Local queens winter better:
"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. "
(click on "create pdf" to see the report)
"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."