Getting your bees

You’re excited to get started, you’ve searched the internet. You’ve found some bees you can immediately send off for or go and collect. We understand, we’ve all been there, but before you rush off, there’s a few things you may wish to consider.

Not all honey bees are the same. There are different strains; they don’t even look the same. Many in Britain are small and dark, almost black or dark brown, others are larger and more noticeably orange. Some bees are easy to control and some are virtually uncontrollable especially in the hands of a beginner. If you end up with defensive bees, you may become discouraged and give-up beekeeping before you’ve really started. Also, you can’t keep highly defensive bees in a garden close to neighbours but you can keep a gentle colony which has been properly sited. siting your apiary

Some beginners are attracted to Mediterranean strains because they’re said to be gentle and productive but they don’t necessarily have the frugality of local bees and may not make their stores last the winter.our temperate climate

When buying bees:

  • Avoid buying bees from outside your area. It risks accelerating the spread of pests and diseases. Since Brexit, it’s illegal to buy packages or colonies of bees from abroad because it risks importing the devastating pests that we have so far managed to avoid in the UK. Most beekeepers agree, local strains are better adapted to the flora and weather conditions of that locality.
  • Use a reputable supplier. References will help you choose. Ask the supplier where the queen has come from. It is not always clear what strain of honey bee you are obtaining and whether the queen has been bred by the supplier, bought in or imported. If you join a beekeeping association, they will usually raise a nucleus of local bees for you and they will follow established quality guidelines obtaining a nucleus
  • It’s important to examine the bees before you purchase them to ensure they meet the required standard and are disease free. If you are not competent to do this then ask a beekeeper who is to check for you. If the vendor is not prepared to show you or allow examination consider why.

** New** Under new rules that came into force since Brexit, it is now illegal to bring bees into Great Britain. There are separate rules in Northern Ireland. Since the end of the transition period, only queen bees can be imported into Great Britain, rather than colonies and packages of bees. This page will be updated when further information becomes available.

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