Min menu


Where To Buy Bees | A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Honey Bees

Equipment for Extracted Honey Production

You've made the decision to start beekeeping. You'll need honey bees in addition to the necessary equipment.

Local beekeepers or wholesalers may sell you bees for pick-up. Honey bees will be sent to you from online vendors. You may catch a swarm to acquire freebees, but this is not a good idea for novices. Honey bees are best obtained from reputable local beekeepers. Starter colonies and mated queens are available for purchase.

You must also specify whether you want your bees in a "bee package" or a "nucleus colony" when purchasing them (a nuc, for short).

This page goes over where to get bees, what to look for while buying them, how much they cost, and more.

When it comes to buying bees, there are a variety of options:

When deciding where to acquire a colony of bees, you must also consider two additional factors: the kind of bee you want and the format in which you want to receive them.

Bees of Different Types

Western (or European) honey bees are classed according to their "race," which reveals particular characteristics and origins.

The following races are often available for purchase:

  • Italians \sCarniolans
  • Caucasians \sRussians

Each race has characteristics that make it more (or less) appealing to beekeepers.

Working with Italians is seen to be rather gentle. They are good foragers and reproduce well, however, they may be more prone to robbing.

Carniolan bee populations grow quickly in the spring and survive the winter. Carniolans, on the other hand, may be more inclined to swarm than other races.

Furthermore, some vendors raise hybrid bees that are more resistant to Varroa mite infections.

For more information on these many alternatives, see our page on what sort of bees to purchase.

Bee Packages vs. Nucleus Colonies: Different Formats

Bee packages and nucleus colonies (or "nucs") are two types of starter colonies.

Packages for Bees

Bee shipments come in screened boxes with around 3 pounds of bees (mainly worker bees) and a caged queen (about 10,000). A can of sugar syrup is also included in the box to feed the bees until they can be installed in a hive.

The queen is kept in a cage for a few days while the bees get used to her.

The cheapest option is to buy a package of bees. Depending on the source, packages might be picked up locally or mailed to you.

Colonies with a Nucleus

A nucleus colony is a miniature hive containing five frames of bees and an established queen who has begun producing eggs.

A nuc might be a freshly constructed "spring" nucleus hive or an older "overwintering" nuc.

Nucs cost more than packages and are often available later in the spring. They are, however, simpler to set up, since they simply need the transfer of frames and bees to the new hive.

 Where Can I Get Bees?

Honey bees are sold via online sellers, local wholesalers, and local beekeepers. You may buy enough bees to establish a colony or a mated queen to replace a queen you already have.

Your local beekeeper is our first choice among these sorts of vendors.

Bees may be purchased from local beekeepers.

Buying bees locally provides a number of advantages, particularly when you're just getting started with beekeeping.

An experienced local beekeeper may be a great source of knowledge and help, especially when you're just getting started.

We acquired our first bees from a local beekeeper, for example. We first met him at a beginner's course he was teaching. We drew on his beekeeping skills numerous times throughout our first couple of years together. (Perhaps the fact that we also purchased honey from him helped.)

Overwintering bees are available in your region. In the northeast, winter colony losses are considerable. Colonies that make it through one winter in our location have a better chance of making it through consecutive winters. It's crucial to have the appropriate genes.

Local beekeeping groups might be found by searching for a local bee supplier. Members of the association are another source of information and assistance. Meet other beekeepers with varying degrees of expertise and viewpoints, and maybe make some new friends while you're at it.

For the bees, shipping is a stressful experience. The health of your bees, especially the queen, is a danger due to a lack of temperature controls in transportation and probable shipment delays. Local bees, on the other hand, may simply be picked up.

In the era of Covid, shipping has become a major issue. Backlogs and delays are becoming increasingly regular. If at all feasible, pick up your bees in person.

Depending on where you reside, "local" might refer to a broad region. If you live in a city or suburb, there aren't likely to be many bee dealers nearby. As a result, thinking in terms of "regional" is advantageous.

Purchase Bees from a Local Distributor

Large quantities of bees are sent directly to certain shops, which then distribute them locally. Orders may be placed either online or in person at the retailer's location.

Individual bee shipments are less likely to arrive on time under this approach.

The provider will contact you when and where to pick up your bees since deliveries are booked in advance. Although you may have to wait in line for a while, your bees will not be kept in a warehouse or on your doorstep for a lengthy amount of time.

It's important to remember that buying bees from a local distributor doesn't always indicate the bees were bred locally. Inquire about the bees' origins with the distributor.

Getting Your Bees Back To You

If you get your bees locally, there are a few things to keep in mind before taking them home.

  • Expect a straggler bee or two to join you in your vehicle. It's a good idea to place the bees in a mesh bag (breathable) to limit the chances of a hitchhiker buzzing around your head while you're driving. Accidents in automobiles are not in the budget.
  • Stopping and locking the bees in a hot automobile is not a good idea. It is harmful to your children, dogs, and new bees. So, even if you're just driving home, don't leave them in the trunk.
  • Make sure the bee container is firmly closed and that any possible holes are taped shut. You don't want them all loose in the bag when you arrive home, even if they're in a mesh bag.
  • For your travel, secure the bee bundle so it doesn't slide all over the place.

Last but not least,

BEFORE your bees come, have your hive set up and ready to go. You don't want your bees to be stuck in a cage or nuc while you decide on paint colors for their new home. After they come, you'll want to get them inside the hive as quickly as possible.