a few days, and there is a chance that the bees could reject her and you’ll need to find a replacement.  

While nucs arrive with comb, pollen, and brood – package bees have nothing.  Once they move into their hive they must start from scratch to build comb and gather necessary resources.  They have a limited time to do this, and depending on the time of the season, it can be a challenging task.  

When starting new beehive you must decide if you want to get package bees or a nuc.  What is a nuc in beekeeping? A nuc is a small colony of bees that is used to start a new bee colony.  Nucs come with a few frames, comb, pollen, honey, and brood. They cost more than package bees, but the advantages are that they already have built up food stores and an established queen.  

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