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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

The Beekeeping Year Starts Now

The beekeeping year starts now. Most budding beekeepers will begin thinking about this venture in the spring. That’s what I did. Everything awakening. Gardeners starting to plant early crops of peas and greens. Spring calves and lambs beginning to make their entrance. And beginners looking to start an apiary.

It was too late.

At least too late to start with package bees. I didn’t know about trying to find nucs (pronounced "nuke" and short for nucleus colony) for sale, so I just waited another year. Some established apiary will have nucs for sale in April or May. But even these sell out quickly. Perhaps you can capture a wild swarm although hiving wild swarms and having them stay in your location is difficult at best.

In my opinion the best way for a new beekeeper to get started is with a package of bees. Orders must happen between November and January for the following spring arrival. The earlier the better as packages tend to sell out quickly.

What Is a "Package" of Honeybees?

A package of honeybees is a ventilated box, filled with about 3 pounds or 10,000 bees. The box also holds a can of sugar solution to sustain the bees through their journey and a queen in a separate cage. Honeybees can travel this way for a week or so and are quite docile during their trip. They are not protecting brood or significant food supply. They hang together around the queen getting to know her. Essentially this is an artificial swarm created by a supplier and packaged for shipment.

In the pictures are two different containers used to ship honeybees. Although one is plastic and the other is a wood and screen material, both are about the same size. Ventilation is important, but also the size of the vents are small enough that bees will not escape. You may see a few bees clinging to the outside of the box. This is normal and does not mean that the cage has a hole. You just have some hitchhikers.

Plastic Bee Bus

Wood Bee Crate

Start Planning Now

Consider how many hives you would like to manage. You can start with one, but at least two is recommended. Two hives will help you compare the behavior of the colonies. You will have a backup if one fails. If one of the colonies is weak, you will have options to bolster numbers from the other or combine the hives so that not all is lost.

Next, find a reputable supplier. There are multiple beekeeping supply houses available on the internet that offer package bee sales. Some will sell a complete kit including the hive and bees. Others will sell only the bees and you purchase the hive separately. Ask the beekeepers in your area. Beekeepers are helpful folks ready to share their advice and information. They will know who sells bees and be able to give you advice about their experience with package bee suppliers.

Now what?

Order your bees.

Read and learn all you can about keeping honeybees. Join a beekeeping club. Watch our video  on Youtube about how to hive your new package of honeybees. Dream about the sweet delicious honey you will harvest next year.

Stop by the Five Feline Farm website for more about life on a hobby farm. Happy beekeeping.

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