If you want bees up here in the Northeast USA, you order by January. I spoke to some guys selling overwintered nucleus hives and they sold out, or allotted, all their hives in the matter of 10 to 15 days.
So, entrepreneur, there is business to be had selling overwintered nuc’s up here. You’ll have to dig in though, that’s not easy money.
Anyway, I ordered a package of bees and am on a couple lists for nuc’s. Let’s take a look at the process I went through as an aspiring beekeeper in ordering my first colony of bees.
Choice 1: Nucleus v. Package
A nucleus is a colony of bees that have been living together in a smaller than normal hive, and in the case of us up here in the northeast, the good ones have been overwintered together.
A package is a box of several thousand worker bees with a separately boxed queen.
Choice 2: Race
Sometime ago the USDA introduced Russian bees to the US and they have apparently proven to do quite well. What we are looking for is resistance to disease and the ability to withstand the pressures of mites. As a northern beekeeper, we are also looking for a race that can withstand our winters.
Carniolans are the next best race followed up by Italians.
Ok, so based on that extreme condensation of information, here’s what I want: an overwintered Nuc of Russians.
I called Troy Hall of Hall Apiaries. Quality dude, he called me back, said he’d put me on his list but recommended that I make some more calls. We got to talk for a little bit and he answered some rookie questions for me. Nice guy.
I emailed Matt Smith, and enterprising local lad who started Northern Honey Bees. He didn’t write me back right away so I stalked him on Facebook. I got him, and he said he’ll put me on his list but suggested that I should call someone else.
I called Kirk Webster in Middlebury VT, a pioneer in chemical-free apiary management. He got back to me and put me on his list and mailed me a flyer. Ultimately, the vibe I got from him was probably not this year, but I’ll stay on the list for next year.
Bear in mind too I’m trying to find a beekeeper who consciously breeds for northern productivity without the use of chemicals in the hive. Apparently, I’m not alone in this pursuit because all these guys are having no problem filling orders.
I thought about ordering from Hillside Apiaries in Merrimack but they don’t advertise the qualities I was looking for.
During this pursuit my Dad made the decision to get back in the game (he used to keep bees several years ago but got frustrated that his Italians never made it through a winter). He met Athena from Wonalancet Bee Company and took a drive to her shop to chat it up. She recommended The Honey Exchange, in Portland ME.
The Honey Exchange advertises, and was taking orders for, Russian bees from Georgia. So that’s what I did. I’m down for one package of those, and so is my old man. My spring setup will include two hives just in case one of these other dudes is able to call me back with an overwintered nuc. But, I can still get my apiary off the ground with a package from down south.
Scheduled delivery day: May 1st.
Apparently, in the old days, you could set your clock by the bee delivery, but everyone is saying that in the last 5 to 10 years the weather patterns have really disrupted this process. I’m not the type of guy to buy that at face value. Yes, the World is changing. But if we spend our lives in sorrow about the way things used to be we may very well miss how wonderful life is RIGHT NOW.
Now. The only time that matters.