View Full Version : Insite on Russian queens??
08-01-2004, 07:49 AM
Could some of you who are using Russian
queens give me some insite on why you
use them? What do you like about them?
08-01-2004, 04:06 PM
I have russians specifically for mite resistence. I don't want to spend the $$ on chemicals to put in hives, nor do I want to spend the time doing that.
Russians probably don't build up wax as quickly as some other races, but they build up quickly in the spring and they winter well. It's a good low-maintenance bee. I've got a couple hives that may not make it due to mites (out of 100 hives), but I'll take that. Better than relying on chemicals.
08-01-2004, 05:27 PM
Slow build-up in the spring so maybe not so good for pollination.
Will not have as much honey as say italians early in the year, but they rebound nicely and at the end of the summer will have as much as the italians. So maybe it should depend on the honey flow and what type of honey your after.
They don't shut down like the italians come the middle of summer. This is when they catch up with other types.
They winter with a smaller cluster and are very frugal with resources. They will come through when, if looking at an italian, you know they would die. The russians will make it and surprise you.
They are not overly-aggressive as some suggest. I do find them to be worked with a little more smoke and they are "flighty". But I have also found that a hive with a little more aggressive posture, and defend more than normal, also handle and take care of the mites more.
The queen is harder to find than a plump fat italian, so for those who must "see" the queen at every hive inspection, you should mark her. (Or you can realize that seeing fresh eggs is just as good)
08-02-2004, 05:19 PM
ive culled out every russian, hybrid and anything that might be related to them. i cant stand them plain and simple. they do have a few good qualities but they are far outweighed by a zillion negatives as far as im concerned. at this point, i would consider the use of them to be one of the worst things ive done in the last few years.
08-02-2004, 05:40 PM
What are some of their bad points?
08-03-2004, 04:56 PM
I find they are a bit defensive, but in odd ways. They tend to head butt a lot and follow you further but they don't sting any more or less. They are watchful guards, but the ones I had weren't runny (tending to run around on the comb where you cant find the queen or work with them well). Swarminess and productivity are a bit more unpredictable. Traits are not well fixed. Some people have complained about them being hot, so I'm sure some were. Some have complained about runniness. Again, some probably were, but the ones I've had weren't. But then I've had Italians that were a bit hot or swarmy etc.
08-04-2004, 11:12 AM
Ok, I wanted to give them a chance again. In CA I had my fair share of working with them. Yesterday my wife Stella was really badly chewed by them. Admittedly only one hive of three but still, hurt my wife and you are history.
We want to raise queens, and bees that Beekeepers can enjoy working with.
If a job is worth doing - Then do it well
08-04-2004, 12:36 PM
I've noticed that most often if you remove a queen from a hot hive that has other traits you want to keep they will raise a new queen and be quite gentle. Of course if they are really VISCIOUS I requeen altogether.
08-04-2004, 12:50 PM
I did actually graft from her yesterday. So I may try one of her daughters. I am also going to be grafting from the survivor that I got from you; she is doing well so far.
08-04-2004, 03:53 PM
ive had some pure russians but substanitally more hybrids. However, only from about 5 lines and only a couple hundred queens but heres a quick list of some traits....depends on your perspective whether you think they are bad or good traits and whether you could try to invest the time to pull out or supress some of them.
(1) winter stuff----one of the smaller winter clusters ive ever seen. shut down brood early and start late which gives them real frugal consumption of stores. no problems on winter survival that i saw
(2) spring---the spring buildup seems highly sensitive to pollen coming in. seemed unresponsive to any syrup feeding. slowest of any of my different lines to be ready for spring pollination...in fact were not ready at all. but ones that i know of wintered in the south are ok when trucked back up north.
(3) later spring------swarm, swarm, swarm. in fact this trait seems to be their very existence. its the carnica to an extreme. all of life is centered on raising bees and leaving and its not just a spring thing. its a year round concept with them. ive seen nothing that works on an overall scale to stop it either. to put it in perspective, once they are thinking of going you can knock them down to a single or even a 5 frame nuc and give them all the room in the world. they will build all that room right back up and then go. i never saw the swarming urge go away. and when they leave, they all leave....no one is home.
(4) tied to that swarming thing, they demand alot of space which they waste. they chimmney honey up two or three frames in every super but never fill anything.
