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  1. #21
    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 04:44 PM.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,985

    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?

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Shawnee, Kansas
    Posts
    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.

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Sparta, Tennessee
    Posts
    2,122

    Default

    I agree with all those that responded with the answer "NUCS." I would recomment NUCS, from a climate similar to yours, and from someone reputable.

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Millersville, Maryland
    Posts
    56

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Having used both, I'm a big fan of nucs.

    Why do I like nucs?

    Simple, they're already established and you don't have the many potential problems of a package installation. No queen rejection, death, etc. Just drop the frames into the hive body. I screen the entrance for a day or two if it isn't too hot.

    I've never had a nuc failure within the first year that wasn't my fault.

  6. #26

    Thumbs Up Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    I've been in the bee business all my life. I'm a second generation comm. beekeeper. I work my bees to the fullest each year. I buy a 2# package around the last week in March. The combs I run are 70-100 year old combs. I spray full 5 of the 9 frames full of HFCS- sugar blind. They start out with 2 emply frame and 2 frames of pollen. With in 5 weeks (which would be around the first of May) I'm making splits for myself and shaking packages for local beekeeper.

    Now I buy 2# packages for $42 each, and nucs are selling for $80-110. What should I buy. I'm in it for the money and to make honey you have to have BEES. I feel if you have the suppies and equipment for the bees, then it's up to the queens.

    The question should be where to buy the SUPER QUEENS at. It's the queens that make it or brake it. I've had super queen produce me 10-13 honey super, and that was started with a 2# package. I've had super queens make me 5 boxes of comb honey, and that was from splits from my 2# packages.

    KNOW WHERE AND WHAT YOUR BUYING WITH YOUR QUEENS.

    Nucs are problem better for those just getting started. It's one way to get already drawn combs.

    This is just my 2 cents, what do I know I've only been buying packages for the last 19 years.

    Ron

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Indiana, Clay County
    Posts
    555

    Big Grin Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    I am only in my 3rd yr, never had any problems with my packages. All the bees I have now came from an original package from WTK. The only nuc I ever bought died its first year.

    If I could get a nuc in 1 hrs drive ; I would probably do it.

    I let the bees do their thing, and just split, and try to add new queens ( genetics) to my yard

    I am probably one of the few people on here, whose dogs work harder than my bees, in the sense, my bees are more pets than my 4 dogs

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Inver Grove, MN
    Posts
    1,462

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    In some parts of the country, nucs can be hard to find without taking a really long drive to pick them up. The closest nuc supplier that I'm aware of in my area is about a 2 hr drive, one way. There are several folks close-by that bring truckloads of packages in from down south. I'll take a nuc any day, but most days, I can't get one.
    Linux - World domination through world cooperation

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
    Posts
    990

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    I am going to have to question how kc arrived at his values....one I dont think you can discount old comb that much, two lets take for example the 5 frame nuc with new comb, 3 frames brood min. with two caped and nuc started 4 weeks ago. In three weeks all three plus frames brood has hatched and you should now have 8 or more frames bees with 6 or more frames brood. This hive is getting close to honey making size. Now if it were all old comb you could cull out old comb for a cost of new frames/foundation for about $8.00 or less than a quart of honey(bet they make more than a quart over a package). If it is new comb no culling. Now if you had purchased a package four weeks later you have 2 frames of brood with some hatching replacing dying bees received. It will be another 3 weeks before you have a hive with 5 frames of bees and brood. and another 2-3 weeks to get where the nuc was a month ago. How much will you pay for a three lb package? queen has been caged....we all know queens do better not caged or at least until they lay a couple of weeks. Looks like to me that nuc is worth at least $100.00 as compared to a package. see chart below.

    package 5 fr nuc

    3 weeks after rec. 2 fr bees/brood 8 plus frames bees 6 fr brood

    6 weeks after rec 5-6 frames bees 14-16 plus frames bees 10-12 frames
    21 days to honey brood READY to make honey
    If honey flow is on you miss three weeks honey production....a good flow of 40 lb week....120 lb honey lost with package! even with 20 lb a week production...loss is 60 lb honey at $3 lb = $180.00 loss of production with package!!

