View Full Version : Package Queens and Bees from Walter T. Kelley

12-25-2006, 12:03 PM
Anyone one have any good, bad , neutral experiences with queens and packages from Walter T. Kelley company ???? Know where their stock comes from ???

12-25-2006, 02:24 PM
I believe that Kelley get their packages and queens from Hardeman in Mt Vernon, GA
I've gotten packages from the Hardeman's and don't recall anything especially good or bad about them.

12-25-2006, 03:02 PM
I bought some queens a couple years back, they preformed ok.

Rob Mountain
12-25-2006, 04:29 PM
After more thought and consideration I have withdrawn my post.

Yes, my mother did try to teach me that if I did not have anything good to say then it should not be said.

Believe me I also know the saying that when one throws mud one looses ground.

As moderator I do apologies.

I am just hard to keep down as an entrepreneur. Good competition can only bring you the beekeeper a better product.

[ December 26, 2006, 01:38 PM: Message edited by: Rob Mountain ]

12-25-2006, 05:47 PM
In the late seventies or early eighties they sold the yellowest bees you could imagine, I got a few queens.
The next spring, I answered a call for bees that had just swarmed into a wall through a vacant conduit hole. There were the bees, the yellowest bees in town. And there was my apiary, visible about a mile away straight across the valley. Don't recall them ever making any honey.

12-26-2006, 06:03 AM
Wow! A comment on honey production about a suppliers bees, dated with an experience more than twenty years old. This after stating your own beekeeping management expertise allowed the bees to swarm in the first place, maybe indicating a lack of swarm management success. Perhaps your own stated lack of management of your bees that led to swarming, also could explain your lack of honey production. They do have alot connected.

I think any seller or producer who uses negative selling techniques should be looked at with a raised eye brow. I deal and promote those operations that sell, advertise, and comment positively on others. The old saying "If you have nothing good to say...) although not perhaps applicable to the lay person commenting on experiences, which we all need to hear....it should however apply to competitors and others who have a vested interest.

Spunky, I see packages as an avenue to acquire bees very early in the season. Most come from large suppliers down south. May I suggest, if you can not get local nucs or packages produced from your area, and early enough to suit your needs, than order whatever package you can get. You can always install a better queen or a regional climatized queen for your area later as they become available. Good luck.

12-26-2006, 08:22 AM
Three years ago I purchased 100 packages from this supplier. When I was installing the packages I discovered that 5 contained no queen cages at all, and another 5 had attendants in the cages but no queens. They agreed to replace the queens, but would not replace packages or give any sort of refund. Consequently, the replacement queens were "lost" in the mail, and when they arrived in my mailbox ten days late all were dead except three. Over the course of the next six to eight weeks, I had to replace probably 30 percent of the queens due to failure(drone layers, non laying queens, etc).

The previous season I had gotten 10 queens from them, and they all performed very well, good honey production and overwintered well. Perhaps weather played a significant role in getting well mated queens the following Spring. However, that would not explain the severe lack of quality control that was evident from the missing queens and queen cages.


Lively Bee's
12-26-2006, 12:00 PM
I have used kellys for 95% of all of my bee keeping supplies. 15 packages in 04, extra queens, case's of wooden ware, frames, extractor parts, etc etc. I have not had and issues with them at all.

No matter who sells bees and supplies some people and going to have problems and some people will not.


12-26-2006, 01:24 PM

A few things crop up for the total newbie.

1) If ya want to use all medium hive bodies ya run into that most beekeepers sell nucs on deep frames.

2) If the local guy has a bad winter and doesnt have enough bees for himself you sure aint getting any.

I am in this for a hobby more so for fun and to learn, ultimate honey production is low on the list. I want my bees to eventually regress on natural comb. I like chunk honey and can dabble with the wax to make candles.

Just see where this leads

12-26-2006, 02:19 PM

1)I would say that most "local" nuc suppliers have mediums also. They may not advertise them, but I would be shocked to hear any nuc supplier not willing to provide this.

2) That risk is across the board. I have had bees delayed, cancelled, and postponed from small and big providers. Happens to the big guys and the small. I did mention to get them from who ever you can. This coming year may be another chaotic spring. No doubt you will hear of delays, missed ship/delivery dates, etc.

I always promote local first, then everything else. Often, you get packages of bees but perhaps not with the genetics/strain you want. I would say, lock in an order, and then see about a good quality summer queen down the road.

