How to Make Nucleus Honeybee Hives

| 4/8/2014 9:25:00 AM

redbud tree bloomingMaking nucleus hives or “nucs” is a good way to expand your apiary without spending a lot of money and without the worry of introducing Africanized genetics from packaged bees. (Now that Africanized bees inhabit our more southern states, this is a concern.) You also will be creating queens that are best acclimated to your geographic area. To be successful in making nucs, timing is important.


The absolute best time to start a new hive is at the beginning of the spring nectar flow, just about now in Middle Tennessee. Healthy hives naturally cast off swarms at this time, because it takes a lot of nectar to build the wax necessary to establish a new hive. Honeybees will only make new wax when they have an abundance of nectar. In my area, the nectar flow occurs roughly from mid-April to mid-June. I pushed the season a bit by making my nucs this first week of April, but the 10-day forecast was great, the Redbuds were blooming, and I had a few frames of honey left in the freezer for starter feed.

In making a nuc, essentially you are creating a controlled swarm--but without the queen. So along with taking bees for the new hive, you must ensure that you take newly laid eggs, less than 3-days old. In the new hive, the bees will discover that they have no queen and will go to work making one. To do this, they will choose one, or more, of these eggs, create a queen cell around it, and when it hatches feed it only royal jelly. Waiting for the nectar flow is important not only because the bees will have access to lots of nectar and pollen for food and wax building, but because plenty of drones will be available this time of year for the newly hatched queens to mate with. This timing is also important because bees from your bigger, more established hives will be busy gathering nectar and pollen from nature’s abundance and less likely to rob out the smaller nucs.

bee hives

How to Make a Nucleus Beehive

You can see in the picture that my nuc hardware is about one-half the size of a normal deep hive body. In fact, it is a normal deep hive body that I’ve cut in half, nailing on a board to create the side. (I'll admit that with the duct tape and crude carpentry they aren't pretty, but they work!)

bee hive frames

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