Beekeeping Links to consider.

Local Nucs and their advantage over packaged bees.

For the health of our colonies I believe we need to decrease our dependence on imported bees. Many of the major pests and diseases we are dealing with are imported with packaged bees and our reliance on imported early spring packages prevents us from developing a strong, local, survivor stock bee population. local bee production industry is important, as is the genetic diversity by introducing different breeds.

My issue with package bees is they often are mite ridden and may include all too many older forager bees as opposed to young nurse bees that a healthy nuc has. Economically, if you factor in the value of a was filled comb (ten dollars) you will find that most nucs are actually a better ‘buy’ than a package. You also have a queen already in egg laying mode and this fully functioning colony has a queen and brood pattern you can see. You also have bees in all stages of development from egg to forager.  Most importantly the alternative packaged queen may sometimes be not accepted by these non related package worker bees.

The benefits of using a nucleus over a package are that you have a fully functioning colony with a laying queen and brood pattern you can see.

Proven, laying Queen (Brood patterns already visible) HOPEFULLY!
Two frames of brood
At first glance more expensive, but that is incorrect. Frames and foundations are a ten dollar hardware saving  on each.
Drawn frames (comb) are already built for the queen to lay in Nucs are not available locally, packages can come in the mail
Easier to transfer to a regular hive Nuc box is an extra cost, but IMO is very useable to raise your own splits
Two frames of brood. Honey and pollen stores in the others so they do not need as much feeding. Old frames could have built up pesticides or miticides
Established hive of bees that includes nurse bees and foragers
Nucs build up quickly (possible honey surplus if lucky) Being more established, they may swarm earlier
The bees are less stressed than a shaken mail order package

NUCS also can carry diseases and may come on old, dark colored frames so buy carefully. In my case, Survivor stock nucs have often turned into RESCUE nucs where ONE frame had brood and live bees, the others empty and the bees drowned in the fifth frame that was a sugar feeder. Buying a four frame nuc is more of a gamble. AVOID.
Better possibility of introducing local stock more acclimated to weather and forage A negative aspect of nucs is that packages often come in a month earlier (and everyone is impatient eh.)

Most of all buying local nucs support the local economy not the box store.

PROS for Packages CONS
No brood means no breeding Varroa (With a non laying Queen, this is a brood break) They may still have mites Transportation issues and even climate differences between place of origin and
hive installation.

Queen rearing in mass.

Package Queens are usually grafted queens, mass produced and may or not be fertile. Losses happen when they go out on further mating flights after you receive them. Technically all raised queens are fertile (as in potential), so they could be sending you some straight out of the cell cups and hoping they get knocked up at the buyers location.
No chemical or disease in the comb. Without brood the colony takes longer to build, wiping out the earlier time delivery advantage.
An easy way to market queens you really are not sure of.  You have two colors of queen cages.  When they were catching queens if they got one that was dark, it went into a Carniolan cage, if it was yellow, it went into an Italian cage. (sarc.) Commercial beekeepers making packages, cage a a grafted queen. She is then placed with a random group of disoriented honey bees that she’s never seen before.
Easier to transfer to odd sized hives The bees may not accept the new queen. Supercedure is much more likely.
Undrawn foundation usually is a killer for the new beekeeper offering skimpy accommodations. With drawn foundation this is less of a concern. Packages need far more sugar feeding and need to be monitored.

Overview: Many backyard beekeepers will not have wax drawn frames to install their packages to so a lot of energy and feeding will be required to produce the wax to draw out the frames. Close attention will need to be spent to insure the survival and performance of the new queen.

Before choosing a nuc supplier it is important to know the history of the bee breeder; are the bee’s tested for hygienics?; have the bees had an IPM program before being put into the nucs? Have the bees have been employed in commercial pollination in CA? Agrichemicals used in the fields or even the chemicals used by the commercial beekeeper may be an issue if these are recycled bees.

Other questions to ask your supplier may include:

      • How many frames and what size, standard deep frame (9 1/8”) or medium? 
      • The number of  frames covered in bees?
      • How many frames contain brood?
      • Is the brood of all stages?
      • What % of the frames of brood are covered in brood?
      • Are the food resource frames amply filled? 
      • Is the queen local?
      • Are the mating nucs in separate yards if the seller has more than one breed?
      • Is the queen marked showing the year of mating? Queens should have a color code for that year.
      • Is the nuc box included in the price? Or is it bring your own to transfer?
      • What type of nuc box is it? (cardboard, plastic or wood)
      • Has the seller inspected the nucs for disease and varroa levels?
      • When are the nucs available?
      • If you still want to go with a package like one chain farm store offers make sure they come with a feeding can. Often they do not and the bees will die. 220.00 down the tube.

