Plan now! Right now!
If you are considering getting bees in 2023, I strongly suggest you take a basic beekeeping class.
You should also join a beekeeping club near you.
Below is a list of basic beekeeping classes offered in Colorado. They will most likely start in January.
Northern Colorado Beekeepers Association
Copoco Honey Fort Collins
Boulder County Beekeepers Association
Next, start reading! Anything and everything.
Beekeeping for dummies is a good starting point.
Where do I buy my bees from?
All of the above links will have bees for sale, and several are already taking package orders.
What is a NUC Vs. Package
Nucs – Nuc colonies are more expensive than packages of bees. They include a drawn honeycomb, some brood, and bees to cover the frames. Their mated queen will already be laying and accepted. This gives them a jump start initially over package bees. However, the presence of a drawn comb also brings with it the opportunity for pests and disease.NUCS (also known as nucleus colonies) are small starter bee colonies.
A nuc usually consists of 5 frames of bees (including drawn comb, honey and brood) and a mated queen.
Not all nucs are created equal and when purchasing you should be clear on the size of the colony
(# of frames) you are purchasing.
Package Bees are the most economical and readily available source of bees. Generally available early in the Spring season, package bees are often preferred for beekeepers who want to get started early in the season.
Thousands of packages of honeybees are sold each year. The most popular size is a 3# (weight) package of bees with a young, mated queen. They are transported inside a small wire/wooden box with a can of sugar syrup to feed them on their journey.
Note: If you choose to get your bees early in the spring, be prepared to feed a lot of syrup to them.
Beekeeping is seasonal and proximal. If you know you have nothing blooming in your area until May, don't buy bees in early April. You will be feeding them a lot! The extra cost isn't worth it. If you can wait until local beekeepers sell their splits, I believe you will have a higher success rate with local bees vs. bees coming back from pollination. Know where your bees are coming from.
Lastly, buy 2 packages or NUCs of bees.
Every honeybee colony is different.
If you start your beekeeping journey with one hive, you may get a sense that what happens with that first colony is normal or standard behavior for bees.
Having a second hive enables you to compare and contrast what is happening in both hives.
This rapidly increases the amount you can learn in your first season as a beekeeper.
While you can learn significantly more by keeping a second hive, it doesn’t necessarily mean significantly more beekeeping work. If you’re conducting a brood inspection on a single hive, you’ll need to suit up and get your smoker going. If you’re inspecting one hive, it’s not such a big job to then check another one on the same day.
If you have more than one hive, you’ll get a sense more quickly of when something is wrong with a colony. If you notice that one colony is growing quickly and storing lots of honey while the other has low numbers or is not storing honey, that gives an indication that the weaker colony might have an issue.
If, on the other hand, neither colony is storing much honey, it’s more likely that local conditions might not be great at the time and there’s not a good nectar flow on.
One of the major benefits of having more than one hive is that it allows you to share resources between colonies. This is really useful if one colony is struggling. You can swap frames of brood from a strong colony into a weaker colony to help boost the numbers in the struggling hive.
In some cases, you can even merge two weak colonies to make one stronger colony. This could be a good option if you’re worried about smaller colonies surviving the winter, or to take advantage of a heavy nectar flow.
This might go without saying, but beekeeping is a huge investment!
Be prepared to buy sugar, pollen and treatments for your hives, or they won't live past their first year.
Colorado doesn't have all of the necessary resources to have super strong colonies like California and Florida. So, we as BEEKEEPERS, not Bee-havers, need to make sure we can identify, manage and accommodate them as best as we can. Stay warm, and I hope everyone has a very Happy and Safe New YEAR!
Bee well, Shelli