Splitting Nucs

Splitting 6 Frame Nucs

As strange as it may sound; yes, we split nucs! Matter of fact, we prefer splitting nucs to generate more nucs.

A new queen is added to a nuc split after being queenless for 24 hours.
A new queen is added to a nuc split after being queenless for 24 hours.

To make this sound logical, you need to change the typical thought process of what nucs are used for. The traditional nuc process is creating nucs from extra strong hives for next years’ increase. They can come out of winter with 3 frames of brood shortly thereafter and can be moved to 10 frame boxes in May.

If you don’t need the extra hives, nucs can be used to generate extra brood – and a productive queen can donate lots of frames in a season. All you require are nuc supers which give the queen extra laying space.

Another use for extra nucs is for splits . We will split strong nucleus colonies to make more nucs. If we have a strong 6 frame nuc, in June/July, they can easily be split into 2 – 3 frames/nucs. Even though this is not the purpose of a nuc, a strong queen can easily outlay 6 frames. We’ve discovered that splitting nucs is quicker because there are less frames to inspect and you don’t reduce potential of production hives. Let the producers produce honey and let the nucs make more nucs. Of course, you could always put them into 10 frame equipment and use the same techniques.

In anticipation for splitting nucs, we add nucs supers to give the queen 12 frames of laying space. That’s more space than a single brood chamber! Splitting a nuc that is supered, is easy because you locate the queen, and remove the already populated nuc super for an easy walkaway split.

Although this is unconventional, we always split our nucs to generate more nucs. Besides being used for increase, they are great brood factories.

How many Nucs do I Need

A early summer nuc that is about 2 weeks away from being split.
A early summer nuc that is about 2 weeks away from being split.

The first step is to run as many nucs as you will require to recover your winter losses. If you have 100 hives and expect a 10% winter loss. you will need 10 nucs to recover. Always add extras because some nucs don’t turn out and may die out as well so I would run 15 nucs in this scenario. If you plan to increase hive numbers next year, add on that number. You then have to decide how many nucs you plan on using for splits. Finally, add the number of nucs you plan on selling.

Number of nucs = winter loss recovery + increase numbers + splits + nuc sales

Not all nucs will make it through the winter so remember to compensate for nuc winter losses too.

If you’re not sure, a simple number is around 30% your total hive count. That’s a good number to start with. So if you run 100 hives, have 30-35 nucs winter-ready by end of fall.