When are you delivering the packages this year? :)
Speaking of dogs with a different bark.
Packages are like swarms. Splits are like old hives.
Both can bark but they are surely not the same dog.
Package bees have the mentality of a Pitbull compared to splits which are like emaciated chihuahuas.
Now that ought to raise the hair on the backs of a couple of Short haired beekeepers!
Actually a cross breed is probably the best.
My best year was when I dumped 750 2 lb packages on top on 2 frames of brood 15 years back. Go figure? :scratch:
THere were more bees in the two frames of brood probably than the two pound package and they were time release. I agree that is a good way to go but a little complicated for the target audience here to pull off. But packages and nucs being equal is just plain silly. I will take nucs every time I have a choice and money is not hugely different.
You may have mis-understood my response so I will clarify. The OP is talking about buying Packages V Nucs to expand from 3 hive to 20 hives. He is also near Sacramento CA which is a mild climate compared to here and the area is full of citrus and nut groves. Putting my self in his situation, in his location.. I would spend the 600.00 difference on a honey extractor and go with the packages.
In your friendly jab you didn't mention that I also sell nucs..... If a customer asks I still give the same response, "packages are the better value" even though I make more money off of a nuc. I have run both side by side and nucs tend to have more variables. Not everybody holds their product to the same standard as you, and most nucs are not overwintered, but are usually splits with a new queen a few days before the customer picks them up.
My packages are always available the 1st week of May. I would encourage you to visit the for sale section and buy a few nucs from other people and compare them to the ones you sell. If you want to give a package a try I will trade you a couple.
BTW the AMM hive is still going well... I will get you a split this spring.
It depends on where ya get them from. I helped a guy install 80 pkgs into 5 frame nuke boxes then he sold them as nukes. Let the buyer beware.
I agree with Michael Palmer, because he is Michael Palmer, the guy that makes his living, and apparently a good one, from bees. An over wintered nuc is a beautiful thing to me. The brood is there, the queen has been accepted, and they are a functioning colony. I purchased three packages two summers back, and all three superceded their queen that same summer.
I agree with Mac that the nuc buyer needs to comprehend, "caveat vendor." I purchased three "nucs" last summer, only to find out that the queens were added to the splits two days before I picked up the bees. This beekeeper didn't know the difference between a split and a nuc. It was then early June, and I needed the bees so I accepted them. This spring I am receiving a nuc from and old established apiary, and I can't wait to see what an over wintered nuc will accomplish in a year.
Both methods work. I got my first hive in June from a NUC. At the end of Aug. it was into 2 deeps and I pulled 2 frames of brood and one frame of honey to make 2 5 frame NUCs with purchased queens. 2 months later the NUCs were in double deeps and the donor hive was back up to full strength. April 6 I am picking up package bees to start 2 more hives, and I have done a hive rescue so it it makes it through the winter I will end up with 6 hives. This is my first winter as a beekeeper and I consider myself pretty lucky. I went with local bees, the BeeWeaver Navasota facility is 1.5 hour drive and I am very happy with them. Here is a short video of 2 of my foundationsless frames from my first hive.
On average a nuc will cost 125-130.00 each VS a package that costs 95.00 average. So using the scenario above where the OP wants to expand by 17 hives by purchasing one or the other there is an approx cost difference of $600.00
What are the benefits of a nuc?
#1. hopefully an accepted queen, which frequently is not the case.
#2. Brood in all stages.
#3. about a 3-4 week head start on a package.
#4. Better chance of survival the first winter.
The down sides of a Nuc:
#1 All I have purchased have almost always been full of SHB
#2 If not caged the queens frequently get injured on the trip home and superseded.
#3 Frames and wax in nuc has an unknown treatment history.
#4 No guarantee that the queen isn't 3 years old.
Up side of Packages:
#1 Cannot be produced by an amateur.
#2 Producers usually produce 20-50 K packages per season and know what they are doing.
#3 Queens are reared by people who do 1000s per season and are always first year queens
#4 Cheaper than Nucs
#5 They are produced to mimic the Natural reproduction of a colony.... Full combs never walk out of a colony and make a home somewhere else.
#6 Bees are of the appropriate age to draw comb and rear brood.
Down side to Packages:
Insert what ever misinformation you like here :)
Now lets look at the cost difference in relation to what you end up with. You are paying 30.00 more for what? Okay so some package queens fail, so do some Nuc queens, There is a far smaller risk of disease with a Package because you don't have the unknown combs and brood present. A Nuc has a few week head start on a Package, but in northern areas you can buy a package a few weeks before a Nuc is even available. I have had both Packages and Nucs produce honey the first year. I will agree that a Nuc has a slightly better chance of survival the first season, but not enough to justify the 30.00 extra.
