I think my nuc is unwell

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Drone Bee
Mar 27, 2009
Reaction score
Birmingham UK
Hive Type
Number of Hives
8 ish
Last Tuesday at about 8pm I collected a nuc box with a new colony in it from a beekeeper about 20 miles away from my home in Birmingham. He had started it about 23 days beforehand. I took it home in the car and they didn't overheat or make a lot of noise. The box was ventilated top and bottom.

I noticed straight away that the font of the box around and above the entrance was covered in yellow streaks. The beekeeper said he didn't think there was a problem but agreed the bees might have had a diarrhea attack.

I put the box in the garden at 9pm and opened the entrance. The next morning at about 11:30am I transferred the 5 frames to a hive on the same location and put a plastic tub feeder on with a quart of thin syrup in it. I didn't inspect them to avoid a chill and there were about three frames with bees, one with stores and one with bare foundation. I didn't see the queen.

I monitored the activity at the entrance but have seen very few bees entering or leaving during the last 3 days.

This evening (Friday) at about 6:30pm I decided to have a quick look. There is no queen and no brood. Some cells have what looks like sugar syrup in them and the bees are on two frames, which seems fewer than there were 3 or 4 days ago. They do not rise up when the cover board is removed and seem sluggish.

I am concerned that they will die away. What should I do now ?

Regards JC. (john - new beekeeper). :(
Hi John

I assume you paid good money for this and it was not free?

Did you inspect before buying (reciveing it)?

Are you saying that the seller made up this nuc only 23 days ago from what a swarm cell or imprted queen?

My gut feeling is you have been done! I would contact the seller and see what he has to say but feel he may have just been it it for a fast buck...but I am more than happy to be corrected.

I think you need to contact the vendor and ask to return this nuc.

They should have been given to you with a laying queen surrounded by her own bees. The bees should have amply covered all five frames and if one was foundation then I would hve expected them to be drawing it out. Further there should be AT LEAST three frames of brood.

This sounds a very poor product and yes you are fully entitled to say "Oi matey these are not up to any reasonable standard. I want to return them and my money back."

First of all, Hi this is my first posting so hi to all reading my small thought's on the matter!
Have you ever bought bees from this keeper before? To me the the nuc in order to thrive should have a young and vigourous laying Queen in order for the collony to survive and grow in strength, this with your description dosn't seem to be the case! If I were to sell a nuc I would make sure it had a laying queen and brood before it left my care.
If its possible you could give it another frame containing eggs from another hive (placed in centre of the cluster,) and see wether they try to make Q cells fom this, the absence of brood and the colony's sluggishness seems to point towards the nuc having no Queen and should not have been sold/given to you in this state!!!!
Admin, - I suspected Nosema, but I don't have enough experience to be assertive.

Jim, Poly, and Groat, - I did buy a nuc from this chap last year, and it was very slow to get going, no honey, and still is only on about 5 frames. It suffered from chalk brood over the winter. Others reported the same problem, but some said their nucs from this chap were ok. We put it down to the difficult weather last year.

I don't think he is deliberately selling duff nucs, and he did go on holiday for 14 days out of the 23. I collected the nuc as soon as he returned. I didn't inspect it closely. I took the lid off and saw 3 frames of bees, one stores and one bare foundation. He told me the queen cells were still capped 15 days before I collected it. So I assumed the queen would have emerged and mated.

He creates the nucs by taking 4 or 5 frames of bees and brood from one of his hives and then removing it to another site for a week to 10 days. He then brings it back to the original site irrc.

He did say to let him know if I have any problems so it looks as if that is what I shall have to do. Unfortunately I'm busy all day tomorrow, so it might be monday before I can deal with it. Should I just put the frames back in the nuc box and take it back to him ? Do you think he should start again ?

If all fails with him I suppose I could introduce some brood from my other hive but that is hardly strong.

I'm a bit worried about the disease aspect and have no wish to prejudice my other hive.

I'm looking forward to that nuc from you Jim.

Regards JC.
I'm looking forward to that nuc from you Jim.

Regards JC.

I can assure you (and the other buyers) that my nucs are not made in 23 days, hence why stated an approximate date of June was given.

I would not sell what I would not want myself.

I have recently had ALL of my hives tested for Nosema with effectivley a 100% clean bill of health for Nosema.
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It's good to hear what you say Jim.

