Package Bees vs. Nucs

One of the most common questions new bee keepers ask themselves is whether they should purchase a package of bees or a nuc for their hive. We manage over 300 of our own hives all across Ohio and wanted to give you our take on these two different types of ways to start your first hive, or expand your current hives.

Package bees are just what they sound like – they are quite literally a package of roughly 9,000 bees with a new queen (the queen hangs in her own cage inside the package.) Nucs are formally known as “nuclear or nucleus colonies” but we call them “nucs” for short. (Sounds like nukes or nucks depending on where you live.)

The chart below describes the differences between a new package of bees and a new nuc colony.

Package BeesNuc Colonies
Versatile, easy to move from one place to
Comes with 4 to 5 established frames.
If you have drawn comb these bees will
rapidly expand.
Queen should be verified laying eggs.
Benefit of seeing a hive start from the
Hive should be essentially a mini hive.
Con – might miss the honey harvest.Con – more expensive, but higher rate of success.
When talking about a nuc you should receive a box (which looks like a small colony) that has frames full of bees in it. You should, if you have time, inspect your nuc as soon as you get it (a reputable dealer wont mind this, just make sure you have your own protective gear.)

With a nuc you are looking for frames that look like this:

Example frame of bees from our hives here in Ohio.  You want your frames of bees looking like this.

In the photo above you can see that the brood (those brown hexagons) cover almost the entire frame. For those of you that are new, those are the baby bee larva that grow underneath. You want a “pattern” of brood that looks like this, it shows that your queen is doing her job and that the hive is healthy. When you start seeing a “salt and pepper” pattern, where the queen is missing spots, you know you might have an issue.

At West River Exchange we do offer both package bees and nuc colonies for sale to our customers in the Ohio area. If you have questions please call us, it’s always free to do so.