Re: buying nucs or established colonies?
Free advice is worth what you paid for it. So...buy the hive. You get 20 frames and two brood boxes, a top, inner cover, and a bottom board. Not to mention a crap load of bees. During the winter, buy or build at least three complete nucs (double deeps). As soon as the spring flow starts, buy three queens and populate the nucs from the hive. Then you will have 4 hives for about 375.00 in bees and the original wooden ware. Figure another 150 for double deep nucs if you purchase premade. Not a bad deal.
You get to see hives grow and mature, and if you make a mistake on one, you don't get wiped out.
Downside is that four hives requires work.
Upside is you might still get enough honey for your family the first year if you start early enough.
PS.At some point you will still need to upgrade to full-sized hives, about 8 weeks after the splits if all goes well.
Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.