(5) when they arent swarming they are superceding. and not just raising cells and tearing down....i have bees that have that trait. my experience is that they build cells and kill queens and build some more cells and kill another queen.....its a vicious cycle which ive seen in others with lots of carnica too.
(6) heres a biggy for me....lack of honey production. as a whole compared to my other bees, they never could cut it. the best russians made it to the point that i call average but they never went above that. and i generally believe in culling everything at or below average.
(7) mites----they have low mite counts. i know of folks keeping pure ones for many years without treatment but i think about 2 years was my threshold with the hybrids. if mites are your only concern, they probably are a good ipm approach but i dont think you can go forever without treatment with them.
(8) final blow....every attempt that i tried of using russian drones for matings failed pretty bad with my bees. results seemed to be that everything looked like a russian when it was done. daughters from great mothers turned to junk and it seemed to be a slippery slope.
i probably could go on and on....if you got a specific question let me know.
07-17-2005, 05:26 PM
I pulled this thread up to try and get some more Russian info. I have been using Russian Hybrids for a few years and will be buying some Russian-Italians in a couple of weeks. I'm thinking about if I should stick with them. My experience with other strains of bees were during the early years of beekeeping learning curve, so its hard for me to compare these bees with past strains. I'll probably requeen at least one hive with a NWC this fall to compare.
Here are some observations I have had that I am wondering if they are attributed to Russian genetics. It should be noted I was using plastic foundation.
1. lots of comb connections between frames on all sides edges and bottom.
2. Very hard to get them to draw the plastic frames correctly
3. lots and lots of propolis, things are glued together very well. I could collect lots of it to sell. (could be a good thing)
another question is, has anyone used russians in natural comb langstroth hives? With all the crazy comb they have built with the plastic I'm wondering how they will do on empty frames.
My bees also swarm, swarm, swarm
I can't really dispute any of the negatives that wineman pointed out when I had the opportunity to observe the trait.
I've also overwintered some very small colonies, but fed them all winter.
does anyone have some really good things to say about the Russian hybrids?
I'll be asking a Russian queen breeder here in Knoxville what he likes about the Russians when I pick mine up. I'll post his remarks.
07-18-2005, 07:03 AM
As a first time beekeeper when was trying to decide what kind of bee would be best. I called the Jester Bee Co in AK, an apiary that only raises russian queens, he recommended them because they are very low maintenance and for all other good reasons, like winter well, mite resistance. All the good things mentioned in other replies posted here. I don't have any reason to think he was 'making a sale'
My one hive has been qeeeless for a few weeks now, (queen ordered; should get here today) and is still very calm nice to handle. So far I don't know where people get the idea about russians bieng more defensive. I like them.
07-19-2005, 07:37 AM
My Russians are aggressive, but a guy at my local bee club's arent. I guess the aggressiveness is a mixed bag. Of course my Russians aren't necessarily russian, they are muts from Russians a few years ago so I don't know what I have. They do exhibit behaviors similar to descriptions of russians I have heard. Perhaps I will know more about what I have when I get my Russian/Italians? I'm suspecting they should be less aggressive. Clearly some breeders like them or they wouldn't have them. There are a few people here who sell primarily russian strains and also use them.
07-19-2005, 05:10 PM
I have four different types of bees(Italians, Russians, West Virginia Hybrids, and NWC). I haven't noticed any real difference between them in terms of aggressiveness. I don't use gloves, and sometimes I don't use smoke.
07-19-2005, 08:09 PM
After three full seasons with the Russians from three different breeders I find the bees about the same.
Aggressive does not bother me as i keep bees in rural areas but the Russians are certainly not as aggressive as my Italians can be.
I do not like the small winter clusters but have found a way to get around the small clusters by moving the Russians onto a heavy fall flow. Last year I tried fall Heartsease (1,000 acres appox. which looked like a pink carpet) and another location of a couple hundred acres of planted sunflowers. I had to feed the bees while on sunflowers as they were packing in plenty of pollen but little nectar. Way it is some years with planted sunflowers in our area.
They do not produce honey like my Italian lines but do as well as my NWC.
Swarming is a management problem in my opinion. I have very little swarming.
I now prefer a hybrid I am using over the Russian/Russian.
I have got Russian bees going on four years untreated. No signs of PMS but they carry a varroa load in fall which seems to drop on its own over the winter. Around 17-49 varroa drop in 24 hours in September with low 20's being the norm.
