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Author Topic: Buying Package Bees  (Read 2086 times)
fatcat
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« on: December 05, 2008, 09:41:12 AM »

I am a new (first-year) beekeeper in Michigan.  I want to expand in the spring with some package bees.  What strain of bees are gentle and do well in the north?
« Last Edit: December 09, 2008, 03:36:50 PM by fatcat » Logged
bassman1977
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« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2008, 12:35:52 PM »

Italians and Carnolians do well in my location.  That is what I have.  Russians are also good for cooler climates.  I don't have experience with Russians so I can't comment on their behavior.  The Italians and Carnolians have a good temperament suitable for beginners.  Carnies are my favorite between the Italians and Carnolians.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2008, 02:36:50 PM by bassman1977 » Logged

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BMAC
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« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2008, 01:20:56 PM »

I will second the Italian strain.  Stay away from the Buckfast....
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danno
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« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2008, 03:04:54 PM »

where in michigan are you?
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Dan Williamson
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« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2008, 03:10:08 PM »

Try to find some bees raised in Northern climates or in your local area.  They are likely already adapted to your particular type climate.  Check your local clubs or local queen breeders.  There are other Northern queen breeders out there that can offer queens raised in colder climates.

May I also suggest you go with a nuc rather than a package.  Side by side nucs are much further along than a package.  I've heard estimates that suggest they are 6 weeks ahead of where a package is.  You will get drawn comb in the nuc.  Packages placed on foundation must first draw the comb before the queen can lay.  Nucs offer brood in various stages... ideally from eggs to emerging brood and a frame of pollen/nectar along with the adhering bees.  Just my 2 cents.
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« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2008, 04:46:14 PM »

Pretty much any strain will work for you, they are all just a bit different.  Mine are just italian mutts, and last winter they all survived.  Not the absolute most gentle, but very suitable, I have 5 little kids and keep them in my yard (the bees and the kids).  I had carniolans that were more gentle, but money is a consideration for me (see the 5 kids comment Smiley ) so I just do with what I have.

Rick
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steveouk
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« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2008, 08:40:20 PM »

i'd get some Italians and i wouldn't necessarily go with a nuc. My experience was not good. My packages however out performed my nucs. Plus you have the whole experience of installing a package, Alot more fun and rewarding
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JordanM
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2008, 09:22:12 PM »

Wow the michiganders are sure getting into beekeeping more lately. I have 1st year italians that are doing pretty good and are pretty docile.
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bailey
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« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2008, 10:21:08 PM »

if you have the time to wait, you could try to trap some local swarms in the spring.
if your area has a good wild population they would be your best bet for bees that will do well in your area.
i have all wild stock and couldn't be happier.
but i also live in an area with an overabundance of local bees.
we get lots of swarm and cut out requests grin

good luck

bailey
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« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2008, 10:23:36 PM »

Well i got Italians , and black mellifera , both are suitable so far. The italians are a bit more gentle but eh, they are both good for me so far. And seem to be doing well here.
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Dan Williamson
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« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2008, 07:55:00 AM »

i'd get some Italians and i wouldn't necessarily go with a nuc. My experience was not good. My packages however out performed my nucs. Plus you have the whole experience of installing a package, Alot more fun and rewarding

That's interesting... because I would put a good quality nuc up against a package any day of the week.... and I'd put money on it building up faster and certainly being ahead of the package especially earlier in the season.  Sure you could get a poor queen in a nuc and then the good queen in the package would obviously outperform the poor queen in the nuc.  However, given equal queens and a healthy nuc, I don't see how a package could possibly outperform a nuc if purchased simultaneously.  I supposed there could be exceptions but I'll bet my money on a nuc any day.

Could you share some more insight as to why you think the packages outperformed the nucs and the contributing details.  I'm just curious. 

Thanks.
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dpence
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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2008, 01:09:51 PM »

I would go with Italians the first go around.  They are gentle and easy to work.  Russians are not bad either, they tend to build up rather quickly so you have to keep and eye on them.  Between the two I like Russians the best, but just my opinion. 

David
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BjornBee
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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2008, 02:18:37 PM »

Hello Dan,

I agree with your comments. I would like to add a few points.

Generally speaking, nuc production, nuc availability, and nuc expectations, are based on local conditions. Whereas, package production and quality are set on a much larger bases. Let me explain each as follows.....

Most packages are produced from larger commercial outfits. With that comes such things as standard production from one producer to the next, state inspections since most ship across state lines, and the added benefit of long established experienced owners. Down sides to such operations are perhaps mass produced queens, pests, etc. There are both good and bad from such operations. But I think the standard of what one is getting, is well known and expected.

Nucs on the other hand, are normally locally produced, with a few exceptions. Some states do not have inspectors or any protocol. Nuc availability is based on someone at the local club making up a few for a new beekeeper, and this may be filled with many potential problems. If I asked at the local club, if anyone would be willing to sell me three pounds of bees, nobody will. If I ask the same question, but ask for a nuc, there are always some willing to sell a few frames and a queen for a quick cash transaction. But is that a smart move? Are you getting a good product with clean comb, and a quality queen?

