Buying Bees for Your Hive

Have you been looking for a new hobby and finally decided on beekeeping? Great choice!  Beekeeping is a great hobby for several reasons and could even become a sweet little side hustle. But like any hobby, you need to be sure you do your research and have all of the proper equipment to get started. 

At Galena Farms, we offer a variety of hives to choose from, as well as hive parts like hive boxes, top covers, inner covers, and more! While we can provide you with the hive and all the hive parts you need to get started on your beekeeping journey, there is one more important thing you need — the bees! 

In this article, we will discuss things you need to know about honey bees and how to obtain them. Read on to learn more!

Know What Types of Bees You Want

There are many different types of bees to choose from, so choosing the type you want is the first step. Here are some of the most common honey bees beekeepers choose:

  • Italian Bees, Apis mellifera ligustica: These are the most popular honey bees. They are relatively gentle, overwinter well, breed well, excellent forager bees, and can produce a lot of honey in a short time. They are prone to wander due to a weak sense of orientation and they are prone to rob nectar from other colonies and feeders. 
  • Caucasian Bees, Apis mellifera caucasica: These bees are very gentle, rarely swarm, and may drift or rob from other colonies. They are a great option for high honey yields and are highly recommended for regions with fluctuating weather. They may gum up their hives with tree resin and beeswax. 
  • Carniolan Bees, Apis mellifera carnica: These bees are extremely gentle, not prone to robbing, and have good orientation. They are a more economical option since they have a low consumption during wintertime. They swarm excessively and the queen bee regulates the hive population of worker bees if nectar and pollen are scarce. 
  • Buckfast Bees, Apis mellifera: These bees are highly resistant to disease, produce high honey yields, are gentle, and have a low tendency to swarm. They overwinter incredibly well and are well adapted to cool climates. 

These are only a few of the many different honey bees you can get to start your hive. Be sure to do research on which bees do well in your area to help you make your decision. Some bees are more susceptible to the cold, so depending on where you are and the climate, you will want to choose your type of bee accordingly. 

Best Time to Buy Bees

Once you figure out which bees you want, you will want to get your order in as soon as possible. While you won’t pick up or receive your bees until the spring, in some areas, bees are in high demand and ordering should take place in winter or even as early as the fall. The earlier you put in your order for honey bees, the easier it will be for you to get the option you are looking for. If you are trying to start beekeeping this year, find a local supplier and get your order in as soon as possible so you can start come springtime! 

Ordering your honey bees early can also ensure that you get your bees early enough to take advantage of the first warm days of spring. This will allow you to make the most of beekeeping season with your new hive. 

As you continue on your beekeeping journey, keep in mind that you may lose a few hives during the winter, so you may need to order new bees to replace them in the spring, but again, be sure to put these orders in early!  

Different Ways to Get Bees

One question you may still have is how to actually obtain bees. In a previous article, we covered where to get bees. We will share the highlights of that article here to ensure you have all the information you need about getting bees in one spot, but to get all of the details, be sure to go back and read our previous article. The first thing you need to know is that there are 5 main ways to get bees. Those include:

  • Finding a Swarm: While this method may seem intense compared to simply buying some bees, the hardest part is finding the swarm. Once you have located the swarm, it can be pretty simple to retrieve them, bring them home, and move them into your beehive. The act of swarming is natural and how bees reproduce into more colonies. Since swarming bees left their hive with their queen and have no permanent home, they have nothing to protect, meaning they are generally gentle and more docile. 
  • Baiting a Swarm: While baiting a swarm is similar to finding a swarm, it initially costs more in material, is a little more difficult, and takes just as much luck. However, once you have it all set up, it takes little effort. For this method, you will set up a bait box, which will last for years, and use bait, which could be lemongrass oil, drawn frames, or charred wood. The main difference between baiting and finding a swarm is that with baiting, you are trying to convince the scout bees that your bait box should become their new permanent home. 
  • Splitting a Hive: Splitting a hive could possibly get you bees for free. For this method, you need to know a beekeeper who is willing to give you some eggs to help you start your own hive. This is a more advanced technique for obtaining bees and your beekeeper buddy will need to know what they are doing. If you know a beekeeper who has been in the game for a while and is willing to split their hive for you, this is a great option, but if not, it is best to pick one of the other choices to obtain bees. 
  • Buying a Package: A package of bees usually comes in a wooden box about the size of a shoebox. The package will include 3 pounds of worker bees, a queen in a queen cage, and a can of sugar syrup for the bees to eat while traveling by mail or car. The queen cage keeps the queen safe as the worker bees start to adapt to her pheromone. While a package of bees is a good option, it means that the bees will be starting from scratch, which means your bees are less likely to start producing brood and honey right away. 
  • Buying a Nuc: Buying a Nuc is the least risky way to obtain bees and is a great option for first-year beekeepers. Nucs comes with 5 drawn-out frames full of brood, a queen, and a few pounds of bees. When you buy a Nuc, you are buying a mini hive that is already established. You can purchase 3, 4, or 5-frame Nucs, but it is recommended that you start with 5 frames.

While all of these methods can get bees into your hive, buying a Nuc is the easiest and most effective way to get your beekeeping journey started. No matter how you decide to obtain your bees, try to get your bees from a local supplier, and if possible, have them overwintered. 

When you buy local, your bees have already adapted to the region’s environment, climate, pollen, and nectar. The bees will be able to identify what is considered food and will start harvesting quickly. Having the queen overwintered will also help ensure your bees will survive the winter in your local climate, giving your bees more of a fighting chance. 

Have the Right Supplies

Now that you know the types of bees to buy, the best time to buy them, and where to buy them, it is time to make sure you have the right supplies to start beekeeping! Some of the main things you will need are the hive, protective clothing, hive tools, a smoker, a bee brush, and bee feeders. You will also want to set up your hive before you get your bees so that you can easily install your honey bees when they arrive. 

Beekeeping requires quite a bit of equipment to get started, but once you do get started you will likely not have to invest in new equipment for a while. A good option for first-time beekeepers is to invest in a beekeeper starting kit!

At Galena Farms, we have a collection of starter kits that will provide you with everything you need in your first year as a new beekeeper! We also offer a variety of hives, hive parts, tools, and accessories to help you take your beekeeping hobby to the next level! Be sure to shop around to find the products you need to get started and get in touch if you have any questions. Hopefully, this article helped you get a better idea of how to start your hive and obtain the right bees for your beekeeping journey!