2-4 drop in March/April.
The hives with the lowest mite counts produce the most propolis. Don't know how fits in but my observation.
07-20-2005, 04:50 AM
>The hives with the lowest mite counts produce the most propolis.
"Fly" paper, maybe?
07-20-2005, 06:45 AM
Don't know why but Dann Purvis (Purvis Brothers Apiaries) has observed the same thing. Possibly nothing or maybe something to look at.
"What we don't know is so vast it makes what we do know seem absurd" Bob Harrison
07-20-2005, 07:23 AM
I bought 10 Russian nucs this spring. I wondered if they were inferior to begin with, nonetheless some of the comments above tend to match my experience;
Killing queens/superceding/building queen cells constantly
Lots of bridge comb and propolis
Not overly agressive but not gentle by any means
With any luck this 105F heat will kill them all and I'll never know how they winter. Part of this is my fault, but compared to my mutts they're no fun.
07-20-2005, 07:26 AM
Dee Lusby and Bill Gafford have made that same observation.
Some more thoughts on Russians
I love my Russian hybrids, for Almond pollination, honey production, mite resistance and general fecundity. I can split a strong colony coming out of the Almonds up to three or four times in the spring and still take a great honey crop on each split. In my area, some protein in early January seems to be extremely stimulative and the small winter cluster will explode by February. I believe the small winter cluster is an extremely valuable asset, in terms of stores and Varroa control. For those having bad luck with the Russian types; it may be a factor of acclimatization. It took me over three years of heavy selection pressure before I was willing to abandon most other stocks. What works well in one area my not be initially suitable in another. Propagate from the best of the best and over time the results should be great.
08-19-2005, 03:17 PM
I like my russians. They are gentle and disease resistant, which are my two biggest concerns. If they could draw out comb just a little better they would be ideal for a hobbiest/beginner.
08-19-2005, 07:18 PM
Tried them,never again.Ain't worth it up here.
08-20-2005, 06:54 PM
My experience is with similar numbers as the WineMan (actually a higher number). I never discount the observations of other beekeepers.
After four years of research on the Russian and Russian hybrid I believe certain hybrids would be the best for certain locations. Three out of around ten have met with my approval. Others have displayed in *certain hives* about all the bad traits talked about.
The problem with these hybrids is their creation. you need the Russian/Russian queen . Attempts at creating Russian hybrids using only Russian drones has met with failure for those attempting such matings I have talked to and myself.
The second problem (at least for me and another breeder) is the best hybrids I tested (but one) involve using a drone source which can not handle varroa untreated so like WineMan says the bees certainly will need treatment in the second season. Which makes the use of such a hybrid questionable.
The best hybrid I have tested has been the pure Russian/Russian queen mated to the Purvis Brothers Gold line bee drones. I prefer the Purvis Gold line bee better for several reasons but the Blue line Russian queen/Gold line drones runs a close second.
Dann Purvis & I have both considered dropping the Russians but we are close to finding a workable Russian although hybrid queens would need to be created for use in commercial beekeeping. Not hard for me as I keep many pure lines in different remote areas as dose Dann. I live in a very remote area like Dann Purvis.
Several of my friends are using thousands of hybrid Russians and are pleased. I do not know which hybrid they are using nor which queen breeder they get their queens from. From the queens brought back from Texas from Jerry Browns split making last year I suspect the hybrid was Russian/carniolan. Tim Tucker helped make the splits on Jerry Brown's thousands of hives in Texas. Jerry Brown is Richard Adee's nephew. No queens were saved but the 28 queens brought back by Tim last spring. Tim said he was amazed at the strength and traits of the hives they were splitting. He brought back 28 of the best queens from over 5,000 hives and is raising queens from those queens. They are a Russian hybrid. I am watching closely those queens.
As I have said before you can not paint the Russian bee with a broad brush. I believe in time a very likeable Russian will emerge. In Baton Rouge they are now selecting for traits other than varroa tolerance and thinking of another import.
Myself and others are considering a private import done through Australia by Terry Brown. Terry has a Russian beekeeper girlfriend which would be a big asset to finding queens ourselves in Russia.
Terry is setting up as we speak an import of Purvis Brothers queens into Australia through the Australian import system. Expensive but would give his bees the varroa tolerance to go two years and up untreated.
