December 30

Why Most Beekeeping Supply Companies Don’t Ship Honey Bees

We get many questions from our customers each season across just about every range of beekeeping & honey bee related topics imaginable.

However, there is one particular question that stands out as being asked more often than most:

Why can’t you ship bee packages & nucs directly to me?

In this post, you’ll find out the exact reasons why we don't ship honey bees (at the moment).


The Trouble With Shipping Live Honey Bees

Each season, we get asked by existing and potential customers why we don't ship bee packages or nucs to them in other states or across the country.

The answer to this has two parts:

  1. 1
    Many shipping providers (e.g. FedEx, DHL.) don’t support shipping for honey bees
  2. 2
    The shipping providers that will ship bees (e.g. UPS, USPS) don’t understand how to handle bees and usually aren’t very careful. Often, a majority of the bees in a shipped bee package end up dead.

Neither of these issues is conducive getting your bees shipped safely to you.

It’s understandable that these problems exist with these shipping providers because they are used to shipping envelopes, boxes, pallets, etc.

Live honey bees aren’t exactly what they signed up for.

Understanding these limitations of shipping providers, it begs the question: what do you have to have to ensure your bees get safely transported?

How Shipping Providers Typically Transport Live Bees

On UPS’s website on their Live Animals page, they have specific requirements for how live bees must be packaged in order to be shipped. 

UPS Honey Bee Shipping Requirements

The UPS packaging requirements for shipping live bees makes it hard to keep the bees ventilated and cool during transit. Photo credit: UPS

As seen in the photo above, live bees must be enclosed in a sleeve in addition to the traditional bee cage with a 2” minimum required border around the edge.

From the UPS standpoint, this makes sense. They don’t want their employees (especially those who may be allergic to bee stings) to get stung etc.

Certainly, no one can fault anyone at USPS for taking these precautions.

However, the unintended consequence of that sleeve is that you get less ventilation and higher temperatures for the bees during transit.

If this wasn’t bad enough, consider how packages are packed into the back of a shipping truck. Have you ever had an inside look at the back of one of those trucks?

A quick look around Google and Pinterest returned this beauty:

You Don't Want To Ship Your Honey Bees In The Back Of This Truck

Standard shipping trucks aren’t equipped to provide honey bees with a safe ride. This isn’t the type of environment you want your honey bees shipped in.

And this is just one of many photos you can find online that shows the typical setup of the packages inside these trucks.

Is this the condition you want your bees to be transported in?

I hope not.

Try as they might, regular shipping services just aren’t cut out for this kind of work. It’s far outside of what they built their services to do.

It would be unfair to expect the same type of shipping service from these companies (for honey bees) that you get from a beekeeping supply company that has lots of experience handling bee package shipments.

How Honey Bees Should Be Transported

Honey bees are fairly delicate creatures when it comes to being transported. This is especially true when transporting them while housed in packages and nucs.

Bees aren’t as sturdy as other farm animals like a cow, horse, or pig that are just fine if to get rocked around a bit in the back of a trailer.  They are more easily agitated and disturbed their other homestead counterparts.

As such, you’ve got to be a bit more delicate.

When you ship honey bees, there are a few key criteria that have to be met in order to get the bees safely to their destination:

  1. 1
    Proper ventilation must be provided to every package (particularly those in the middle of the pile)
  2. 2
    The temperature must be kept cool so the bees don’t overheat
  3. 3
    Packages must be properly secured so that they don’t jostle around during the transit

When our bee packages are brought up from the top apiaries in California, they are transported in a climate controlled trailer that makes sure every one of these conditions is met to the highest possible degree.

Climate Controlled Tractor Trailer

Honey bees should be transported in a climate controlled environment (typically seen in tractor trailers). This is a much better way to ship honey bees than the back of a UPS truck.

It seems deceptively simple, but fulfilling these requirements is a lot of work.

In addition, you shouldn’t skip over any of these requirements as doing so puts your bees at serious risk during transit.

This is why relatively few people and/or companies go to the trouble of transporting bee packages.

It’s a lot of work and doesn’t provide a big payout unless you ship thousands of packages at a time.

What Is The Best Way To Get My Honey Bees?

Unfortunately, there’s not a great solution in place that allow companies such as Bear Country Bees to safely ship honey bees.

There’s work to be done here, but it is a monumental task that spans many different industries and disciplines. It will likely be several years before a sufficient fix is in place.

What we recommend you do for the time being is find a reputable, local beekeeping supply company that has experience with transporting honey bees and get your bees from them.

Before you make your purchase, be sure that they successfully fulfill all 3 of the important requirements listed above.

Important Note

Assuming you are located in the Utah and Salt Lake County areas (or can make a trip up here) and still haven’t ordered your bees for the upcoming season, I highly suggest you submit your pre-order today.

If you’d like to get your honey bees with us, we’d be happy to help you with this. Simply click the button below and you’ll be taken to our Bee Package Pre-Order page (you can also order nucs here too).

What Do You Think?

Have you ever experienced an issue with trying to get your bee packages shipped to you? Have you ever had to cancel your order because the bees couldn’t be shipped? If so, what was your experience like? What ideas do you have for how this could be solved? Have you successfully had your bees shipped to you? What (if anything) did you do differently from others who didn’t experience the same success?

I’d love to hear your ideas, so don’t be shy! Leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you soon.


About the author

Bryce MacCabe

Bryce is the CEO/CMO of Bear Country Bees and is in charge of marketing, strategy, and innovation. When he isn't obsessing over creating the best possible experience for backyard beekeepers, he loves reading Star Wars, visiting new places, studying and launching rockets, and spending time with his family.

He also sells weather and astronomy equipment and loves observing clouds, lightning, and storms.

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