“How To” – NUCS!

Nucleus Colony

Finding a local beekeeper that sells starter colonies, known as Nucleus colonies of bees, or ‘Nuc’ is essential

Where Do I Put My Hive?

You need to find a location for your hives. You don’t need a lot of space, but you need the right conditions.

Here is a list:

Must haves:

  • At least 20 feet of room for bees to fly unobstructed. They will need a “flightpath” out of the hives where people aren’t walking.
  • Sunshine in the morning
  • A flat, level surface
  • Access to this space 24/7 without needing to make arrangements.
  • Located at least 100 feet from sidewalks, doors, pet areas, and any other areas that see heavy people/pet activity.
  • Not too windy or places where temperature swings are minimal. Rooftops are difficult places to learn beekeeping.
  • A good water source nearby, either provided by you or a natural source like a creek. Bees prefer pool water or a drippy faucet on soil for some reason.
  • Urban areas with lots of irrigated gardens around them
  • Places where they cannot be seen from the road or by neighbors
  • Places where you can keep more than one hive, since they can share resources when you pair them up.
  • Space between your hives so that bees know which one is their own. The hives in this photo are very close together, not ideal but makes for a pretty photo and easier to work this way.

Preparing With Hive Set-up

What equipment do I need?
You need to choose the right kit system that works best for you. Best to keep it simple and increase complexity as you know more. There are many types or systems you can choose from, we’ll mention the most common in the UK

Langstroth Hives: these are most common and preferred to beekeepers

BS or National Beehive: the frames are a bit smaller than the Langstroth ones.

WBC Hives: double wall hives their frames are the same size as the National.

Smith hive: is popular in Scotland especially the Borders where it originates from. Its a single walled hive and is easy to handle and manipulate.


Veil or Suit

Leather bee gloves

Hive tool


You will also need a base to set the hive on, since it doesn’t do well on the ground. Use mason blocks from any hardware store, a sturdy palette, Remember, it needs to be level!

Hiving Your Nuc

Your bees will orient themselves to their new locations based on polarized vision and recognizable landmarks. Bees will orient themselves so they can find their new hives, and if they orient themselves to the wrong part of your garden, they won’t be able to find home.

What you do is place your nuc box right next to where the new hive awaits. The bees will then be able to shift over a few inches to find the hive as you make the transfer. If the bees cannot be move into their new hive right away, place the nuc box in the spot your hive will be and allow the bees out to forage. When you move them into the hive keep it in that spot and they will already know where home is.

Fire up your smoker and give the entrance of the nuc box a puff or two of cool smoke. This will ensure the guard bees at the entrance are calm and you don’t get a big reaction your first time opening the hive. Smoke interrupts the ability of bees to signal danger. There are only a few dozen bees in nucs who are programmed to signal danger, but if they get fired up, others will join in the cause. This is why smoke is the universal tool for all beekeepers worldwide, no matter if they keep bees in traditional ways or our more modern systems. Don’t skip the smoke because you’re concerned about the health and wellbeing of the bees- this is a foolish notion based on a failure to understand honeybees. Bees are amazing and wonderful, sentient creatures, but it is in their nature to sting, and they have just been through some trauma while on their trip to your apiary, so do not set yourself up for failure on your first day. It will be less stressful for you and your bees, because you will make fewer mistakes as a new beekeeper when you get prevent yourself from getting stung and keep a cool head.

Make a space in the hive box by pushing the empty frames to either side of the hive. The frames from your nuc go into their new hive in the center, with brood in the very center and resources on either side, and finally the empty new frames on either side. As your bees consume their resources they will be foraging for new resources, which they will begin putting in new combs as they expand. The old honey and pollen combs will become brood comb where eggs will be as the colony occupies more frames.

It’s not a bad idea to feed nucs when they are in their new home, at least until they have filed out the first box with bees and resources. This box must be full before winter at the very least, and feeding helps the bees build wax. It takes many pounds of honey or other carbohydrate sugars to produce small amounts of wax, and without wax its hard to make new bees to gather honey and there’s nowhere to put honey if there isn’t any comb.

Don’t spend too much time moving the nuc into their new hive. They’re bound to be grumpy, so you won’t see them at their best, and being quick will be better for everyone.

