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Author Topic: If Not Packages, What?  (Read 2729 times)

Offline KPF

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If Not Packages, What?
« on: January 07, 2016, 01:55:29 PM »
Picking up an old thread, where I read that packages are bad and don't survive well. What alternatives are there for starting a hive if not packages? Are there suppliers that provide NUCS?

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Offline mikecva

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2016, 02:59:41 PM »
I have received many packages over the years and have not had a survival problem (I say that tongue in check as I did have one package abscond about 11 years ago.)
I have lost packaged colonies also but that was because of dumb mistakes I have done (or should I say 'learning experiences'.)
I order packages to be mailed to me from near-by states or for pick-up.

My bee club now sells packages and nucs  and I prefer this method the best because I know the source and their stock.   -Mike
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Offline annette

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2016, 02:53:06 PM »
I never had any problems with package bees.  They have all done well.

Offline Rurification

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2016, 07:19:04 PM »
It probably depends on where you are.   All of our package bees come from the south - Georgia.   Those bees are often not suited for our widely variable winters.  I have not had good luck with most packages. 
Robin Edmundson
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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2016, 07:42:02 PM »
The more local your bees are the better off you will be.  Try to find some local beekeeper to sell you a nuc or a hive... but if you can't find that, a package is better than nothing.
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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Offline Acebird

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2016, 09:27:00 PM »
All of our package bees come from the south - Georgia.

I bought a package last year that came from the almonds and it died.  It could have been my fault but my two other colonies aren't dead yet.  There is still time for that.  The package came from Mann Lake.  I would love to know where the queen came from.
Brian Cardinal
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Offline cao

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2016, 11:39:52 PM »
Buying packages would be last on my list to get bees.(from past experience)  Check with local bee club members or beekeeping supply company(if you have one local). Another possibility would be to check craigslist.

Offline sawdstmakr

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2016, 12:21:18 AM »
My first choose would be to catch a local swarm in a swarm trap or one hanging on a tree.
Jim

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Online gww

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2016, 12:41:06 AM »
The only problim with all advice leading away from packages is that packages are about the only sure and steady supply of bees.  Alot of the locals have a small amount of bees and have to wait till after winter to see if they really have excess to sell and trapping and swarms is not a sure thing every year.  You can if you order packages early usually always get one.
gww

Offline herbhome

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2016, 03:42:30 PM »
About the only thing I could add is to try to get bees raised in your approximate climate. I've had good luck with bees from the Georgia mountains and I ascribe some of that to the fact that I live in the hills of Arkansas. Being in Massachusetts, I don't know where packages would be available because they usually come from much warmer climates. A local nuc would probably be a good choice for you.

Offline Joe D

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2016, 02:35:49 AM »
If you can't find any local bees for sale,  If there are any commercial beeks in your area, you may can catch a swarm around them.  My meter reader has told me several times that a local commercial beek has 40 or so hives next door to him, and he sees swarms around there often.  Like the others have said the closer to your area or climate the better.

Good luck,

Joe D

Offline KPF

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2016, 03:58:44 PM »
Thank you all for your comments. I live in Massachusetts. Had two hives, both from packages. First one installed in late April didn't make to August (1 long tale of woe, which included two swarms and 5 queens). The other installed in June absconded in December but otherwise seemed to do well.

I've come to the conclusion that for a first-year beekeeper, success is getting comb that can be used on the packages you get next year. If your bees survive your first year, great, but if not,  at least get as much comb as you can and start again next year.  My goal is to maintain a self-sustaining apiary with local stock, but that will take a while.
"Sprinkles are for winners."

Offline KPF

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2016, 04:18:18 PM »
It probably depends on where you are.   All of our package bees come from the south - Georgia.   Those bees are often not suited for our widely variable winters.  I have not had good luck with most packages.

This topic is a source of never-ending fascination for me. When I first become a beekeeper (like 8 months ago), I kind of angry off some of my club mates by asking why we were getting all these southern bees from Georgia. Surely, they are too soft to withstand our rugged New England winters.  I was greeted with a chorus of, "COLD DOESN"T KILL BEES. MOISTURE DOES!" After I picked myself up from the proverbial mat, I did some research, and concluded that, yes,  a strong hive can  do quite well in cold climates. But a part of me can't get over the fact that there are some breeds of bees that should survive the cold better than others. And given all the stresses that bees now face (pesticides, mites, first-year dunce beekeepers), then it's probably wiser to have bees that do better in the cold than bees that don't, as that is one less stress on the bees. That's my working hypothesis, at least. One thing I've learned is that there are so many variables that the answer to one problem just raises another.  But I guess that is half the fun.

