I have a limited number of nucs available each year. I build four and five frame nucs each year from my overwintered colonies. This helps me control swarming, make up for any winter loss, split for increase in my colony numbers, keep a few nucs around as “apiary problem solvers”, and finally hold some for sale to other beekeepers.
The early-season nucs are typically stocked with Carniolan queens from California breeders. Overall, I’ve had good luck with these queens. …if not, I wouldn’t continue to use them. They are gentle and can be highly productive even in the first season.
Once we start seeing good numbers of dandelions coming in around here (later-April usually here in central Iowa), I start grafting from my overwintered colonies to produce the queens for the rest of the season’s nucs. The dandelion bloom signals that a good supply of mature drones will soon be available to my new queens for successful mating. Please see the “queens” page for more details on my queens.
The nucs are supplied with queens and given time prior to sale for the queens to prove themselves. The brood pattern you see in the nuc belongs to the queen. This is a quality control step which is often ommitted by sellers. The nucs should be strong, but remember they’re still just “babies” and may require feeding and care to build up for the coming honey flow. Once they’re yours, they’re yours, of course, but I hate to see good bees go neglected. With a little care early in the season, they’ll boom.