My article on the Australian import update and Terry Brown's (Browns Bees Australia)visit to Missouri will be in I believe the October or November American Bee Journal. Allready completed and waiting for publication.
08-21-2005, 11:50 AM
While I realize that expensive dollar queens are not always practical, Glenn apiaries has successfully mated SMR queens to russian drones. These are very nice ladies and according to a recent USDA article, the most mite resistant queens tested in a production setting. As a bonus, the drone offspring are 100% SMR. If you're looking to blow 75 bucks, they're definitely worth a try.
08-21-2005, 01:50 PM
I have had good luck with most Glenn apiaries II breeder queens we have bought.
One arrived dead but replaced. Two SMR queens with shotgun brood patterns. Rest were great!
SMR is simply a trait. We raised hundreds of SMR queens and open mated to several lines. We found the F1 from the SMR Glenn Apiairies II queens to be too inbred. spotty brood patterns.
Maybe others have had different results.
Another queen issue:
I got a long distance call late last night from a commercial beekeeper about a Russian/Italian cross he did. Both lines had no chalkbrood but the queens he raised are full of chalkbrood.
I said was a queen problem and sorry for his troubles as these queens headed hives headed for California almond pollination but now are worthless.
Does the list have any ideas why a Russian line and a highly respected California queen breeder Italian line (both normally free of chalkbrood) would produce a bee which is crashing from chalkbrood?
08-22-2005, 09:15 AM
my understanding was that chalkbrood is primarily related to damp cool hive conditions. Maybe this is not correct, but I would think two weeks in the Medesto sun would clear those hive right up. Maybe the bees were lacking hygienic traits of SMR and cool weather tolerance of russians.
08-22-2005, 10:06 AM
Can it be the combination of two recessive traits resulting in the expression of those recessive traits? Is that called homozygous recessive?
08-22-2005, 10:27 AM
Well, I don't know what's going on with the chalkbrood, but my geuss is that many genes at different loci are involved. Sometimes F2 hybrids are needed to reveal the potential/drawbacks of a queen.
08-26-2005, 09:20 PM
Might work down there,but won't make honey up here.Just got done 2nd pull on 17 hives,got4 1/3 barrels,still got one pull and final left.Tried russian,120 lbs at most.Like rob says,won't tolerate varroa.Had one leave hive in sept,2 years ago.
08-29-2005, 02:59 PM
What is your strategy for varroa? What do you use for queens now and where did your Russians come from? Just curious.
08-29-2005, 06:40 PM
Unfortunately there are almost too many variables at this time to give clear indications for a queen line/apiary/other, that has an outbreak of one particular desease(chalk) or another. If you look at the bacteria/viral issues just associated with v-mite alone, they number 17 or 18 at this time. I am sure more will follow.
Will one virus trigger another? Will the infection with one part of a desease cause the immune/defense system of a bee to break down and allow a minor desease to surface at some level normally not seen? Are there dominate/recessive traits that could be triggered when cross breeding? Does not mother nature just sometimes throw a wrench into the mix from time to time?
If you took a queen with resistance to any desease, whether t-mite, chalk or anything else, and raised 100 queens from that breeder, the following could happen. You would get a small percentage with a higher level of resistance, you would get something like 95% with the same resistance, and a small percentage with a lesser degree of resistance. Mother nature is good at making small variations. Variation, and all the fancy terms for genetic variables will be withstanding. Now, if you just happen to take that one in a hundred queen, raised from a proven resistant stock to chalk, but it now has a genetic weakness to that chalk, and breed from it, what do you have? A whole line of queens with problems with chalk.
Breeding programs have thier faults. Continual culling of the bad, and an ongoing program is needed. I am not sure any breeder could deny that an occasional good line doesn't goes bad, or a good queen going bad, etc.
Unfortunately finding a problem such as "why one line has more chalk" or other related questions, will no doubt not get answered with any definate answer.
08-31-2005, 03:04 PM
08-31-2005, 07:45 PM
09-24-2005, 07:08 AM
who is your russian queen supplier?? are you happy with what you got...
09-24-2005, 11:49 AM
Glenn Apiaries. I am very very happy, and they ALWAYS ship when they say they will. Others have told me that their hygienic strain is also worth trying. Bring a big wallet though.....