Have you seen this?
by Dan Conlon
If you are purchasing Russian queens we have a few recommendations based on last season's study (USDA/SARE grant). Russians are clearly more resistant to mites and disease requiring less intervention and treatment. They can be more difficdult to establish as they are slower to draw comb and buildup when natural food sources are scarce. I have compared packages started with foundation, and on drawn comb. The differences in the rate of growth is dramatic. Russians on drawn comb were, on average, four times the size of those started on foundation by August. Those on comb produced a honey crop, while those on foundation went into winter, needing supplemental feeding. Also there is far greater incidence of swarming when started on foundation (Russians like plenty of comb). With this in mind I recommend the following to Russians.
* Start packages on drawn comb (at least six frames). If you want to use Russians but do not have drawn comb, start with Italians and re-queen in August with a Russian queen. The Italians will do the comb work, and this still allows time for plenty of russian bees to be raised before next winter.
* Use pollen substitute and syrup. This is true for any new package, but essential for Russians. they quickly slow the egg laying in response to perceived storage of forage. They are very efficient in this regard, and tend to produce only the workers they can feed. They also need all the stimulation we can provide to get them to draw comb.
* Provide extra room ahead of their growth. Again this must be drawn comb. Foundation is not useable space to a bee. Only after the foundation is drawn do they consider it useable space. Adding foundation will not deter swarming.
* I will have a written report available in April summarizing our new understanding of managing Russian bees. It should help with practical tips that maximize the advantages of working with these disease and mite resistant bees, and help us over a few of the bumps we encounter, buildup, swarming and introducton.
* About 60% of my colonies are now headed by Russian Queens (pure and hybrid). Once established they are gentle, good producers and are less expensive to mantain. The key is to get them built up, and then you can benefit from their strengths. They are more difficult than Italians to start new colonies on foundation.
From Dan Conlon's Bee Package letter.