Remember to check and make sure the hive entrance is at its smallest opening so the small hive can defend itself from other bees who may rob them and from Wasps or Hornets.

Inspecting Your New Hive

Save your first inspection for a few days after you’ve placed your nuc in their new box so you aren’t trying to do it while the bees are stressed.

Inspections this time of year will be to assess the build-up of the hive’s population, how well they are building new comb and if they need more room, and how their overall health looks. A nucleus colony will have a minimal tendency to swarm if setup correctly and promptly, so don’t worry too much about that for a while.

You don’t need to see the queen, Just look for her eggs. When you see eggs, stop looking for the queen. Its very important not to keep frames out too long, because they need to be kept at a stable temperature for the larvae to develop properly. It stresses the bees to have frames out too long, and sometimes foreign bees can start robbing the frames of honey. How long is too long? Depends on the temp and situation, but if you always try and make it quick, then you’ll be fine.

Look at the brood next. Healthy hives have brood that is grouped in rings of the same age. Capped areas should be fairly uniform with cells mostly capped, not too many gaps. Look at the larvae and make sure the smallest ones are “wet” looking, not dry. Look for dead larvae. Take notes.

More About Feeding Bees

In addition to sugar, the bees need pollen. Bee supply stores sell pre-made patties, and you can make your own with powdered commercial pollen supplement or by mixing your own with raw ingredients. The pollen patties should be added as close to brood as possible, and in this case I’d put them right on top of your frames where they can get to them easily. Remember to place the patties to that bees can still get around them!

Essential Tools For Beekeeping Supplies UK 2021

Spring is setting in. Though we are under a pandemic crisis to go around and enjoy the blooming flowers, our little buzzing friends are not! Now is the perfect season for an enthusiast to start their journey as a beekeeper. 

Known technically as apiculture, the art of bee rearing is not to be taken lightly. Honeybees are the epitome of pollination and the main medium through which some species of flowers get the chance to reproduce. They are tireless workers, and their honeycomb is the amazing treasure house of their hard work. There are many reasons why people prefer the art of apiculture. The multitude of products like honey, beeswax, pollen pellets, royal jelly, etc, that these bees produce, or just maintaining colonies of bees to keep the rate of pollination from reducing are some of them. The byproducts made from honeycomb are used in many industries, especially in the food (for obvious reasons, honey) industry and medical field. 

Bees have attracted multiple people in the past; either because they have been stung by them or because they were after the honey. In ancient Greece, where beekeeping is a form of agricultural art, many famous philosophers like Aristotle and Theophrastus started to document their observations about the activities of bees. As “Necessity is the mother of all inventions”, people found ways to avoid getting stung by the bees when they tried to steal the honey from their honeycombs. In the process, they invented the first tools like the screen veils and discovered smoke to be valuable self-defense against the bees. 

With time and many curious minds with sharp observational skills, the mysteries and details of bee behaviour and their colony hierarchy came to light. With this information at hand, the development of the wax-comb, a starter cob on which bees build straight combs rather than their natural combs for easy extraction of the honey and wax. Modifications like this brought in other enthusiasts and allowed them to get started. 

So, science helped in refining beekeeping strategies and aided in the designing of new tools too. These beekeeping supplies are what a basic apiculturist needs to get started. We’ll look at some of the important ones that will suit any enthusiast of apiculture! 

