Every market season, all the way into the fall, people tell us how they are going to get bees. Many think that they can just go out at any time and buy some. Many people don’t realize that by the time they see us in the markets, it may just be too late to get bees for the year. You see; most of the sales of bees occur in spring, and orders often have to be made in March or April. So, by the time you see us in a farmers’ market in June or July, it’s likely too late for you to go buy bees for the year. So, if you are going to have bees this year, now is the time to get the ball rolling
What should you do and when should you do it? Before anything; you should get your money together to start keeping bees can cost as little as $400 and up to $2000 depending on what equipment you get.
First, you need to see what your local laws and regulations, zoning codes, and CC&R’s have to say about it. Bees may or may not be in your future.So take a few moments to find out if you are allowed to own bees where you live, and if there are any restrictions
For example, most Oregon cities in the Portland Metro have regulations covering the owning of bees, Clark county doesn’t.
Second, get online and see when bees will be available for your area, and when orders can be placed. Keep in mind that demand outpaces availability in some area, and make your order as soon as you are sure you are ready. Ready means you have figured out what you want, and you have bought and set up a hive so it is ready to house the bees (or will be buying an assembled hive with your bees). See links below for some suppliers.
Before ordering your bees, jump online, go to the library, or go to a bee supply store, and research, research, research. Find a mentor and check out local resources: clubs, associations, and the likes. Because there are lots of things to consider when making your choices.
What will be your main goal in keeping bees? Providing local pollinators, creating survivor stock, or harvesting honey? Each goal can affect the type of bees you buy and the type of hive you house them in.
What kind of bees should you buy? Russian, Italian, or Carniolan? What is the difference between each type? What are their pros and cons? Which is best suited to your goals? And what is the availability of each? All of these questions should be considered when making your choice. Here’s a great discussion about bee types that covers some of these questions.
How should you get your bees? Should you order a package, which is a wire mesh box full of bees with a mated queen included, but no frames? The packages are sold by the pound usually, and a pound of bees is usually between 3,000 – 4,000 bees or should you buy a nuc (nucleus colony), which is a mini hive (usually 3-5 frames of drawn wax with honey, worker bees, and a mated queen bee). So which is better? Nucs cost a bit more, but because they contain frames of drawn wax, they are ready to go. Package bees need to expend time and resources to draw out wax but the bees will feel like they are a swarm and will draw out wax more quickly then the queen can start laying eggs bees can start storing honey and pollen. Because of this, it can take a little longer for a package to take off, and you will likely have to supplement feed a package if it is early in the season, and there aren’t sufficient resources available yet in terms of open flowers in your area.
Next, consider What kind of hive you should get. Where will you get it? How much will it cost? Will you buy it pre-assembled, will you buy one you need to assemble yourself, or will you look up plans and make your own? You might even decide to buy a kit that includes a basic hive along with some tools &/or bees. This article has a nice discussion of the three main types of hives you are likely to encounter: the Langstroth, the Warre, and the Top-Bar Hive.
If you go with Langswroth you will need to pick if you are going with 10 frame or 8 frame. I recommenced you go with 8 frame, a box full of honey can weigh a lot and the two extra frames push the weight further from your body pulling on your more. It is what commercial beekeepers use and it is lighter than the 10 frame boxes. The other choice is to deeps or mediums boxes for you hives. I suggest mediums because they are lighter, a box full of honey can weigh a lot and the the shorter boxes will cut the weight down. An eight frame medium box full of honey will weigh about ½ what a 10 frame deep box will weight.
You also need some basic tools, A hive tool, frame grip, smoker (something you should try to use infrequently), Vail, protective clothing, marking tools, queen catcher, feeders, and queen excluders. There is a big list of options for the beekeeper..
What to do if you miss this year’s bee boat? You make sure you have thoroughly considered all the questions above, and you get everything ready for early next spring to place your order. Continue to educate yourself. Cultivate your new friendship with mentor(s), neighbors with bees, and local bee club and association members. Take a class or see if you can spend time this spring, summer, and fall shadowing a few established beekeeper, to learn the ropes.
By the way, that last paragraph applies to those of you who have already gotten bees. Further your knowledge. Help others further theirs. Remember, knowledge is power. And if the bees are going to flourish under our hands, we need to educate ourselves.
Examples of regulations covering the ownership of bees. This is not an exhaustive list. Please look for laws for your specific housing community (if it has CC&R’s), city, county, and state.
Local places to buy bees and bee supplies:
Local bee resources: