Beekeeping 101: Where to Get Bees

Jul 20, 2017
Bees on Honeycomb


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Thinking of becoming a beekeeper? After you’ve built the hive, read this beginner’s guide on ways to obtain bees for your apiary.

Social System

Bees are social creatures. You can’t expect a queen to produce a whole colony by herself. Therefore, it’s important to know the basics of bee society. There are three levels in the bee community: the worker, the drone, and the queen. Worker bees are females and are responsible for a variety of activities, such as tending the queen, building comb, guarding the hive’s entrance, and collecting food. Drones are males, and their sole responsibility is to mate with the queen. The queen is responsible for all of the genetic traits within a colony.

Finding Bees in the Wild

The clusters of bees seen in the wild are called swarms. Often bees will divide their colonies because they are reproducing too quickly or the queen is injured or sick. Collecting a swarm isn’t hard, as the bees tend to be mild-mannered. Regardless, always be sure to wear proper clothing. It may also be a good idea to carry medicated syrup or a smoker to calm down any ill-tempered bees.

Bees on tree limbs can be collected by cutting the limb and gently placing or shaking the limb inside a container. Bees on a flat surface or fence post can be guided into a container by gently brushing them with cardboard, as you would with a dustpan. They can also be directed toward it by puffing smoke behind them, encouraging them to move in the opposite direction (toward the container). Transfer bees from the container to a hive by gently shaking them toward it.

However, sometimes free isn’t always better. Wild bees can carry disease or have weak genetic material. The queen may have been injured or killed and is often difficult to locate among wild bees. Also, just because you can see it doesn’t mean that you can take it. Some states may have laws about what is considered property, and if the tree limb is on your neighbor’s yard, taking those bees may be considered stealing. Check with your local ordinances before attempting to capture bees.

Beekeeping 101: Where to Get Bees

Buying Bees

Some beekeepers argue against buying bees because they believe that wild bees are better suited to natural diseases in the area. However, for the beginner beekeeper, buying is probably the easiest and safest way to start an apiary. There are two ways to receive bees: package bees and a nucleus.

1. Package: To order a package of bees, contact a local beekeeper. Most packages will contain a queen, multiple workers, and a feeder filled with sugar syrup or some other type of sweet food. There are two ways to introduce the queen bee to the workers, the indirect and the direct method.

The indirect method allows worker bees to become familiar with the queen slowly as they eat their way through the food to her.

The direct method releases the queen immediately into the bees. Since bees are packaged with a queen that is not their own, it is more likely that she will be attacked through the direct method. Without a queen, the hive will not survive. However, if they do accept her through the direct method, your hive will be able to start breeding and producing honey more quickly than through the indirect method.

2. Nucleus: You can also order a nucleus hive. These come already stocked with an established bee colony. The disadvantage to this approach is that the queen may be old or of poor stock, thus resulting in weak bees.

Now that you have your hive and bees, it’s time to learn how to collect that liquid gold!



About This Blog

Would you like to raise honeybees in your backyard? Here is our free Beekeeping 101 series—a beginner’s guide in 7 chapters. We’ll talk about how to get started raising bees, the clothing and equipment needed, building a hive, collecting honey, and common bee diseases. After this "taste" of honeymaking, you can decide if you're ready to enter the world of beekeeping!

Reader Comments

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Harvesting honey

How long after I install the bees do I have to wait to start harvesting honey?

When to harvest honey on new hive.

Most new colonies may not be mature enough the first year to harvest honey. The basic hive body must be at least 90% full of bees and a winter super drawn out and full before you can ethically make honey. Also when you use medications or pest control chemicals the harvesting of honey safely may not a possibility, given proper time frames. Follow any directions on the product as to when to take it out of the hive or a safe time barrier to safely apply supers to collect honey. It is possible under the most desirable conditions and a fast growing hive to make honey the first year but buy an experienced keeper. Their health and colony strength are the most important.

Need information please.

Please, how can I get the already built house of a bee. I need de phone number of a bee farmer so that I can contact the person. Thanks

raising bees

See the link at the end of the above article for one source of bee houses.

i have a walnut tree in my

i have a walnut tree in my back yard with a swarm of bees, they come back every 2 years. i have a hive, how can i get them to move to it?

Hi, Tony: Good thinking! We

Hi, Tony: Good thinking! We would consult a beekeeper, but see "Finding Bees in the Wild" above, if you haven't already, for a little elucidation on the subject. You don't say whether your "hive" is empty or has a colony, where the swarm might have originated to begin with. Best to ask an expert, which we confess not to bee.

I would like to know some

I would like to know some ways to support the bees. I understand that we are losing them by the droves and just want to know if there is anything I can do around my home to support them.

There are several things you

There are several things you can do to help bees.

1. Use less pesticides. Especially the spray kind outdoors.
2. Plant good bee plants. Google to find good bee plants that grow well local to you.
3. Plant clover in your lawn.

Thanks for helping!

I am interested in investing

I am interested in investing in bees. I am 10 yrs old, and my dad said I can write to you.

Beekeeping is something that

Beekeeping is something that a 10 year old CAN do--but you will need help from your parents! Buying your beekeeping supplies will cost you some money, and a full super of honey can weigh 50 to 80 pounds, which is a LOT for a 10 year old to lift!

Your very best option is to go to the library and check out books on beekeeping and do a lot of research first. Also, look online and see if there is a beekeeping club near you. Our local beekeepers are very helpful and friendly, and have taught me so much! It is great to have people with experience to help you, so you don't make so many mistakes!


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