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We have considered beekeeping for a number of years and finally decided to take the proverbial plunge. While I'd read up a bit and have one friend who has bees, my husband suggested that I contact my cousin who is a professional beekeeper in Colorado and pick his brain first. We were all set to buy a beginner hive kit, a second hive and a couple of packages of bees, but my cousin suggested buying a populated hive or a nuc rather than the route we intended to go. We have found some hive sellers a few hours north of us and their prices seem reasonable - but now I'm petrified that I'll make some silly newbie mistake in this purchase. I figure I'll go to my friend's (she's also relatively new to this, I believe this is her second year) and have her show me around one of her hives first and give me some pointers. I've read articles and looked at pictures in hopes of avoiding a diseased/weak hive, etc.. But, I'd sure love any advice anyone is willing to give...from what to ask the seller, to what to look for in the hive, etc..

Thank you so much for any help you can give!
 

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Buy the nucs, 100% of the time. Good Lord willing, I won't ever have to buy another package of bees.

A good nuc should have at least one frame of brood and one frame of eggs and larvae. If you don't see eggs, don't buy that nuc. (lesson learned by me the hard way) It would be better to have 2 frames of brood and one frame of eggs, and small larvae. Two frames of honey and pollen.
 

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Rather than a package, an established colony would be the best way for you to go, as long as you are getting it from a reliable source.

Being new to beekeeping, a nuc would probably be a better choice for you than an established colony. A full size colony expanding in the spring could be a bit intimidating for a brand new beekeeper. A nuc will allow you a little time to gain experience and confidence as it grows.

Maybe there is someone here on Beesource in your area who could recommend a good nuc supplier for you.
 

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As a new beekeeper you are going to make mistakes. Mistakes are cheaper with packaged bees. A package also offers you the learning opportunity to observe the bees from the absolute start of a hive. You have to handle the bees from day one which will get you over the initial fear. There are a lot of diseases that could be acquired through an established hive or a nuc and it is unlikely that a nuc producer will have health certificates on their nucs where as package producers usually do.
 

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I started with both nucs and packages. I had zero idea of what to do with bees. I will say liked the packages better. I was able to set them up with new frames and new foundation. It was amazing observing them set up house.
If you get nucs I agree you should look at what is there especially for eggs, open brood and capped brood. I did not and later realized not all had Queens and also had no open brood to make into Queens.
I expected dead outs so ordered make up bees for this year...I went with packages. Both last years packages and nucs over wintered so at least for a while I have a few extra hives.
Regardless of what you do you are going to have so much fun!
 

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I started with packages last year and had no issues. They thrived and built up like crazy. If I had to do it for the first time again, I might go with nucs instead. Why? 1) I guess that I feel that with a nuc the initial resources are already in place, and this might give them a head start. This could be helpful if the year ahead turns out to be a difficult one. 2) With an overwintered nuc I can get bees that are more locally adapted to my climate.

Like I said, packages worked out well for me. I can't help but wonder, though, if my winter losses might have been less had I started with local bees. There is no knowing, of course.
 

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I started with a package and liked seeing them go from ground up. This year they are a strong colony and I will take a few frames and make a NUC!
 

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Nuc are the way to go

In about a month beesource will be swamped with threads like Installed my package and queen few away or package queen dead/died/missing... or package absconded or package never got a good start...

Nucs may be possible to see the disease.
Packages there will be no way to know they are diseased until 5-6 weeks later.

http://triscience.com/
"Transmission of European foul brood disease by package bees"
"All colonies derived from infected colonies developed E.F.B."

"Transmission of American foul brood by package bees"
"4 of the 6 from colonies infected with American foul brood were infected."
 

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Just be sure to purchase your nuc from a reputable beekeeper with a good track record. It's their livelihood, and the last thing they want is to sell diseased nucs to their customers. Word gets out quick in this business. Avoid the "good deals" you might hear about. If it sounds too good to be true, it will probably end up being a disaster.

Not sure how it is in your state, but here in Ohio your apiary must be inspected by a county inspector if you want to be certified to sell bees. Hopefully it's the same in your state and you can purchase from someone who is certified and has been in the business for a while with a good reputation.
 

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Nuc are the way to go

In about a month beesource will be swamped with threads like Installed my package and queen few away or package queen dead/died/missing... or package absconded or package never got a good start...

Nucs may be possible to see the disease.
Packages there will be no way to know they are diseased until 5-6 weeks later.

http://triscience.com/
"Transmission of European foul brood disease by package bees"
"All colonies derived from infected colonies developed E.F.B."

"Transmission of American foul brood by package bees"
"4 of the 6 from colonies infected with American foul brood were infected."
Shaking bees out of an infected hive and into new equipment is one of the tried and true methods for saving the bees. http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/20091209_4 The package producers I work with get their entire yard quarantined if a single hive in the yard tests with Foul brood. They are regularly inspected and certified to ship packages out of state... The risk of getting foul brood from a package of bees is nil.

Given the number of packages sold compared to the number of nucs we would expect to see more posts about problems with packages... Nobody posts the success stories. If we see one post about a bad package we don't see any about the 1000s that are successful.
 

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Personally I like nucs to start, and packages to restart.
 

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Another vote for nucs..... Faster start up and less risk if you ensure there is brood.... Try and avoid the very early season nucs unless they have been overwintered as nucs so you can have some assurance that the queen is healthy/hearty and well mated....

As has been mentioned just be careful who you buy them from..... Treatment free if possible will give you cleaner wax in the nuc as well as some assurance that disease hasn't been suppressed by antibiotics.....
 

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Before we moved, we hosted the club extractor for 3 years. Over that time, we noticed a very clear trend talking to various folks picking up and dropping off the extractor.

Folks who started with packages, never came to get the extractor in the first year.
Some folks who started with a nuc, came and got the extractor, and extracted a partial super, some didn't come get it at all.
The few folks that started by purchasing a fully established colony (double deep), extracted significant amounts of honey in the first year.

We started with packages, and the only reason we picked up the club extractor in our first year, was to put it in our garage for storage.
 

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The risk of getting foul brood from a package of bees is nil.
Only if you treat with OTC (antibiotic) and shook swarm can you achieve a 5% reoccurrence rate. Which is still not "nil"
https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/index.cfm?pageid=89

Are your packages treated with OTC? How about the bees?

OTC only suppresses AFB which can show up 2 month - 1 year later.
http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AR9890691.htm

Most new beek don't know why their package fail, most don’t try to find out, some will just buy another package and put in in their same infected equipment. After their second attempt then they will find another hobby.

It is in the best interest of the industry to sell more packages to people whose first packages failed.
 

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My first piece of advice would be to join a club. Then get a mentor. And then buy 2 nucs from a reputable seller if you can swing it. Here in VA, those who sell bees are required to have their apiary inspected and you should be able to get a health certificate with the nuc.

Packages have too high a failure rate in my view. Full blown hives are for the experienced or daring. A nuc is good. Two are better as you can compare them. And if you end up with one dying (it happens), you'll have another one.
 
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