It is technically possible to create a new colony with a new queen who has mated in 23 days though, isn't it ?

2 days for queen cell, 16 to emerge and that leaves 5 days to mate. Perhaps she flew away when she got to my site ?

He told me the queen cells were still capped 15 days before I collected it. So I assumed the queen would have emerged and mated.

That was frankly an erroneous thought. Capped 15 days earlier, so at best she was out 14.5days earlier?

I give them three weeks. And even if she is mated with in the 14 odd days it takes another three or four to come into lay.

Setting that aside though there are still not enough bees in there.

p.s. Jim what did you do to test for nosema ? should I do the same ? I know Justus Klaar slightly, he is the seasonal bee inspector around here I think.

Poly, you are probably right, but I thought it was 8 days capped and another 8 to emerge, which led me to think she had had a week to achieve mating. I thought she would begin to lay straightaway after mating. Anyway I've looked very carefully and I can't find a queen in the box now.
Correct,16 days from egg to emerging virgin,at least 14 days to mate,in which you need quite hot weather,sunny and not windy,plenty of drones,then around three/four days being fed up by the bee's to come into lay,then another 8/9 days to make sure she has mated properly and has a good brood pattern.
Does not sound like your so called nuc supplier knows much about bee's. sounds like they also have nosema. sounds like your supplier may have a nosema problem,but he should at least get this checked before selling them.
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This evening (Friday) at about 6:30pm I decided to have a quick look. There is no queen and no brood. (

That is not a nuc. It is a few bees in a box and it sounds like they have nosema. Get your money back. I wouldn't accept a replacement because of the disease risk. This is becoming all too common because of the demand for bees and the money to be made by supplying them.
p.s. Jim what did you do to test for nosema ? should I do the same ? I know Justus Klaar slightly, he is the seasonal bee inspector around here I think.


You need a microscope.
Give Bcrazy a shout,he will do it for you if you send him a sample of bees.
JC Brum, If you do end up keeping these bees and then I would consider feeding them Vitafeed Gold at this time of the year. I have never used this product, but I have been told (on good authority) it is good at helping the eradicate Nosema. See this link ...


Contact the suppler and give them chance to sort it out. Also tell them what you expect or want to happen. They may be great and deal with it in a professional manner. If they don't post the name of them here so we can all stop clear and not give them any new business.

This forum is a great place to ask what others thing you should get and ask for advice on what to say. Dont leave it to long. The longer you leave it after purchace the more difficult the pointing blame can be as you will have looked after the nuc for a number of days, weeks or months.

If a nuc went queen less and you tell some one early it may just need a new queen or some brood. But if you leave it queen less for 4 weeks and they are loosing bee numbers fast they may never recover as the critical number of bees it lost.

You've all been very kind to advise me so well and promptly.

Admin, - I have a Vickers microscope with a reasonable spec although it's from the 1950's and has a simple built-in lamp. I sold my big Watson (phase-contrast and darkfield) about 10 yrs ago thinking I would no longer need it. Thanks for the intro to Bcrazy. I suppose I should make cold bee-soup and look for the rice grains with 400x, - is that right ? I've never done this kind of microscopy before, only metallurgical stuff.

In view of the problems I decided to cancel my mornings arrangements and take the nuc back to the beekeeper. He said he was happy to have them back and would investigate and ring me in a day or so with his findings. He said he felt sure the yellow faeces were just diarrhea caused by being shut up and taken to a different site when he created the nuc, as he said there were no such stains on the donor hive, and he showed me round his apiary.

He said not to worry as he would either start them off again with a frame of brood or replace the nuc entirely, according to his findings.

So I expect some news from him in a couple of days, and a further progress report in a couple of weeks. This time I will make sure there is brood and an active queen in the box.

We shall see what transpires. Many thanks for the invaluable advice to all. JC. (john)
Yup JCBrum, cold bee soup, put a small drop on a slide (no lumps), add a coverslip, x400, Bob's your mother's brother. No need for phase or anything fancy, the spores are sufficiently refractive.

You'd be able to fit a couple of dozen of the elongated oval spores into an average-sized pollen grain, and there ought to be some pollen grains in the soup.

best wishes

I'm in Edgbaston Pete. I'll pm you.

Thanks Gavin, I'll have a go as soon as I get a minute.