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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2016, 05:18:38 PM »
Local queens winter better:

in Maine:
http://mysare.sare.org/mySARE/ProjectReport.aspx?do=viewRept&pn=FNE10-694&y=2010&t=1
http://www.nesare.org/State-Programs/Maine/Winter-hardy-bees
http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2012/01/09/establishing-northern-honeybee-colonies/

"Summary
"Our project explored the differences in strength and survival between three options for starting new honeybee colonies. Over the course of two years 54 new honey bee colonies were started, managed, monitored, and evaluated by Master Beekeeper Erin MacGregor-Forbes and experienced beekeeper Larry Peiffer. The purpose of the experiment was to determine whether survival rates between the groups of colonies would be measurably different, and whether beekeeper choices in colony starts could influence winter survival probability. The project involved three colony groups: Two thirds of our colonies were started using commercially raised southern packages of bees, 3lbs of bees and a queen bee in a cage. (Packages) Packages are the most commonly purchased colony start option available to beekeepers in the United States, comprising roughly 80% of all new colonies started in New England. The second colony group (1/3 of our project) was comprised of northern raised overwintered nucleus colonies, a northern raised queen and her offspring, 5 frames of bees, along with honey comb, pollen, and nectar stores (Nucs). Northern raised nucleus colonies are less commonly purchased because they are less available for sale ? the demand for Northern Raised Nucs vastly outstrips the supply in New England. The third colony group we included is a compromise between the above two choices. Once the packages were established in hives in Maine, and when northern raised queens were available (approximately 60 days after package installation), we removed the queens from half of the package started colonies and replaced them with northern raised and mated queens. (Requeened Packages) We then managed each colony independently and measured their honey production, disease and mite load, and most importantly, survival over winter to see if there were differences between the Packages, Nucs, Requeened Packages. Our results were very promising in the survival differences. In over two years, the adjusted data for survival revealed the following: 42% of the southern commercially raised package colonies survived their fist winter strong enough to be a viable colony in the following summer. 83% of the overwintered northern raised Nucleus colonies were in viable condition, and 90% of the northern requeened packages were in viable condition the following spring. In our project, the Nucs experienced nearly twice the survival rate of the Packages. Additionally, the Requeened Packages also experienced a survival rate nearly double the rate of the ?as bought? Packages. Although executed over two years, our sample size was small (54 colonies started total, but only 39 included in this final data due to colony disqualification) and therefore could be subject to seasonal and statistical error. We will be performing additional work narrowing the study groups to just Packages and Requeened Packages in 2013. We hope to improve the statistical significance of our results through further study, but feel strongly that the promise shown by our first two years offers New England beekeepers an attractive option for increasing the survival of new colonies. "


In Virginia:
http://mysare.sare.org/MySare/ProjectReport.aspx?do=viewRept&pn=FS08-223&t=1&y=2011
(click on "create pdf" to see the report)

"Summary
"The Prince William Regional Beekeepers Association (PWRBA) producer SARE project compared hives
started from packaged bees to hives started from nucleus colonies (nucs) positively demonstrating higher
survival for nuc started hives than package started hives, with survival differences more pronounced in the
second year. Education and training resulted in adopting more sustainable beekeeping practices. These
centered on utilizing existing colonies to produce sufficient nucs to (1) replace dead hives, (2) increase
apiaries, and (3) provide starter hives for new beekeepers and association members instead of relying on
commercially produced packaged bees from outside the region. The number of nucs made available to
association members in lieu of packaged bees increased dramatically over the course of the project. Queen
rearing was successfully initiated."
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
-------------------
"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin

Offline KPF

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2016, 05:49:16 PM »
Thank you! This stuff is awesomely magnificent. Very helpful.
"Sprinkles are for winners."