12-26-2006, 06:23 PM
{I believe that Kelley get their packages and queens from Hardeman in Mt Vernon, GA}

That's a correct belief. I ordered packages from Hardemans, 80-100 over a 3 yr period in the mid 1990's. Good prolific Italian bees with good service from nice people. They like Walter Kelley are "old school" beekeepers. I was happy with production but did not think they wintered well in the north (Finger Lakes Region of NY) as is the case with most Italians. I would certainly not hesitate to order them if I lived in Powell Tn.!

[ December 26, 2006, 07:25 PM: Message edited by: Joel ]

12-26-2006, 10:59 PM
I received 4 packages with Russian queens this past year. All supercedured which really set these packages back! I doubt at all that it was because of the source. I'm sure it was more likely that the queens were russians. They are noted for being supercedured if added to a hive of different strain. So no complaint about the bees themselves, only on my own management technique.


12-26-2006, 11:55 PM

Your description of the problem speaks volumes. In the end, it WAS because of the source. Besides of which, a russian queen should have laid enough eggs to jump start the colony before she was superceded. How are the 4 colonies doing now?

What do you feel a reputable producer should have done in your case? What precautions could he have taken?

Darrel Jones

12-27-2006, 08:10 AM

<Perhaps your own stated lack of management of your bees that led to swarming, also could explain your lack of honey production. They do have alot connected.>

Good to hear from someone who never loses a swarm. What's your secret?

12-27-2006, 08:32 AM
sierra, normal for this type accusation and assumption. I have no secret. I never said i did not lose a swarm every now and then. But thank you for thinking I am so great that I do not. I am humbled by your assumption just the same. But please, a little advice to you.....I don't think anyone can say that. So whatever, or whoever, you have acquired your bee knowledge from, I would seek other sources.

What I don't do, is suggest I lose swarms, and in the same thread, make accusations or "observations" as such, in some way pinning it on a supplier. I merely said, that if you allow your hives to swarm, this is a cause for a lack of honey production. Not a means to come back and say the bees did not do there job, and it was somehow a suppliers fault. Healthy bees swarm, unfortunately, they produce little honey when they do swarm.

I am trying to ignore posts with vague attempts at needless jabs. But I really think alot of beginners think they did something wrong when they have a hive swarm. No need to further this idea that bees did something wrong by suggesting I am someone special that has a secret for having a 0% swarm rate. I only wish I could come close.

So Doug, please admit your attempt was an honest question in thinking I had a 0% swarm rate. I hope you can now see I don't. I'm big enough to admit that. I would hate to think that your comments were nothing more than some mean-spirited attempt to antagonize another beesource member.

Dan Williamson
12-27-2006, 08:36 AM

It seems that many of the older beekeepers that sell nucs primarily only sell deep nucs. Some of the younger beekeepers such as myself probably have a mixture.... I primarily ran all meds but had so many people ask for deep nucs that I plan on adding some deeps to the equation in 2007 just so that I can offer both.

I started raising queens last year just for myself. I offered a few to a couple of other beekeepers nearby for free if they would track their progress for me. Next thing I knew I had people calling and stopping by un-announced to buy queens. The demand is high for local honey, local bees, local queens.

As Bjorn mentioned, local is great. You can be on a first name basis with folks. They will try to help you if at all possible. They may even let you watch them graft, work hives, etc...

Look local first... I doubt you will be disappointed. If that guy has a bad year or has to buy queens or bees himself for whatever reason you may be able to get in on a bigger order and get a discount. Risks are local and national. When I've needed early queens I've tried to spread my risk around and order from 2 or 3 suppliers in different parts of the country just to spread my risk. I'd rather have some than none. Cost is a little more but you have to weigh the variables.

I've rambled enough... I can't remember where I was going with all that!

12-27-2006, 08:37 AM
Rob, I am sorry I did not send you a PM. I get carried away myself, and sometimes its not till the next day when rereading a post, that I wish I would of said something different. You handled it in a way I only wish I could. But I'm learning... ;)

12-27-2006, 11:57 AM
fusion, I have given some thought to your statement "In the end, it WAS because of the source.", I would like to know your reasoning behind this comment.

I'll let you know mine upfront, so you can respond.

I can only assume, that these bees were put in during spring. No time frame or period was given. So assuming it was spring, many times supercedure is also combined with swarming. It is the ideal time for bees to correct any problems they percieve within the hive. A new pheromone, and certainly a pheromone from russian stock, could cause supercedure, along with swarming, that may not of even been noticed.

