How To Buy Bees For Beekeeping: A Beginner’s Guide

  • By: Jack
  • Date: January 28, 2024
  • Time to read: 13 min.

When you start beekeeping, one of the first questions that comes up is how to buy bees for beekeeping. There are several options to consider for acquiring your first honey bees. One popular method is to buy them online and have them shipped directly to your location. This convenient option allows you to order your bees, whether it’s honey bee packages or a specific breed like Carniolan bees, from reputable suppliers.

Another option for obtaining bees is by catching a swarm in the wild. Many new beekeepers find this thrilling, as it gives them a chance to rescue and nurture a colony of bees without purchasing them. However, it’s important to note that catching a swarm requires experience and knowledge. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start with honey bee packages or order bees from a reliable source.

These options provide you with a colony that is already established, consisting of thousands of bees and a queen. This way, you have the best chance at success as a beginner beekeeper, and the bees are ready to thrive in their new home.

When it comes to buying bees, there are different ways to go about it. Some beekeepers prefer purchasing honey bee packages, which typically include around 3 pounds of bees and a queen.

These packages are available for order during certain times of the year, usually in April and May. Another option is to buy a nucleus colony, often called a “nuc,” which contains several frames of drawn comb filled with brood, honey, and bees. Nucs provide a head start as the colony will continue to grow and develop from there.

It’s important to consider the time of year as well. Buying bees in late fall or early winter allows the colony to settle and the queen to continue laying eggs, giving them a better chance to thrive when spring arrives.

That’s a lot of information to take on board, but by the end of this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision and give your bees the best possible start in their new home.

Where to Get Bees For Your Bee Hive

To start your apiary journey, you’ll need to decide where to source your new honey bees from, taking into consideration local breeders, online suppliers, or even catching a wild swarm.

Local bee breeders may be the best option, as they’re likely to provide bees that are adapted to your area’s climate and conditions. Reach out to your local beekeeping association for recommendations on reputable breeders in your vicinity. They may also have information on upcoming beekeeping events or workshops where you can learn more about acquiring bees and making your hive a home.

Bee suppliers often specialize in different types of bees, so it’s essential to research which species will thrive in your region and align with your beekeeping goals. Online purchasing is another viable option, and many suppliers offer package bees, nucs, or queen bees for sale.

Package bees are a popular choice for beginners, as they contain a queen and a predetermined number of worker bees, usually around 10,000. Nucs, or nucleus colonies, are smaller, established colonies complete with a laying queen, worker bees, and brood. While online purchasing offers convenience, be sure to check reviews and choose a reputable supplier to ensure you receive healthy bees.

When choosing the source of your bees, also consider the possibility of catching a wild swarm. Swarm-catching can be an exciting and cost-effective way to start your colony. However, this method requires some experience and knowledge of bee behavior, as well as proper safety precautions. You can learn more about swarm-catching techniques from experienced beekeepers or online resources.

Keep in mind that wild swarms may carry diseases or pests, which could pose a risk to your new hive. By carefully considering your options, you can make an informed decision on where to get your bees and embark on a rewarding beekeeping adventure.

Options for Acquiring Bees For Your New Colony

You’ve got several options for acquiring your colony, including local breeders, online suppliers, and even catching a wild swarm, each with their own unique benefits and challenges.

Local breeders are an excellent choice, as they can provide you with bees that are already acclimated to your region’s climate and flowers, which can increase the success of your hive. Moreover, local breeders can give you valuable advice on bee breed selection, hive management, and other beekeeping tips specific to your area.

Bee package providers are another option, particularly for those who live in areas where local breeders are scarce. These providers ship bees directly to you and usually offer a variety of breeds to choose from, ensuring that you can select the type of bees best suited for your needs.

If you opt for an online supplier or bee package provider, be sure to read reviews and ask for recommendations from experienced beekeepers to ensure that you’re purchasing from a reputable source.

Catching a wild swarm is the most adventurous option for acquiring bees, but it requires a bit more skill and patience. Swarming occurs when a colony outgrows its current hive and needs to find a new home. By placing a bait hive in an area where bees are known to swarm, you can attract the scout bees and, eventually, the entire swarm.

This method can be cost-effective, as it doesn’t require purchasing bees, but it’s important to remember that wild bees may carry diseases or pests. Be prepared to monitor and treat your new hive accordingly to ensure its health and success.

As you can see, there are various ways to acquire bees for your beekeeping journey, and each method has its unique benefits and challenges. Choose the one that best suits your needs, and you’ll be well on your way to a thriving hive.

Nuc Versus Package Bees: Which Is Better?

When the question arises of how to buy bees for beekeeping, one important decision you’ll face is whether to begin with nuc bees or package bees. Both options have their pros and cons, so let’s dive into the differences to help you make an informed choice.

