How Do I Get My First Bees?

by Julie Tennis on January 20, 2012

There are several methods for acquiring your first colony of bees:

Make Friends with a Beekeeper

Perhaps the easiest method is to befriend a beekeeper and offer your property as a location for one or more of their hives. This is how I got started. The benefit of this approach is that you get to see what it is like to have bees on your property before you are financially committed to the endeavor. You can find local beekeepers by contacting your state’s beekeepers association. When you talk with potential beekeeper “partners” find out how they feel about you capturing and keeping any swarms that come off their hive. This leads to the second easiest method: catching swarms!

Catch a Swarm

Swarms are basically a colony of bees looking for a new home.  If you have someplace for them to live, you can easily capture a swarm and transfer them into their new hive.  I built my apiary from one hive to ten using this method.  The only downfall to getting your bees from swarms is that you have to wait until mid to late summer before the hives start swarming.  If you don’t have colonies on your property you can add your name to your state’s beekeepers association swarm list.  This isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get called to catch a swarm, but it is the way to get free bees.

Buy Bees

This is a method I have not attempted yet.  There are many beekeepers who raise bees for sale.  If you plan to buy your bees, you should order them soon.  Each beekeeper goes into the winter with only so many colonies or queens for sale.  If you don’t get on the list early you may have to wait until later in the summer to acquire new bees.  When you’re buying bees you can purchase a “package” or a “nuc.”  The nuc will be more expensive but will be worth the cost.  Package bees are just a few pounds of bees (usually 3 or 5) in a box with a queen and some food.  A nuc will have actual frames of honey and possibly brood (baby bees).  The reason this is superior is that your new bees will have a jump start on reproduction and food storage, giving them a greater chance of survival and allowing them to go into the following winter with more reserves.  You can find bee dealers in your area by doing a search on the internet and/or looking on your state’s beekeepers association website.


Cheers!  🙂




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