Supercedure is caused for many different reasons. To assume that no part of any cause for supercedure was on behalf of the beekeeper, and the total blame was laid at the feet of the producer, seems like more should be reviewed.

Waya did not comment on procedure, management, or other issues that could of been a factor. Season, time of year, and outside influeneces are also not known. Given all that waya said, or did not elude too, I am baffled at your claim of producer fault. Perhaps if more details and understanding was at hand, but up till now, there is little go on. Let alone make claims and conclusions.

Even if the details were clearer, what producer has written guarantees beyond delivery and obvious "performance and discharge" meaning. If one mated queen was delivered as contracted, then the contract was satisfactory performed. I have never seen a written or implied guarantee of performance that covers beyond this. Certainly if the queen arrived dead, was a drone layer, had legs missing, or perhaps even a limited laying timeframe, I could see that. But a guarantee against supercedure?

I ask not to argue. I ask, becuase as a supplier, I never even considered events such as stated by waya. I would be interested in written contractual guarantees by other producers, and who has actually made claims to suppliers, and had refunds or replacements.

12-27-2006, 02:17 PM

Supercedure of 1 or 2 queens I would accept. Supercedure of 4 out of 4 I will not accept.

There is an implication that the bees shipped were perhaps Italian and the queens shipped were Russian. If this is so, then the producer should have had enough information to know that it would cause a problem for the buyer.

I'll take a real world example from my business which is producing and selling tomato plants. If I have a "difficult" variety and someone wants to give it a try, I warn them up front the problems to expect and measures to take. If a particular variety is susceptible to nematodes and I am shipping the plant to sandy Florida which is a nematode haven, I always give the buyer simple instructions to prepare the soil in a way that will minimize damage.

In this case, the seller provided queens that did not last a month before supercedure. That tells me something was not right with the queens. It was more than just the fact they were Russian queens with another breed of bees. I can think of a few simple precautions such as feeding with fumagillin to prevent nosema, shipping russian queens with russian bees (even though this is also problematic), checking the queen cage candy to verify what type sugar was used (no starch!), were adequaete drone colonies available during mating, etc.

I'm not throwing rocks at the producer, rather saying that there was something out of kilter. Under no conditions would I accept that 4 out of 4 packages superceded shortly after being installed.

Let me say this in very plain terms because it is easily provable. Many queen producers are selling queens that should never have been shipped! They were grown under forced conditions in stressed colonies, they mated when it was too cold for proper mating, there were too few drones available, etc. Whatever the limiting factor(s), the queen producer shipped anyway and the buyer got a defective queen. This is not lightly said and is backed up by some very well researched studies. I also am speaking from experience of raising queens and of working with a top notch queen breeder. When he shipped a queen, she was the very best he could produce or else he did NOT SHIP.

I have very high respect for Walter Kelley company. Most of my supplies are purchased from them. I do not buy bees from them.

Darrel Jones

12-27-2006, 03:03 PM
I had though about the italian bees, and the russian queens. I wanted to hear if that was your reasoning, or something else, before I mentioned it. Hardemans is a producer of italians and russians, and so that is a possibility.

I have stated previously, and agree with your comments about early queens, lack of good breeding, drone layers, etc. I have stated previously that the beekeeping industry on the demand side is partly to blame. I remember 5 or 6 years ago, packages wre not in this area till about the third week of April. Last year, three different suppliers had them available the first of April. It seems as if everyone wants them as early as possible, and the package suppliers (those driving them north) feel as if they are not the earliest to provide, they will miss out. As if being first is a good thing...not true!

I partly brought this up, so expansion of the conversation could continue. For a beginner, to read and someday apply blame as it was, I feel a full understanding should be brought forth. I agree with the rest of your comments as well.

Thank you.

12-27-2006, 04:16 PM
I and many others saw queen problems, including supercedure this year from California raised queens. I did get a notice from both Califonia Queen breeders and from one of the suppliers indicating this. Of course the 3rd. week of April we're limited as to alternatives.

Was there any similar problems with East Coast queens this year from weather. Am I hearing swarming is a Russian or Russian Hybrid tendency?

12-27-2006, 10:58 PM
I think there is a lot to be said about the idea that increased demand can tempt a supplier of anything to ship less then their best. In over two decades of veterinary practice I was often asked to provide results that could not be provided, at least by me. I learned early on that the only thing to do under such circumstances was to simply tell the client that I could not do what they asked and if possable send them to someone who could. I don't think it matters if you are providing service as I was, or a product such as a machine, clothing, or bees, the rules are pretty much the same. Let the buyer beware does no one any good in the long run but it sure can hurt both the seller and the buyer. Unfortunately it usually hurts the buyer the most.

