What You Should Know about Buying Bees
If you are interested in beekeeping for beginners, you are probably interested in finding out more about buying bees. The good news is that there are several way to acquire bees. Take some time to consider the options when you see those – honey bees for sale signs.
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?
Some new beekeepers will be lucky enough to receive a starter colony from a friend. But most of us will have faced with buying bees for our first beehives.
There are several options when it comes to buying honey bees. Consideration must be given to the price your are willing to pay. Also, how many bees do you need to start your new colony.
Honey Bees for Sale
As late Summer fades into Fall and Winter, live bee suppliers will begin taking orders for honey bees. This is the time to order bees for next year!
The whole process of purchasing bees can be very confusing to new beekeepers. There is always an element of risk involved.
But, a reputable bee supplier will do everything possible to deliver healthy bees.
It is important to remember that bees are living things and no seller can guarantee that you will have success with your bees.
Your new honey bees become your responsibility as soon as you have them in hand.
Once you take ownership of the bees, it is up to you to put your training into practice.
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.
Most supplies will stand behind their product if they feel at fault.
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 normally occur-at least for new beekeepers who have no experience.
If you are really serious about starting this year, plan on finding some bees for sale to ensure your new beehive isnt empty.
Keeping Beehive Records
One of the most important aspects of good beekeeping involves record-keeping.
Good hive records help you prevent repeating the same beekeeping mistakes over and over.
It is also a good practice to record your bee purchases. In this way, you don’t have to depend on your memory to know where a particular hive of bees originated.
I developed this Beekeeping Journal from years of experience in answering the questions of new beekeepers.
It is very useful and easy to use for a new beekeeper – yet involved enough to be beneficial to someone with a few years of experience.
Why Beekeepers Buy Bees
Providing new colonies to beekeepers is a major part of the beekeeping industry. (Read more about acquiring bees.)
Thousands of packages of honey bees are sold each year. Choose a bee supplier with a reputation for supplying quality bees.
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 For Restocking
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.
But 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.
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.
Most beekeepers agree that 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 I miss the “flow” I may miss the chance to make a honey crop. When you are searching for bees for sale, keep in mind that quantity doesn’t always mean quality.
If you are a new beekeeper, you may not know how to buy honey bees from local sources.
That’s okay. A quick internet search will find the bee sources nearest to you.
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 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. Not every carrier promises like delivery – ask questions when placing your bee order.
When ordering bees to be shipped, read the terms of service carefully. 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?
Buy Honey Bees In A Package
Purchasing “package bees” is the most popular method of buying honey bees in the United States.
The bee package includes bees of all kinds: 1 queen, workers and even some drones (male bees) will be inside.
This is the easiest method for new beekeepers. To learn more about ordering honey bees in this way, read – How to Buy Bee Packages.
Buy Bees In a 5 Frame Nuc
Okay, it sounds rather funny but the common term “nuc” is short for nucleus. A nucleus colony is the “heart” of a hive.
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.
Check out this post if you want to know more about the advantages and disadvantages of – How to Buy a Honey Bee Nuc
Buying Bees In An Established Hive
A few lucky beekeepers may find an established hive for sale. 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. The hive should have brood (babies), comb and honey.
In my online beekeeping class, I encourage beginning beekeepers to choose a package or nuc for their first hive.
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.
How to Buy Honey Bees: Step by Step
- chose your favorite method to order or buy bees : packages, nucs, hives
- order your bees early (Dec-Fed)
- read and learn all you can before your bees arrive
- prepare bee equipment early
Is there a best kind of bee to buy? Probably not.
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.The good news is that we beekeepers have several options for getting bees.
Whichever method of bee acquisition you choose, read, learn and prepare before your bees arrive.
Proper education and preparation will increase your chances of success. Take a couple of beekeeping classes. Read plenty of beekeeping books.