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Getting the first bees


Once my Flow Hive arrives, I will need to introduce bees. This is the most basic of questions, but I haven’t been able to really get a straight, clear answer: How do I get my first bees to begin the have? Do I need to order a nuc from a regional supplier? (I live in California.) The nuc option seem simplest, but is also quite an expense. Is it best to try to find a swarm and move it? Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!


You’ll likely get 20 responses with 25 different methods and options lol. That being said as a beginner a Nuc might be the best and easiest solutions as it lets you just swap out the frames into the new box and basically be done. You could also just buy a package of bees with a mated queen. Trapping a swarm is always an option but adds a few more levels of difficulty ie getting the trap, baiting the trap, finding the correct location for the trap etc etc. To begin, a nuc or package may be the least intimidating and easiest way to start until you get your bee-legs under you. The added expense may be well spent if you don’t get frustrated or overwhelmed just trying to get started.


First get some lessons in beekeeping and some actual hands on experience. Do you have a local beekeeping group?
That’s a good place to start.
Then order your bees.
Somebody once said, "The best way to make a small fortune from beekeeping is to start with a large one."
The bees are your powerhouse. They will hopefully produce a crop for you so it pays to get the best you can.
You can get a nucleus and build them up. I don’t know how long the season is in California but here in the UK we wouldn’t expect much of a crop from them in the first year.
The other alternative is a package (which is a box of bees by weight with a caged mated queen) you just shake them into your hive and feed to start with.
Once your bees have filled the brood box largely with brood you can put a honey super on to collect the surplus (in this case your flow flames).

By all means go for a swarm but you don’t have any provenance (genes and disease come to mind).
Happy beekeeping


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All good advice. Thank you Dexter!


I would suggest joining a local club. That way you’ll hopefully have good experienced people close by with local knowledge. Often through local clubs you may find people who are wanting to split hives or hear of swarms and possibly come help or show you how to catch a swarm. There are a few people from California on this forum who may be able to recommend some clubs.


Thank you, Jake, for the helpful replies. I appreciate you sharing your experiences.


where do I buy bees?
Ottawa, Canada


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If there is a local beekeeper in town (yellow pages) try there first. Internet search all will help in finding bees. 3# lbs of bee and purchase an in-hine feeder type that look like frame (black), also be sure to purchase ladder for inside of feeder for bees to access sugar water if not part of package.


I checked my hive a few days ago and there are only about 100 bees and the process of building the comb is going extremely slow should I add another package of bees or will the colony build up quickly? P.S I still have a queen.


When you checked your bees, could you see a reason for their demise? Was the queen laying up in fully drawn comb (eggs and larva)? Any dead bees in the cells, on the bottom of the hive or out the front? I fear that adding more bees may only result in their demise too. If you are member of a local club or have a mentor, I would advise getting an experienced opinion. The reason could be disease or a pest (varroa, SHB). I am not familar with your location or climate and can only offer a vague diagnosis. It is possible to build bee numbers up from such a low population, I managed to do it only a few months back. The queen needs to be young, the hive to be warm with fully drawn comb and lots of food, this comes from a weekly injection of a honey and pollen frames, a frame of capped brood also helps.


That doesn’t sound good. Bees should be in the thousands. If the population has dwindled into the hundreds you probably need to do something or start looking for a new swarm or package to replace or strengthen them with. Did you start with a 3# package to begin with? If your bees died off that fast you should probably look around to see if anyone is spraying pesticides as that is a pretty dramatic die off.