Rick van Vliet from Rick’s Bees and I drove to Dresser, Wisconsin, last weekend to pick up two new “nuc” packs of bees. For those of you that are like me and had no clue what a “nuc” pack is (pronounced Nuke as in nuclear), it is four or five frames from a working hive and the queen (source: Bee Progress Blog). The advantage of getting a nuc is that the queen and the bees came from the same hive; therefore, they are familiar with each other and are ready to get to work right away. They will immediately get down to business begin to increase the size of the hive.
The other method of starting a hive is buying a “package” of bees. A package consists of about three pounds of bees (which is about 10,000 bees) and a queen; however, the queen is not from the same hive as the other 10,000 bees. It takes some time for the bees to get to know and accept the queen. Once they accept the queen, they will get to work. It can take up to a month for the queen and the bees to get to a point where they want to work together (and begin to increase the hive), and there is a chance that the bees will reject the queen. If the bees reject the queen, they will kill her (not a good end for her).
Rick had purchased two nucs from a professional beekeeper who travels around the country with her bees. The bees had been in California to pollinate almond trees. According to the LA Times, California produces 82 percent of the world’s almonds, and it is the Number 1 export in the state.
The almond business is a $4.8 billion industry, and they rely heavily on bees to pollinate the 800,000 acres of almond farms. To pollinate that many acres of almonds, the industry relies on 3 billion bees brought in by professional beekeepers!
When we got to the farm in Dresser, I was in shock at the sheer number of hives littering the ground. Apparently the professional beekeeping team had received 550 hives from California, and Rick was one of several beekeepers that had purchased hives. Rick and several other beekeepers had descended on the farm to pick up the bees. Unfortunately for me, I was not dressed for the occasion and was restricted to the car. With that number of hives, bobcats moving pallets of bees and beekeepers moving hives around, the legions of bees were not happy with the humans. Full bee hoods, jackets and long pants (jeans) were required or you would get stung.
Rick met with the professionals, talked for a while and then brought his two nucs to the car. With little ado, we left bee nirvana and headed back home. Rick had more miles to travel to get the nucs into their new homes south of the Twin Cities while I returned to an exciting high school boys traveling basketball game.
For more information on bees, I highly recommend Rick at Rick’s Bees. He is very knowledgeable and has excellent sources of information. If he doesn’t know the answer, he will find it!