Buying Bees: Starter Colonies for Beekeeping Beginners

Before beginning beekeeping, decide if bee packages, nucleus hives or swarms are best for your beeyard.

| March 2013

  • Bee package
    A bee package is a box that contains one mated queen and a bunch of bees from different hives.
    Photo By Mars Vilaubi
  • Homegrown Honey Bees
    "Homegrown Honey Bees" is a comprehensive, colorful and easily understood guide to how to keep bees.
    Cover Courtesy Storey Publishing

  • Bee package
  • Homegrown Honey Bees

Homegrown Honey Bees (Storey Publishing, 2012) is a beginner's guide that clearly explains everything you need to know on how to keep bees successfully, from getting your first bees to harvesting your first crop of honey. The following excerpt is a guide to starter colonies—a resource for discovering which kind of beginner setups may be best for you. For more on starting beekeeping, read A Guide to the Different Types of Honey Bees.

You can buy this book in the Mother Earth Living store: Homegrown Honey Bees.

When Buying Bees, which Starter Colony is Best?

Buy bees from quality suppliers, ideally from local sources that have bees adapted to local conditions. To find a bee supplier, ask for recommendations from beekeepers in your area, either through a local bee association or through the online forum at Beesource.com. Resist using an Internet search engine, which won’t filter for good reputation. Ask the supplier what the policy is for replacing a queen that is missing or dead on arrival. A key choice is whether to start with a package, a nucleus hive (also known as a nuc), or a swarm.

Bee Packages

A package is a box that contains one mated queen and a bunch of bees that have been collected from an assortment of different hives. A common size for the package, which is sold by weight, is 3 pounds, which roughly equals ten thousand bees. Since a package does not contain brood, pollen, honey, or drawn comb, the colony will be slow to build in strength and productivity.



Package pros:

• Can be introduced to any equipment, such as medium boxes, deep boxes, or top-bar hives
• Less expensive and more widely available
• No brood diseases






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