When you start with beekeeping there is a lot of things you should know how to do. Deciding where to set the hives or what equipment you need, there is also a question of how to get bees for your hive and you do not know where to start. When i started beekeeping I had to research a lot so I will share with you what helped me.
So where to get or buy bees to start bee-keeping?
There are several ways for you to get the bee colony and the easiest one is to buy it in the store and take them back home for installation.
Of course, there is more to that and we have made a sort of a guide for this topic so let’s start.
Few Words about the Bee Colony
Before you get your colony you have to know a bit about what type bees do we have in the colony. There are different types of bees that has has a specific job in the colony.
Worker bees are female bees and they are in charge of the hive maintenance, building the comb, collecting food, guarding the entrance and nurturing the eggs are laid by the queen. Drones are male bees and their main purpose is to mate with the queen.
Queen B is the mother of them all and her main job is laying eggs all the time.
You have several options on how to get the bees to get them in the wild or buy them from the supplier. When i started i have decided to buy them because it was the easiest and safest way to do it. You can decide beside the nucleus hive or package bees.
Packaged bees are available in a 2 pound, 3 pound, or even in a 4 pound package.
In the package, you have working bees, drones, and young queen bee in a special container/cage that is hanging inside and she is separated from the other bees.
Because the queen bee is separated from the rest of the bees when the package is installed you have to introduce the queen with the colony and usually, it is done spontaneously. The queen bee cage is plugged with food and you should let the working bees eat their way to the queen setting her free.
1 pound is approximately 3000 bees and that is enough for one frame so if you get 3 ponds you will start with enough bees for 3 frames and your colony has a better chance of growing and surviving.
Nucleus hive or the nuc as the beekeepers call them and they are usually in a 4 or 5 frame colony that is half of the standard hive. It is usually Langstroth frames packed in a wooden or cardboard box.
That frames consist of combs, brood (the place where babies are laid), honey, working bees, drones and young queen so everything you need to start your own hive.
The advantage with nuc is that you have formed a colony that will be able to grow.
But the downside is that there is a possibility that honeycomb can be infected by pests or diseases that can destroy the colony.
Getting the Bees From the Wild Swarm
An alternative to buying the bees is getting wild bees for free. The swarm of bees is possible to find in the wild and it usually a result of overcrowded hive some of the bees decide to move out and start their own colony. This occurs usually in the springtime.
The process of collecting the swarm is not too hard just follow these steps
When you find wild swarm ask the experienced beekeepers for help and wear protective clothing. Prepare the smoker and some sugar-water to calm the bees and attract them to the hive.
If the swarm is on the branch of the tree you can cut it and slowly position the swarm over the container. When you are well-positioned either put the branch and the swarm into the container or shake them off into the container.
If the swarm is against the flat surface you can brush them inside the box with a gentle brush. In any case, use the smoke to calm them down or to make them go the way you want them to go.
The downside of this type of colony is that could they could be infected by disease or queenless and it is very hard to locate the wild queen. Also you have been certain that you are allowed to cut the branch or take the swarm because it could be on somebody’s property so check it before you decide to collect the wild swarm.
Which Honey Bee Supplier to Choose?
When deciding to buy honey bees you should first try to get honeybees that are local and used to the climate. So try to find a local supplier and ask him a few questions on how is he treating the bees for mites or how does he feeds them.
This is important because if the supplier is regularly treating bees for mites you should keep the same practice because if you don’t the colony will most likely collapse.
Also if the supplier is feeding the bees a lot you will have to do the same because the bees are used to it and if you put them on a diet they can become weak and will struggle to survive the winter.
What are the Reasons for Buying Bees?
There are numerous reasons for buying the honeybees. For example, if you are a new beekeeper you need bees to start beekeeping or if you are a beekeeper that wants to expand the number of colonies. Also if the winter was strong and your hive did not make it so you want to replace it.
There is always a possibility to get the wild swarm for free but there is a lot of difficulties to get it. Like if the swarm is small or infected with a disease you will have trouble keeping them alive during winter. It can also happen that there is no queen in the swarm and if you do not have a young queen to take her to replace it will collapse
When Should You Order the Honeybees and How Much Does it Cost?
Most of the bee suppliers are taking orders for honey bees in January. Make sure you reserve your bees on time because there is a limited number of orders that suppliers are able to take and they sell out pretty fast. The package/nuc will be ready in springtime usually in April and that is the best month to start with your new colony because they will have time to grow strong and you will have more bees working for you at the start of the nectar flow.
Nuc and Package Bees Price
The price of the nuc is usually between 150 and 300 depending on size and supplier
For the packaged bees price vary also on the size and suppler
2 pound packaged bees are between 95 and 135
3 pound packaged bees between 130 -160
How Many Bees are in the Average Hive and How Much Honey One Hive Produce?
An average 10 frame hive colony consists of 50000 bees during the most active part of the season when the nectar flow is highest. But that number is changing rapidly especially during winter when half of the colony does not survive till spring.
Regarding the amount of honey you can expect from one hive depends on many reasons. Weather conditions during the season if there are too many rainy days bees will not be able to fly and collect the nectar, duration of nectar flow and strength of the colony.
If the colony is weak they will struggle to make enough honey for the winter and there will be no honey for you to harvest.
If the colony is strong and developed and the weather conditions are good you can expect 250 pounds of honey or even more.