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Getting Your First Beehive [Pick-up Day!]

Per the previous post, someone recently asked me about what they needed to be prepared for getting bees this  Spring. After we talked for awhile, the first thing that I realized was that he had not ordered his bees yet.  My previous post went over how you get your hives but, as  mentioned by Doug, I got lost in the explanation and forgot one of my primary points of the initial post – no matter how you are getting your bees, order them right now. Nuc’s run out quickly and, from what I have been told, packages also run out from the best suppliers. So, get your orders in now.

Now, as to the point of this post, when I was talking to this gentleman who was expecting to get bees in the Spring, he asked me what  kind of ‘Nuc hive body’ to buy. This made me realize that the whole process of actually ‘installing’ your bees might be confusing to some. So, I will review it (at a high level – I recommend further research and talking to your local club members of course!) now.

With my preferred method, purchasing a ‘Nuc’, you are basically getting four or five frames of bees with a queen. The term ‘Nuc’ really refers to the size of the hive body that is used to ‘grow’ the bees. Although some folks might give you a cardboard box that holds the 5 frames, I have never heard of someone actually selling a wooden Nuc hive body with the 5 frames. So, you are really just getting 5 frames (they are going to be Deeps unless you specifically work out something else with the seller), so you are going to need a Deep hive body (w/top and bottom) to put the frames in. Since a Deep holds 10 frames, you are going to need to purchase at least 5 other frames to go in the Deep to fill it out (with your five frames of bees.) Check with your supplier, as they may want you to ‘swap frames’ with them, so you have to give them 5 empty (foundation only) frames for their 5 full frames of bees. If this is the case, your initial Deep Hive Body should also  have 10 frames of empty foundation (5 to go with the 5 you will get from the seller and 5 to give to the seller.) This will give you the bare necessities.

If you are getting a package, it is pretty much the same deal. A single deep with 10 frames (and top/bottom) will get you started.

Most folks (including me) would recommend getting your expansion gear now too. As a first year beekeeper, I recommend getting another Deep so that your bees can expand their broodnest to a second level once they get going. I would also get a medium or a couple of shallows in case you have a banner year. You can make the call on what you do with this, should the occasion arise, but I am pretty militant about not taking honey off of any 1st year hive, regardless of what happens.

This should get you started for a great learning experience. I should close with a couple of other thoughts.

1. There are a lot of folks that use the ‘all Medium’ strategy. This really means that you do not use Deeps or Shallows but instead use nothing but Mediums for all of your bees. I do not use this strategy, but have nothing against it. My personal advice is to start with what has always worked (2 Deeps) and make up your mind about the Medium strategy once  you have experience with bees (maybe in year 2 or 3.)

2. I pretty much talk about ‘One Hive’ in this and the last post. I am a huge believer in getting two hives, especially if you are getting packages. Once you get going with Bees, they are good little soldiers and make it fine from year to year. But, at the start, there are all sort of variables that can cause problems for you and most of them are beyond your control (Doug mentions a poor queen in a comment to the previous post). Get two hives so that a casualty does not leave you completely bee-less. You’re going to lose hives once you get into it and you’ll come to adjust to it. But, losing all of your hives in year 1 is a good way to give up on the hobby, which would really be a shame. In addition, you have something to compare to. It really helps with the learning experience.

That’s it for my ‘getting your bees’ posts. I have really only scratched the surface here and interjected some of my own opinions in several points. So, this is not designed to be the final resource, but just an ‘FYI’ for anyone thinking about getting into bees. Good luck!

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