Nuc bees, short for nucleus colonies, are small, established honey bee colonies with a laying queen, worker bees, brood, and honey stores. Choosing nucs provides a head start as they are already established and working together as a unit. This means they can quickly build up their numbers and start foraging, making them a good option if you’re eager to see results sooner.

Nucs also offer a higher chance of survival compared to package bees, as they are more resistant to potential threats such as pests and diseases. However, nucs tend to be more expensive than package bees and may have limited availability depending on your location.

On the other hand, package bees consist of a certain number of worker bees and a queen that are typically packaged and shipped separately. They are often less expensive than nucs and more widely available, making them a popular choice for beginners.

However, it’s important to note that package bees require a bit more attention and care during the initial stages, as they need to establish their comb, brood, and food stores. They also have a slightly higher risk of queen failure, but this can be mitigated by monitoring and providing proper support.

Ultimately, the decision between nuc and package bees depends on your specific needs and preferences as a beekeeper. Consider factors such as your budget, availability, desired time frame for results, and your comfort level with managing a new colony. Regardless of your choice, both nucs and package bees offer exciting opportunities for you to delve into the fascinating world of beekeeping and nurture your own thriving hive.

Advantages of Nuc To Kickstart Your Beekeeping Journey

Opting for a nucleus colony, or nuc can offer some fantastic advantages in kickstarting a successful apiary adventure. A nuc is essentially a mini, fully-functioning hive, which includes a laying queen, bees at various stages of development, and frames of honey and pollen.

This means that nuc installation is generally easier, and you’ll begin seeing the benefits of your new apiary much more quickly compared to package bees or capturing a swarm. In addition, the queen has already been introduced and accepted by the colony, eliminating any uncertainty regarding the queen’s introduction.

Nuc management is relatively straightforward, as the bees have already established their hierarchy and work routines. Nuc maintenance is also simple, as you only need to monitor the colony’s health, ensure they have adequate resources, and watch for signs of overcrowding. As your colony grows, it’s essential to provide additional space to prevent swarming and maintain a productive hive.

As you continue your beekeeping journey, you’ll find that the advantages of a nuc colony often outweigh the initial costs and potential drawbacks. The ease of installation, management, and maintenance – combined with the established queen and faster colony expansion – make nucs an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced beekeepers alike.

Challenges with NucsPossible Solutions
Transportation difficultiesAcquire assistance from experienced beekeepers or invest in proper transportation equipment
Limited availabilityPlan ahead and order nucs during their available seasons
Higher initial costConsider the long-term benefits of a stronger, established colony
Local adaptation concernsResearch and source locally adapted nucs from reputable suppliers
Inspection for pests or diseasesLearn signs of common issues and inspect nucs before purchase

By starting with a healthy, thriving nuc, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and rewarding apiary experience.

Survival Rates and Local Honey Bees

Imagine the satisfaction of watching your local nuc colony thrive and survive, thanks to their adaptability and resilience in your specific region. Local adaptation plays a crucial role in the survival rates of your bees, as they’re already acclimated to the climate, flora, and potential diseases in your area. This means that they’re more likely to exhibit disease resistance and have better foraging efficiency than bees sourced from a different region.

Additionally, local bees contribute to the genetic diversity within your beekeeping community, which is essential for the overall health and sustainability of the local bee population.

When it comes to bee sourcing, it’s important to find a reputable supplier who can provide you with locally adapted bees. This not only helps to ensure the survival and success of your hive but also supports the local beekeeping community by encouraging the propagation of strong, well-adapted bee colonies. Look for suppliers who prioritize the health and welfare of their bees, as this is often a good indicator of the quality of the bees you’ll be purchasing.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the supplier’s breeding practices and their bees’ resistance to common diseases such as Varroa mites and American foulbrood.

As you embark on your beekeeping journey, remember that the success of your first hive is closely tied to the health and adaptability of your bees. By sourcing local bees that are adapted to your region, you’re setting your hive up for a higher chance of success and contributing to the overall health of the local bee population. With disease resistance, genetic diversity, and foraging efficiency all working in your favor, you’ll be well on your way to creating a thriving and successful hive that you can be proud of.

What Happens After You Order Your Bees

Once you place an order for your bees,  and after confirming your purchase from a reputable supplier, they will carefully package and ship your honey bee packages or nucs. These packages typically consist of a certain number of worker bees, a queen bee, and some sugar syrup to sustain them during transit. The bees are usually transported in specially designed boxes that ensure their safety and well-being during the journey.

When your nuc or bee packages come, it’s crucial to handle them with care. Inspect the bees to ensure they are healthy and active. Introduce them to their new hive by carefully transferring them into the hive box or frames. 

The queen bee plays a vital role in establishing a strong colony, so it’s important to ensure her safety and proper integration with the worker bees. From there, you’ll embark on an incredible beekeeping adventure, observing and nurturing your bees as they build their colony, collect nectar, and produce honey.

