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How to Install a Nuc


One of the most common questions that we are asked by new beekeepers is how to care for a nuc. So we’ve provided this step-by-step guide to help you get started.


Most new beekeepers have no idea what to expect when they open their first hive. Thousands of honeybees ready and able to defend their hive by stinging can be very intimidating to someone who has never dealt with honeybees before. Take a deep breath and remember that only Africanized honeybees sting in mass. The bees that you are dealing with should be a gentle breed; otherwise the beekeeper wouldn’t have sold them to you.


A. Before you even place an order for your honeybees, you should make sure that you have suitable location for them. Many beekeepers have had to deal with angry neighbors, or dead honeybees due to careless placement of their hives. The location that you choose should ideally be in a location that:


1. Protects your neighbors from stings. Remember to and educate your neighbors about honeybees. Sometimes it may be a good idea to place the hives where your neighbors can’t see them for the first year, then mention them the next year, being sure to let them know that you’ve had them for a couple years. Most neighbors are surprised, and it helps them realize that honeybees are not a problem. Also be sure to give your neighbors some honey each year to maintain the peace, this would be a good time to mention the hives.


2. Has a close water supply. If the hives will be in town, you will need water very near the hives to keep the honeybees from getting into your neighbor’s pool, or leaking faucets. A small water dish with sticks in it, or a leaving a water hose dripping can solve this problem. However if the bees will be in a rural area, it is best to have a water supply within a half mile.


3. Has early morning sun to get the bees foraging as early as possible. Nectar will often evaporate in the morning hours during the hot summer. Having early morning sun allows the bees to get out and haul in as much nectar while it is available.


4. Has afternoon shade to help protect the hives from the hot summer sun. This allows the bees to concentrate more of their efforts on curing nectar, raising brood, and collecting pollen instead of having to haul in water to cool the hive. A hive with afternoon shade will often produce more than hives sitting in the hot afternoon sun.


5. Make sure the area does not flood. Watch for flooding year around before placing a hive. Early spring rains can flood out an area that is often dry during the remainder of the year.


6. Easy access. Before placing your hives on someone else’s property, think about it before you say yes. Always look at the location before committing to anything. If the location does not have 24/7 easy access, or you can’t get to the hives when it rains, don’t do it.


7. Does not have lots of wind drafts in the winter, or has protection from the wind. A windy or drafty area can make it difficult for a hive to maintain warmth in the winter.


Keep in mind that no location is perfect. Find the best location available to you, and go with it. If you are always looking for the perfect location, you’ll never start beekeeping.


B. You will need to start preparing for the arrival of your nuc will in advance. You will need the following items: A complete hive including bottom board, inner cover, outer cover, two deep hive bodies, and supers, plus frames and foundation for the boxes. You will also need the basic equipment such as a hive tool, frame grips, smoker, a veil, and gloves. Most of the beekeeping supply companies sell a beginner’s kit at reasonable prices.


C. Before your nuc arrives, we will need to have the equipment ready. After everything is assembled, set up the hive stand, bottom board, and a hive body in the location you have chosen for your hive. Add an entrance reducer to the hive entrance to help the bees defend a smaller space until they are strong enough to defend a full sized entrance. This helps to reduce robbing while the nuc is building up.


The next step is the arrival and installation of your nuc. Sometimes the weather can get in the way. If it is cold or rainy, you will need to store the nuc in a cool, dark, and dry location until you have a chance to install them. Make sure that the nuc is closed up, and that they have ventilation. Most cardboard nuc boxes come with a plastic ventilation screen, so this shouldn’t be a problem.


D. Now we are ready to install the nuc. Take the nuc box and your tools out to the hive. Open the hive and place four frames in the hive, two against one side, and two against the other side, leaving space for six frames in the middle.


F. Fire up the smoker and puff a little smoke into the nuc box through the vent holes a couple times, then wait a minute or two to let them gorge themselves on honey. This calms them down and makes it easier to work with them.


G. Now open the nuc box. Use your frame grips and hive tool to remove the outermost frame from either side of the nuc box. Place the frame in the new hive against one of the frames that you’ve already placed in the hive. Repeat this until all the frames are in the hive. Make sure that each frame is place in the hive in the same order and orientation that they were already in. Another good practice is to place each frame an inch or two away from the frame next to it, then slide it into place. This helps avoid crushing bees by rolling them.


H. After all the frames are in the hive, turn the nuc box upside down and slap it a few times to get the remaining bees in the hive. After you’ve knocked as many bees in as you can, check the nuc box to make sure the queen isn’t hanging onto something inside the nuc box. If she is found in the nuc box, rap on it a few more times to knock her out into the new hive. After you are sure that the queen is not in the nuc box, place the inner cover on the new hive.


I. You will need to feed your new nuc to help stimulate brood rearing and comb drawing. This can be done with an inverted jar with small holes in the lid over the inner cover hole. Be sure to place an empty hive body over the feeder jar to avoid robbing and to keep out rain. During the spring, and mixture of one part sugar to one part water makes a good feed that stimulates the bees to raise more brood and draw new combs.


J. Place the Outer cover on the hive, and then a weight on the outer cover. Then come back and refill their feeder when it gets low.


It is important not to over feed a hive. Over feeding can cause the bees to fill in the entire comb with syrup, and rob the queen of space to lay eggs in.


Happy beekeeping!


Authored by:
Gary Perry

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