There are several ways to begin with Layen’s style hives. The easiest is to buy a package of bees. Bees come in a box along with a queen. You shake them in and allow them to chew through the candy and release their queen. While this is the easiest, it is a bit costly in two ways. First, a package of bees can cost $200 or more. Not too bad if you’re starting a hive or two, but pricey if you want to build an apiary. Second, purchased bees may not be well suited to your local climate and nectar calendar. If you want to start by buying bees, attend a local beekeeper’s association and see if there are ways to buy local bees.
You can buy nukes of bees – these come in a box with already built comb and brood – essentially a self-contained small bee hive. The challenge with nukes is that they nearly always are built on Langstroth frames which generally don’t fit in Layen’s hives. There are ways to cut the Langstroth frames – a bit tricky when full of bees and honey – but here is a link from Horizontal Hive with the specifications.
Another way to get bees is with swarm traps. The ez-bees hive is sized to work as either a large swarm trap or a small Layen’s style hive. Many beekeepers have swarms move into empty hives, so this is a possibility and always a bonus if you set out some extra boxes with attractant scent. Unfortunately, this method can produce spotty results. Estimates run optimistically that 50% of your traps may attract swarms. I have heard of people attempting for 5 years with multiple boxes without success. A lot depends on the number of swarms occurring in your area. Again, working with a local beekeepers association will better help you judge if this is possible.
Another proven method is to mimic the swarming process allowing bees to move themselves into your Layen’s hive. The Taranov Split process is gaining popularity in America. The idea is, rather than adding size to a hive, you encourage them to get ready to swarm, shake them on a ramp. The forager bees fly back to their home hive, the worker bees (who have never been outside) walk up the ramp, gather in a swarm at the top and move themselves into the hive. Here is a fun introduction video:
Here is another video which move along a bit faster, but she doesn’t seem as experienced with Taranov Splits.