So, you've purchased all the required equipment, and you're ready to explore your options of honey bees for sale. Before you get started, make sure to let your new equipment air-out for at least three days before introducing your honey bees to their new home. This allows time for strong odors from lacquer to dissipate, and it will decrease the likely hood of your bees rejecting their new environment.
The next step is learning the different ways in which honey bees are sold, and deciding what type of honey bees for sale will be best for your needs.
Honey bees are sold in two different ways. You can purchase a package of honey bees, or you can purchase a nucleus colony, often called a nuc. (Regardless of which you choose, make sure you are buying from a reputable seller.)
In this article, we will discuss the two options of honey bees for sale, and you will have all the information you need to make a good decision between the two.
The Difference Between Package Bees vs. Nuc Colonies
A Package of honey bees will contain bees which are not the offspring of the included queen. Package bees contain a variety of different bee breeds, and can be shipped or picked-up, depending on the seller.
A nuc is sold as a small, established colony of bees, containing all the same breed, and a queen which has already begun to lay eggs. You will most likely need to find a seller that is located close to your area. Most sellers of nuc colonies will choose not to ship them because it jeopardizes the safety of the colony.
*There are many important factors to consider when opting for the shipment of honey bees for sale. Talk to your seller about all the different factors involved. We recommend buying honey bees from a local seller and picking your new bees up. It's best to use a truck to transport your bees home, which will give them the maximum ventilation, and ensure they don't overheat.
Overview of Price Comparison – Package Bees vs. Nuc Colony
While catching a swarm of honey bees is a free option, the price of honey bees for sale varies. Generally, package bees are less expensive than a nuc colony because the package only includes the bees. Expect to pay $20.00-$60.00 more for a nuc colony. Included in a nuc colony are the nuc structure, which can be re-purposed at a later time, inter-related bees and queen, brood, and frames.
Package Bees – Product Specs
Depending on the seller, packages of honey bees for sale are available in a variety of weights. The estimated number of honey bees included in a 1-pound package is around 4,000, (but nobody really counts them.) A package of honey bees will arrive in a small, screened, wooden box that includes a can of syrup for feeding, and the syrup will usually last for a period of 7 days, which is also the approximate shipping time. Each package will also include a queen that is not yet laying eggs.
The queen will be located within the package but kept inside a small, separate queen-cage.
Package Bees Pricing
The cost of package bees will depend on the weight of the package, and the quantity of packages that you purchase. Please note that pricing will differ among various sellers. On average, buying between 1-10 packages, weighing 3 pounds each, will cost around $110.00 individually. 3 Pound packages are an ideal weight for first-time beekeepers to start with.
Package Bees Pros
Package Bees Cons
Nuc Colony – Product Specs
As previously mentioned, nucs are sold as a small, already established colony of bees, and they come packaged in a ventilated nuc structure. The most common type of nuc structure is made from cardboard, has an entrance/exit hole, and contains three to five deep frames. Other variations could include two, four, or seven deep or medium frames, and be a single or double story. Nuc colonies will always be sold as small, established bee colonies containing brood, an egg-laying queen, a few frames and a nuc structure.
Nuc Colony Pricing
Please note that the price of a nuc colony will differ among various sellers. On average, the cost of a nuc colony will generally run between $145.00-$160.00.
Nuc Colony Pros
Nuc Colony Cons
Helpful Additional Tips
If you decide to purchase a package of bees, and you need to have it shipped to you, remember to insure your package just in case! Your new bees can freeze in early spring or overheat in late spring during shipping. Your seller can help you decide on the best time to have your bees shipped.
If you purchase a package of bees, check to ensure that the queen is alive before placing her into your apiary. Don't forget to remove the cork located on the same side of her cage as the candy piece. It is recommended that you do not open your apiary until after the fifth day of transfer, to allow the bee's time to settle-in. After the fifth day, you should make sure the queen has been released from her cage and that she is still alive.
