Bjorn Apiaries

Keys to Success:

1) Acclimatized Bees

2) Survivor Stock

3) Raising your own Queens

4) Keeping chemicals out of the hives.

Every year, many ask about the differences between a nuc (starter hive) and a package of bees. So the following is information highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of both.



A typical package consists of 3 pounds of bees, and a queen. Normally the bees are from production hives where they shake out bees into the package box. A mated queen is then placed in the package, protected in a queen cage. Almost all packages are produced in the south or west coast.





* Large production means they are readily available in the spring. Even though delivery delays make timing an issue almost every year.


* Without packages, most beginners would not be able to start beekeeping as supply of northern nucs is limited.




* Queens are mostly produced and raised in "baby" or mini-nucs, making evaluations of the queens impossible. Mostly, you get production queens that are caged as soon as eggs are verified. In recent years, queen quality has been very questionable.


* Queens are not acclimatized to your region. For those wanting more hardier queens for northern climates, this makes requeening later in the year a must, adding expense and extra work.


* Once installed, packages dwindle in numbers for the first 25-30 days. During this time, the queen is released (2-5 days), She needs to start laying eggs 2-5 days), and her eggs take 21 days to hatch. During this time period, natural die-off of the bees occur. So normally you have 60-80% of the bees in the hive a month later after package introduction.



Nucs or Starter Hives


Your typical nuc consists of 4-5 frames of brood, bees, honey, and laying queen. They should have all the resources needed.




* Nucs are usually raised locally and must be picked up. This allows customers to know the producer and benefit from a personal relationship.


* The queen with the nuc is normally the queen that has produced the brood on the frames being purchased. This allows for an inspection upon pickup and verification of quality.


* Most nucs are over wintered, acclimatized, and/or have northern produced and raised stock. (Please note: Some nuc providers take bees south for the winter, split, then ship nucs north and sell them as "northern" nucs) Always ask questions from anyone you buy bees.


* Many nuc producers use more hardier strains of bees such as Russian and Carniolan lines. This allows the purchaser a greater variety for personal selection. Most northern nuc producers are selecting for survivor traits and many are not using harsh chemicals.


* Nucs expand in size from day one of installation. So even purchasing later in the season allows for a more productive hive by mid-summer as compared to a package.




* Limited supply. There simply are not enough producers in the northern areas.


* Possible disease transfer. You should buy nucs from a certified/registered and/or inspected nuc producer. People in the business of selling bees, with their reputation on the line, makes for very few problems.



Installing a package

(Video by

Dave Craley)

Some things to note about both nucs and packages:



* Many beekeepers think an early installation of a package or nuc will somehow translate into being able to harvest a honey crop in the same season. This simply almost never happens, unless you have a dead out hive with drawn comb, etc. Most installed packages and nucs should be consider first year hives and the goal is to build them strong enough to survive the first winter. Thinking you will dump in 20 packages the first year, and then harvest 100 pounds off each hive, is a pipe dream at best. The hives you build this year are the hives you will most benefit from next year as they will then be in a position to produce honey.


* Chemical use in both package producing hives and nucs can be a problem. Chemicals and mite treatments in package producing hives as well as the mating nucs, affect queen quality, longevity, and supercede rates. No doubt many feel queen quality in the past few years has been dramatically lowered. Our best advice, is ask many questions from any package or nuc producer. And make sure the history of the comb in nucs is known. Your purchase of bees should be based upon more than getting an early delivery date or who has the cheapest prices. Know what you are buying. There are huge differences in both packages and nucs being offered. (We do not suggest anybody buy nucs from migratory operations where chemical use, stress, and old comb is more common from the nature of this business.)


* While we are a nuc and queen business, we also spend a considerable amount of time teaching, educating, and assisting beekeepers in the procedures of queen rearing, hive splitting, and sustainable beekeeping. Getting off the "Package bandwagon" should be a goal of every beekeeper. Raising your own locally raised queens, and doing splits from your survivor hives, will perpetuate success in beekeeping. While we know that the demand for packages and nucs will continue as new beekeepers start every year, we also know that buying bees every year is not favored by most. Beekeepers need to be more self-reliant, sustainable, and productive in their beekeeping practices.