Bee Nuc Transport Guidelines

Bee Nuc Transport Guidelines for our 5 frame nucs and other useful tips for getting your nuc bees home and into your beekeeping equipment. This article discusses the cardboard nuc boxes and also the Pro-Nuc boxes and things to consider to safely transport your 5 frame bee nuc so the bees do not get stressed during the trip.

Prerequisites

Before pickup, there are a few things you should have ready – see [Before Bees Arrive] for hive setup information.

Types of Nuc Boxes

There are two nuc box styles that we use and there are pros and cons to each.  Our choice of nuc box is somewhat dependent on weather and parts availability.   The pro-nuc boxes are available for an additional fee.

[Picture of each]

  • Waxed cardboard nuc box (default box)
    • PROS    
      • easy to transport
      • provides some insulation to heat and cold
      • provides ventilation on ends
      • Seals tightly
      • Can be taped shut if necessary or if bee leaks are discovered
    • CONS
      • Limited ventilation
      • Bees hide in the gaps between the cardboard folds
      • Can sometimes crush bees from shifting frames
  • Pro-Nuc plastic boxes
    • PROS
      • Easy to transport
      • provides ventilation on both ends and top
      • frame rests hold frames in position
      • reusable
    • CONS
      • Thin plastic can overheat in the sun
      • Plastic and ventilation can chill the bees in cold weather
      • Plastic parts sometimes don’t seal up completely leading to bee leaks
      • Not easy to seal up bee leaks

We recommend pro-nuc boxes for travel times longer than 1.5 hours along with a mesh bag should any bees escape.  Mesh bags are a good idea for the cardboard nuc boxes as well if you are concerned about bees getting out of the nuc (see below).  Bees captured in the mesh bag can be installed with the nuc, without a bag these loose bees will likely drift in vehicle and be lost before install.

Bee Nuc Transport

Similar to bee packages, bee nucs must also be transported carefully.   Bee nucs run even hotter than packages due to the brood present on the frames and the bees generating heat inside the mini colonies keeping the brood warm.   The ends of the nuc boxes where the ventilation holes are at should not be blocked and should be exposed to air conditioning vents if possible.   Orient multiple nucs with the vent ends open to the vehicle and not packed end to end.  

Travel with air conditioning on the coldest setting to help cool the bee nucs.   If you are unable to run air conditioning then maintain air flow by opening windows and vents.   Do not transport nucs in the trunk or other closed areas as they can overheat easily.

If you are transporting them outside of the vehicle (in the bed of a truck, etc.), you need to keep the bees out of direct sun while having plenty of airflow around them.  

On extended trips in hot weather an option is to place small ice packs on top of the nuc box to help cool the surface of the box and this cool area will sink down through the lid and help to cool the bees inside.

[picture of nuc in car]

Will the bees get out of the nuc box?

This is a common question we get.  We close up the nucs and check for bee ‘leaks’  but there is a possibility that some loose bees will be on the outside of the nuc and also a chance that the bees inside the nuc will become creative and some may escape or ‘leak’ out. If this happens, some may fly from the nuc and buzz around inside the vehicle.  Bees flying around inside the vehicle are attracted to the sunlight so will fly to the windows and hang out there.   You can roll the windows down slightly and they will fly up to the top and out of the vehicle.  This is the easiest way to get them out of the vehicle, but you don’t want to lose the nuc bees so keeping them inside the nuc is best! 

If the possibility of loose bees in your vehicle concerns you then you should consider placing the bee nuc into a mesh transport bag.  Any bees in the mesh bag should be kept with that nuc and shaken out when the nuc is installed.  Do not close the nuc up in a bin or box as they will not have sufficient airflow.

[nuc in mesh bag]

Bee Nuc Journey Home

Make sure that you head straight home after picking up nuc(s) and don’t stop at sit-down restaurants or to do shopping.   Unexpected things can happen to unattended nucs in vehicles.   Bee nucs can overheat quickly and these stresses will impact the ability of the colony to get off to a good start and thrive!   If you are traveling a long distance and are stopping part way to sleep at a rest stop, the nuc will be fine; however if you are going into a hotel room, take your nuc with you (mesh bag definitely recommended).  If left in a vehicle overnight the nuc can certainly overheat.

Once you arrive at home you have a few options:

  1. If you aren’t able to get to the hive location right away, bring the nuc inside and put in front of a floor fan to aide in ventilation (do NOT open nuc doors).  Continue to the installation instructions when ready – don’t wait too long.
  2. If you aren’t able to install the nuc right away (if it is raining, dark or you want to give the bees time to settle) but can get to the permanent hive location then suit up and put the nuc on top of the permanent hive or right next to it.  Open the entrance by unplugging the yellow cap (cardboard nuc box) or sliding the door up (Pro-Nuc box).  Wear protective clothing as the bees will start coming out to explore their new surroundings and can ‘explode’ out of the nuc particularly if it is warm.   Opening the entrance even in rainy / bad weather is still recommended as it will allow the bees to ventilate the nuc more easily than if the entrance is closed.  Continue to installation instructions when ready.
  3. If installing the nuc into the permanent hive right away then suit up, put the nuc near the permanent hive and continue to the installation instructions.

[pictures of nuc in front of fan, nuc on top of hive with door open, nuc next to hive ready to go]

Summary Do’s and Don’ts

Do:

  • Have your hive setup and tools ready beforehand
  • Put nuc in a ventilated, cool vehicle
  • Consider a mesh transport bag
  • Keep bees out of direct sunlight

Don’t:

  • Leave bees in vehicle while running errands
  • Close bees up in a container or area with no airflow
  • Leave bees inside house without a fan

Next

[Installation Instructions for 5 frame nucs]

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