A 10-frame May nuc, ready for its new owner, atop the Snelgrove “tower” it was produced on. New concept? Just ask me.
“Nucs in a Nutshell”
Here’s a long-ish description of how I produce nucs and why I do it that way. I hope you’ll find it rewarding after reading through to the end. After an initial “package” when I started in 2005, I’ve never bought bees or queens, always producing my own. My goal as a beekeeper is to be “sustainable for bees,” which is a good way to produce healthier, more productive livestock that’s more likely to survive our long, wet Whatcom Winters. Livestock is exactly what bees are when you keep them in boxes and expect them to produce a reliable harvest, be it honey, beeswax, propolis, queens, or just more bees and they should be cared for with all the respect that valuable livestock deserves. If that sounds attractive, you are in the right place to buy a superior nuc, one to start you out on a similar journey.
Beekeeping is very complex and requires significant preparation and study, without which odds for success are very low. Meaning it’s usually the bees that suffer. I want my bees to go to beekeepers who are well prepared to care for them knowledgeably and sustainably. I try to be as candid as possible with my students and customers. It’s not always what they want to hear. Keeping bees is a wonderful experience, but it requires much more work and expense than people anticipate. If you’re good with challenges, you might be good with bees.
Nucs will be ready for sale late-May and early June, though that varies a few days one way or the other with spring weather. They’re 10-frame true nucleus hives featuring queens from my 14-year selective breeding campaign based specifically on Whatcom County beekeeping conditions. I use Snelgrove Boards to make spring splits, which reliably produces beautiful 10-frame nucs. A bit later in the season I may have a few 5-frame nucs, the products of swarm-prevention splits.
All the brood in these nucs comes from the newqueen raised in that nuc. The bees are all from the new queen’s mother. The combs have been drawn by the parent colony. These are features you only get with truly local nucleus hives. These are “Carniolan-ish,” dark bees, marked bright orange for high visibility. I don’t release nucs until they are operating robustly and the queens are proven layers, laying at a high rate.
Since these are Carniolan-style bees, buyers should be familiar with effective swarm control. I select for good overwintering, gentleness and rapid spring build-up, but not for low swarm impulse. This means I limit my breeding goals to an achievable range of beneficial traits. Selecting too broadly usually results in the loss of desirable traits which I want to avoid because my queens are just where I want them now.
Most years I successfully prevent all swarms in my hives, so why breed for a trait you don’t really need? Yes, Carniolans are slightly more “swarmy” than the other subspecies, but that’s a small price to pay for their many other admirable qualities. If you want to succeed at beekeeping, a thorough understanding of swarming and how to control it is imperative !
I keep bees for fun and my Carniolan-ish bees are pleasant to work with. They are polite, get out of the way when you are working in the hive and build reasonable sized colonies able to reliably survive our long winters. I dislike working with Italian bees that are constantly under your fingers and make huge hives that often don’t survive into spring in our climate conditions. I like scrappy bees that make my goal of sustainable beekeeping possible.
These are true local nucs, bred entirely in Whatcom County and painstakingly selected for our unique beekeeping conditions. That requires time and good weather, which places availability in late-May, not mid-April when imported out-of-state nucs and packages begin to appear in the area. The reality is that few of those colonies thrive or even survive the season. I aim to provide robust, locally-bred nucs fully ready to capitalize on the June blackberry flow. With that essential boost, the colony will reach sufficient size to over-winter successfully. Next spring, you’ll split the hive in mid-April with reasonable expectations of a decent honey harvest in the summer.
Locally bred bees produce better outcomes, have less exposure to agricultural toxins and avoid the pressures inherent in large commercial operations. My nucs, cared for correctly in good equipment, will thrive in most conditions Whatcom County has to offer. They produce reliable honey crops and over-winter well. Good beekeeping required, of course.
I’ve had no incidence of the common bee diseases in my yards, partly due to healthy bees and partly due to a location far away from commercial agriculture and commercial beekeeping. However, I do treat regularly and effectively for Varroa mites. No bees are immune to mites, sadly. If you don’t have an effective method for controlling Varroa mites, pick another hobby. Or better yet, take my spring beekeeping class!
My Nuc Deal: You bring me a complete 5 or 10-frame hive setup, filled with new wooden frames with black plastic foundation, specifically these Mann Lake assembled 9⅛” frames. We’ll inspect the nuc while you’re there, so you see exactly what you’re buying. I’ll transfer the bees, queen and drawn frames into your equipment and keep the new frames. The nuc will be ready to pick up a few days later as I like to give the bees a few days to get used to their new home. I don’t sell my own wooden-ware as I have invested a lot of time and effort into making it just right for my purposes. Plus, I like to think my bees are going to well prepared beekeepers who have put thought and effort into their own equipment.
BEWARE: 10-frame nucs will need a second super almost by the time you get them home.