If you’ve decided to start beekeeping, you might wonder where you’ll get bees from? What should you look for in a good source of bees? Should you buy nucs or package bees? Or maybe catch a swarm?
First, you need to decide if you want to buy nucs or package bees. A nuc is short for a nucleus colony. It is basically a little starter hive of bees already in frames that you just slip into your Langstroth hive. You need to use a Langstroth hive; you cannot use a nuc in a top-bar hive. Our first set of bees was a package; this year, we are adding a nuc colony.
BUYING A “NUC” BEE COLONY
After talking to many beekeepers, I think a “nuc” is the way to, especially for your first hive. You’ll need to find a local beekeeper who sells a nucleus (nuc) colony of bees. A quick Google search will reveal local bee groups in your area. Also, search Facebook for beekeeping groups in your area. Both of these searches should be able to help you find a reputable dealer.
A nuc consists of four to five frames of brood and bees, plus an actively laying queen. You transfer the frames (bees and all) from the nuc box into your own hive. The box usually goes back to the supplier unless you pay for it. The cost of keeping the box from our nuc was $15. For us, it was worth paying not to have to spend the time and gas to return it.
Buying your bees from a local source is far less stressful for the bees since they don’t have to travel via the mail or UPS. The other plus is you can also be reasonably sure that the bees will do well in your geographic area. After all, these bees have been living in the area. They should be accustomed to the weather and native flowers.
PURCHASING A PACKAGE OF BEES
Package bees are usually of different ages, mixed together from different hives. They are not related to each other, and they were not part of the same colony. Their queen is artificially raised. Even though this is not a natural colony of bees, once installed in your hive, the bees can adapt, organize into a colony and begin their work of making honey and reproducing.
Since you are placing them in a new hive, it does take longer to start seeing larva because the bees have to build out the frames. With a nuc, the bees have already begun that process.
When the package of bees arrives, you will need to have everything in place and provide some basic care immediately.
CATCH A SWARM
Swarms are free, but this isn’t for the first-year beekeeper. Capturing a wild swarm can be tricky for someone who never has handled bees and possibly dangerous. With a swarm, you won’t know the genetics or temperament of the hive. Africanized bees are the most notable for their swarming tendency. Can you imagine going out, capturing a swarm only to find out they were Africanized, YIKES!
Do you have any questions about obtaining bees? Let me know in the comment section. Do you currently keep bees? How did you get your colony?