They Keep Bees: Beekeeping

Our Bees

Support healthy bees and small scale, sustainable beekeeping. Get our naturally raised bees and locally adapted queens.

We are now taking Queen Bee Pre-Orders for 2021.

Click here for more details.

We are now taking Package Orders for 2021.

Click here for more details.


How do you select your breeding stock?

  • Newly mated queens are produced by us in our own apiaries
  • The breeder or “mother” queens we use for propagation are a mix of survivor stock VSH and Carniolan queens and survivor stock Russians who have overwintered successfully in the Northeast (Montague, MA) for at least one winter.
  • The breeder queen mothers have overwintered for one full New England winters before being brought to an isolated breeding outpost in the South for early Spring queen rearing.
  • These lines demonstrate resistance to varroa infestation and receive no chemical treatments. When mating, I select breeder queens based on a queen health protocol list I developed. I conduct bi-annual viral testing.
  • I test and select for more resilient bees by monitoring mites regularly, and eliminating less mite resilient bees from my operation. I integrate manual manipulations to prevent treating breeder queens.
  • When you buy a queen or package the queen you receive is NEWLY bred from a mix of my NE survivor stock queen mothers in locations with high drone saturation from both VSH queens and survivor stock Russian bees.
  • These bees NEVER go to almond pollination.

What is a package of bees?

Packages, or package bees, are small wooden boxes with fine breathable screens on either side to provide ventilation. Inside of the box are 3lbs of honeybees, as well as a They Keep Bees survivor stock caged queen and a can of sugar feed for nutrition in transit. A package simulates a swarm of bees since it has been shaken into a box and removed from its prior hive. The bees are ripe for installation and will be quick to begin drawing wax and raising brood in a new hive box setup. Order your 2021 packages here. You can install a package into a Langstroth, Warre, Comfort or Top Bar hive.

Are these queens or packages treated?

  • Our packages do not receive any chemical treatments.
  • I run a strict manipulation protocol to avoid treating queen production colonies. See the breeding stock question above for more details.
  • I work collaboratively with other survivor stock queen rearers to create saturated breeding zones. These ensure drone saturation of our selected genetics.

Why did you shift from selling nucleus colonies to package bees?

The production of nucleus colonies is a highly intensive process, which includes a massive input of labor, equipment, feed, and a specialized understanding of how to transport colonies safely in large numbers. As we turn our attention towards queens and Comfort hives, we can't justify raising Langstroth nucs and running our Comfort hive queen operation. Instead, this year we've decided to offer you shook swarms headed by our They Keep Bees queens. This will help us continue to raise our bees in the Comfort hives we prefer and still provide you with the strong TKB genetics you've grown to love. Since package bees are naturally replicating a swarm in the wild, the bees are primed to start drawing wax and raising brood. You'll still get our bees, but we'll keep our wax and be able to build out our queen operation. Each package receives a newly mated queen from our survivor lines. They are produced in Spring in a saturated southern outpost (see above for our selection process).

Why do I have to pay now?

Queen pre-orders do not require a payment. I ask all customers to pay for packages when they order. When customers pay up front, I can set realistic goals for production and absorb our Spring costs with less risk. know how many hives I will need to produce, and plan securely. That, in turn, impacts how my business can sustain itself AND grow. Thank you for your willingness to support this small scale apiary. Paying up front helps me sustain my apiary and run low cost apiary education opportunities in my community.

When and where will I receive my package? Can you ship it?

Packages must be picked up at the farm in Montague. A map can be found here. All pick ups will occur in May 2021 at the apiary site at They Keep Bees. Dates are TBD due to weather. We appreciate your patience, and promise to be in clear communication throughout the process. WE DO NOT SHIP PACKAGES, PICK UP ONLY at the farm in Montague, MA.

Have more questions?

Email us at

How do I install the queen I purchased from you?

Queens will arrive via USPS, or be picked up on the farm. We recommend installing the queen in a small 3-5 frame nucleus hive, allowing the hive to accept the queen by first leaving her in the hive in a capped cage. 24 hours later remove the cap and allow bees to chew through the candy. After the hive has accepted her you can combine them with a larger hive or add additional resource/brood. If installing the queen in a large hive we recommend using a veil or queen muff to remove the "attendant" bees who made the trip with her, and placing the queen back in her cage alone, then installing her in the hive in a capped cage. 24 hours later remove the cap and allow bees to chew through the candy.

How can I get my queen?

You can order queens for shipping OR pick your queen up by appointment. Currently we're taking pre-orders for 2021. Click here to reserve your 2021 queens now.