Whether you’re a novice beekeeper or a pro about to start a new season, you might be asking yourself how to choose between a nucleus colony and packaged bees. Many factors determine which will be better for you, including your budget, the time of year, and the bees’ transportation needs.
The Time of Year
When choosing between nucs and packaged bees, one thing to consider is at what point in the season you’re deciding to make the order. Nucs already come to you with a great deal of infrastructure built in. Since the hive has already begun its development, the bees have honey stores and a brood nest. Ordering nucs in mid to late spring still gives you time to enjoy your bees, whereas, with packaged bees, you’ll have to order sooner to give them time to build that infrastructure. Those interested in purchasing honey bee packages in Long Island, New York can find them at The B Farm.
Although nucs are great for late-in-the-season beekeeping, they also have some major drawbacks. Perhaps the most important one is that they don’t transport well. Nucs come with fragile comb frames, which means people can’t ship them. They require extremely careful transportation arrangements, often meaning that the beekeeper must pick them up or that the supplier must drop them off.
Your budget has a major impact on how you choose between a nucleus colony and packaged bees. Packages are a much more common and less expensive way to purchase bees. Their low cost comes from their simplicity—packages are simply boxes that contain bees. In contrast, nucs include combs or bars, which drive up their prices. There are also labor costs involved in cultivating the colony.
Time Commitment and Involvement
Packages and nucs differ in their setup requirements as well. Packages take a bit more work. Depending on your preferences, this could be an advantage or disadvantage.
Packages take more time to set up because they don’t come with queen bees. You need to introduce a queen to the hive yourself, usually by placing the queen in a bee cage and letting her sit with her new hive in safety before releasing her. Some people enjoy this process, while others find it time consuming and cumbersome.