How To Order Honey Bees Online - What You Should Know
Have you ever wondered how beekeepers get their bees? There are several ways to fill your apiary, but many beekeepers choose to buy their honey bees online. Like the rest of the world of online shopping, this method of acquiring new honey bee colonies has grown in popularity over the years.
What You Should Know about Buying Honey Bees Online
You need to consider a few things before adding a buzzing box of bees to your digital cart. Is your apiary ready for the new arrivals? How can you ensure you make the best purchase for your hives?
Learn how to answer these questions and more with this overview of what you should know about buying honey bees online.
What type of bee should you buy?
To build an apiary, you need bees. But what kind?
One of the first decisions you have to make when beginning beekeeping is selecting what type of bees you want to start with.
The most common types of bees available in the United States come from a long line of bees from the European, Middle East, and African regions. They are classified into different races, each having its own distinct characteristics.
Italian bees (Apis mellifera ligustica)
- One of the more popular races in the US
- Known for being gentle to work with
- Light yellow or brown in color
- Breed well
- Excellent forager bees
- Can produce a large amount of honey in a small amount of time
- Prone to wander because of their weak sense of orientation
- Prone to robbing or stealing nectar from other colonies or feeders
Caucasian honey bees (Apis mellifera caucasia)
- Known to be gentle towards their beekeepers
- A great choice for high honey yield
- Are dark colored
- May drift and rob
- Don't swarm excessively
- Highly recommended for regions where the weather always fluctuates
Carniolan honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica)
- Known to be calm and gentle
- Tend to swarm excessively
- Not prone to robbing and have good orientation
- Dark in color like the Caucasian honey bees but have brown spots or bands on the abdomen region
- One of the most economically viable races because of their low consumption during wintertime
- Queen bees regulate the hive population of Carniolan worker bees if nectar and pollen availability is scarce
Buckfast honey bees (Apis mellifera)
- Don't have a uniform coloring
- Highly resistant to disease
- Produces a high honey yield
- Well adapted to cool climates
- Overwinters incredibly well
- Gentle and have a lower tendency to swarm
Russian honey bees (Apis mellifera)
- Dark brown to black in coloring
- Well adapted to cold climates
- Tend to swarm
- Overwinter quite well
- Tend to limit brood population when food is scarce
- Slightly more aggressive and are good guard bees
As you progress in your beekeeping, try different bee types to determine the right kind of bees for your honey farm or apiary.
How Do You Want to Receive Your Bees?
Before you look for bees for sale on Google, one of the most important things you should know about buying honey bees online is that you’ll have many options on a supplier’s website.
Buying package bees
Package bees or honey bee packages are the cheaper options. They already include a caged queen and enough worker bees to get you started. Depending on your supplier, package bees will also include forager bees, guard bees, nurse bees, and drone bees. They come in screened boxes and a feeder that contains sugar syrup, which the worker bees can feast on as they get used to the queen bee.
The new colony will be ready to thrive as soon as you install it in your hive.
Buying a Queen
While many beekeepers use online sellers to purchase entire colonies, there’s no understating the importance of buying just a queen bee.
The queen is the most important member of a bee colony. Without her, your hive can’t raise new honey bees or continue to function successfully. If you lose a honey bee queen in your hive, you must act quickly to replace her and keep the colony on track. The mated queen bee keeps your colony population up throughout any season.
Online ordering makes buying a replacement queen fast and easy. Beekeeping becomes a little less stressful when you know you can rely on providers like Mann Lake to send you queen bees and other honey bee options whenever you need them.
Buying Nucleus Colonies (Nucs)
Some beekeepers choose to buy a bee nuc rather than package bees.
A nuc, or nucleus, is a miniature colony with everything needed to start growing once you install it in a hive. Nucs are half-sized colonies or mini bee hives containing an accepted and mated queen bee already laying eggs.
When you buy a bee nuc, you receive a few frames of honeycomb containing food, honey bees, and the queen bee and her brood. When you receive a bee nuc, the mini colony is already on its way to growing into a full and thriving colony. This means that your bee nuc will start expanding faster than many package bees will.
However, bee nucs are often more expensive than package bees, but they are easier to install.
The downside of using nucs compared to package bees is the risk of the donor hive contaminating your hive.
You might also have to wait until later in the season to purchase a nuc, as the bees need more time to establish themselves before they become available.
Reasons to Buy Honey Bees Online
Some people might obtain a bee colony from a fellow beekeeper or by catching a local swarm. However, purchasing honey bees online is quickly becoming one of the most common ways to start a hive. The simplicity and efficiency of this method make it easy for beekeepers to get new honey bees to their apiary.
This can be a lifesaver for beginner and experienced beekeepers alike. If you’re just beginning beekeeping and starting your first-ever beehive, buying bees online makes it easy to research and find the right honey bees.
Meanwhile, online bee orders are a great way for an experienced beekeeper to replace colonies that didn’t last the winter. The availability of online honey bee sellers also makes it easy to add to your budding apiary as you grow in your beekeeping career.
While buying honey bees online is an efficient way to fill your apiary, you must take a few steps before you create your order.
Whenever you purchase them, your mail carrier must transport and deliver them. Always be respectful and courteous to your carrier service by clarifying the rules with them ahead of time.
Remember that not every carrier service is willing to transport live bees. Those that do will still appreciate a heads-up. This is also a great time to ask questions to know exactly what to expect when your honey bees arrive.
How are the honey bees packaged and shipped? Can you get insurance for your bee packages? Talk to the supplier and your carrier service to answer these and other questions. Additionally, take the time to read the terms of service carefully, so you know exactly what to expect for your order.
When Can You Buy Bees?
It’s a good idea to order your honey bees as early as possible.
Many suppliers start taking orders for the spring as early as late fall and early winter. As beekeepers prepare for spring, orders often start booming after the holiday season. The earlier you order, the better your chance of finding the option you’re looking for.
Early orders also make it easier to get your honey bees in time for those first warm days of spring, so you and your new hives can make the most of the prime beekeeping season.
Of course, it isn’t always possible to know what kinds of orders you’ll need to make for the spring. That’s why many beekeepers simply assume they will lose a couple of hives over the winter and buy their replacement hives early.
Extra Tips for “New-Bees”
If you’re new to the world of beekeeping, there are a few things you can do before and after you purchase your honey bees.
If you order in advance and have a few months before your honey bees arrive, that waiting period is the perfect time to prepare for your new beekeeping career. You can take classes or read beekeeping books to learn more about the world of honey bees.
This is also a good time to set up your apiary. You should put your beehives up in advance so that you can quickly and easily install your honey bees when they arrive. And make sure you have all the equipment you need. Prepare your beekeeping supplies like your protective clothing, hive tool, bee brush, smoker, and bee feeders before you receive your honey bees.
Visit your local beekeepers for advice on the best beekeeping supplies for your starter colony.
This will help make the transition as easy and stress-free as possible for you and your new buzzing residents.
Whether you buy package bees, a queen, or a bee nuc for your starter colony, the most important thing to remember is to source your bees from a trusted and reliable supplier.
At Mann Lake Bee & AG Supply, we strive toward using natural organic methods to keep the quality of our hives top-notch.
Visit our online directory to explore your options and order your first bee package today!