One of the best things to come out of this relative mild winter we have just come through is the fact that not many of us have lost colonies this year. Nearly every beekeeper I have spoken to has confirmed this, other than the odd queen failure problems where a hive may have being lost. The larger majority seem to have come through winter without loss. This, to most beekeepers is great news and unlike the last two or three years we are not on the search for auctions and other beekeepers who have bees for sale at this early time of year to replenish our stock losses. Great news you may say, but not if you are among those many individuals who rely on colony loss, as most of us have had over the last few years and need to replace bees – be it by nuks or by buying full colonies from auctions or specialist breeders.
Over the last few years a person wishing to purchase bees at this early time of year has had to dig very deep into their pockets to secure a good buy. Not this year though. Most beekeepers in this region go to the Lincoln auction to buy bees and beekeeping equipment as this is usually the first major auction of the season and a recognised guide line to bee sale prices throughout the county auctions to come. Top prices have been the norm over the past several years with prices reaching a peek in 2012/13 at around £150 – £200 for a small colony or nucleus of bee and £300 to £350 for a good strong colony.
This came down drastically at this years Lincoln auction and mainly due to the fact that losses were few throughout the region, and good strong colonies of bees were sold for as little as £75-00 to £90-00 per colony. Disastrous for the sellers and auctioneers who rely on keeping prices exorbitantly high to achieve greater profits. However a great opportunity to replenish depleted stocks and especially for the beginners wanting to purchase bees for the very first time. We now have to wait and see is those individuals who normally sell bees at preceding auctions throughout the county after Lincoln still do so, and if so it will be very interesting to see what prices are achieved. Lets hope the extreme prices of the past few years due to desperation to replenish stock from lost colonies are gone for good throughout the whole country and they return to a price that everyone can afford. The next few months of forthcoming auctions and ‘bees for sale’ adverts should let us know, and if you are intending going to an auction near you to make a purchase don’t be too eager to be first to put up your hand to buy. Better to wait and hold back in the hope we can drive the prices back down to a price we can all afford for good. Look out for reserve pricing, and check what that reserve is prior to going. If its too high wait for the next auction, or go but with caution and wait and see what occurs before jumping in, but lets hope that Lincoln is the catalyst and prices are down to stay.
The Yorkshire beekeeper.