Four Frame Nucs

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Four Frame Nucs – The Easy Way

Spring is an excellent time to divide beehives.  At this time of year, bees are instinctively building their populations, and the bees themselves have a natural inclination to swarm (which is their own method of dividing).  By dividing a colony when the population is on the upswing, you as a thoughtful beekeeper are working with the natural flow of nature and the bees, rather than against them.  It is at this time of year that dividing a colony has the most natural and the least stressful impact on a beehive.

When it comes to dividing bee colonies, there are probably as many methods as there are beekeepers!  Some beekeepers split colonies into two, others into three or four. Some make four-frame nucs, some make smaller or larger nucs – or even full-size colony divides.  Some shake bees out of strong colonies and make their own packages. Some beekeepers look for the queen up front, others wait until after they make the divide.  No one way is right or wrong.  It is up to each beekeeper to uncover the method that works best both for the individual beekeeper, as well as, of course, the bees.

One of the most tried-and-true ways of dividing a strong colony is to prepare a four-frame nuc.  A typical four-frame nuc consists of one frame of honey, two frames of brood, one frame of pollen, and a new queen bee.  In our video, “Preparing a Four-Frame Nuc,” the beekeepers at Wildflower Meadows will show you one of our own favorite methods of preparing a high-quality four-frame nuc – one that enables a beekeeper to divide a colony without even having to look for the queen!

Four Frame Nucs

Sooner or later, a beekeeper may want to expand the number of beehives in the apiary, or simply replace lost colonies or rebuild back to original strength.

Nucs can be made up to any size between 2 to 8 frames of bees.  The advantage of a smaller two frame nuc is that it is quick and easy to make.   It also doesn’t tax too many resources from the donating beehive.  The disadvantage of such a small split is that it is going to take a while for it to build up to a full strength beehive.  In two months, it still may have less than 20,000 bees of strength.  Plus, being so weak it might be vulnerable to ant attacks and other calamities.

On the other hand, a large, 8-frame divide, starts out strong and build up rapidly, perhaps building up to 70,000 or more bees in two months.  Constructing this giant nuc, however, will significantly diminish the strength of the original colony.

Many beekeepers settle on the four frame nuc as the ideal size for a starter hives of bees.  A typical four frame nuc consists of one frame of honey, two frames of brood, one frame of pollen, and a new queen bee.  This is a full-sized colony in miniature that is well poised to take off.  A typical spring four-frame nuc starts with about 10,000 honeybees and may expand to over 40,000 or more bees in two months, enough to produce a honey crop under the right conditions.