Beekeeping - Nucs vs Packages

In The Garden

05-04-2022 • 10 mins

Keith: [00:00:00] Keith Ramsey with garden supply company. I've got Jason here today. Jason is our full-time beekeeper who manages the bee department. It helps people out with advice and does all of our pollination and honey chasing that we do up in, up, and down the red.

Jason, now we'll talk about the difference between nukes and packages. What do you think the biggest difference is between nukes and packages? Jason?

Bee Expert: Timing. Timing is the. The advantage of getting an established colony over a loose assortment of bees, which is what a package of bees

Keith: are.

And so packages usually come at what timeframe

Bee Expert: packages are later in the season and are dependent on how the weather gums up through the south because most bees are coming up [00:01:00] from Georgia, and the lady gets them the less time you have to

Keith: build. So if you get a package, you're not. You're likely not going to see honey that year.

Bee Expert: You be hopeful to build out your colony, fill out all the frames with wax, and have some food stores. You'll be supplementing to get

Keith: that. I bought packages initially when I got into beekeeping ten years, 10, 15 years ago. And that was the thing I didn't even know about nukes when I got into it.

I knew I knew there were packages available, and I bought packages. But that was probably my biggest thing I learned down the road was that you could put a nuke in, and so our nukes come, what

Bee Expert: 1st of March into February typically am.

Keith: When you're in and how much, honey, could you harvest from a nuc?


Bee Expert: is an established colony. So you've already got five full frames of these in different stages of development, a queen that's accepted and a colony that's actively working. So you put that into your hive, and in a few weeks, your calling will be filling out their box the amount of space they have to live in, and you [00:02:00] can start to gear them up to make honey.

So you can expect to get some honey depending on how well the weather and the season are.

Keith: Sure. And the nuc and the queen, and there are many variables, but. The people look at nucs, and I think sometimes things think they're expensive. Or there's always a question of local nucs over Florida nucs.

I like Florida nucs because they come early. What's your

Bee Expert: thought in general, I'm looking at bees. If I'm looking for something local, I'm probably looking more regional. So I wouldn't buy bees coming out of the Northwest and Northeast. I'd be looking for bees from the south or Southeast.

Sure. They don't necessarily have to be from the town I'm in, just from the general area that they're going to be forging on the same types of plants and have the same kinds of weather in

Keith: general to deal with. So you, Florida bees that can handle humidity and heat, will thrive in North Carolina.

They'll do just fine. Excellent. Versus something that's acclimated to cold weather and,

Bee Expert: general in general, any of the bees you're going to get, be it ones that are from more Northern climate or a Southern climate, they're [00:03:00] probably going to do fine. Anyhow, because bees will still go out and do what bees do forage on flowers.

Sure. It just, and it all depends on your goals as a beekeeper, too. So if you're looking to grow bees or if you're looking to produce honey for the different types of bees, you may. It May make a difference, but healthy bees are what you want in general.

Keith: a healthy full nuc

It just gets you that quick start in the spring. We've started nucs in the last few years. Better than 60% of them, 70% of them produced honey. And, sometimes we'll begin to a nuc in a, in an eight frame or a ten frame box and let it build-out and then put a honey super on it and harvest honey depending on where we are with established hives.

But the other way you can do it is to build bees and build resources.

Bee Expert: There'll be as if you're looking to have some pollinators. B's in general. Getting a nuc allows you to have to get them early enough allows you to take advantage of the full spring seat,

Keith: right?

So you can put them in a hive body, and [00:04:00] then when they fill out, you can go ahead and add another hive body to it. So you have twice as many resources and the ability to split a hive maybe later on.

Bee Expert: Absolutely. Yep. With the package bees, you're limited in time.

So you're going to get those later into this. Those bees are going to have first to accept the queen. That's been given to them to build out wax so that the queen can start laying eggs and start producing more of the colony and filling up enough of that space to reserve enough resources to get through.

Keith: the summer and winter.

So then you're feeding, treating, and managing that hive from, say, April 1st or May 1st. All the way around until May 1st again, right before you're going to be able to harvest any honey.

Bee Expert: Absolutely. So if you're looking at the cost of things and look certainly do are more, slightly more expensive overall, upfront, but overall over the year and trying to make them survive through the following year, you'll probably spend more than.

