Buying secondhand hives of bees

If you are thinking of buying secondhand hives of bees, we suggest you check the state of the frames and combs before you buy, and ask for advice if in doubt.  The pictures show incorrect size frames,  a frame with a damaged lug, a broken frame spacer and distorted comb.   Manky old combs like these could be harbouring diseases. Beekeeping is much easier if you use good equipment. Pictures by Barry Griffiths.

This colony of bees could be transferred onto new frames of foundation using a Bailey Frame change or a Shook swarm

A few questions to ask before buying….

  • Why are the bees for sale?   If the hives have come from a retiring or deceased beekeeper, you can expect to find hives in bad condition, old frames, blackened brood combs, maybe frames missing.  You may end up replacing the hive and the frames, and wondering if it’s all worth it.  You may wish to replace the hive floor before moving the hives home.
  • Have they been recently inspected by the Seasonal Bee Inspector?
  • Where are they coming from?  Our part of north Wales has a very healthy population of honeybees. We want to keep it that way.   Only buy locally raised bees.
  • When is the best time of year to buy hives of bees?  Buy in September and you will have to prepare the bees for winter quickly. The price will be at its lowest. Buy in the spring and you will pay more. You may be able to run the bees onto clean frames of foundation in May, when the sycamore honey is flowing.
  • Always remember….Buyer beware.
  • We recommend that new beekeepers ask an experienced beekeeper to visit the bees with them, before deciding whether to buy.
  • New beekeepers…Points to look out for…
    1.  Type of hive?  Most beekeepers in our area use National hives.
    2.  Old WCB hives of bees are a nightmare to move.  Leave well alone.  An experienced beekeeper may think about transferring them to a National hive before moving.
    3.  Condition of the hives and any other equipment.
    4.  Temper of the bees. This is very important.  You do not want to start beekeeping with angry bees. Walk away if you are unsure.
    5.  Stores?  Do the bees need feeding?
    6.  You may be better buying a nuc of bees headed by a young queen, raised by a local experienced beekeeper.