Where To Get Bees?
As winter moves into spring, we keep getting more and more people asking us, "where should I buy bees"?
Ideally, there is a beekeeper near you who raises their own stock, and has a good reputation. If you can get a nucleus colony from such a beekeeper, this is likely your best bet. Make sure the beekeeper has a good reputation. The less the beekeeper treats the better, and we'd avoid buying any bees that are treated routinely with Terramycin (oxytetracycline). Pick a source that you believe what they say about treatment and breeding. Remember that some local beekeepers offer nucs made up of their bees and factory produced queens (see the following on package bees).
For most of us, package bees are the most easily available way to get bees. The quality of queens that come with most packages (certainly those from the biggest suppliers) is not good. Both genetics and nutrition are lacking, and results do not tend to be very good overall. The nice thing about packages is that they are often available early in the season. Buy your bees in packages, regress them to small cell, and requeen with better stock later in the season when good local queens are available.
If you are lucky enough to be in an area with abundant swarms, you can save a few bucks and collect swarms or do cutouts.