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    dallas, tx, usa
    Posts
    545

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Nucs are a safer way to go -- just beware that there are many sellers out there who will take advantage of a new beek, or sell something that is not worth it out of ignorance or greed.

    I have been keeping bees for 15 years. Sold out a few years ago and decided to start over with small cell. Someone advertised on this forum that they had 5-frame nucs for sale. Located a couple of states away. At $120. Ok.

    I called and they said they could possible arrange delivery or meet me halfway. Great. Called again to put down my deposit, and they said no delivery available now. Well, ok. I will just drive the 20 hours. Gave them my $500 deposit. Lets go.

    Found out a few weeks after that...they are selling 5-frame MEDIUM nucs. Not deeps. It is getting late in the season. They already have my money and it doesn't look like I am going to get it back. Lump it. I run all deeps so this is going to wrench my operation, but I buckle down and buy mediums/frames, etc and assemble. Ok.

    A week later and they tell me that I will have to bring my own equipment or pay them another $25 for a nuc box.

    I was wondering at this point if queens were included or not with these "nucs."

    They then inform me that the bees will not be ready for another week or so after the date they gave me. Fine. I even give them a few extra days so I will get a nice fat nuc when I arrive!

    I get there and...Surprise...the nucs are not ready yet. Many weak, some missing queens. Everyone is sold out for the season at this point, and I am in this yard (his front yard) in the middle of nowhere. I try to exercise some damage control. He agrees to give me a few "beefed up" (6-7 frames of freshly drawn medium box nucs) to make up for the weak hives. Ok. Fine. We have to now transfer to my equipment, so I am losing some of the field force on top. He brags to me that the nuc boxes he builds (oddball sized and made from scrap wood) cost him 8 cents each. These are the same boxes that he was going to charge me $25 for.

    He then "helps" me by not nailing a few of the boxes completely shut, so I lose bees all the way home. He assures me that if any of the queens do not take that he will replace them. I figure he is good on that score anyway as queens cost virtually nothing to raise.

    After a few weeks, you guessed it. 3 queenless hives (none of the queens were accepted) and another 4 too weak to continue on. I call and ask for the replacement queens. He assures me they are on the way. I, of course, never get them. I just combine what I have and feed like hell. When I ask about them he states that he does not have a tracking number. Of course not.

    Anyway, hope someone learns from this.

    Did I mention that his is a "cash only" business?
    Could I have walked away at any time? Yes. Would I have taken a loss any way you look at it? Yes. I decided to suck it up and move forward. The bees that I have left are doing fine and I try not to remember where I got them. Know what exactly you are paying for and from whom. Try to avoid deposits if at all possible. Buy from a reputable/experienced seller. Seems simple doesn't it?

  11. #31
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Memphis, TN, USA
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    I am extremely new but I bought two nucs (for comparison sake). They came came with some extras. SHB, tracheal mites or nosema (some of my bees can't fly), an old queen, and a queen that likes to hide under some malformed comb. One nuc's wax might need to be appraised on Antiques Roadshow (it is almost black) and the other is old but not that old. I paid $87.50 a piece.

    The nucs were open when I arrived and the beekeeper taped them shut just before I got them. Shouldn't they be closed the night before to insure the most bees?

    The point I am trying to make is A good nuc maybe better than a good package (according to some) but wouldn't you be better off with a good package over a bad nuc? (especially for a newbe) It all seems subjective.

    Next year I might get package bees to see what a new clean hive looks like. Or know to ask more questions and look in the nuc before hand.

  12. #32
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Buffalo, NY, USA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    The Only down side to NUCs is that the frames may be infected with something

  13. #33
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Madison County, Alabama
    Posts
    488

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Quote Originally Posted by pbudd72 View Post
    ...wouldn't you be better off with a good package over a bad nuc?
    This is sort of like saying "a bad day in the bee yard is better than a good day at work." Which definitely applies in my case

    I and others have had total misery with packages this year. I even gave a package I got in March a booster frame (with uncapped and capped brood) and now I have laying workers, and I'm a dilligent, caring beekeeper!

    Unfortunately you waded into an area (buying nucs) without much experience, but your gut told you some things...

