BBKA Nucleus Standard and Guidance Notes

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Queen Bee
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Nov 10, 2008
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Maesteg South Wales
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New Leaflet (B14) BBKA Standard and Guidance Notes for Nuclei .

HISTORY: There has been no standard since the withdrawal in 1984 of
British Standard BS:1372 (Bees: Colonies and Nuclei), first produced in
1947. These notes include material from this brought up to date, together
with general advice from the BBKA. As such, this represents the best
available definition of a 'nucleus' and how to manage it.
2. PURPOSE: The purpose of this standard is to provide both buyers and
sellers with sensible guidance for the sale of nuclei.
This standard concentrates on nuclei, simply because the majority will
probably be purchased by beginners and due to their inexperience they
will need guidance on what to expect. Since bees are living things and
general conditions/weather varies, there may be good reasons for the
occasional slight departure from the standard.
If you expect to buy a nucleus to these standards then you must ask the
seller before agreeing to buy if it complies with the “BBKA Standard”. If
not, then there may be a good reason why, so the buyer may have a
difficult decision to make.
Bees are often in short supply very early in the season, and it may be
tempting to buy something you may regret, when a few weeks of patience
may be well rewarded.
For practical purposes this standard is only applicable to a nucleus
supplied between early May and the end of August.
3. NUCLEUS STRUCTURE: A nucleus is a well balanced colony between
3-5 British Standard brood combs. It should have bees, food, brood, and a
queen as described below. The total number of combs should be stated.
For bees on other sizes of frames the buyer and seller should reach
A nucleus should be in a position to expand as soon as purchased,
without risk of starvation. It is not just the number of bees, but the queen
and the quantity and age of the brood that is important.
Combs and Frames: The frames should be securely nailed/pinned and
be in sound order. They need not be new. Combs should be fully built
out, i.e. not foundation. The outside combs can be food only, especially
on the outside faces. There should be no sacrificial drone comb.
Queen: There should be a current or previous season’s UK-reared laying
queen, and she should have produced all the brood. If the queen is older
this should be stated to the buyer. She should be marked with the
'standard' colour for the year (although it may not be reliable to assume
the colour marking will comply with the convention). If unclipped, her
wings may be clipped at the request of the purchaser
Brood: Brood and eggs in all stages should occupy at least half the total
comb area, with no brood cycle break. Not less than 30% of the total
comb area should be sealed brood. No more than 15% of the total comb
area should be drone brood. There should be no active queen cells at
any stage of development.
Food: It must be accepted that the food situation of a nucleus can vary
considerably. A nucleus should have enough food for at least two weeks
after purchase, without any further food coming in.
Adult Bees: There should be a good balance of young and flying bees,
and the frames should be well covered. They should be good tempered
when handled by a competent handler in suitable conditions. There may
be a varying number of drones depending on conditions.
Health: The brood should be healthy and not show any signs of disease
in any stage, except that a small number of cells showing chalk brood is
acceptable, as this can depend on prevailing weather conditions.

