How to Buy Honey Bees for Your Hive
Buying honey bees is the most common way for new beekeepers to begin the hobby. There are several different options to consider when purchasing bees. In fact, this can seem like an overwhelming decision for beginner beekeepers. You want to make the best choices for your hives.
Learning how to buy honey bees is one of the first tasks facing a new beekeeper. I mean, you can’t be a beekeeper until you have bees, right?
A few new beekeepers will be lucky enough to receive a starter colony from a friend. But, most of us will be faced with buying bees for our first hives.
There are several way to purchase new bees. Availability and cost are major factors. If you need to have bees shipped, expect to pay more to cover postage.
Also, how many hives do you need for your apiary. Some retailers give discounts to beekeepers who buy several packages – perhaps you can combine your order with a friend.
When Should You Buy Bees
As late Summer fades into Fall and Winter, bee suppliers will begin taking orders for honey bees. Yes, order taking begins months before bees are scheduled to arrive.
This allows the grower to develop a plan for how many new colonies is needed for Spring.
If you want bees for Spring delivery, order them as far in advance as possible. After Christmas is a common time for bee orders to begin in earnest.
There is always an element of risk involved – no one can guarantee that you will be successful with the bees.
But, a reputable bee supplier will do everything possible to deliver healthy bees and be there to give advice and answer questions after the sale.
Your bees become your responsibility as soon as you have them in hand. It is time to put your training into practice.
Always consider taking some bee classes . They can be very helpful for new beekeeper.
If you have problems with your new bees or the queen, convince the supplier that you have made every effort to be a good beekeeper.
Why Beekeepers Buy Bees
Buying bees is a new concept for those unfamiliar with beekeeping. Some folks think they can just put out a hive and the bees will come.
This can happen for those lucky enough to catch a bee swarm! However, this does not always occur at the time when you are ready to begin.
Buy Bees to Start New Hives
If you are really serious about starting this year, plan on finding some bees for sale to ensure your new beehive isn’t empty.
Providing new colonies to beekeepers is a major part of the beekeeping industry. Thousands of packages of honey bees are sold each year.
Approach this part of your beekeeping journey as you would any financial transaction.
Ask questions, if you have beekeepers in your region and you ask enough people, you can get a good feel for the best place to buy your bees.
Buying Honey Bees to Replace Lost Colonies
In addition to new beekeepers, experienced beekeepers buy bees as well. Some of them, “us”, will be replacing colonies that did not make it through the winter.
Even though I have been a beekeeper for years, it is rare that I do not need to buy a few replacement packages.
Don’t feel like a failure if you lose colonies – it happens. And, it happens to just about everyone – they just don’t all admit it.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Bees?
The price you pay for bees depends on several factors. Whether you buy package bees, a nucleus colony or a full hive, the time of year and availability affects price.
In general, package prices vary from $125 to $200 plus shipping (if applicable.) Expect nucs to be in the $200 range and of course a full hive is often over $200.
Where to Buy Honey Bees
Most of the suppliers raising honey bees in the US are found in the South. States like Florida and Georgia are centers of honey bee rearing on a very large scale.
Their short mild winters are ideal for colony growth. Honey bee colonies living in the South will be large productive colonies when northern winter lingers.
This is why most of the “bee package” producers are in Georgia. Are these southern bees suited for life in other climates? This is a topic of great debate.
Purchasing bees local to your region could be helpful. However, cooler regions will not have large quantities of bees ready early in the season. If you miss the “nectar flow” you may miss the chance to make a honey crop.
A quick internet search will find the bee sources nearest to you. Ask local beekeepers, contact the nearest beekeeping club.
Beware of re-sellers who drive to Georgia, purchase bees and sell them in Wisconsin as locals !
Don’t laugh – it happens. And there is no harm at all – as long as the consumer knows what they are buying.
I have purchased bees from Georgia for years and have had good luck with my colonies.
Ordering Honey Bees Online
Being able to pick up your bees in person is great because you get to see exactly what you are getting.
However, you can buy honey bees online and have them shipped right to your front door.
The United States Postal Service will have the honor of delivering many bee packages. Admittedly, your postal carrier may not be thrilled with the job.
Ask questions before placing your order – not every carrier promises live delivery. Read the terms of service carefully when ordering bees to be shipped.
You want to know: how will the bees be shipped, are the bees insured, if they are insured and the package arrives damaged – do you have to file a claim with the post office or will the supplier replace the bees?
Buy Honey Bees In A Package
The most popular method of getting bees in the United States is to buy a package of bees.
The bee package includes bees of all kinds: 1 queen, workers and even some drones (male bees).
This is the easiest method for new beekeepers because the colony is small and easy to work with. But there are some things to consider when choosing a package.
Buying Bees In a 5 Frame Nuc Hive
The common term “nuc” is short for nucleus. A nucleus colony is the “heart” of a hive. When you buy a bee nuc, you are getting a mini colony ready to grow.
You are buying several frames of honeycomb with bees, brood, food and a queen.
A nucleus colony grows quicker than a package of bees. This is due in large part to the fact that the nuc already has several frames of honeycomb.
But, there are some advantages and disadvantages of purchasing nucs too.
Buying Bees In An Established Hive
Another option of getting bees is to buy an established full hive. This can be a bit overwhelming to a new beekeeper as established hives are sometimes more defensive.
However, you do avoid the risk of having to introduce a new queen. And, the colony should have everything it needs to be grow and be productive.
Buying a full hive does not come without risks. Unless you purchase from a good beekeeper with a reputation to protect, you run the risk of getting a weak or sick hive.
Also, anytime you purchase bees with honeycomb, there is a risk of pests inside the hive.
What are the Best Honey Bees to Buy?
There are several types of honey bees available to purchase. While some strains do better in certain climates, receiving healthy, pest-free bees is probably more important than any particular breed.
However, if you can find bees that have good genetics for mite resistance, they are desirable – regardless of the race or breed.
How do You Get Bees: Step by Step
- chose your favorite method to buy bees : packages (most popular)
- research available suppliers
- order your bees early (Dec-Feb)
- read and learn all you can before your bees arrive
A Last Word on Buying Honey Bees:
With method of getting bees for your hive is best and which bee should you buy? Well…
A common saying is : “If there is one thing beekeepers can agree on – it’s that beekeepers can’t agree on one thing !”
This is certainly true when discussing many beekeeping topics. And, as you do your research, you will find that this is also true when buying honey bees.