Buying established colonies is not recommended for beginners, but experienced beekeepers may find this a practical means to increase their number of bee colonies. There are a few problems associated with buying used equipment and bees, that is why it is best left to those with a bit of beekeeping experience.
Some of the difficulties associated with purchasing an established colony are calculating a market value, the potential of acquiring disease and also getting equipment that is highly variable in condition and possibly not of standard dimensions. Often established colonies are available when a beekeeper retires from beekeeping or decides that it is not after all the hobby for them. Maybe the colony has been neglected or the equipment is really old and passed its useful life.
While financial returns from an established colony can be realised in the first season, beginners usually are not adequately experienced to manage a full-strength colony. Purchasing smaller units such as packages or nucs in the spring allows a beginner to grow in confidence and managerial skills as the colony size increases during the season.
If you do decide to purchase an established colony try to find one through your local beekeeper’s association, they may know of someone selling and be able to vouch for the quality of the bees and the equipment.