A typical package consists of 3 pounds of bees, and a queen. Normally the bees are from production hives where they shake out bees into the package box. A mated queen is then placed in the package, protected in a queen cage. Almost all packages are produced in the south or west coast.
* Large production means they are readily available in the spring. Even though delivery delays make timing an issue almost every year.
* Without packages, most beginners would not be able to start beekeeping as supply of northern nucs is limited.
* Queens are mostly produced and raised in "baby" or mini-nucs, making evaluations of the queens impossible. Mostly, you get production queens that are caged as soon as eggs are verified. In recent years, queen quality has been very questionable.
* Queens are not acclimatized to your region. For those wanting more hardier queens for northern climates, this makes requeening later in the year a must, adding expense and extra work.
* Once installed, packages dwindle in numbers for the first 25-30 days. During this time, the queen is released (2-5 days), She needs to start laying eggs 2-5 days), and her eggs take 21 days to hatch. During this time period, natural die-off of the bees occur. So normally you have 60-80% of the bees in the hive a month later after package introduction.
Nucs or Starter Hives
Your typical nuc consists of 4-5 frames of brood, bees, honey, and laying queen. They should have all the resources needed.
* Nucs are usually raised locally and must be picked up. This allows customers to know the producer and benefit from a personal relationship.
* The queen with the nuc is normally the queen that has produced the brood on the frames being purchased. This allows for an inspection upon pickup and verification of quality.
* Most nucs are over wintered, acclimatized, and/or have northern produced and raised stock. (Please note: Some nuc providers take bees south for the winter, split, then ship nucs north and sell them as "northern" nucs) Always ask questions from anyone you buy bees.
* Many nuc producers use more hardier strains of bees such as Russian and Carniolan lines. This allows the purchaser a greater variety for personal selection. Most northern nuc producers are selecting for survivor traits and many are not using harsh chemicals.
* Nucs expand in size from day one of installation. So even purchasing later in the season allows for a more productive hive by mid-summer as compared to a package.
* Limited supply. There simply are not enough producers in the northern areas.
* Possible disease transfer. You should buy nucs from a certified/registered and/or inspected nuc producer. People in the business of selling bees, with their reputation on the line, makes for very few problems.