It is always useful to have at least one nucleus in the apiary for several reasons. It acts as an insurance against the loss of a queen at the height of the season. It is a controlled means of increasing stocks. It can be used as a method of swarm prevention or control, and it can be used as a simple way of producing new queens.

Taking a nucleus is a very easy manipulation, and requires a minimum of time. The following two methods are quite straight forward, but require a little bit of thought before starting.


Choose the parent colony with care. Avoid breeding a new queen from a strain of bee with undesirable characteristics.

Equipment required:- Nucleus Box, 4 Replacement frames with drawn comb or foundation, a means of isolating the queen (perhaps a second nucleus box).

Method 1

Remove supers and queen excluder.

Find the queen and isolate her to ensure that she does not find her way into the nucleus box.

Select two frames of stores, mainly honey, and place one on each side of the nucleus box, together with adhering bees. This will provide sustenance for the nucleus, which will be denuded of flying bees for a couple of days.

Select one frame of mainly sealed brood. This brood will soon emerge and reinforce the young bee population. It is young bees that will produce an abundance of royal jelly to ensure that our new queen larvae are well provisioned. This frame is placed, with adhering bees, between the two frames of stores.

Select one frame containing eggs, or larvae less than three days old. This is the frame from which the new queen will be produced, and should be placed by the side of the frame of sealed brood, together with adhering bees.

Take two further brood frames, and shake the bees from them into the nucleus box. Remember that all the flying bees will return to the parent colony, and these extra non-flying bees will be required to reinforce the nucleus.

Close the nucleus frames up together, to establish correct bee space, and insert a dummy board if necessary. Put on crown board and roof, and move to itís permanent position, making sure that the entrance is open about half an inch.

Return to the parent colony. Reintroduce the queen and push remaining brood frames up together to form a contracted brood nest. Replace frames taken with drawn comb or foundation. Replace queen excluder and supers, and close hive.



When all the flying bees have returned to the parent colony, the nucleus may be fed.

If the parent colony already has queen cells, then it would be beneficial to utilise one of these in the nucleus, breaking down those remaining.

It may be preferred, to introduce a new mated queen, rather than wait to breed oneís own. If so, this is best done in the evening, after the new nucleus has settled down, and all the flying bees have returned to the parent colony. The new caged queen can then be quietly wedged between the two centre top bars, and the nucleus left alone for a period of five days.

There may be odd occasions when it would be beneficial to take the stores, bees and sealed brood from a particularly strong hive, and the frame of eggs from another colony with better characteristics. In this instance it must be remembered that all the bees should be shaken from the "egg" frame, (it is not a good idea to mix bees from different colonies), and also, in seven days, the nucleus should be checked to ensure that there are no queen cells other than those on the desired frame. If so, they should be broken down.


Method 2

If finding and isolating the queen is a problem, then use this method. It is more time consuming, but avoids the necessity to find the queen.

Select your four frames in the same way as method one, but shake any adhering bees back into the hive, which will ensure that the queen is not on either of these frames.

Place the frames in an empty brood chamber, and put to one side.

Push the remaining brood frames up together, and add replacement frames.

Replace queen excluder and supers, but before replacing the crown board, put on the brood chamber with the four selected frames, then the crown board and roof.

Leave like this until the evening, or two to three hours. During this time the bees will find the brood in the upper brood chamber, and young bees will come up from the lower chamber to cover and feed it.

This now becomes your nucleus, and can be removed and re-sited.

© Sumerset Beekeepers' Assoc.