Beekeeping supplies – The basic tools

  • The Hive: This is the fundamental tool that acts as the backbone to your entire apiculture cycle. Synthetic honeycombs come with outer covers for better protection against the changing climatic conditions and an inner cover as insulation and a divider between the bees and the outer covering. They also contain regions called ‘Honey supers’ where the bees store the surplus honey, which is collected later. Other components, like the Hive body or brooding chambers and Queen excluders, are installed for better comb organisation so that the bees can store honey for their purposes. It also has a bottom stand which helps maintain a dry and insulated hive. 
  • A Hive tool: The bees produce a glue-like substance called ‘propolis, and they use it to keep the contents of the hive intact. This resin is pretty strong, and this needs a tool to scrape the comb from the hive sides and borders. There are different types of this hive tool. Generally, it has a flat, sharp, square-shaped end for scraping. Frames and supers are also pried apart with this tool.
  • The smoker: This is one of the essential beekeeping supplies and a rendition of the technique which people developed in the 17th century. Smoke was used to driving out the honey bees from their honeycombs, and to collect honey without having to face the stingers. Smoke creates an environment that simulates a wildfire, causing the bees to fly away in alarm. But before they do, they gulp down their honey to prepare themselves for the sudden escape. Therefore, they become docile to attempt to sting those trying to steal their honey. Guard bees release an alarm pheromone (that smells like bananas!), which alerts all the members of the bee community in case of an emergency. But, smoke masks this effect and the guard of the honeycomb is let down. The tool is a stainless steel container with a heat shield covering and a grate at the base to propagate burning embers. 
  • The jacket with veil and gloves: While the bees carry their stingers as a weapon, the apiculturists need this veiled jacket to shield themselves from the painful stings they will encounter. The main reason that the bees go into attack mode is that humans exhale CO2. Our nervousness displays itself in the form of heavy breathing, and bees can sense that. But, as first-time beekeepers do feel the fear of the stingers, this jacket keeps them protected. These jackets may or may not have ventilation, but ventilated ones are more preferred so that the wearer doesn’t feel suffocated. 

One of the beekeeping supplies that cannot be neglected is gloves. In rural areas, people resort to gunny bags that are wrapped around the hands, up until the elbows, to ensure protection. But now, we have developed soft leather materials for this purpose with ventilation above the wrist area. 

  • Feeders: During the autumn and winter seasons, when nectar is unavailable or sparsely available, the feeders come to the rescue of the bees. They are used to feed sugar syrup to the honey bees. This can be either a container placed outside the hive so that the bees swarm and feed on them. Or they can be plastic bags, placed inside the hive, above the brood combs, within an empty super. During the time of feeding, the beekeeper cuts a small slit into the feeding pouch, allowing the bees access to the sugar syrup. 
  • Bee Brush: This tool is one of the beekeeping supplies that gets stung a lot! It is mostly used to move bees away from the area the beekeeper is trying to work on. The reasons behind this are usually common ones such as harvesting honey or repairing a hive frame and even repairing a broken comb. An alternative tool would be the bee blowers. 
  • Uncappers: The honey is stored within the hexagonal cells of the stacked honeycomb. But bees are extra protective of their honey. They encapsulate it by sealing the borders of the cells to keep the honey intact within the cells. This is one of the most helpful beekeeping supplies where the extractor (the person who extracts honey from the comb) can uncap the sealed hexagonal cells. These are knives that need to be dipped in hot water to pop the wax sealing out. Nowadays, there are electrically heated knives that do the trick, only faster. 
  • Bees: This may be the last thing we’re mentioning, and yet it is the most crucial component, Bees! Swarms of bees are usually caught from a swarm or bought from trusted breeders.

COVID-19 and Beekeeping

For the art that is beekeeping, our love for it might end up with us having to work in the outdoors most of the time. Though we usually have our protective gear on, there are times when we have to interact with other people to ensure the work gets done properly. During these times, we need to understand that the COVID-19 pandemic still is very active and is growing constantly. As a result, proper precautionary measures need to be taken to ensure safety. As cleaning and sanitary conditions are highly essential in the current situation, we provide you with a checklist on how to keep your beekeeping environment safe. 

COVID-19 cleaning checklist

  • Clean all the storage containers and surfaces with approved disinfectants like 70% ethanol solution or diluted bleach solution. Repeat these processes as frequently as possible. 
  • Before picking up your bees, make sure to have the sanitised set up with all the essential beekeeping supplies ready. Also, make sure to carry sanitisers and disinfectants. 
  • Wipe the box containing the bees with disinfectant and avoid getting cleaning products on them. 
  • Maintain as much social distancing as possible and wash your hands as regularly as you can. 
  • Disinfect your transport vehicles regularly, most preferably before and after transport. 
  • Most importantly, wear masks and use disposable gloves where needed. 

Maintaining a smooth business regime amidst this chaotic condition is hectic. But, in beekeeping, since bees do most of the work for us, all we need to do is take proper precautions and stay safe! Happy Beekeeping!