12-28-2006, 05:37 AM
Sierra, I deal in the real world of reality, where things like greed, human error, unnatural levels of stress regarding supply and demand, and other factors, even including a bee industry trying thier best to fill needed orders in a "best" they know how manner, all come into play.

Should beekeepers know the massive amount of demand placed on early queens in spring? Should they realize that there is usually a lower quality of queens, as compared to later in the year? Should they be leery of the problems they should encounter?

Your statement about veterinarians is on the same par as I have stated about beekeepers. My own clinic I was very happy with, went conglomerate and combined with VCA. No doubt, the quality of care went down, prices went up, and certain money making decisions were done differently than they had previously. Now compare that huge operator to the huge bee industry.....

I have openly stated that I prefer local operations. Where service is usually higher, the push to fill huge orders mounts lower pressure, etc. I have stated that my opinion is that early packages are exactly that...a box of bees. And I have mentioned that changing the quality of the queen may be a idea wirth considering when opportunity presents itself later when better quality is available.

See, you can sit all day long and complain about there should be no quality problems, that every queen should be the best possible, and that no problems should exist. Thats nice for a dreamer I suppose. I just know there are problems. I try to make others aware of problems. And I say that it is a buyer beware situation. Not a situation that does not have correction and consideration when there are problems, as wrongs should be fixed. But I hope nobody sits around complaining and hoping for a perfect world either.

Just like my vet clinic. I see fualts with the corporate owned and larger facilities. I know I have the ability to recognize differences, make sound judgements, and seek local and smaller operations that fit my need, and provide quality on a level I seek.

You brought apples to talk about oranges, but I hope I made a comparision you understand. I think you could agree that all vets are different, and all bee suppliers are different. Buyers need to know who they deal with, the forces at play dictating or influencing prices, quality, and service.

To me...it is buyer beware. Not to be confused with some idea that a buyer should not have conflict resolution. Thats different.

BTW sierra, who used the term "buyer beware" that you commented on?

[ December 28, 2006, 07:56 AM: Message edited by: BjornBee ]

12-29-2006, 06:36 AM
<BTW sierra, who used the term "buyer beware" that you commented on?>

I wasn't quoting someone else.

In general, this discussion is producing strong support for the concept of Fall re-queening when the supply/demand factor for queens tips in favor of the buyer. Even more in favor of raising your own queens. I only buy enough queens to expand the gene pool and use half of them as drone breeders.

01-01-2007, 10:28 AM
Got 4 queens, 2 Italian, 2 Russian from Kelly last year. Was pleased with customer service and the performance of queens. A very good price.

Dave D.
01-04-2007, 07:05 PM
A friend and I ordered 4 3Lb packages with Russian Hybrid queens from Kelley in 2005. No honey produced that year. 3 died in very mild winter. Survivor did not make any honey this year and is scheduled to die as soon as a suitable replacement is avaiable (assuming the bees make it through this winter) I was not impressed. From now on, if I look at a Russian or any other of the Non Italian breeds it will not be hybrids.

01-05-2007, 09:57 AM
I would question the "Russian" part. I think that at this stage of the game, there is alot of things passing as russian that have spotty genetic background. I have seen a large comercial Russian operation in NE IA, that has little trouble with winter loss.

01-05-2007, 06:52 PM
I had great acceptance from my out-bred Russian/ Carnolians from Fat Beeman.

As for the ones from Kelly, All are doing very well with their new queens. I'm actually pleased to have seom of my own locally bred queens.


01-06-2007, 03:06 PM
Several years ago I spoke with the Hardeman's...they supply bees for Kelley...and they said they buy Russian breeders, graft from them and those pure Russian, daughter queens are then open mated. Their term 'hybrid' is a result of the open mating in an area that has a substantial population of Italian bees. I have had some of their hybrid queens and they survived winter...in Athens, GA... and produced honey.

[ January 06, 2007, 04:07 PM: Message edited by: beemandan ]

Garry Forsythe
01-13-2007, 09:19 PM
I sometimes order from Kelley and most of the time was satisfied. However, the best packages I have ever bought came from Rossman in Moultrie, GA. Only problem with Rossman is that it's hard to get them early.