As a beekeeper, nuc box will become an important part of your life. Whether you’re buying or selling a colony, the hardest part is getting a good feel for how long the bees can stay in their nuc.
How Long Can Bees Stay In A Nuc Box?
Bees can typically stay in a standard five-frame nuc for two to three weeks before filling. If the nuc are cardboard, airtight, and the weather is hot, they shouldn’t sit there for more than a few hours, as they may die from the heat. Enclosed nucs are for shipping purposes only.
Nuc is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. It allows you to capture swarms and bring them into new hives. At the same time, it makes it easier to transport and sell beehives and can be used for more purposes. However, there are many caveats when it comes to timing beekeeping. This is the case with nucs.
There are a lot of variables that affect how long a bee spends in a nuc, so let’s explore that.
What Is Bee Nuc Box And What Is It Used For?
Nuc, short for Nucleus Colony, is a term used to describe the small swarm of bees that emerge when a colony splits. It’s basically a small version of a normal beehive. The first thing you will notice about scions is that they are very small, usually containing only five frames, sometimes only one!
The term Nuc refers to the smaller size of the box that contains the bees, as well as the bees themselves. Nuc boxes are designed to hold fewer frames than standard honeycombs and therefore contain fewer bees. Since they are in a smaller space, it is easier for them to maintain the right temperature and humidity for the colony.
Nucs are commonly used to:
- Prevent swarming in larger colonies: This is done by removing frames containing queen cells from larger colonies and placing them in new nucs. In this way, they formed the basis of new colonies.
- Sell or buy new colonies: Usually this is done with cardboard scions, so you won’t be selling wooden scions. Cardboard is much cheaper, but be careful when buying as cardboard is not very strong.
- Separate and mate queens.
How Long Can Bees Stay In A Nuc?
To better understand how much time bees can spend in a nuc, we need to separately focus on 1) keeping bees in regular nucs and 2) keeping bees in closed nucs.
1. Open Nucs
When it comes to open nucs (where bees can fly in and out), bees can often stay in them for up to a few weeks. Until they pull the comb out completely. But how long they can stay there depends on several factors.
- The type and purpose of the scion;
- Average temperature;
- The health and condition of the colony; and
- How productive the queen is.
All of these will play an important role in how long the bees stay in the nuc.
Because scions are so small, they contain far fewer workers than might be considered reasonable. If left unattended for long periods of time, this can cause the bees to starve or swarm very quickly.
Because the nucleus is much smaller, they are vulnerable to predation by larger hives. This can result in the defending bees being killed and the remaining bees starving quickly due to lack of food.
2. Closed Nuc
Keeping bees in closed nucs is probably the most dangerous situation. However, there may be several reasons for this. Bees do not move immediately when purchased, shipped or due to time constraints.
It’s best to avoid these situations, but they can happen. If this is the case, you have to be very careful with the bees as it is not a good practice to control them this way. It is recommended not to keep bees off for more than a few hours.
Most buyers receive their purchased bees in poorly ventilated boxes. This can lead to the death of the bees. Avoid keeping bees in hot areas or keep them in the sun. Some suppliers may want you to pick up the bees at sunset instead of delivering them during the day.
Read more: Is Harvesting Honey Bad For Bees?
If bees are kept in closed nucs, they should be fed using suitable feeding troughs, as they will starve quickly. In this way, the worker bees stay in the nuc, become nurse bees and take care of the brood in the nuc.
Types Of Nucs
In general, depending on what you’re doing, you’ll encounter several types of nucs.
1. Regular Nucs
Usually made of wood or plywood (they can also be plastic) with non-standard frame numbers. They usually have five frames.
2. Mini-Mating Nucs
These can be smaller, with just a frame or two. They can be deep frames or smaller frames. You will be able to maintain a colony until it is really full.
3. Cardboard Nucs
All cardboard nucs are makeshift boxes that can be used for a limited time as they don’t last long. Waxed cardboard scions are more durable and can stand out in the rain for a few months or so. Always make sure to put heavy weights on them as they are light and not very stable.
Many of these boxes may have ventilation issues. Often used to transport and move beehives, they are not a long-term solution because frame support can be provided and the sides of the box can crack, creating small holes. Also, bees can chew through the vents.
What Should Nuc Contain?
A standard nuc should contain three to six bee frames. Queens, workers and broods should be added at different stages. Also, bees should have adequate reserves of honey.
It is not necessary for a nuc to contain a queen or even a queen cell. If there is no existing queen, the workers will create a new queen from the eggs they have, assuming there are eggs in the nuc.
A full nuc should always have a honey store or feeding station.
How To Move Bees From Nuc?
The colony cannot be kept in a five-comb nuc for long as it grows in about 10 days.
Exactly when a nuc becomes too small for a population depends on many factors and you need to check the condition of the nuc regularly. At this point, you’ll need to move them into a larger 10-block box, or you risk swarming them.
- Start by placing the Deep Hive Box in the same location as the branch.
- It is recommended, but not required, to keep the frame in the same order as in the nuc
- Place the frames from the nuc into the deep hive, starting from the outside, alternating one of the empty frames with one lapped frame.
- The center frame in the nuc has the greatest amount of brood, so they can be placed side by side in the center of a deep hive.
You can remove any burrs produced by the bees. As for the bees left in the nuc, you could try slapping them a little and shaking them off with it. Make them fall on the beehive.
Read more: How to Know When to Add a Second Honey Super Or Brood Box?
I hope I’ve proven that nuc box is only a short-term solution. If you plan to buy bees, be sure to give them a good home – beehive so they can make a strong colony that you will take care of for years to come.
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