How To Obtain A Queen Bee

One of the very first steps in establishing a hive is to obtain a queen bee. It’s actually pretty easy for the most part. There are three ways you can go about obtaining a queen bee. Some ways are better than others.

Let’s dive into the first way you can obtain a queen bee: Catching a swarm.

Obtain A Queen Bee By Catching A Swarm

When a bee colony outgrows their hive, they elect a second queen bee. The OG queen bee is driven from the hive. A bee hive only has one queen because multiple queens will cause confusion in the worker bees. Bee queens produce a pheromone that tell the other bees that she’s the queen. Pheromonal signaling from two different queens causes problems in the efficiency of the hive.

So, the queen bee along with a significant chunk of the hive population will then leave the original hive in search of a new hive. The bees all travel together in a swarm. Swarm season occurs in the late spring. Sometimes they can swarm through June or start in late February, but late spring is when you’ll have the most luck catching a swarm.

You need to have your hive boxes already before you begin trying to catch a swarm. Catching a swarm of bees is done with a swarm box. The swarm box is a small box that has a way for the bees to get in, but not out. The most ideal location for your swarm box is up in a tree. Bees search for a new hive in high places. Trying to catch a swarm of bees on the ground is not impossible, but it is much harder to attract them.

Attracting bees to your swarm box is simple. In nature, bees use pheromones to mark their hives. There are synthetic pheromones available, but they can be expensive and hard to come by. My favorite method (especially for first time beekeepers) is to use lemongrass essential oil. Not only can you produce this on your own, but it works very similarly to the pheromones. Lemongrass smells very similar to the Nassonoff gland pheromone to bees. This makes it an excellent way to attract a swarm to your swarm box.

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Catching a swarm is the best way to obtain a queen bee for the health of the hive. Swarming bees usually come from a healthy hive. They will also have built up a natural resistance to the diseases found in your area. They will have come from a hive within a few miles of your desired swarm catching location.

Obtain A Queen Bee By Buying Local

Buying local bees is another good option. If you couldn’t catch a swarm, buying local will give you most of the same benefits as catching a swarm. The downsides are that it’s often more expensive. You also need to be careful that you know the person your buying bees from. Making sure the hive they came from is healthy and free of infestation and/or disease is important to give you the best chance of keeping your colony alive and healthy.

The closer to home you buy the better. You can easily find beekeepers by looking for local honey (a much more popular product than the bees themselves). The one thing you must keep in mind is that you have to give the bees enough time to make enough honey to survive through the winter. If you are buying local, try to buy late spring to early summer. That way your bees won’t starve over the winter.

Buying A Not-So-Local Queen Bee

The final option you have is to buy bees online. You can buy bees from anywhere in the world and have them shipped right to your door. This does have the potential to be your best option and there are definitely times where this works out great for the beekeeper.

However, this is not the option I recommend. Bees from out of state or out of the country have a much lower survival rate compared to local bees. This is because bees from other parts of the country or world are not as acclimated to the diseases of your part of the world. In some cases transporting bees from far away can actually spread disease and harm your local population.

This option is truly a last resort option. I highly recommend avoiding it if at all possible.


There are three ways you can obtain a queen bee:

  1. Catching a swarm
  2. Buying local
  3. Buying from far away

Catching a swarm is the best option because it has the lowest risk and the lowest cost associated. It’s definitely the most difficult option on the list, but it’s still not terribly difficult. Let me know in the comments if you would like a more in depth post on how to catch a swarm!

Buying local is the second best option. You should know who you’re buying from and you should not buy too close to winter. The closer to your hive site they are, the better they will be at fighting off diseases in your area. You should also ask if they had their bees imported. If the answer is yes and they haven’t been raising bees for more than a handful of years, you may be better off looking for other options.

The last option is to buy a queen from a provider who’s not in your area. This is the riskiest option because of of how susceptible they may be to the diseases in your area. There’s also a small chance they could be carrying a disease that does not yet exist in your area. This could harm the local bee population. This option should be a last resort.

For more information on how to introduce your bought bees to your hive check out this YouTube video. Also let me know if you want a full post on this.

Do you raise bees? Let me know your experience down below! I have taken classes, read books, and talked to beekeepers about beekeeping, but I’m just about to catch my first swarm and take care of my first hive! The Self Reliant Farms community and I appreciate any experiences you may have to share.

I wish you all joyful farming!

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