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Getting Started: Buying and Moving Colonies

  • Buying Bee Hives
  • Inspecting Bee Hives
  • Moving Bee Hives

Buying Bee Hives

The easiest, and sometimes the best, way to start keeping bees is to buy two established colonies from a reputable local beekeeper. Buying two colonies instead of one lets you interchange frames of brood and honey if one colony becomes weaker than the other and needs a boost.

Inspecting Bee Hives

Before buying, arrange to inspect the colonies. Buy bees in standard equipment only. Competent beekeepers usually have one or two hive bodies on the bottom board with shallower honey supers above. Question the seller if supers are arranged differently. The condition of the equipment may reflect the care the bees have received, so be suspicious of colonies in rotten, unpainted wood. Once the colony is opened, the bees should be calm and numerous enough that they fill most of the spaces between combs (Fig. 1).


Fig. 1Fig. 1

Be sure each super has at least nine frames of comb. Inspect combs in the deep supers for brood quality. Capped brood is tan - brown in color. A good queen will have at least five or six combs of brood, and she will lay eggs in a solid pattern so that there are few skipped cells. Look for symptoms of brood disease and wax moth larvae (see the section on Queenlessness, Other Non-Infectious Diseases and Pests).

Moving Bee Hives

Bee hives are easiest to move during winter when they are lighter and populations are low. Moving hives is a two-man job. Close the hive entrance with a screen (Fig. 2), seal other cracks with duct tape, fasten supers to each other and to the bottom board with hive staples (Fig. 3) then lift the hive into a truck bed or a trailer (Fig. 4). Tie the hives down tightly. Remember to open hive entrances after the hives are relocated.

Fig. 2Fig. 2
Fig. 3Fig. 3
Fig. 4Fig. 4