My bees are now on order. I was fortunate to get a nucleus colony (or “nuc”) reserved from Betterbee two Saturdays ago. The order form went live at 2pm, and I placed my order at 2:01. Glad I did; they sold out super fast.
A nuc is essentially an itty bitty colony. Four or five frames with a queen already laying eggs. All I’ll have to do is transfer those frames into my hive. These from Betterbee will have been overwintered up near Saratoga, so they’ll be a little more used to our winters (although they didn’t have much of a winter to deal with this year).
These will be the Carniolan strain of bees. They’re very gentle and more cold hardy than some other strains. A bit more likely to get crowded and swarm, though, so I’ll have to make sure they have enough space to expand their numbers.
I did finally break down and decide to get a second hive. I had backed off due to the cost, but everything I read says it’s better to start with two if you can. I’ll be better able to learn if I can watch for differences between two hives. I’ll also double the chance of getting a hive through next winter and might therefore not have to start from scratch again next year.
So I just placed an order for a package of Italian bees for my second hive. This is a little different than a nuc. It’s essentially just a box of bees, probably from several hives, plus a queen that has had nothing to do with the rest of the bees until now. She comes in a small cage; it takes a few days for her to get out of the cage, and in that time the other bees will (hopefully) have come to accept her. These literally get dumped into my hive after I pick up the package.
Italians are supposedly really good honey producers and one of the more popular bees among keepers, but a bit less cold hardy. Should be an interesting comparison between the two hives!
The problem now seems to be that the hive components are on backorder. Hopefully I can get the bees a home before they arrive…