Remember to provide a suitable environment, proper nutrition, and regular monitoring to support the growth and well-being of your new bee family.

Can I Catch Bees Instead of Buying? Catching a Swarm

Catching a swarm can be an exciting and rewarding experience, as it allows you to add a colony of well-adapted, local bees to your apiary while helping to control their population in the wild. Swarm lures, which are scented attractants that mimic the natural pheromones released by bees, can be used to increase your chances of capturing a swarm.

To ensure beekeeping safety, it’s essential to wear protective clothing, such as a bee suit, gloves, and a veil, and to use a smoker to help calm the bees during the capturing process. Understanding colony behavior is crucial, as swarms often form when a colony becomes overcrowded and the queen bee leads a group of worker bees to find a new home.

Successfully capturing a swarm involves identifying the location of the queen bee, as the other bees will follow her. Once you’ve spotted the queen, gently brush her into a suitable container, such as a bee box or a swarm trap. The rest of the bees will typically follow her into the container, making the swarm relocation process much more manageable.

It’s important to be patient and gentle during this process to avoid agitating the bees and causing them to become defensive. Once the majority of the bees are in the container, secure the lid and transport the swarm to your apiary, where you can introduce them to their new hive.

When introducing the captured swarm to your hive, ensure that it’s thoroughly cleaned and prepared with frames for the bees to start building their new comb. Provide a source of sugar water to help the bees adjust to their new home and give them the energy they need to begin building.

Monitor the swarm closely during the first few days, making sure the queen bee is present and laying eggs, as her importance to the colony cannot be overstated. With proper care and attention, the captured swarm will adapt to their new hive and become a thriving part of your apiary.

Benefits of Wild Swarms Over Package Bees

You might wonder why capturing a wild swarm is worth the effort, but there are actually several benefits to incorporating these bees into your apiary. Wild bees, particularly those from feral colonies, have adapted to their environment and developed valuable traits that can contribute to the overall health and productivity of your apiary.

Some of the key benefits to consider include:

Wild benefits: Wild swarms have developed natural resistance to pests, diseases, and other environmental stressors, making them a hardier addition to your apiary.
Swarm importance: Capturing a wild swarm helps preserve and strengthen the local bee population, which is essential for pollination and ecosystem balance.
Natural pollinators: Wild swarms are highly effective pollinators, helping to improve the yield and quality of your garden, orchard, or other crops.

By capturing a wild swarm, you’re not only adding valuable members to your apiary but also contributing to the sustainability of your local bee population. Feral colonies have a strong genetic diversity that can improve the overall health and productivity of your apiary, making them an excellent addition for both new and experienced beekeepers.

Moreover, swarm sustainability is essential in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem and supporting pollination for the plants we rely on for food and other resources. So, don’t hesitate to capture a wild swarm when the opportunity arises. Embrace the chance to incorporate these resilient and resourceful bees into your apiary, and experience the benefits firsthand.

As you continue to grow and develop your beekeeping skills, you’ll appreciate the unique qualities and advantages that wild swarms bring to the table. After all, a successful apiary thrives on diversity, adaptability, and sustainability.

Video – Why Choose Nucs Over Packages

Final Thoughts

Beekeeping is an exciting and rewarding hobby for both beginners and experienced beekeepers. Starting your own colony of bees can be achieved through various methods, such as purchasing bees from a local beekeeper or obtaining a package of bees or nucs.

Nucs, or nucleus colonies, are small, self-sustaining bee colonies that come with a queen bee, worker bees, brood, and honey stores. They provide a solid foundation for new beekeepers and are a great way to start your beekeeping experience. With a nuc, you can install the bees directly into your prepared hive, allowing them to quickly establish their comb and expand their colony.

Another popular option is purchasing package bees, which consist of a certain number of worker bees and a queen bee. These bees are often caged and come with a feeder of sugar syrup to sustain them during transit.

Package bees are a convenient choice for beekeepers who prefer to witness the colony’s growth from the very beginning. After installing the bees into your hive, they will construct comb, lay eggs, and raise brood to expand the colony.

To support their development, beekeepers use essential beekeeping supplies such as feeders, smokers, and beekeeping books to ensure the bees thrive and overwinter successfully.

Whether you choose nucs or package bees, it’s crucial to establish a strong and healthy hive. Provide your bees with a suitable hive, complete with frames for the bees to build their honeycomb. As an aspiring beekeeper, you’ll learn the intricacies of managing worker bees, the queen, and the brood.

It’s also important to keep an eye out for swarms of bees, which can occur when the colony grows too large for the hive.

By maintaining a local apiary and connecting with experienced beekeepers, you can gain valuable insights and guidance for a successful beekeeping journey. Embrace the wonders of beekeeping and enjoy the sweet rewards of nurturing your own colony of bees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *