A small nuc (nucleus) hive can be bought from beekeeping suppliers.
A nuc consists of four or five frames of brood and honey, along with a few thousand bees, including a queen bee. You buy these in the Spring, then place them in a standard box with extra wooden frames to complete the brood box. The bees will build these out as the colony expands.
An alternative to a nuc is to purchase a package of bees. The package consists of several thousand bees and a queen but does not include frames. In most countries, you have to pick up your packaged bees from a supplier, in some places your bees can get posted in the mail. You tip the package of bees into your brood or nuc box and nurture them as they build their colony.
Someone with an existing colony may want to split their hive in spring to prevent their colony from swarming – and you could be the lucky recipient.
Check out Hilary Kearney’s blog post on Splitting your hive in Spring for more information.
For this, you will need the assistance of an experienced beekeeper or bee club/ association/society member who would be happy to set you up with a swarm when they catch one or assist you with catching your own.
It’s important to have an experienced beekeeper to assist you when catching a swarm of bees.
Each startup colony has different benefits and slightly different techniques of installation and care, so it's a great idea to do some research and decide which method will work best for you.
Reach out to members of the Flow Forum, who are experienced and happy to share their knowledge – you never know, they may also be happy to split a hive with you.
As the old adage goes– you just never know until you ask!
We’ve also got some great vids on installing bees, catching swarms and installing a nuc.
Whichever you decide, we recommend you get in touch with a local bee mentor and join your local beekeeping club.
They’ll be able to offer advice relevant to your area– and may be able to help you with your startup colony.
They’ll also have you a wealth of information, to nurture and support you to become an enthusiastic, empowered and responsible beekeeper.