Purchasers are advised to check with their Regional Bee Inspector in
respect of Foul Brood diseases if there is any cause for concern.
In the adult bees there should be no obvious signs of acarine, nosema or
damaged wings (possibly due to deformed wing virus).
4. INSTRUCTIONS TO THE PURCHASER: If your nucleus is sourced
locally and the seller is able to help you then there is no need for
instructions, but if the seller is unable to help, then a set of clear hiving
and care instructions should be provided.
General: It must be accepted that some suppliers may not be able to
comply with some of the above for good reasons and that the structure of
the nucleus may vary. These variations may include such things as:
• the nucleus is made up of bees and brood from several different
• that the queen is not responsible for all the brood present,
• that the queen is caged (not on the brood) and/or not yet
proven/mated, or
• the nucleus may be the result of a swarm control manipulation,
rather than part of a managed queen/nucleus creation
Such variations must be declared before the purchase takes place and,
while they are legitimate forms of nuclei, are not recommended for the
beginner or inexperienced beekeeper.
Whatever the state of the nucleus, a complete set of instructions on how
to bring it into a productive state equivalent to that implied by this
standard should be included.
The supplier should also be able to state what treatments, (including
those for Varroa) have been administered to the nucleus and when.
There is a legal requirement to record all medications applied to foodproducing
animals, and therefore it is reasonable to ask for this
information so you have a record. Make sure all applied treatments are
legal, as any residues of illegal substances in honey and wax will be your
responsibility once the bees are yours.
Container: A nucleus sourced locally may be in a nucleus or travelling
box, but expect a commercially sourced nucleus to have a temporary
non-returnable container. Be sure that you and the seller agree on what
equipment is either to be returned or replaced with equivalent new items
(e.g. frames).
If the bees are confined for more than a few hours they should have
ample ventilation, and water or weak sugar solution sprayed or dribbled
on them regularly through the ventilation holes.
Transportation: Bees suffer stress when confined and being moved, so
to minimise this make the journey as short as possible. It would be
preferable to collect rather than be delivered by a carrier, who may not
treat with care, or who might cover up ventilation holes, allow the bees to
get overheated, or delay delivery. If you collect, make sure you treat them
gently and do not keep them in a hot car or in full sun.
Complaints: A nucleus can change character very quickly therefore any
complaints should be lodged within a few days. Inexperienced buyers
would do well to seek guidance from an experienced beekeeper when
transferring a nucleus to a full hive and this is where early contact with a
local BKA is invaluable. If there are any problems then take photographs
and notes as early as possible. Please remember it is unfair to make a
complaint if a fault has been created after delivery.
HISTORICAL NOTE: When BS:1372 was first drafted advice was taken from
BBKA, SBKA, WBKA, Apis Club, Min. of Agriculture and Fisheries (now DEFRA),
Rothamsted, HPA and Beekeeping Appliance Makers.
This leaflet is provided for general interest and information only. No
liability is accepted for any injury or loss arising out of the contents of
this leaflet. It may be updated; check the BBKA website for the current

Copied from BBKA web site no copyright infringement intended.
Posted to pass the info on.
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So the new definition that it should contain a uk reared queen,so in most cases a mongrel or hybrid type queen is recommended.
"Such variations must be declared before the purchase takes place"

Is this a law thats been past? Must be declared?

It sounds to me like the BBKA are trying to play god again.
I would of thought "should" would of been a better word than "must".
On the whole its not a bad guidance. Quite a lot of it is open to interpretation and allowance for differing factors.
Yes not bad guidance,does not seem to matter how old the combs are,or the proportion of drone cells in them,just as long as the frames are sound.
So the new definition that it should contain a uk reared queen,so in most cases a mongrel or hybrid type queen is recommended.

If you mention that queens have rearer in Slovakia or in Cyprus, non one can hinder you selling the nucs. That standard is not a law. It is only a recommendation of some group. Queens reared in European Union.
Thats correct Finman,its not a law,but they would like it to be. It means just take any frames that are in good order from a hive, let it raise a queen,and as long as there in good health and not nasty,thats good enough.
If you expect to buy a nucleus to these standards then you must ask the
seller before agreeing
to buy if it complies with the “BBKA Standard”. If
not, then there may be a good reason why, so the buyer may have a
difficult decision to make.

What will say the competition laws of European Union or UK competition laws?

The standard resembles national cartel.
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Not defending it but it is a guidance not law. I think having some sort of recognised definition of a nuc is a good thing, at least then people will have some idea of what to expect. Myself included.
It is only guidance and for me the important change is that a previous years queen is mentioned as any nucs I sell will contain precisely that.

It's not actually worth the paper it is written on. It's the BBKA simply trying to play the "We care" card. Perhaps the guidelines should say "and each Nuclei should have a sticker on saying Bayer Loves Bees!"

If the guidelines say a frames should be of British National size, then does that mean Langstroth is no good? UK only queens? That would mean a well know bee supplier would be upset as his colonies are coming with imported queens.

It's complete nonsense in the format they have written it. The idea is sound enough, but like everything with the BBKA, its pointless and for nothing other than looking like they are actually doing something for their money.
I wish more people would sell nucs on Langstroth, it would save so much farting about.
I am sure that as more and more UK bee keepers realise the benefits of the bigger frames, more bees, more foraging and more honey. It will happen.

Not forgeting more space meaning a lowered swarming tendancies!

I bought nucs on those little national frames and over wintered them. I then shook swarmed them into Langstroths. Small sacrifice for a great colony.

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