Compared to nuc colonies, package bees can be a bit more difficult to transfer into their new hive. The only way to transfer package bees is to dump them in. Unless you are wearing a full bee suit, there are more chances of being stung while doing this. Because a nuc colony comes with frames of comb, it is much easier to transfer the bees. All you need to do is slide the frames into place. Use caution when transferring package bees, and suit-up if need be.
Unlike a nuc colony, with the purchase of package bees, you will have complete freedom of choosing any type of hive that you like. Because the nuc colony comes with frames and comb intact, you will need to have the right type of hive to accommodate the nuc frames. If choosing a nuc colony, make sure the frames will fit into your apiary.
If you decide to purchase a nuc colony, there are a few key questions to ask your bee retailer. Key questions include:
If you decide to purchase a nuc colony, having the empty nuc structure on hand can be useful for catching swarms or removing extra bees from an overcrowded hive, so make sure you store it in a safe place.
When deciding between package bees or a nuc colony, take your region and climate into consideration. If you live in a colder region with only a few warm months, a nuc colony may be a better choice. Honeybees in cold climates have less time to make honey. Purchasing a somewhat established colony will give you a nice head start if you live in an area with a short warm season.
Whether you choose a nuc colony or package bees, for the most part, it should be a one-time investment. There are, however, possible factors that could affect your purchase. Such factors include the threat of parasite infestations, colder than usual winters, wetter than usual springs, dryer than usual summers, Colony Collapse Disorder, or just new beekeeper ignorance. Don't get discouraged, instead try again.
Package bees cost less than a nuc colony, and you will be able to get them earlier in the season. However, there is a chance that they will not accept the queen since they are not inter-related. There is also a chance that the bees will not accept the new hive you and leave. You will need to feed package bees as they have nothing started upon arrival.
While a nuc colony is more expensive, the bees arrive more established, and you will have a nice head start to honey production. The queen within a nuc colony will have already been accepted by the other bees, and she will be laying eggs upon arrival. You will not need to feed a nuc colony, and the colony will be in a better position to enter winter. Nuc colonies do run the risk of contamination since they arrive with frames of comb which you will transfer to your apiary. Also, nuc colonies are not available until mid to late spring. Most sellers will not ship nuc colonies, so you may need to travel to pick one up.
Beekeeping is a fascinating experience. With the purchase of a honey bee package, you can witness the colony form from the beginning stages. This may be an important factor for you as you may want to witness this for educational purposes. While package bees offer more insight into the formation of a colony, starting a bee hive with a honey bee package is a lot more challenging, and it will take more time to produce honey compared to a nuc colony.
Because honey bee packages include non-related bees of various breeds, and because it requires feeding from the beekeeper, this product is less desirable than a nuc colony in our opinion. For these reasons, we give honey bee packages a 3.5-star rating.
In order for a nuc colony to have reached its established state upon arrival, it will have undergone numerous inspections prior to being moved into the nuc structure. This ensures that it is stronger and healthier than package bees. The transfer of nuc colonies will be much easier than the transfer of its package counterparts. Nuc colony bees are related, with offspring hatching from their queen.
Bees within a nuc colony endure less stress during transport than package bees do. Nuc colonies enter winter in a stronger and healthier state, which increases their chance of survival, making this product a lot more desirable than package bees in our opinion. For these reasons, we give nuc colonies a five-star rating.
Beekeeping is a challenging, yet fun and educational experience that will involve many learning curves and lots of trial and error. You will constantly be learning from your bees throughout your journey together. We encourage you to stay positive and enjoy the process, even when things don't work out as you may have thought they would.
Keep in mind; you can also learn a thing or two from other fellow beekeepers. There are many great beekeeping clubs out there, and probably one located close to your area. Having a group of like-minded individuals to share experiences with can be a valuable and fun part of beekeeping.
No matter what you decide, whether you purchase a package or a nuc, join a club or not, we wish you lots of luck in your beekeeping journey, and we wish you a happy and healthy bee hive! Now that you know all about the two types of honey bees for sale, you are ready to make a good decision on which one is best for you. We hope this article helped point you in the right direction.
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