A nucleus, or “nuc” as they are commonly known as by beekeepers, is a small colony of honey bees that could be made up for a number of purposes. Common uses are:-
For mating queens in.
For making increase.
For requeening/queen introduction.
To hold a valuable queen in.
For demonstration purposes.
For non-beekeepers and first-timers to handle bees.
For swarm control.
Apiary management purposes.
There are many more uses that beekeepers will find as they get more experienced. It is my view that in the active season at least one nucleus per apiary is a very useful asset, if only to provide a queen if one fails in a honey producing colony.
“A nucleus is a well balanced colony on between 3-5 brood combs. It should have bees, food, brood and a queen………”.
This was intended as guidance for a nuc for sale, so doesn’t apply to all situations, but it gives you an idea of what one is, although for your own purposes the strength will go above and below that stated.
The making up of a nuc is very similar to any other form of increase, so I won’t repeat it here.
Although effectively a small colony a nuc doesn’t always behave like one. In particular the food situation can fluctuate considerably.
Nucs have their own kind of hive. These are variously called “nucleus hives”, “nuc hives” or “nuc boxes”.
Mininucs are small colonies on non-standard frames that are used for mating queens in.