An expected question for the beginner beekeeper, how do I source bees and how should I start my colony?
A nuc (nucleus), package and split would be the most common methods for starting a colony and all have their independent pros and cons.
This is usually sourced from a local bee supplier and arrives in a core flute (plastic) box including 5 brood frames (Langstroth full depth frames), a few thousand bees, a mated queen, brood and honey/pollen. It’s basically a mini colony that the new beekeeper can simply transfer from the nuc into their Flow brood box.
Starting with a package of bees I believe is most common in the USA. The breeder offers pick-up or delivery of a box of bees including a queen with no comb or brood. The package of bees is shaken into the brood box and the colony needs to be nurtured to success e.g. feeding sugar syrup if required to boost them for comb production.
It’s a bee colony’s natural progressive step in life to multiply. Particularly in spring when supply (forage) meets demand (growing bee colony) and this manifests as swarming. Before the colony reaches the point of swarming and there are queen cells present the hive can be split. There are other methods of splitting such as introducing an outsourced queen with an equal split of brood box resources or a ‘walk away’ split. The new beekeeper basically needs to source a beekeeper and hive that are willing and able to share their goods with them.
I would suggest researching or finding reviews/feedback on the bee supplier you’re looking at to ensure they’re a trusted and reliable source. It’s important that the bees/comb are free from diseases such as AFB (some small hive beetle is normal and ok) and the bees/queen are raised well with adequate food and have food stores with them. If you receive a nuc with only 3 drawn frames, for example, I would be questioning this with the supplier. Also keep in mind that the local going rate for a nuc/package bees includes a mated queen.
Do our seasoned beekeepers have anything to add to this, or can suggest anything in particular to look out for?
And if you’re new, do you have any questions?
More information and tutorials on how to source bees can be found here- How do I get bees?