For the extra 600.00 the OP could buy an additional 6 packages and there is no way that 17 Nucs would have a better survival rate than 23 Package started hives.
Mike Palmer could verify, but I don't think he has any experience with Package bees, or not any in recent history. If the price was the same and the Nucs were coming from MP, I would buy the Nucs all day long :), But that isn't the case.
And one last thing to consider: In Europe they don't have access to package bees and they pay E 400.00 for a Nuc. Package bees keep Beekeeping semi-affordable for many hobby keepers in this country, whether they use them or not :)
I would vote Nucs. What value would you put on drawn comb? I put a lot!!! And when comparing a $95 package to a $125 nuc you are saving $10 by not buying frames (not to mention they are drawn and full of brood, pollen, and honey) That puts the price difference down to $20 each. Now figure a lot of the people I know that buy packages are frantically looking for a queen in late April-May because theirs is a dud or has been superseded. (Yes, some package suppliers are better then others) So there you are shelling out $20 bucks for a queen. Your $95 package has now cost you $125 and you have missed the honey flow, because your dud queen didn't build up. Some sell nucs for as little as $110!!! I know, what a deal!!!
I agree it all depends on where you get the nucs and packages from. Queens bought in the spring for nucs should be laying for weeks before they are sold, not days!!! Queens caged in packages have layed for 4 to 6 days (if that) before they are shoved in a package and shipped across the country.
I keep a lot of the nucs I produce for personal use and I sometimes split them in early May! :D Split a package in early May? Not in Ohio.
The initial investment to sell packages is fairly high. Where do you think they get the cans of HFCS? They buy the HFCS by the tractor trailer load and run it through a canning facility on site.
So on top of operating 1000s of hives, they need to be able to raise queens and have them mated when they need them. They have to have a fully functional cannery. A fully functional woodworking operation to build the packages and make the queen cages etc... and they do it by the 1000s. many of the producers are putting out 20-50 K packages per year.
I guess you could shake 3 # of bees into a used cage and put a can of tomato soup in it... but why do that for 90 bucks when somebody will pay you 125 for a crappy nuc :D
I am not saying that they both don't have their place. Just that Value for Value the package is a better value.... A nuc is the only real way for a hobby beek/sideliner to make any money selling bees. To produce packages you need to be located in a location that is suitable for it and be set up to do so.
Not everybody wants to buy bees from a commercial operation, some people like meeting face to face with the producer, seeing their hives and seeing how they do things... That might be worth the extra money to somebody... but the other advertised benefits of a Nuc generally are not true due to variability of the product... There is no definition of what is a sale worthy nuc, yet the prices are pretty consistent.
MP said that a package installed on May 1st and a nuc installed on may 1st isn't the same and with that I will agree... But in his area it is unlikely you could get a nuc on may 1st anyway... may 15th is more like it... I can install a package the first week of April if I like, and it will likely be farther along than the nuc on May 1st... providing a person could get one.
Think the NUC is going to outperform the package. One would have to buy the NUC from a reputable supplier and get a young queen(last years or a purchased mated queen) and healthy bees, May well be getting more bees with NUC.
First eggs I saw with a package on blank foundation was the eighth day. No emerging bees then until 28th if the package arrived May 1.
The NUC will have emerging bees on May 15, so it has a two week jump.
I started a NUC on May 18 last year with a purchased mated queen and it became four deeps and a medium. Harvested one deep super and one medium for 80lbs of honey. Did no sugar syrup feeding. And by fall it was boiling with bees.
To get a package to achieve the same and from my experience 80 lbs is doable, one would have to feed sugar syrup for a couple of months and then be concerned about enough winter stores, so some more sugar likely.
The nuc's I bought had emerging bees from day one. A true nuc should have brood, no?
I absolutely agree with you, Bluegrass, that one has to be very careful from whom they purchase their nucs. I happen to be fortunate enough to be able to make a 5 hour round trip and get mine from MP. I always feel it is worth the time and effort to establish a relationship with a supplier who values his/her reputation and I'm happy to take the trip to buy a product I trust, whether it's bees, nursery stock etc. Yes, there is a cost to the trip but I leave at 4:30AM and after a nice chat with Mike, I'm home by 10:30-11.
In short, if you care about the quality of your apiary, make the effort to find the best breeders in your area and support them. For me, nucs are a win-win every time.
Bluegrass... I will insert one down side to package vrs nucs. In a package you get a wire cage you can throw away. In a nuc you get either a reusable nuc for a swarm box or splits, (in my nucs you get a box jointed, detachable bottom board, feeder top, wooden nuc,) or, you get a cardboard nuc that can be reused to split a hive.
You made a very good cost/benefit analysis, (Very good). but, at the very least, the value of the nuc should be included, and subtracted from the difference quoted.