What Is A Nuc ?

A nucleus hive (nuc) is simply a miniature honeybee hive.  It has all the components of a full size hive including a laying queen, workers, brood (eggs, larva and capped brood), pollen, and honey.     

The biggest benefit of a nuc is the fact that the bees are already working together to establish their colony/home.  The queen has been accepted by the worker bees and she is laying eggs on drawn comb. 

The workers are working!  The nuc colony gives you a jump start on getting your main hive set up to survive the next year.  Think of a nuc as a potted seedling that is ready to be transplanted

Spring and Overwintered Nucs

Spring nucs are created in mid to late spring of the current year.  Overwintered nucs were created mid June to the end of July of the previous year.  Overwintered nucs may be ready earlier and build up quickly with the nectar flow but can provide management challenges to a first year beekeeper. Both typically consist of a box with 5 frames of drawn comb:

  • 3 frames of brood and young honeybees - frames should include eggs, larvae and capped brood
  • 1 frame with pollen & honey
  • 1 frame that is empty
  • 1 queen


  • Weather affects queen availability, which determines when spring nucs can be created.  
  • Queens in raised in Northern Virginia are generally not available before May. Your nuc may not be ready for pick-up until late May to mid-June.  
  • If you CANNOT WAIT until this time, try looking for a beekeeper who is selling overwintered nucs or order package bees. 

Your responsibility is to contact the seller. (See the NUC Sellers Forum). NVBA is not responsible for the terms between a buyer and seller but looks to connect buyers and sellers by providing information.

Spend time talking to the nuc supplier/seller.  
Ask about…

  • Frames: Size (medium or deep), number of frames (typically 5, but 4 may be offered with deep frames), and is a frame exchange required (meaning that the buyer replaces frames) 
  • Queen: Source (swarm, local queen, breeder, southern queen), does she have hygienic traits, is she a new queen or over-wintered?
  • Transport: Pick-up or delivery? Wooden or cardboard nuc box or your own equipment?
  • Cost
  • The nuc is your responsibility after you pick it up and pay!  Talk with your mentor.


NVBA members may list nucs they have produced for sale on the NUC Sellers Forum. NVBA is not responsible for any terms of the sale.

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