Your First Nuc!!!
Last month we touched on what equipment you will need. Now, you have your supplies. It's all built and you're waiting for a few thousand buzzing girls to show up. Well, here's what to expect on your fist nuc!
The week before:
This isn't 100% necessary but if you are as excited as we were, we know you won't be able to hold that excitement in. So, at some point within the week of picking up your hive you can set the hive boxes up in the location you've chosen for them. Remember to place them in a dry location, on a stand, facing the southeast, and in an area with lots of sun. In our area, we have a good number of black bears and if you have some bee loving friends too, be sure to have an electric fence as well.
Once you have your hive set up, place 5-6 frames in the box (If using a 10 frame box and less for 8 frame boxes). This will make sure you are ready for the nuc. The nuc will come with 4-5 frames. Once you have this ready, close the entrances off if it is more than a few days before pick up. You'd be surprised how quickly other insects will make this a home while you are waiting. The sweet smell of the extra frames, if using wax dipped or wax foundations, will attract all kinds of things. You can close these off by flipping the inner cover and adding some cardboard over the hole. It's easiest to block the bottom entrance with wood, or cloth.
Next on the list? Prep some sugar water and grab a pollen patty. This hive is a split from its original. It will come with some food reserves but adding some 1:1 sugar water and giving a pollen patty will mean that they have all they need within the hive. Foragers will still come and go but an overabundance will mean they can get to work right away. They have a lot to build!
Now you're ready for your hive and there are a couple good reasons to do this early. Bees are bees, and mother nature is weird! Neither has any consistent timeline, and they aren't watching and waiting for you. Bees grow at the pace they choose. You may have scheduled pick up for Saturday, but due to weather coming, or strength of the hives, they may need to be picked up a few days earlier or later. Undoubtably, this will affect your schedule.
The day of pick up:
Most don't realize bees need to be picked up early in the morning, or later in the evening and most often, those selling ask for buyers to arrive in the evening. This is due to the foraging bees coming and going. Every bee is important, and each have their job. If you were to pick up in the middle of the day, a number of the foraging bees would be on their collection flights and would come back to find their colony removed. These bees could find another home but the nurse bees depending on those resources would be without.
Before making the trip to pick your nuc up, be sure you have everything you will need. Plan ahead! Are you picking up in a truck or car? If truck, and you're placing them in the bed, make sure they are secure and wont move. Nothing like squishing the queen on the ride home, right? Likewise, if you are putting them in your back seat, make sure they are secure, and the lid is on! There is a good reason for this!
We purchased additional nucs for a project we started in 2022 with my sister. After loading 6 into the back seat of my car, I began to back out. As an experienced keeper, I felt ok making the long drive home. (about 3 hours) Many think it's crazy to carry 48,000 - 60,000 bees in your back seat, but that is just a part of the job at this point. What I learned on my way out of the field makes for a funny story, but I felt bad for the new keepers involved. After packing their nuc into the car, they began to make the trip home. Having not left the driveway yet, somehow, the hive knocked over in the car and spilled 8,000-10,000 bees. Kindly the apiarist offered to tape the covers on. I thought it was odd, until she told me what happened.
When you get back with your bees:
It will likely be late. Take the nuc out and set it next to the hive you've set up and leave it until morning. Transporting bees can often get them upset and disturbing them any more than necessary is just not a fun time. Open the entrance and finish moving them in the morning.
When the sun comes up, and some of the foragers are out of the box, it's your chance. Grab your suit, light your smoker, and introduce yourself. Gently move each frame from the nuc box to its final home. While moving, look for eggs, laying pattern, available resources and the queen.
- Eggs tell you there is another generation coming.
- Laying pattern to show the sustainability of the queen. (Something we'll touch on in a later blog)
- Available resources to know how important more(food) will be.
- The Queen, well.. she's the most important part!
Once you've confirmed all is well, add a pollen patty to the top of the hive. From there, close up the top inner cover and add your feeder of sugar water. Close them up and leave them for a week. Give them time to get to know your area. You know the queen is there, you know she is laying, and you know they have all they need. Now, we're not saying to avoid them all together! Grab a chair and watch as they come and go if you want. (We wont judge. Matt would sit all day to watch) But let them acclimatize to their new home. It's a big move for them.