Nuc Production Method


More beekeepers are changing their ways. Instead of trying to make up for their winter losses in the spring or during the summer, they have opted for a progressive approach. They make up their loss one year in advance by making nucs and overwintering them. In this way, the beekeeper do not lose the production commonly associated with the loss of colonies. These nucs can be used to replace the lost colonies immediately upon spring arrival, instead of waiting for queen cells or mated queens in June.

Some beekeepers have solved this problem by splitting colonies early and letting the bees raise their own queens unde the emergency impulse. These natural queens can sometimes be an intercaste, so they do not perform adequately. Moreover, the queens still need the warm weather to mate properly, so you still lose production.

Others purchase off-shore queens early and split early. This works well but the negative side is the genetics of these queens is not suited for our climate, so you may lose those colonies the following winter, or you need to requeen with local stock, which means extra labour.

The best approach is to have your own LOCAL mated queens and brood overwintered, so they are already laying and ready to go in April. All you have to do is to transfer the nuc into regular brood chamber, feed them, and watch them go! These nucs have proven very effective and productive. Sometimes they even surpass the big colonies in honey production! This is because of the young queen so eager to buildup her nest, as opposed to an older queen inside a large colony.   These nucs are not so difficult to produce.



  • q You do not lose any production because of winter loss any more.
  • q You can make up those in June or July, when the weather is reliable, and obtain good mating.
  • q If made up in June, they can even produce surplus honey in August!
  • q No need to stress and split the best colonies in the early spring when the weather may be unpredictable.
  • q No reduced production because of early splitting your best colonies.



  • Ø Nucboxes, either doubles or singles, complete with inner covers and outer covers and cleats, filled with empty combs or new frames
  • Ø 1 empty regular honey super per anticipated nuc in each apiary
  • Ø Extra honey frames nuc (in case you do not want to remove honey from the donor colonies)
  • Ø Queen excluders (if your colonies do not have them already)
  • Ø Queen cells or mated queens
  • Ø Overwintering equipment: packing boxes, western wraps,…



  • v Bring with you the necessary equipment for each nucleus.
  • v Find a suitable donor colony.
    • Ø Remove the outer cover and set it upside down beside the colony.
    • Ø Remove the inner cover and set it aside against the colony or next to it.
    • Ø Remove all honey supers if needed and set them on top of the inverted outer cover.
    • Ø Remove the queen excluder and take a quick look for the queen, and set the excluder on top of the honey supers.
    • Ø Set the empty super on top of the excluder.
  • v Inspect the brood chamber and look for the following 2 frames:
    • Ø 1 honey frame at least 50% full.
    • Ø 1 brood frame containing emerging or capped brood with older or young larvaes. Eggs are not necessary.
    • Ø Look for the queen on the frames and if she is there, gently put her back in the colony.
    • Ø If you did not see the queen, shake or brush the majority of the bees back into the colony and quickly take a look again at the frames for the queen.
    • Ø Put the 2 frames in the middle of the empty super sitting above the queen excluder.
    • Ø Replace the 2 frames donated by 2 new combs and put all the other removed frames back into the colony.
    • Ø Set the queen excluder and empty super containing the 2 frames on top of the colony.
    • Ø Leave a finger space between the two frames for the bees to cluster better.
    • Ø Close with the inner cover.
    • Ø Leave the honey supers on the ground.
  • v In the mean time, proceed to the next colony for the   next nuclei and repeat this procedure until you have enough nucleis prepared in this apiary.


  • v After about one hour or so, go back to the first colony and remove the inner cover.
    • Ø You should see bees clustered around the 2 frames you placed above the queen excluder.
    • Ø Transfer these frames with adhering bees into your nuc box.
    • Ø Honey on the side, then brood frame, followed by empty combs or foundations.
    • Ø Close the lid and reduce entrance to 1 or 2 bees.   NOTE: If you want to leave the nucs in the same apiary, you must add extra bees in the nuc box prior to closing the mother colony. Sometime there are bees clustering under the inner cover or the inner walls of the empty hive body. No queens!
    • Ø Close the donor colony, putting the honey supers back on.
  • v Proceed to other prepared nucleis and repeat this procedure until all your nucboxes are stocked with frames, bees, and empty combs.
  • v Move the nucleus to another apiary at least 3 km away.
  • v About 24 hours later, perform the following checks:
    • Ø Cluster of bees should be at least 2 frames, if not, equalize with other strong nucleis.
    • Ø Introduce the queen cell or mated queens following the method outlined in our “Queen Introduction Method”.
    • Ø Close the nucbox.
    • Ø Repeat procedures for all nucboxes in the apiary.
  • v NOTE: If you waited longer than 24 hours, the bees may have begun natural queen cells under the emergency impulse. In this case, you must do the following:
    • Ø Remove the 2 frames donated by the parent colony and shake the bees off into the nucbox, to look for natural queen cells built by the bees.
    • Ø Destroy these natural queen cells by crushing or removing, making sure the larvae at the bottom of the cell is dead.
    • Ø Replace the frames back into the nucbox, introduce the cell or queen, and close the nuclei.


  • v Wait at least 18-21 days for a queen cell, and 9-11 days for a mated queen.
  • v Return to the apiary and perform the following operations.
    • Ø Check if the new queen is laying her eggs properly.
      • If yes. The nuc is queenright.
      • If not, it is queenless or a virgin is present.   Remove the unwanted virgin, reintroduce another emerging brood frame and bees if needed. Reintroduce a mated queen if possible. It is not too late yet.
      • If laying workers are present, shake all bees on the ground and close entrance. Wait for the bees to disperse before trying again.
    • Ø Check to see if the new queen has enough room to lay her eggs. She should have 2-3 frames for brood. If yes, all is well. If not, you may have to add extra bees or capped brood from a strong nuc. It is time to equalize the nucs.
    • Ø Check to see if the unit has enough food. It should have the equivalent of at least 1 full frame of honey.
      • Check also to see if brood frames contain nectar or fresh honey surrounding the brood area.
      • If yes, all is well. If not, feed thick sugar syrup. Otherwise the nuc will suffer, be stressed and will not be ready for winter later on.
      • Feed pollen substitute.


  • v 14 days later, perform the following operations:
    • Ø Check if the unit is still queenright.
    • Ø Check if the brood nest has progressed properly.
    • Ø Check if there is enough honey and pollen.
    • Ø Keep feeding the pollen substitute.
    • Ø Check if the cluster needs more room.
      • If yes, transfer into a regular brood chamber and add empty combs as needed. You now have a single colony.
      • Or if using double nuc box, add a queen excluder on top of the unit and staple it on the dividing board to prevent the queens to travel. Add a honey super.
    • v Fall preparation. Early September.
      • Ø Remove honey supers.
      • Ø We recommend treating for nosema, using the baggie method, applied directly above the excluder. The bees will act as one single colony. Use dosage recommended for 1 colony, if you have 2 nucs in a regular chamber.
      • Ø Feed enough 2:1 sugar syrup in preparation for winter. Each double nuc box and single brood chamber needs about 60-70 lbs of syrup, especially if they are strong. We recommend using barrel feeding with straw.
    • v Winter preparation. Late October.
      • Ø Apply oxalic acid treatment – trickling method – according to regulations and Protocols Oxalic Acid Treatment – Trickling Method.
        • 5ml of solution per frames of bees, no more than 20 ml for a 4-frame nuc.
      • Ø Pack these units above single or double brood chamber colonies, using wintering boxes with wood chips or some other valuable method. They can be overwintered on pallets in groups
      • Ø These units should do well during the winter and produce a fantastic crop next summer.