To follow up on my previous post about ordering bees, most apiaries offer two options in this regard: packages or nucs.
Ordering a package of bees is probably the most common way to get bees. A package consists of anywhere from 3-5 lbs. of bees in a large meshed box with a queen. You can refer to my previous post on installing Large Marge if you want to see what one looks like.
This is the cheapest option, and you can install these bees in any type of hive and/or hive type configuration. It also may be a little easier for a new beek to work with as all the bees are contained in one easy to dump out box. The downside of a package for someone starting with all new equipment is the bees have to draw out comb on all the frames before the queen can start laying eggs. Once the eggs are laid, you are then looking at another 21 days before you have new workers. This means you are waiting over a month before new bees start emerging to replace the ones you received with your package.
Ordering a nuc gets you the same number of bees in a package plus a queen, but you also get the added benefit of several frames of drawn comb you can put directly into your hive. The advantage of this method is the comb will most likely have some honey as well as workers in various stages of development plus empty cells for the queen to lay eggs. This will give your hive a jump start on the season as they will be able to build up more quickly.
Nucs will cost you more, and you must have a hive to accommodate the types of frames the apiary uses. Most will use frames for deep body hive boxes so if you were like me and decided to standardize on medium boxes, this ruled out this option completely.
I don’t think one option is necessarily better than the other, but you should at least be aware of your choices so you can make the best decision for your hive and location.