A nucleus is a very important part of an apiary and I encourage all beekeepers to make good use of them. The use of an existing nuc, or the making of a new one, can often overcome problems with honey producing colonies.
There are probably more things that can go wrong with a nuc than a full colony, but don’t let that put you off. Many of the problems are avoidable and the more experienced the beekeeper gets, the less problems they will have.
Making a nucleus.
In making a nucleus we must understand three things……
Bees from two colonies will often fight, but those from three or more won’t.
If a nuc is made up and kept in the same apiary the flying bees will usually go back to their original site, possibly leaving the nuc short of bees to look after the brood. The usual method is to ensure that many of the adult bees haven’t flown before.
The normal rules of queen or queencell introduction apply.
On a personal level there is a fourth thing you need to understand. Even after several years of beekeeping I still enjoy making up nucs, seeing them develop and using them for a number of reasons. I hope you will too. I think you will also learn a lot, probably more than by observing full colonies.
We should see that the nucleus has the means to survive and prosper by ensuring…
There are enough bees to cover the brood. Sealed brood creates it’s own heat and doesn’t need so much attention as unsealed brood does.
There is enough food to last until your next visit. DO NOT feed! I know so many give the advice to, but if you do it within 3-4 days of making the nuc up, especially if the weather is cool, the older bees will go home and tell their hivemates and you could have robbing start.
There is enough room to expand. This is where you need to understand that if your nuc is made up with largely sealed brood, it will be a lot stronger in adult bees in a week or so.
They have a queen, or if not they have a queen cell, eggs, or young larvae from which to raise one.
It is strong enough to defend itself. A small entrance will help.
There is no Foul Brood disease in the apiary. I always encourage beekeepers to check at EVERY inspection.
They are not sited in full sun where they can overheat. This is a major problem for nucs, because they usually have small entrances and can very quickly be in trouble. Place in a shaded position.
A nucleus can easily be made by either splitting a single colony, or by taking bees and/or frames from several colonies, and giving it either a queen in a cage or queen cell.