Obtaining Honey Bees

Nucleus Colony (Nuc)

Your first honeybees are likely to be sourced as a nucleus colony (Nuc) through your local beekeeping association or on the recommendation of another beekeeper. Buying nucleus colonies, as opposed to buying full colonies, is a better introduction to ownership of honeybees for beginners. When put into a full hive they are less difficult to handle than a full hive of bees as they are smaller in number. The bees in the Nuc should be selected to be docile, healthy and with a queen marked to help finding her. The Nuc should contain a good proportion of eggs, larvae and sealed brood along with adequate stores of honey and pollen.

If honeybees are not available from your local beekeeping association, try to obtain local bees from a reputable supplier. Please do not import bees. Importing bees could lead to the introduction of pests and diseases. In the island of Ireland there are growing numbers of voluntary conservation areas for native honeybees. Importation of honeybees could have a detrimental impact upon those conservation areas.

Buying the Nuc in late May or June and if necessary, with careful feeding to help build them up to strength you will become accustomed to a steadily growing population of bees and gain confidence while developing your beekeeping skills through your first beekeeping season.


Another source of bees is from catching swarms. This is not the usual way to start as a beekeeper because you will not know the health status of these bees nor their temperament, therefore swarms are really for a slightly more advanced keeper.

Further Information

FERA Best Practice Factsheet – Advice for Obtaining Honey Bees

BBKA Standard Nucleus Guidance notes

FERA Best Practice Guideline No. 8 – Guidance for the Sale of Honey Bee Nuclei

Native Irish Honey Bee Society

See bees and equipment wanted/available for sale