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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
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    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    9,649

    Default e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    The pros and cons of nucs and package bees for first hive.
    Regards, Barry

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Sacramento,California,USA
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    packaged bees are mostly not related to each other and definately not related to the queen, and they have no brood for a boost in population.

    nuc has bees related to eachother and to the queen and has brood to give them a good boost in population and usually has a frame of stores to boot.

    nucs work better more often than packages.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    Fresno California USA
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    2,479

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    Packages won't have any sealed brood for at least 10 days allowing a great opportunity to impact mite population

  4. #4
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    The first issue is that with a package you have your choice of equipment (mediums, small cell comb, top bar hives etc.) where with deep nucs you're limited to what you get.

    All other things (such as choice of equipment) aside, I think you get a couple of week head start with a package, but then you often get the nuc two weeks later anyway.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Fairfield, Virginia
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    1,002

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    When I started beekeeping with packages I enjoyed watching and learning with bees as they started out the colony. Seeing the progression from nothing, and having new white wax and easily removable frames ( no propolis ) helped me being when I was a newbie. I think I would have missed some of this starting out with an established colony.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Owen, WI, USA
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    2,560

    Default

    Depending on the part of the country you are in and when you get your bees, you might have to feed a great deal to get a package to the point of self sufficiency, especially if they are started on bare foundation. For someone who is not familiar or not yet too comfortable with bees, a nuc, which is a bit closer to autopilot, can be a good choice.
    In addition, the queen has been proven in a nuc; she is laying, not something always to be taken for granted in a package. The beginner can see all stages of bee development and see what "normal" actually means.
    Timing of the first major honey flow can also be a determinant. If the flow is early a nuc might better take advantage of it but if the flow is later in the season a package may do just fine.
    For those with experience, installing on drawn comb, the cheaper price of the package may well be the determining factor.
    We normally recommend nucs for beginners.
    Sheri

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,587

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    I think you get a couple of week head start with a package
    Really? Why? I would think it would be the other way around.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Issaquah,WA,USA
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    2,426

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Quote Originally Posted by livz2hunt View Post
    Only dumb question is one not asked. Seems like a fair question that I do not know the answer to, and wish someone would answer. Thanks!
    Thank you for saying it. I enjoyed this post. Did not know much about NUC's. I started with packages and just did some splits into NUC's. Did not really know you could buy them. Not sure if I would still. But, thanks for the info on it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    McLean County, Illinois
    Posts
    166

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    A beekeeper told me the other day he recently heard of a club in the Midwest that sold nucs made up from bulk bees delivered from almond groves combined with cage queens. The day before the nucs were delivered to the buyers they were assembled and the caged queens were added. The buyers were told to be sure to treat them with Fumagilin because all of the nucs had nosema.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Issaquah,WA,USA
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    2,426

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Quote Originally Posted by EastSideBuzz View Post
    Thank you for saying it. I enjoyed this post. Did not know much about NUC's. I started with packages and just did some splits into NUC's. Did not really know you could buy them. Not sure if I would still. But, thanks for the info on it.
    Wow this thread is back to life. I only buy Nuc's now. 3 years can change a man's opinion. I bought 100 last year and will buy another 100 this year.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Shawnee, Kansas
    Posts
    81

    Default Nuc purchasing guidelines... All nucs are not created equal.

    'Tis the season for nuc transactions- 1st timers/hobbyists looking to buy and folks in the industry hoping to fill the buyers need while efficiently generating another source of revenue from their bees.

    Hobbyist / Newbee Point of View- This is great deal. One can get some established bees on drawn comb with a laying queen for approximately the same price as package bees and since they've got a month’s head start on a package, one might even get a honey crop.

    While POV above is true, do you really know what you're getting when buying a nuc? There are more variables to take into consideration when buying nucs than buying package bees.

    Here's a few, maybe others will have more things to look for.

    We'll start with the obvious-
    1. Bees- How many? Some ads clearly state how many frames of brood, honey, pollen, drawn empty comb, undrawn comb, etc. will make up the nuc. Other ads simply reference the number of frames, i.e., 5 frame nucs.

    2. # of Frames- 5 frame deeps are probably the most common but there are also 4 framers and medium frame nucs.

    3. Frame exchange or not?- Some sellers want to trade frames, i.e., your new frames/foundation for their drawn drawn frames in the nucs. Other sellers simply offer the nuc including the frames.

    4. Frame Transfer- If the buyer must travel a distance to pick up the nucs, he/she had better plan on either buying the nuc box, transferring into their equipment at the pick-up location, or having prearranged for the seller to have placed them in cardboard nucs.

    Now, the not so obvious-
    1. Bees- Where are they coming from? Splits straight out of almonds or other pollination? How long have they been together, i.e., functioning as an individual colony. Ideally, about 3-6 weeks to allow for the queen to have built the population up with young bees and the colony to have proven itself. In my mind any less time than that isn't much less risk than package bees with a recently mated, unproven queen.
    Who knows, there may even be some sellers out there selling their old queens with the nuc as a way to recoup some of their initial investment in the queen. Probably, O.K. as long as it's disclosed to the buyer. How can you really tell?

    2. Queens- Where did she originate? Where was she mated? Is there a chance she could have been mated to africanized stock, was she imported from Hawaii, grafted from a pure breeder queen? What breed is she, e.g., Minnesota Hygienic? Is she really MH or did the keeper purchase some MH stock years ago and now claim all stock is MH and just place some open brood in a nuc and let them raise their own queen of unverified breed.