What I am saying, is that most packages are from at least operations that are inspected and has a level of "standard". I would also say that for many, nuc experiences are across the board in that there are few actual suppliers of nucs in any given area, and that many are just the "guy" at the local club, trying to make a buck. Which may be a far cry from what people expect, and actually receive.

If you had a bad experience with nucs, it was not the "nuc" that was bad. It was the supplier who provided them. Nucs clearly will outperform any package. Nucs also give you a chance to order from a regional or more localized supplier, and many times a different strain from that of the standard package supplier. I openly support local producers.

There are more nuc producers now than before. And it is in the industry's interest that beekeepers get to know local breeders, ask questions, and understand that just because someone sells nucs down at the local club, does not mean your getting much for your money.

I get hammered everytime I say this, but I know many nuc producers I would not touch with a ten foot pool. Old comb, contaminated wax, and a host of problems can exist. Buying a nuc should be more than paying the first guy willing to provide one to you at the local club.

There are quality nuc producers out there. Ask some questions, do your homework. The problem I see, is that there are not enough good nuc producers in most areas. But because demand is overwhelming and many orders can not get filled, there are always some "fringe"' producers, who are willing to sell a few to a new beekeeper. And many times it's these same producers that are operating "under the table" or "under the radar screen" of inspectors or other requirements, that can give everyone a bad reputation. The one's you should order from are those that are laying it out on the table, and know their reputation is at stake, and advertise as such.

IMO - Bottom line is that a nuc is a better option than packages. If you got a bum nuc, it's NOT the concept of the nuc that failed you, it was a producer. Seek out a nuc producer and find a good one. You will not be disappointed.
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fatcat
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« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2008, 03:49:03 PM »

Danno - we are about 30 miles east of Grand Rapids.  Ionia County.
Thanks everyone for your thoughts - it seems to be quite a toss up between nucs and packages - probably we'll try some both ways and see what our own experience is.  Carni's seem to be the strain of choice.
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danno
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« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2008, 08:02:49 AM »

Fatcat
There is a guy in the Holland Area Beekeepers Assc.  that brings Italian 3# packages up from Georgia in April.  He drives straight through after loading up and pickup is at his home.  They were 70.00 ea last year and all I bought did very well.  If you are interested let me know and I will give you his number
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Dan Williamson
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« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2008, 10:23:41 AM »

Thanks Bjorn for the detailed reply.  I just didn't have time to write all that up and you said it much better than I would have said it anyway.  Good information for all not just beginners.  I also have seen numerous beekeepers offering products that I would not touch. Hopefully the buyers do their homework.  I think it might also be a good idea to ask for references.  Talk to past customers and find out if they were satisfied with the product(s) and service.  I for one would be more than willing to pass along names (if I got permission first) should a potential customer want a reference. 
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2008, 10:59:02 PM »

If you had a bad experience with nucs, it was not the "nuc" that was bad. It was the supplier who provided them. Nucs clearly will outperform any package. Nucs also give you a chance to order from a regional or more localized supplier, and many times a different strain from that of the standard package supplier. I openly support local producers.

To which I agree, which is why I try to buy splits instead of nucs.  Splits being the frames and bees without the queen.  I can raise my own queens and use the drones in the nuc and surrounding beekeepers hive for genetic diversity. 

Quote
I get hammered everytime I say this, but I know many nuc producers I would not touch with a ten foot pool. Old comb, contaminated wax, and a host of problems can exist. Buying a nuc should be more than paying the first guy willing to provide one to you at the local club.

How true.  Too many local nuc suppliers use the opportunity to clean their operation of old frames and combs that should have been discarded already.  So you get bees on contaminated combs, not the best way to start.  In essence, he's knowingly selling you sick bees.  Ask around and buy your nucs from the guys the others consider is the best (other than themselves).

Quote
There are quality nuc producers out there. Ask some questions, do your homework. The problem I see, is that there are not enough good nuc producers in most areas. But because demand is overwhelming and many orders can not get filled, there are always some "fringe"' producers, who are willing to sell a few to a new beekeeper. And many times it's these same producers that are operating "under the table" or "under the radar screen" of inspectors or other requirements, that can give everyone a bad reputation. The one's you should order from are those that are laying it out on the table, and know their reputation is at stake, and advertise as such.

IMO - Bottom line is that a nuc is a better option than packages. If you got a bum nuc, it's NOT the concept of the nuc that failed you, it was a producer. Seek out a nuc producer and find a good one. You will not be disappointed.

A reputable beekeeper who has healthy bees is the best source, often such beekeepers are hard to find.  A credable nuc producer will sell out fast, get your order in asap.  Now, don't wait until spring.
The other option is to buy bees by the frame.  I'd take a 5 frame nuc and trade 4 frames (plus cash) for 4 frames of bees as long as I got to chose which frames.
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tlynn
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« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2008, 06:25:05 PM »

Mine are Italians.  I live in FLA so different climate for sure.  As far as being tame, you'd really have to go out and stand right in front of the hives and shake them, maybe whack on the sides with a framing hammer or even wave your fingers in the hive entrance before anybody decided to come out and zap you.  Just requeened with a Russian because of a failing hive and low queen availability...so I am interested to see how they behave.
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