Updated: Apr 5
Nuc. Vs. Package.
Are you purchasing bees for the first time?
Learn about installing a nucleus colony vs. installing a package of bees. There are pros and cons to each method and it is important to understand this process before ordering your package or nucs.
We recommend nucleus colonies in the northeast because we have a relatively short season compared to the rest of the country and a nuc has 5 frames of resources, brood, queen, honey, pollen and comb. You have a deep chamber half full already by Spring. We also recommend finding local bees to purchase for your apiary whenever possible. Local being regionally local. For example here in NY if you are purchasing from the surrounding states with similar climate, this is ideal. Nucs are also very easy to install. You are taking your mini 5 frame colony and inserting it in the same exact order, 5 frames in the middle of your deep brood chamber, closing it up and leaving them be for a week or so. However keep in mind, nucs are protecting their brood so you may want to smoke them, you always want to work slowly and have everything ready for installation before you even pick up you nuc, so that it is a smooth and quick transition.
A package of bees usually comes in 3 lb weight with a jar of syrup and a queen in a queen cage. This can be ideal if you already have a lot of drawn comb and resources available to the new colony. In our area, packaged bees are usually from down south so may not be as assimilated to our winter climates, so just something to keep in mind as you over winter the first year or two. Maybe you want to insulate, etc. We also recommend treating packages for mites a week after you install them as we don't often know if they have been treated recently. With a package of bees you do have to introduce the queen to the colony. Most likely the package has been in transit a few days and the queen is with the package, however leave the queen in the queen cage another day or so after you install into the beehive. If the bees are attacking the cage, they have not yet accepted this queen. If they seem gentle toward her she can be released. Many queen cages come with a candy closure of which the bees can slowly eat through as a method of "slow release" of the queen into the hive, but often you just need to open up the cage to make sure she can get out safely and timely. It is best to watch some videos on this, as describing this process in an article is hard to articulate. We will mention that packages are much more docile than a nuc colony because they are not protecting any brood. They are in somewhat of a "swarm state". Swarms of bees are actually very gently and can often be picked up gently with your bare hands.
It is helpful to watch a few videos on installation before making a go of it. I have attached a few helpful videos below to help you get started.
NUC Installation by Better Bee
PACKAGE installation by University of Montana