    Quote Originally Posted by pbudd72 View Post
    ...The nucs were open when I arrived and the beekeeper taped them shut just before I got them. Shouldn't they be closed the night before to insure the most bees?
    Nucs must be inspected by a state apiarist before sale here in my state...do you know if this happened in yours?

    I got a nuc this year with chalkbrood...it was discouraging at the time but cleared up in a jiffy. This nuc started as 5 frames in mid May. 6 weeks later it is chock full 20 drawn frames in two deeps. Nucs are the way to go, but you got a stroke of ill fate.
    "...the most populous colonies ...are provided by queens ...in the year following their birth." Brother Adam

  14. #34
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,985

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    mythomane writes:
    Did I mention that his is a "cash only" business?
    Could I have walked away at any time? Yes. Would I have taken a loss any way you look at it? Yes. I decided to suck it up and move forward. The bees that I have left are doing fine and I try not to remember where I got them. Know what exactly you are paying for and from whom. Try to avoid deposits if at all possible. Buy from a reputable/experienced seller. Seems simple doesn't it?

    tecumseh:
    although I take deposit (primarily to insure the buyer shows up at or about the 'ready' date) I also have no problems taking a check. but of course you are right the 'cash only' should have set off an alarm bells in your head.

    I think every newbee should reread your post twice prior to buying any form of bees (package or nucs). Believe me the same shuck and jive could have taken place if you had purchased a package.

    pbudd writes:
    The nucs were open when I arrived and the beekeeper taped them shut just before I got them. Shouldn't they be closed the night before to insure the most bees?

    tecumseh:
    maybe yes and maybe no. weather would somewhat effect this decision as would just how certain (or uncertain) the beekeeper might be as to whether the customer would show at the appointed time... add to this the scheduling challanges during a very busy part of the season. on most occasions I do not.... I typically am much more concerned with what is IN the box and don't loose much sleep worring about losing a few field bees.

  15. #35
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Canterbry, UK
    Posts
    1,355

    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 06:54 AM.

  16. #36
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,479

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Packages are nice when a beekeeper has experienced a loss and needs to fill boxes.

    One tip,

    keep an extra queen on hand just in case of a dead one in the package, it happens. Usually with larger orders, there is an extra supplied.

    Also figure on at least one or two percent queen failures. It happens, and can be remided if you check up on the queen within a week and then two. That extra peak might just allow you to find a problem, requeen the hive and have it alive to winter in the fall rather than taking it as a complete loss in the spring.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  17. #37
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Cleveland, Texas
    Posts
    1,385

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    When I pick up nucs, I arrange for a late afternoon pickup. I always buy nucs priced without the nuc box, this way I get the opportunity to inspect them as I transfer them into my boxes. Then I set my boxes where the old ones were and wait until dark to shut them in, load them up and leave.
    "The UNKNOWN, huh? That would be SNORBERT ZANGOX over in Waycross."

  18. #38
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Arundel, Maine USA
    Posts
    1,207

    Default Re: e) Buying nuc vs. package bees

    Cons:

    The bees that come in a package are southern, and for a Northern beek looking for local stock, that's not an option.

    Packages come, way too early for northern beekeepers in my opinion.

    No guarantee that your queen is laying.

    Bees starting from scratch, no drawn comb, brood, honey, pollen etc.

    Pros:

    It can be a confidence booster to take 3-5# of bees and dump them into a box.

    "practice" for working with swarms. Generally a swarm will be starting from almost nothing as well.

    either can help expand the genetics in your yard which could be good or bad depending on the genes

    For what it's worth, I bought a package 2 years ago from Dave Smith, and it's my strongest hive! The only one producing excess honey so far. They don't seem to want to swarm either which is interesting. Nice bees to work with, queen still laying strong and doing well.

    I also like what Michael Bush mentioned about being able to choose equipment size with a package of bees. Every nuc i've gotten has been on deep frames and that makes it tough to stick with medium boxes, which I prefer.

    Let's BEE friends

  19. #39
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Issaquah,WA,USA
    Posts
    2,252

    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.

  20. #40
    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.

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