How many bees are in a nuc?

Beekeeping may sometimes be quite technical in its terminologies, such as the term ‘nuc.’ So, if you’re unfamiliar with the process of beekeeping, chances are you may have never heard of this. However, nucs are standard for enthusiasts and serious beekeepers, and knowing where to use them can be profitable.

Nucs, or nucleus colonies, are small man-made beehives that house a small colony of bees. These nucs commonly contain 2 to 5 frames, compared to the standard 8 or 10 frames of the Langstroth hive. Bees in the nucs usually range from 10,000 to 15,000, even up to 35,000. These nucs will include a queen bee, female worker bees, and male drone bees.

Let us learn more about nucs and how beekeepers utilize them.

What is a nuc?

A nuc in beekeeping is short for a nucleus colony. In these nucs are small colonies of bees, usually honeybees, which house these honey-making bees. Inside these nucs is a complete hive with a queen bee, many worker bees, and the less helpful drones.

A standard nuc will commonly include two to five frames, a smaller version of a full-size Langstroth hive typically containing 8 or  10 frames [1]. Each of these frames is used by honeybees to build their honeycombs instead of making their own. The frames inside a nuc will serve as its manufactured beehive.

The frames inside the nucs can be made from either wood or plastic. Still, beekeepers commonly choose wooden frames over plastics because of their durability and simplicity of structure [2].

What is the difference between a nuc and a Langstroth hive?

A nucleus colony or nucs and a Langstroth hive have almost identical features except for the number of frames. A nuc commonly contains two to five frames, while the standard Langstroth hive includes eight or ten frames. 

At the beginning of establishing a new nuc colony, it should have sufficient food and nutrition to develop broods. There must also be a single queen that is accepted by the hive, worker bees (female), and drones (male) [4].

Since the Langstroth hive has more frames than the standard nuc, it obviously contains more bees. Both also have their use and application for beekeepers.

How many bees are inside a nuc?

According to the American Bee Journal, a standard deep Langstroth frame (19” long and 8,5” deep) has enough cells to house up to 7,000 adult bees per frame [3]. So using this number, we can estimate that a two-frame nuc can contain up to 14,000 bees, 21,000 for three frames, 28,000 for four frames, and 35,000 for the standard five-frame nuc.

A beekeeper even counted the bees in each frame side and found about 3,397 bees per side or 6,794 bees per frame [5]. Using this number as a baseline, we can easily estimate the number of bees in a nuc. 

There are around 13,500 for a two-frame nuc, 20,300 for three frames, 27,000 for four frames, and 34,000 for five frames. These numbers are almost identical to the number obtained from the American Bee Journal.

However, it is essential to note that these numbers are only the maximum estimates and will typically contain fewer bees in reality. So, it is also necessary to consider the number of adult female worker bees, the hard-working honey producers in the hive.

Different sources provide a different number of bees inside a nuc, but the average that most of the sources agree on is from 10,000 to 15,000 adult bees. 

What are the benefits of using nucs in beekeeping?

1. Avoids bees from swarming.

Honeybees are known to swarm whenever their colony becomes too big. In effect, a queen, worker bees, and drone bees move out of the original hive to establish a new hive somewhere.

Using nucs in beekeeping, you can easily split a colony and create a new one artificially, which prevents bees from swarming. There are many instances when bees swarm in populated places and even inside houses.

2. Increase colony production.

Keeping bees in nucs allows you as a beekeeper to increase the honey production of bees. You can transfer bees from one nuc to another to create additional honey flow just in time when the bee season comes in and the production of honey increases.

3. Requeening. 

There is always a tendency for queen bees to move out from the colony to swarm, leaving your production hive queenless. If this happens, there will be no bee that will lay eggs to repopulate the hive. 

Though hives are still capable of making queen cells to produce a new queen, it will still take a few weeks before the new queen starts mating and laying eggs.

Having a queen in a nuc ready to substitute during production will help avoid wasting precious honey production time.

4. More efficient hive expansion.

Having nucs allows beekeepers to expand their honey production more efficiently and faster. Since bees inside nucs are from all stages of development, you can be sure that bees will always be available to establish a new hive in another nuc.

5. Easier way when selling bees.

Another way to use your nucs as a source of income is by selling some of your nucs. Since more aspiring beekeepers are looking to start their own bee farms, selling nucs will always be in high demand.


There are so many things to learn about the beekeeping industry if you’re interested in venturing into it, for example, the nuc or nucleus colonies. Nucs commonly house a small bee colony by installing two to five frames inside a box.

Inside these boxes are bees in different stages of development, including the queen bee, worker bees, drone bees, larvae, and pupae. The total number of adult bees inside a 5-frame nuc typically ranges from 10,000 to 15,000, but it can be up to 35,000.


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