Nuc information from Ontarios Beekeepers Association

Information from Ontario Beekeepers Assocation in buying nucs.

Are you buying nucs this spring?

A ‘nuc’, or nucleus colony of bees, is the most common way for hobbyists, sideliners, and commercial beekeepers to purchase a hive of honey bees. A nuc generally consists of a queen, 2 or more frames of brood, a frame of feed and an empty frame or frame of foundation that gives the bees space to cluster. A nuc can vary in the total number of frames (brood, feed and empty), the age of the queen and the type of shipping box. Ontario nucs are most often sold with 4 frames in an enclosed, easily transportable box.


The OBBA’s standard for a 4 frame nuc is as follows:

• Queen bee

• 2 frames of brood, ½ to ⅔ capped, with adhering bees

• 1 frame of feed with adhering bees

• 1 frame of foundation/empty comb

• Extra bees to ensure the brood will be kept warm 

So ask questions! Know what you should expect.

1. Are the brood frames capped? Two frames of mostly capped brood, versus two frames of eggs and larvae will make a huge difference to how fast your nuc takes off. A good nuc, when made up by the producer with approximately ½ to ⅔ of the brood capped, should produce surplus honey in an average year if it is established on drawn comb. Be aware that if there is a delay in pick-up or installation, the capped brood may begin to hatch.

2. How old is the queen? Is the queen Ontario stock? Or Imported? A nuc will usually have a queen mated the previous summer; ideally the daughter of a queen selected for traits such as hygienic behavior, honey production and bred for local conditions. Ask your Queen and Nuc producer whether they have a formal breeding program established. Many nuc producers will mark their queens with the colour of the year, in order to date the queen and allow for easy queen identification.

3. Is it a spring nuc or a summer nuc? A spring nuc is available throughout the month of May into early June and will consist of an overwintered queen on her own brood. In this respect, the queen has already proven to be a good layer and has survived her first winter with no problems. A summer nuc is one sold mid June and after and will generally have a newly mated queen, possibly boosted with brood from other hives.

4. What is the cost? Does it include the shipping box? A spring nuc with capped brood and a queen from selected Ontario Breeders participating in the OBA Breeding Program will demand top price. Would you pay as much for a spring nuc made up of random brood and an imported queen? There may also be a drop in prices for summer nucs, which must be helped by the beekeeper through their first summer and winter, along with the associated costs. Although it’s possible for them to produce honey their first year, they may not be strong enough to produce a surplus crop until their second summer. You may be able to request extra frames of brood, but expect an added cost. Also, find out whether the cost of the shipping box is included in the price as some nuc producers have returnable wooden boxes. 


Ontario Beekeepers Assocation Nuc information