Wait a second, if I become a beekeeper how do I get started? I have a thousand questions and no one to answer them. We are going to look at just ONE of the topics that plague new beekeepers and that is what do I need a package or a nuc of bees.
When my friend and business partner, and I, started off in beekeeping we were, I believe, ill advised. It was recommended to get packages. Knowing what I know now, this was a mistake. Today, I would say spend the extra money and get a nuc.
Option one, a nuc. What is a nuc? A nuc is a nucleus of a hive. A small colony of bees reduced from a standard eight or ten frame hive, placed in a smaller five frame box, with foundation. The nuc contains the queen, nurse bees, guard bees, drones, and workers. A nuc has a laying queen. A laying queen means eggs, eggs must be present so that the workers can feed and raise a queen cell, if something tragic befalls the queen, such as an injury. In this event, the workers choose an egg to raise as the new queen. It's quite an interesting process.
Option two the package. What is a package? In short, a box of bees that consists of a caged mated queen, and a few thousand worker bees. The caging of the queen isn't a barbaric practice, it's a way to keep the queen separate from the other bees who would try to kill her because they don't know who she is. She was placed in the cage, and in the package just before the package was shipped. As far as that goes, none of the bees in the package probably knew each other before they were shaken into the package. The way the bees get from their hives in the field, into the box known as the package is they are shaken from frames in large hives in the bee yard, into a funnel like apparatus then into the screened box known as a package. Once the proper weight of bees is in the box a can of sugar syrup is placed in the top of the box with the queen in a cage dangling down into the package secured by a piece of strapping. When removing this you have to be very careful not to drop the queen in her cage down into the mass of bees, or someone has to reach down into the bees and get the queen cage out. Why? You will probably get stung a few times while retrieving the queen cage. The queen in her cage is fragile and needs to be handled with care.
Packages are harder to install. Nucs can just be picked up from the bee farmer and transported to their home where they will immediately start gathering food to feed the colony. Packages take longer to establish once in the hive, hopefully the queen will be fine and start a good brood laying pattern. In a nuc this problem is alleviated because the beekeeper has the bees settled into a good climate when you pick them up. The beekeepers job with a package is to get the package into a nuc or honey hive for the “settling in” process to begin. Hopefully, if all goes well they “settle in” before to long and start to work together. In a nuc they are already working together when you pick the nuc up. They are a colony.
In conclusion I believe the nuc, while slightly more expensive, is better for the new beekeeper in the long haul over the package. There is a learning curve and the nuc is easier for the beginning beekeeper, the nuc is established, while the package is not. There are a lot more chances for failure with a package than a nuc!
HIVE a nice day!