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A Nuc is a small starter hive. Most people typically take 1 frame of brood, 1 frame of honey 1 frame of pollen and a shake of bee's into a Nuc box that holds 5 frames. It is a great way to clip off a small amount of resources from some main hives to create a new one. I typically grab a little out of several hives so not to impact the strong colonies to much.


http://www.beemaster.com/site/honeybee/nucbox.html
 

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7 Hives of Apis mellifera with some Africanization
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Nucs (Nucleus Colonies) are also used to raise and hold replacement queens; to provide resource reservoirs (brood/bees to boost weak production colonies); to be the, "nucleus"/start of a new colony; for beekeeping revenue, selling them to other beekeepers, so they can then use them for their own purposes (such as starting colonies); or they can be used to introduce new queens (sometimes it is easier to get nucs to accept new queens than full size colonies); or as I usually do, to use in growing small batches of grafted queen cells.

I'm sure there are other uses for nucs that I haven't thought of, yet.
 
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