January 17, 2012

Primer: Getting Bees

How you might get your honeybees. No proselytizing, just the facts.

In order of cheapest/easiest to the most expensive/least likely way for urban beekeepers to get started:

Swarm: a spinoff. If a colony is super healthy in the late spring/summer, it splits in two. The queen flies off with about half the bees to start a new colony elsewhere. Someone has to catch it. Usually free.

Package: usually about 10,000 loose bees and a queen in a box with mesh sides. No comb, but the bees get a can of syrup. Usually around $100.

Nuc: a fully functioning hive in miniature. Made up of a few frames or top-bars with comb with bees in all stages, some honey and pollen, plus an actively laying queen. Usually over $100. Remember, it's bees and equipment.

Split: an artificial spinoff. A beekeeper splits one colony to make two colonies. S/he takes enough from the parent colony to, at minimum, create a nuc. May or may not be queenless. Can be done Spring through Fall. Plan on spending a couple hundred bucks if the split's made with more than 5 combs.

Complete Colony: I have yet to meet a beekeeper who was willing to part with a live colony, but it does happen. It's usually beekeepers coming back from almond pollination that have deeps to get rid of.

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