Where do you get your first bees

So you have decided to start beekeeping as a hobby and don’t know where to start?

As a first port of call we recommend joining your local beekeeping club which often run starter courses for beginners. Another option is to ask around to see if you can get a mentor. Most beekeepers got their start this way and you will find many are happy to “pay it forward” for a small fee (or maybe even free).

Once you are ready to setup your own hive there are 4 main ways to get your first bees:

Purchase a Nucleus Hive (or “Nuc” Hive):

Buying a Nucleus Hive or sometimes called “Nuc Hive” is one of the most common ways in Australia to start your beekeeping journey. A Nuc is a complete mini colony with everything you need to get started. Generally a Nuc will come in a small nuc hive box containing either 4-5 frames with a colony of bees, pollen and nectar stores and a queen.Nucleus Beehive


    • buying from a reputable beekeeper should help reduce the risk of disease.
    • Buying a young queen should mean you won’t need to worry requeening for a few years


    • Not free!
    • Similar to a swarm, depending on how late in the season you get your nuc hive you may not get any honey in your first year while the colony builds up.

Collect a swarm Bee Swarm

It may seem daunting at first, but collecting a swarm can be the easiest and cheapest way to get your first colony started. A swam is a ready made starter with a queen and a colony of bees. All you need to do is shake the swarm of bees into a box underneath. Sounds easy right?


The swarming urge for bees is strongest in Spring and Summer so that is the most likely time you will be able to collect swarms. Many local beekeeping groups maintain a list of local beekeepers who are looking for swarms so get your name on one of these lists and when people report swarms you will be the first to know. There is also the website www.swarmpatrol.com, by adding your name as a “swarmpatroller” you will receive a text message of any swarms reported in your area.

Swarm Patrol


    • Free!


    • without knowing the history of the original hive the swarm came from there is a risk the swarm could have disease such as EFB or AFB.
    • No way of knowing the age of the queen
    • Swarms do not come with honey and pollen stores like a nuc hive should do.

Purchase a package of bees

To make a package of bees, commercial producers shake bees from their colonies into a mesh box until it reaches their weight requirement (usually 1.5-2kg of bees). Often bees from multiple hives will be in one package. A mated queen (in a queen cage) is then added into the box.

A package of bees is not as common in Australia as they are in the US where they are sent through the post. In Australia you will need to pickup your package bees from a local supplier.

Ideally the bees need to get to their destination as soon as possible. As soon as the package bees are at their new destination they must be shaken into the new hive.

Once the package bees are tipped into the hives with frames they must be fed sugar syrup as the bees need this to help them draw out wax foundation so the queen can start laying eggs.Package Bees


    • As you are not buying any equipment or frames the risk of disease is reduced
    • Buying a young queen should mean you won’t need to worry requeening for a few years


    • the new colony starts life without any brood (baby bees) or stores of honey and pollen which means they have to start from scratch
    • Package bees have the lowest survival rate, especially if they are purchased late in the season close to winter and do not have enough time to build up stores.

Purchase a full hive

Some beekeepers will sell you a full beehive complete with 2-3 supers (boxes) of bees, brood, honey and pollen.Full Beehive


    • You are getting a full colony of bees that can get to work straight away collecting more honey for you!


    • This will be the most expensive way to get started


With all methods of getting your first bees it is a weigh up with cost, convenience and potential risk of disease. Whatever way you decide to start your beekeeping journey we are sure you will find it is a fascinating and rewarding journey.


The Bee Store has all the beekeeping equipment you need to help you get started with beekeeping.

Read Next:

How much time does beekeeping require?

Author: Peter

Published: 3rd July 2019

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