FIBKA Criteria for the Production and Sale of Nuclei

The production and availability of nuclei is paramount to the success of the beekeeping industry in Ireland. Without the constant availability of nuclei, beginners cannot enter the craft and may be tempted to import. It is therefore very important that nuclei are of a certain standard before being offered for sale, especially to the unsuspecting and over-enthusiastic beginner. Sees should always have the following characteristics:
  • Good honey producers
  • Non-swarming strain
  • Disease resistance
  • Docile

Criteria for Over-wintered Nuclei.

Over-wintered nuclei offer many advantages to the buyer. Firstly, the colony is well established with a queen that is proven and the possibility of collecting a crop of honey with proper management. The risks associated with the over-wintering are no longer an issue if purchased in late April, and the first inspection is completed by the seller, assuring that all is within the necessary standard. The following should be considered when purchasing:
  • Queen must not be more than one year old, bred from good quality native stock
  • Queen should be marked and clipped
  • Queen egg-laying viability should be greater than 95%
  • Queen should be laying in a minimum of two-thirds of at least two frames
  • Frames should be standard Hoffman type and all of the same design
  • No frames should be broken or damaged in any way
  • All combs should be in a good and clean condition, preferably less than one season old
  • Comb containing excess drone or unusable cells should be rejected
  • Combs should where possible, be free of chalkbrood
  • All cells should be checked for AFB and the nuclei rejected if any signs or symptoms are found
  • Nuclei should be checked for signs and symptoms of EFB in April and rejected if found
  • At least four combs should be covered by bees
  • Bees should be free of Nosema and Acarine
  • Adequate stores should be present to last the colony at least 7 days
Colonies will vary from season to season, however, the importance of not selling under-performing bees cannot be over-emphasized. It is better for the seller to keep nuclei an extra two weeks, rather than offloading to a beginner who discovers that there is no return from his investment and commitment at the end of the year.

Criteria for Summer/Autumn Nuclei.

Many beekeepers make up nuclei as a swarm control method during late May/June. This is quite an acceptable method of beekeeping and can produce good quality nuclei. The same criteria apply to these nuclei as to the over-wintered ones, but the following should also be taken into consideration:
  • Queen should not be raised from a colony that exhibits traits that are not specified above
  • Queens should not be raised from eggs or larvae in the nuclei
  • Point of hatching queens, virgin queens, or mated queens from a breeder queen should be used to head up the nuclei
  • Nuclei should only be sold after the queen is laying, showing sealed brood, preferably on several frames, in order to assess her viability
  • It may not be practical to clip a young queen but the option of marking her for ease of identification should be considered
The summer nuclei should be ready for at the end of July/early August. There is still adequate time for the beginner to manage it to an adequate-sized colony without too much difficulty. Nuclei made at the end of or after the honey flow will again build-up but the possibility of losing them over winter is greater. Often there is inadequate time to assess the queen. If the season is drawing to a close, it is more prudent for the purchaser to get the seller to over-winter the nucleus and purchase it the following spring. Order your nuclei in August or September. All sales of nuclei should include an advisory leaflet as to what is needed as the colony expands. The seller should keep records of all sold nuclei for traceability purposes.