Where, oh where do you acquire your first hive or find your first queen, we cover where to get your bees in this informative guide!
Once you’ve got your hive in the garden, the next step is to secure a source of bees. In this article, we’ll be talking about methods and tips for sourcing the best honeybees.
First, we recommend getting connected with your local Beekeepers Association. Talk to as many experienced beekeepers in your area as possible. Experienced beekeepers will often have advice on the best place to get bees for your climate.
Honeybees adapt quickly and many strains thrive in different climates. That’s why the best way to get bees is to catch a feral swarm.
How To Catch A Bee Swarm
A swarm is not the same thing as a herd of cows, nor a pack of dogs. It describes the natural process by which honeybee colonies reproduce.
The colony raises the new Queens and the original Queen leaves two hives with about half the worker bees. Swarms land on structures close to their original hives and scout bees leave the cluster in search of a new hive location.
The benefit of populating your hive with a swarm of bees is that they are local and guaranteed to have survived the winter in the climate (wherever it is that you live.)
Getting a swarm to populate your hive is not a guarantee. If you plan to begin beekeeping this year you will want to have a source for your bees well secured before the season starts. Reserving a honeybee package is one of the only ways to guarantee a source for bees able to populate any hive style.
You can read more on how to catch a swarm and install it in your beehive here.
Buying Bee Packages
Bee packages are another method for you to source your bees. They come with screen boxes with one mated queen in a cage and roughly 3 lbs of worker bees, this is about 10,000 individuals.
When choosing your package supplier you should take the following into account:
- Buy local. This will minimize the environmental impact of trucking or flying them across the and may provide you with bees that are better acclimated to your area
- Buy hygienic. In today’s varroa mite dominated world bees, that innately groom themselves and the rest of the hive of mites will have a significant advantage over bees that don’t. Look for rushing or suppressed mite reproduction SMR honeybee strains for this behaviour.
- Buy treatment-free. Determine whether the package supplier is treatment free. If they do use treatments find out which ones they’re using. Cutting a colony off from chemicals they’re used to can be fatal. If you plan on going treatment free wean them off those chemicals slowly.
Buying Nucleus Colonies
One of the most common methods of obtaining bees is by getting a nuc from a breeder. A nuk, short for a nucleotide, is a mini hive with 3-5 built out frames of honey and brood with one queen and enough worker bees to maintain and expand the colony.
Frames can be fit to a full-sized hive configuration. In hive style, introducing nucs is one of the best ways to start your colony.
If you are a beginner beekeeper, purchasing a package or catching a swarm will be your best bet. Each beekeeper has their own preference for obtaining bees. If you are starting with more than one beehive, try out multiple methods to see what works best for you.