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.

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