I am a fairly new beekeeper (4yrs) and still can't bring myself to spending $100-$150 for bees. To give some background, a co-worker of mine got into beekeeping by attending some beginner classes and purchasing a couple nucs. After successfully having them die over the winter, he proceeded to repeat this process for the next 4 years never being able to overwinter a hive successfully. He is financially secure and the cost of equipment and bees was no hardship, he just enjoys having the bees around. So as a challenge I said to him, "You must be doing something wrong, with bee college and 'premium bee stock' you should be a shining success." His reply was, "Do you think you can do better?" (this is all in the friendly spirit of busting balls). Immediately I went into action.
With my frugal attitude I immediately started researching and reading about bees online and figured out what I needed to do to get me some free bugs. At the same time I began building hive boxes and a bee vac out of scrapwood from work. In the process I found a local CL ad for a honey extractor a bunch of books, 12 supers, 6 deeps (all w/frames), tops, bottoms, honey bears, veil and smoker for about $400.
With my budget blown, it was time to find some bees. With a few ads on CL, I got 2 swarm calls and 2 calls for cut outs. Please keep in mind, I have never been to a beekeeping meeting, bee school or nothing, just me and the good old internet. The swarms were just like the intenet indicate they would be, I climb a tree, shake them into a box and viola! I am now a beekeeper. The cutouts were on old beat up barns so I figure if I screwed them up I was the only one who would suffer (I didn't even have a bee suit).
I ended up going into winter with 3 hives of "free-bees" (one of the cut outs absconded) and 30 LB of extracted honey.
In the spring only one hive survived, but to my delight, one more hive than my friend. I officially "won" the unwritten challenge.
I have never had an issue with getting free swarms and now get paid for cut outs. I love my mutts, I extracted 200LB honey last year to pay for my hobby and went into winter with 11 hives with 9 survivors in the spring. I have only a logical bias towards local survivors which nature has culled the weak. I do not use chemicals and only feed the bees honey from cut outs.
Am I crazy or are these imported purchased bees harder to manage than the local survivors?
I love the free-bees.