    • Robins Honey Farm Lakeview– A wonderful beekeeping couple that have become an institution in Lakeview. The store is at 7910 148th St SW, Lakewood, WA, (253) 588-7033 They do NOT have a website or take orders over the Internet. One simply phones them, letting them know the number of nucs you want and they will phone you when they arrive. Pay when you pick up.
  • Woods Bees in 919 W. Reynolds Ave. Centralia WA 98531  (360) 623-3359 has many options for buying bees including nucs and queens. They also have all the hardware you might need to get a hive going. Alan Wood is a Master Beekeeper that has years of experience in keeping bees in the Pacific Northwest. Carnica bees seem to be the singular breed choice.

Stanwood Bees – Stanwood, WA 98292- The business is at 18524 Swanson Lane. 1 (425) 681 5793 They have the hardware you need and the bees. Carniolan, Saskatraz and Italian and something they call ‘Ankle biters.’ Aside from the normal nuc they also offer ONE brood frame with bees that can be mailed along with the locally raised Queen. Tim Welsh is the owner.  Brood frame with Bees

Olympic Wilderness Apiary – Pacific Northwest Bees Suppliers of Queens and sometimes nucs
Our queens are predominantly Wild Survivors of the Olympic Peninsula of WA. State
Dan & Judy Harvey  Phone: 360 928-3125  HWY 112 Port Angeles, WA 98363

Packaged Bees The Snohomish Bee Co. We are authorized resellers of MannLake, Dadant & Sons, GloryBee & BetterBee.

For Hardware Suppliers I usually deal with the following: and before purchasing check out this other blog for what the beginner should buy. 



Hillco (for foundation)

For those of you on the Olympic Peninsula I also have bee hardware. Basically the same prices as above, but if you need a hive body yesterday or frames 3 kinds/ and foundation, drop on by. You will have the chance to compare double coated wax foundation with what Amazon or cheaper outlets sell. The cost difference is so minimal. SKYLINE Nursery or Honey Thyme Apiary at 1080 W. Hendrickson Rd, Sequim. If you are a NOPBA club member I have the clubs books to lend out.  

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Beekeeping Links to consider. — 2 Comments

  1. Lots of cheap Chinese crap about to hit Port Angeles with a new chain farm store hitting town. Please read the reviews of items very carefully. Hardware … cracked, finger joints not fitting together and the usual.
    It is even worse on the packages. NO feeding can. half dead on arrival. You should always ask if the package has a feeding can. Reputable package suppliers will have them. Otherwise it is dead bees walking.
    Our local Swains should and coulda done a good job. Mind you, The Co-op used to sell bee equipment but stopped. No idea if Sunny farms will carry on with the former manager gone.

    Best of all with chain stores, you have grand openings with free bunnies, free chicks and ‘Oh My, Harold wouldn’t a bee hive be so grand. Look they even have a kit that has everything you need. ‘We are now beekeepers!’Half dead packageNo feeding cancracks and other problemscommon problem of finger joints not fitting.

  2. I have been all over the range with this. Some nucs I have bought (Survivor nucs) were absolute crap. Barely one frame of brood, bees, eggs or larvae. Nowhere near 3 lbs. Others I have bought locally were great! So yes, nucs can have issues. Buy from those suppliers who have a proven record. The package side is also fraught with box store crap that often arrive half dead or worse and queens that are not accepted. Over 300 such arrive every year to just one box store here. More to come. READ the feedback for another box store (Tractor Supply) we have opening. Worse yet, they bring in Italians that have a difficult time here. 220.00 I have personally mentored one beek who KEPT buying and losing his packaged. He refused to try on an established nuc that was 60.00 less. Good bee companies and there packages are a different matter …. but then you have shipping problems.

    With a critique for my preferring nucs over packages I will only suggest that with proper mentoring for BOTH, nucs tend to survive better for the new beekeeper. Packages that are well delivered and handled by experienced beekeepers may do fine, but they will always be a month behind in development as the nuc already has an accepted laying queen, eggs and brood ready to go.

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