ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Buying Honeybees, The Options

Updated on November 12, 2011
Source

To start beekeeping, you have to have bees. There are four main ways to obtain them:

1) Feral Swarm: This is the least expensive way to get bees, free is as cheap as it gets; it is also the least reliable. You might wait all spring and never get a chance to catch a swarm. Also, you don’t know anything about the genetics of the bees that you catch.

2) Established Hive: Just what it sounds like, a full blown colony of bees with a laying queen and several frames of brood. The advantage of buying an established hive is that you might make some honey your first year. The disadvantage is that this is the most expensive way to get bees. Price varies with the time of year and the size of the hive. Bees in the spring, before things start to bloom and the nectar starts to flow, are worth more than bees in the fall that will have to be overwintered.

A good colony in early spring
A good colony in early spring | Source

3) Nuc: Short for nucleus colony, this is a mini-colony, usually made up of five deep frames. A good nuc has a minimum of two frames of brood, a well established queen, and three or four frames of bees. The advantages of a nuc are that you get the full age range of bees, and the brood that will soon be hatching. You can see that the queen has been accepted by the colony and you can examine her laying pattern. Put a good nuc on a nectar flow and its population will explode. In some areas of the country, if you can get a nuc early enough in the spring, it might make some honey the first year. If there is a disadvantage to a nuc, it is that most are made up of deep frames. If you have chosen to use all medium equipment, then you will have to start with a deep box for you nuc and go through a season long process of moving your bees into medium equipment. It can be done, I have done it, but it is a hassle. Medium nucs, when available, cost the same amount as deep nucs, but, because the frames are smaller, you are getting fewer bees for your money.

A look inside a five frame nuc
A look inside a five frame nuc | Source

4) Package: This is the least expensive way to purchase bees. Package bees are literally shaken from the frames of an established hive into a box with wire mesh sides. A queen in her own small cage is hung inside the box so that she is surrounded by the other bees. Lastly, a can with small holes in the lid is filled with sugar syrup or corn syrup and placed in the box so that the bees have something to eat during their confinement. Packages are sold by weight, with three pounds being the most popular size.

Packages are readily available and can be shipped through the mail. They don’t get started as quickly as a nuc, because there is no brood. The population of a hive established from a package will have an initial drop as the original bees die before the first new bees have hatched. You don’t get to inspect the queen’s laying pattern and there is no guarantee that they will accept the new queen, although, after having been around her for several days in the package box, they usually do.

A three pound package. The queen is in a separate cage inside of the cluster of bees.
A three pound package. The queen is in a separate cage inside of the cluster of bees. | Source

So which option is the best?

Any of the above methods of obtaining bees will work, but for my money, a nuc is probably the best way to go. Give it a nectar flow and room to expand and a nuc will take off. Hopefully, since the queen is already in the nuc and laying, I avoid some of the queen problems that I might have with a package. This is not to say that you can’t get a good start with a package, thousands of successful colonies are started every year with packages, but I lean toward a nuc, if available.

When Should I Get My Bees?

Get your bees in the spring. In most parts of the country, April is the best month to establish a new colony; lots of plants are blooming and there is plenty for the bees to eat. If you live in one of the southern states where commercial beekeepers go to winter their bees, you might be tempted to buy bees in the fall when they are less expensive. This isn’t a good idea your first year. Start in the spring when you have the greatest chance of success. Bees cost more in the spring, but you have several months to learn and gain skill before dealing with the subtleties of overwintering.

While you will receive your bees in the spring, you need to order them in the fall. Good bee producers almost always have a long waiting list of customers, especially for the April and early May delivery dates. Plan ahead and order early.

The Beekeeper's Handbook
The Beekeeper's Handbook

This is the best beekeeping book for beginners.

 

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Wib Magli profile imageAUTHOR

      Wib Magli 

      7 years ago from Tennessee and Alabama

      hecate-horus:

      Thank you. Do get bees when you can. Beekeeping is a lot of fun.

    • hecate-horus profile image

      hecate-horus 

      7 years ago from Rowland Woods

      Thanks for such a great hub! My uncle is a beekeeper, and I got the honor of helping him for a day. I hope to have some bees of my own someday, and this info was definitely helpful!

    • Wib Magli profile imageAUTHOR

      Wib Magli 

      7 years ago from Tennessee and Alabama

      Guthrie:

      That's a great gift. They'll think of you every time that they taste that sweet honey, or every time that they get stung:)

    • profile image

      Guthrie 

      7 years ago

      Fascinating. The bees will be a gift for my son and his wife in N.C.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)