How to Ship Live Bees

Learn how to ship live bees (and how to do it safely)
how to ship live bees
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Believe it or not, bees don’t just fly everywhere to get around…they are shipped! As more people take up hobbies like beekeeping, the amount of bee shipments has increased over the past few years. In addition to bee hobbyists, there are also lots of businesses popping up that make use of bee products, as well. For example, Portland-based Bee Lucia makes crystal-infused candles with pure beeswax instead of soy (and they smell amazing). Anyway, we digress. We’re here to talk about how to ship bees and how you—and the bees—can stay safe doing it!

Why You Should Use USPS to Ship Live Bees

Let’s start off by going down the list of major shipping carriers. In our opinion, USPS is the best overall choice for shipping live bees. Bees can’t last longer than 7 days during transit, so fast delivery is crucial. You can use FedEx or UPS to accomplish this, but the US Postal Service will ultimately give you the best mix of fast delivery and affordable rates. In fact, beekeepers all throughout the country choose USPS to ship their bees!

Pro Tip: You are only able to ship bees if they are disease free! Also, USPS won’t ship bees to any location where insecticides have been used.

The Kinds of Bees You Can Ship

If you want to ship bees, you’ll be restricted to shipping queen honeybees and regular honeybees. Unfortunately, that means you can’t ship bumblebees, carpenter bees, or those huge black bees that terrify everybody. Also, whole honeybee colonies cannot be shipped.

Which USPS Service Should I Use to Ship Live Honeybees?

Before you go choosing the proper USPS mail class, we first need to distinguish between the two types of honeybees. There are two types: regular honeybees and queen bees. Interestingly enough, the type of honeybee you ship will determine which USPS service you can use.

Regular Honeybees

Your only option for shipping regular honeybees is via surface transportation. As a result, you’ll be limited to shipping USPS Retail Ground. Bee packages sent via USPS Retail Ground must include special handling service fees on top of the price of postage. You’ll also need to clearly mark the package with “Live Bees” and “Surface Only” on the same side as the address markings.

Queen Honeybees

Since they are bee royalty, queens have the option to travel in style. You can ship queen honeybees either via surface or air transport, and you can include up to eight attendant honeybees with the queen. Therefore, you can use either Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, or Retail Ground for these shipments. If you opt for surface transportation, queen honeybee packages must include special handling service fees. In addition, you’ll need to plainly mark all parcels on the address side with “Live Queen Bees” and “Surface Only.”

Packages vs. Nucs

When you’re ready to ship your bees, you need to decide whether you’ll be shipping a package or a nuc. Most beekeepers ship out their bees in wooden bee packages, and the most popular transport package is known as the three-pound honeybee package. This is what you’ll find the majority of beekeepers selling over the Internet.

Um…What’s a Nuc?

A nuc (pronounced “nuke”) is beekeeping lingo for a nucleus colony, which is a small bee colony created from a larger colony. Nucs are centered on the queen bee, or “the nucleus” of a honeybee colony. With only 5 frames, nucs are smaller than regular bee packages, and are typically placed in a larger hive after they reach their final destination.

Properly Packaging Your Bees

Here’s the good news: bee packages can be shipped in their wooden containers! Therefore, you don’t need a special USPS box (such as when you ship day-old chicks with USPS). The most important thing to worry about here is making sure the box prevents any bees from escaping, and that the box is strong enough to not get crushed during transit. Also, if you’re shipping your bees via surface transportation, you’ll need purchase special handling services. Lastly, depending on the type of bee you’re shipping, you’ll need to either mark the package with “Live Bees,” “Live Queen Bees,” and “Surface Only.”

If you want more information on how to package your bees, check out USPS’ regulations for live animal shipping containers.

Temperature Matters

It’s important to remember that keeping your bees at a tolerable temperature range is crucial. The proper temperature range for honeybees is 40-100 degrees Fahrenheit. USPS is already aware of this, but it never hurt to double-check with your local USPS worker when you drop off your bees at the Post Office or when you schedule a pickup from your home or business.

Keep this in mind in regards to shipping during specific times of year, as well. Bees can easily freeze in the winter months, so we suggest thinking twice before shipping bees from say, California to Minnesota during January.

Don’t Forget to Insure Your Bee Shipment

This is one is pretty self-explanatory. Honeybees are particularly sensitive insects, so we suggest you purchase shipping insurance to protect the value of your bees in case anything happens during transit. USPS will insure your bee shipment and you can purchase additional coverage if you declare its value. However, according to USPS’ website, the Postal Service will only accept claims for damage, partial loss, and loss of insured bee shipments in the following situations:

  • Death of the bees resulted from Postal Service handling after conditions for mailability were met and when there was strong likelihood that the shipment could have been safely transported
  • Contents were lost because of damage to the container while in Postal Service custody
  • The complete package was lost in the mail
  • Special handling services were purchased

Can I Ship Live Bees Internationally?

You can ship bees internationally from the United States. However, some countries prohibit bees to be shipped in, and other countries enforce strict import rules. When you’re thinking about shipping bees to a specific country, we suggest that you research that country’s restrictions before starting the process. A good place to start is to browse USPS’ list of different shipping restrictions by country.

Save on Shipping Costs With Shipping Software

As always, you can save the most money on USPS postage by using online shipping software. Most shipping software solutions offer USPS discounts typically reserved for commercial shippers, such as USPS Commercial Pricing. This represents the deepest discounts you can get, and you’ll save WAY more money than if you buy postage at your local Post Office. You can also add in the price of “Special Handling,” which makes using shipping software to buy postage for your bee shipment even easier.

Need some shipping software tips? Check out our Reviews page for recommendations on shipping software, packaging companies, eCommerce platforms and more!

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