Offline Colobee

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2016, 12:04:31 PM »
I've been getting packages from Texas, off & on for 35 years. They come about 800 miles north and about a mile up in elevation. They go from a warm zone 9a-8b, to my 5b. We have moderately severe winters every year, and lows can frequently be single digits, with extremes into the negative 20's, sometimes for weeks.

I've never lost a single package to overwintering, so you might be able to see why I'm skeptical of the "local is better" claim. No no one locally, that I know of, offers anything that comes close to the quality of southern packages. There's probably no way to have local packages available in time to fit into the growth curve for this area.
 
The growing concern with AHB cross contamination for/from southern producers is valid, but I've only had one such case, with perhaps a few dozen packages, and hundreds of Texas queens - again perhaps a bit "over-blown"? Granted - one AHB cross is one too many, and not likely something one would ever forget!
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Offline little john

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2016, 07:08:53 AM »
Buying packages each year ? Speaking as a complete outsider - I just don't get it.

A fair few years ago, when I retired and re-started beekeeping - in late Autumn (Fall) I bought a single 5-frame nuc together with a late swarm in a box.  That late swarm withered and died (probably due to a defective queen), but the nuc was ok - albeit comprised of Italian bees (which I do NOT like).

Apart from buying-in queens for their genetics, that was the only purchase of bees I've ever made in my life.  Sure, I could have waited for the next Spring and put out swarm traps for a 'starter colony', but I wanted to be up-and-running just as soon as the season commenced.  And now I have dozens of colonies, so many that I'll be selling-off quite a few this coming season, as I can't cope with the workload.

I can hear your protests already - that your over-wintering conditions are far more severe than mine.  I agree - of course they are.  But Mike Palmer, over in Vermont, also experiences very harsh winter conditions, and he runs his operation accordingly.

If you Google "Mike Palmer Sustainable Apiary", you'll get links to his videos of how to overwinter not just colonies, but nucs as well.  And such over-wintered colonies and nucs are 'ready to go' just as soon as the first signs of spring begin to show.

Buying-in bees each year cannot possibly make any economic sense - well, except for the suppliers of course.
LJ
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Offline KeyLargoBees

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2016, 03:16:47 PM »
First year for me last year...package from Georgia and they superceded their queen not once.... but three times before withering away to a point I combined them with a locally purchased colony started from a NUC. This year I have 2 swarms caught that are booming and three colonies from cutouts that are doing well to add to the overwintered NUC...I wont buy a package again but I look back on my anticipation for the arrival of my bees last spring and can understand the excitement and anticipation. Most beginning beekeepers don't know enough to look for a NUC or to even think about trapping a swarm...i know I didn't. But I do now and am of the "no package no way" mentality for myself going forward ;-)
Jeff Wingate

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Offline LKBruns

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2016, 08:18:47 PM »
Last year was my first year.  I started with 4 packages.  I added honey supers on Saturday to all 4 hives.  I have 3 more packages arriving the first week of April.  I hope to have continued success.  I fed almost continuously from April until the first of October.  I'm also had about 8# of fondant per hive through the winter. 

2 hives drew out 4 8 frame mediums. And Two hives drew out 3 8 frame mediums.  I reversed boxes 2 weeks ago.  The empty boxes the bees are already filling with nectar. All 4 hives are raising brood.

All in all I consider my first year a success.

Offline little john

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Re: If Not Packages, What?
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2016, 06:00:38 AM »
All in all I consider my first year a success.

Successful in raising bees, sure - well done.   :smile:

As a way of obtaining bees to start a beekeeping enterprise - or as a hobby - it's certainly one way.

But think about this: if you were producing honey - either for a living, or as a paying hobby - you will need to produce a quantity of honey for sale each year, just in order to pay for each package you buy-in.  As a method of starting-up, such an initial outlay is not an issue - but it will quickly become uneconomic to run any bee enterprise like that.
If you watch Mike Palmer's "Sustainable Apiary" video, he describes both the genesis and history of the package bee industry (and 'industry' it has indeed become), and the economics of buying bees in this way.

I have no axe to grind here, it's not a method of buying bees which affects me in any way at all, but from an outsider's point-of-view the regular purchasing of bees in this way is an activity which doesn't make any economic sense - and I just can't figure out the attraction.

LJ
A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping - http://heretics-guide.site90.com