Providing resources

Keith: for your package, be sure. So you're at Costco buying 25 pound bags of sugar to feed the bees instead of potentially harvesting honey the first year. [00:05:00] W what about the makeup of a package? As far as the workers, or how a package is, a package is just shaken out of a full-size hive,

Bee Expert: right?

So the commercial guys are the producers of packaged bees who will go through their bee yards and select a solid colony and shake quantities of bees out of those hives to provide for the packages. So civil have a large box of many pounds of bees and take a scoop out, weigh them out 2, 3, 3, 2, or three pounds each, dump them into another box, and add a queen who's separated from that colony.

Keith: So you could have all forgers and no nurse bees potentially. Not all, probably, but not a good mix of. Absolutely.

Bee Expert: You're getting a random assortment of bees that are pretty aggressively handled up until the time you put them in your hive. The likelihood of them doing well decreases as.

As all those issues

Keith: occur to him. Sure. The other thing that I think with packages that people don't factor in is [00:06:00] that bees are something that we, it's a difficult scenario because we guarantee plants and stand behind our work and everything that we do at the garden center.

But these are something that comes with no guarantee. It's these fly. They're an insect. They and I've, we've had years where we installed 20 packages trying to build bees. We had extra packages, and we're going to install them in our own Hobbs. And, some of those packages fly away.

So you, you know, you don't know if it's worth it, you know, and you don't see what you're getting, you know, you, uh, sometimes you get crazy BS. Oh, we're going to build out this analogy.

Bee Expert: to

Keith: the end. No, but you could install ten hives and have two of them fly away or have five of them fly away.

So you've, if you have five, five of them fly away, and in one year, it's a 50% increase. Now you're paying 15, 15, $20 more than a nuc would cost. On the flip side, [00:07:00] You could buy a nuc, build out a hive, split it by in the first year, and have two packs. So there's a, there seems like there are so many advantages to buying a nuc.

And when you think about it, it's okay, it's going to be $195 later in the season, or it's going to be $225 early. It's versus, versus the cost of a package, it's just almost it's it seems like a no brainer to go with the nuke on top of that. Just success rate as well.

Absolutely. It's 99%, with the nuke and a hundred percent, if you're managing it, if something happens to, with the queen and you've got to replace a queen, you've still got a healthy nuke, and you've got resources. The other thing that I wanted to talk about was the availability of nukes.

And when you start a hive, everybody's always started hives in the early spring. It's an April through May timeframe because that's when packages are available, and that's when bees are building up, and they're getting ready to go into the major flow in north Carolina's tool [00:08:00] Poplar.

So they're getting ready to go into the flow. You can build a package of bees in the spring, and you can end up with a healthy hive, but with the new. There's no timeframe, except for late fall, early winter, our, through the winter the rest of the year, you can put a new can.


Bee Expert: packages are only available in the early spring. And that's about it for four packages. They're done. So your opportunity to expand your colonies is done at that point. They can be—pretty much throughout the active season. So up until late, early fall, late summer, which allows you all that extra advantages.

Of trying to expand your colony through the earth, your apiary through the

Keith: year. And then they're ready once they overwinter. They're ready for the honey nectar flow. So, if you put a colony in September and fed it, make sure that it's treated and cared for. You'll be making honey coming into the spring.

That's correct. Yeah. That pretty much sums it up on nukes and [00:09:00] packages. Both of them are good ways to start a hive. But I think if you've got a little more money to spend, you'll save money by doing a nuc.

Bee Expert: You will.

Keith: Okay, perfect. We'll stop by and talk to Jason at the store. Follow us on Facebook. Come by and check out. Bond brothers have a hive at a garden supply company. It's part of our host to hive program. If beekeeping's not something that you want to do yourself, sign up for a host to hive program, and you can get involved. You can see hives. You can get into the bond brothers hive at the garden supply company.

And then later on, if something you want to adopt and bring home,

Bee Expert: you'll get honey from those two. We guaranteed honey from the host-type program. Yeah.

Keith: So our host, the hive program, was one of the only ones you can get. You get honey out of. So it's a kind of a guaranteed program.

Bee Expert: You're on the lookout for swarms as well.

Keith: You have swarms. Swarms are now for sure. They're middle of spring. You'll start to see swarms and reach out to the garden center. If you see one, we'll [00:10:00] either come pick it up or get somebody to pick it up. So it's not just it. Save those bees until next time it's Keith Ramsey, Jason at garden supply company.

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