    2. Condition of frames and comb- This one's a biggy... There are many keepers out there realizing the benefits of keeping newer comb in the brood nest, what with all the hype about chemical retention, nosema and other contaminations. Also, after many rounds of brood, the cells eventually become shallower and smaller, to the point of not being attractive to the bees for brood production or anything else for that matter.
    To the enterprising seller, it would seem much easier to stomach recouping some salvage value from their old frames and comb by selling them in nucs, rather than destroying them. For the buyer, taking a quick look at a frame will tell you its condition. Black comb with shallow cells is a give away that it's been around a long time. Again, as long as it's disclosed to the buyer there shouldn't be a problem.

    3. What other creatures are lurking in the boxes?- If coming from areas with small hive beetles, africanized bees and who knows what else, all of the above are certainly an option. Although probably not an option that one would select.

    In my mind, all of the above potential detriments are o.k. as long as they are fully disclosed. Ultimately, what does all of this lead to if everyone is honest? Probably, valuing the nuc based on its make-up.
    Something like-
    $50- Old comb (black, 5 frames drawn both sides), questionable queen, recently made up. Minimum 2 frames open brood.

    $70- Decent mid aged comb (is there such a thing? 5 frames, drawn both sides), new queen, 3 weeks since make-up, 4 frames drawn comb covered both sides w/ bees. Minimum 2 frames sealed brood.

    $85- New comb (1 yr old or less, 5 frames, drawn both sides), new queen of verifiable breed (4-5 weeks since make-up, 5 frames covered both sides with bees. Minimum 3 frames of brood, 2 sealed 1 open.

    $110- New comb (1 yr old or less, 5 frames, drawn both sides), new queen of verifiable breed, mated where there's no chance of ahb drones, 5-6 weeks since make-up. Stuffed with bees, nearly ready to swarm.

    $????- Overwintered nucs- probably the same categories as above?

    Other considerations- small cell, chemical free, originated from non-shb area, other?

    Lastly, all of the above are based on some casual observations from having purchased nucs and sold nucs. It is intended to educate buyers and foster discussion.

    Prices are given to demonstrate differences in value based on nuc make-up and not intended to suggest what actual pricing should be. Obvisouly, location, demand, overhead, profit margins, etc. will determine actual price.
    Last edited by KSbee; 02-16-2009 at 05:44 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
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    6,973

    Default

    interesting analysis ksbee... there are of course several means/methods of establishing value.

    it would seem you considered the material side of making up a nuc, but perhaps not the human (ie beekeepers) side so much??? does beekeepers 'care' and attention to quality not count for something?

    snip..
    4. Frame Transfer- If the buyer must travel a distance to pick up the nucs, he/she had better plan on either buying the nuc box, transferring into their equipment at the pick-up location, or having prearranged for the seller to have placed them in cardboard nucs.

    of course if a newbee has some time (perhaps several hour + travel) this transfer can represent an opportunity for a very short hands on bee school. cost 0, value perhaps priceless?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Shawnee, Kansas
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    81

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tecumseh View Post
    does beekeepers 'care' and attention to quality not count for something?

    of course if a newbee has some time (perhaps several hour + travel) this transfer can represent an opportunity for a very short hands on bee school. cost 0, value perhaps priceless?
    Sure it does, good point.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Canterbry, UK
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    1,797

    Default new bees & varroa resistance

    Quote Originally Posted by KSbee View Post
    'Tis the season for nuc transactions- 1st timers/hobbyists looking to buy and folks in the industry hoping to fill the buyers need while efficiently generating another source of revenue from their bees.
    (rest below as it was a while ago - post #21)

    I can't help noticing there has been no discussions of bee vitality in respect of resistance to varroa - which I image all agree is the main threat. (I may have read too quickly, in which case I apologise)

    So my questions is: do suppliers make claims of varroa resistance, and, if so, how should we use that information?

    Mike
    Last edited by Barry; 03-06-2014 at 07:54 AM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Lake County Ill
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    445

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    The nucs that I am purchasing won't be ready until the 3rd week in May. Is this too late?

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Grantsburg,WI
    Posts
    115

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Quote Originally Posted by woodedareas View Post
    The nucs that I am purchasing won't be ready until the 3rd week in May. Is this too late?
    That would be late for Northern WI, which make it very late for your location.
    IMO of course.
    BM
    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JOHN F. KENNEDY -

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Timing is everything, but you have no real control over what matters like when it gets cold, when it gets warm and when the first blooms happen. Some years it all falls into place where the earlier packages do better because it's just cold enough long enough to keep them from all drifting and then it blooms soon enough that they get a good kickstart and then it stays warm enough they can keep moving forward. Other years it blooms too late, stays too cold and it's a struggle just to keep them alive and then the later ones do better. It's all in the details and you have no control over most of those details.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
    Posts
    4,624

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Quote Originally Posted by woodedareas View Post
    The nucs that I am purchasing won't be ready until the 3rd week in May. Is this too late?
    Depends on what you are purchasing, if they are 4 or 5 combs I would say they are a tad late, if they are a single full of brood and bees they would be perfect.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Solano, California, USA
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    1,506

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    The preceding post by Jim is perfectly correct if you plan on making a crop in the summer. Late splits have a harder time making it through the winter also.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Dekalb, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    In Georgia, I got a package of bees in 2009, in late May -- this was way too late and they didn't do well because they had completely missed the major nectar flow. In 2010 I got two nucs in April and they both did great; they hit the ground running because they already had brood going, and quickly build out frames of comb and produced honey.

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