Nuc or Package?

How do you decide which to purchase? There are advantages and disadvantages for both options. Here are a few:

Nucs waiting for pickup at BRBS

Advantages of a Nuc

  • Contains 4-5 frames of drawn out comb – so faster buildup of brood and honey.
  • Contains lots of pollen and capped honey, ready to be used for raising brood
  • Often sold in cardboard or plastic box that can be used again
  • Worker bees and queen know each other and are already working together
  • Easy to install in your hives.
  • Typically come from local sources, which means queens are better acclimated
  • Often purchased straight from the beekeeper, creating a sense of accountability
  • Nucs have every generation of brood already, eggs, larvae, capped brood, foragers, etc.

Disadvantages of a Nuc

  • Often available later in the spring than package bees are since packages come from further south and nucs are often local
  • More expensive than packages
  • Often only sold in deep boxes with deep frames; medium frames are much less common
  • Comb may contain pesticides and fungicides you will transfer to your new hive
  • The comb that comes in a nucleus hive may harbor diseases
  • You can end up with an old queen
  • You can end up with old, not nice equipment
Package Bees from Tate’s Apiaries

Advantages of Packaged Bees

  • Installation window is flexible while bees are in screened box. They have food so can hang out in a cool place for a few days
  • Easy to treat before they are installed. Can mist with oxalic acid to kill any varroa that might be along for the ride
  • Cheapest way to buy bees outside of catching good swarms
  • Generally, new queen, only weeks old are sold with packages
  • Does not come with any honeycomb, so brood diseases are not spread
  • The easiest way to buy bees for a top-bar hive

Disadvantages of Packaged Bees

  • Queen is not integrated into colony yet
  • Bees must be heavily fed to draw comb
  • Slower for colony to ramp up because so much comb will need to be drawn first
  • Drifting and absconding is not uncommon
  • May have mites along for the ride
  • Need good weather for success

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