I have gotten some good ones, but predominantly I find that there are a lot of low quality nucs out there.
I have gotten some good ones, but predominantly I find that there are a lot of low quality nucs out there.
Anyone's personal experience is just so much anecdotal evidence, but for what it is worth our local club bought 135 packages from wilbanks in ga. Scheduled delivery was April 1 but because of Weather was pushed back to April 13. We also got 5 extra queens as insurance - which I banked for a week until everyone had time to make an inspection. 1 out of 135 had a queen problem that I heard about. "3" pound packages were probably closer to 4 pounds of bees, queens were quickly accepted, and so far good layers. So it's not all bad out of Georgia.
Something to consider is that you are probably a lot less likely to get a brood disease along with a package. It is fairly likely that nucs - even from a good supplier - will come on well used comb. If you wanted to compare nucs to packages then install 1 1/2 package per hive - similar price to a 5 frame nuc. I haven't tried it but an $85 package compare to a $125 nuc is sure not apples and apples.
Well, the facts don't support your theory. From the surveys done over the last few years, I would say package bees have a big problem and I would bet that a higher % of packages fail than nucleus colonies fail.
Barnstable County Beekeepers report 60% failure of package.
Beekeepers Association of Northern Virginia report 82% failure of packager to live one year.
Maine State Beekeepers reported similar results although the numbers aren't in front of me.
Sorry Bluegrass, I can't go along with what you say. Ask the folks at Betterbee, and their customers, how the nucs look...then ask the beekeepers up here in the north how their packaged look. See, I travel the country and listen to folks and their stories. Not a guess, not a stab in the dark to come up with some number. The truth coming from honest folks who plunked down their money and got sick bees and crappy queens.
A reputable dealer would replace packages with drone layers, but I'm being told that doesn't happen. Just sending them another queen doesn't help. Their package is too far gone by the time the beekeeper figures out the problem.
Wilbanks produces good packages, but he has become notorious for delays even in the best of weather.
The package guys in GA are for the most part a good group of guys. (there is one wife you have to watch out for ;)) I have had very few problems from any of them and most will go out of their way to keep their customers happy. I predominantly buy from 2 suppliers, but I spread the wealth around to some of the smaller guys also. I don't buy from Wilbanks any longer because I think he has more business than he can really support at this point and there are other guys who are able to fill my needs in a more timely manner.
I am sure what you produce is likely quality nucs. I don't know for sure because I was unable to get any to try. The fact that your demand is so great is indicative of your product.
On the other hand I recall a thread on here about a month ago about some queens a member claimed they purchased from you last fall and all failed to take the nucs through the winter. The person was quick to take the blame for the failures themselves though so I guess you will not be sending them replacements?
Each have their place... Some people do not want to spend the nearly $200.00 that Betterbee charges for one of (your) nucs. I hear from people all the time who say "if they are going to die anyway, I might as well buy the cheaper version" indicating that the nucs they bought the year before didn't winter well either. And even if you throw in all nuc producers together they fall far short of filling the void that the 750,000 packages produced in the USA every year fill.
The fact of the matter is that the majority of the packages I sell per year are sold to new beekeepers who are in their first or second year. It is true that they often end up replacing those packages the next year. It is also true that I can put together step by step instructions on taking care of a package of bees in order to be successful with them and people still completely disregard the directions and go queen hunting on a daily basis, direct release queens because somebody told them it was okay to do it that way. etc etc etc.
I was talking about drone layers Bluegrass. Anyone who buys my queens knows that if one is a drone layer she will be replaced. Doesn't happen often but does happen. Now the fact that someone's nucs don't make the winter doesn't mean it's the queen's fault. Funny that person...I don't recall the thread...never called me.
They rarely call me either. Most often I hear about package failures the following year when they order replacements. Drone layers usually are a pretty insignificant issue with packages in most years. Often I don't hear about it at all... I have developed a 5th sense for knowing when somebody lost their bees but for what ever reason play it up about how great the bees were and they want more...
I was supposed to pickup 500 packages last Monday and received a call from Gardner that he wanted to give the queens an extra week because the weather has been poor in GA. I really can't ask for much more than that. If conditions are bad they do what they can to work around that just like you and I do.
Just out of curiosity: when was the last time you used a package to fill one of your hives? I don't have any available this season, but let me put you down for some for next season and give them a shot so you can make a more objective opinion on their quality. I will barter them to you for a nuc.
bluegrass have I detected a trend here? BetterBee, Wilbanks, Palmer.
Prince William County Beekeepers- A total of 68% of package started hives survived the first winter whereas 83% of nuc started hives survived this first season. These results were further emphasized in the second year. Hives that survived the first year and then again through the 2010 season into 2011, consisted only of 40% of packaged started hives, whereas 70 % of nuc started hives survived into the second year.
And our recent experience of (now verified) almost 50% total failure (queen DOA, queen dead after install or laying workers) within 1 month of package install.
Every time this issue is brought up those of us critical of the quality of packaged bees seem to be accused of personally bashing the packaged producers. We are not bashing the individuals involved in the business but just what appears to be the result of the industry trying to meet increasing demand and quality suffering. As MP points out- there are some actual surveys now to support this- from a variety of sources with folks tracking actual data and across multiple sources (i.e., not anecdotal evidence and stories) and from a variety of East Coast geographic regions that show nuc started colonies outperform packaged bees- even nucs made with "store bought" queens from commercial queen producers in terms of winter survival. Some of the above mentioned surveys even tracked data for 2-3 years with similar results.
I have gone thru nearly 100 packages and you could not pay me to use packages again. Some years the supersedure rate would be 75%.
In every business there are crooked suppliers. The value of meeting the guy you are buying from and the bees being local are a tremendous plus.
Nucs have served me well and every beekeeper I have helped who has made the switch have all been blown away how much more success prone the bees were.
Every one has an opinion but I'd rather take 10 good nucs than 40 packages any day.
I guess we should all stop selling packages and everybody can vie for the limited number of nucs available and we can see what demand does to nuc prices? Will the US bee industry survive when a nuc costs $450.00, $600,00 $1000,00?
I have surveyed survival myself and it is impossible to get consistent data without doing it under controlled conditions. Surveys get filled out inconsistently due to peoples interpretation of the questions and definitions. Even when I attempted to do controls myself the picture gets muddled by general management and other factors. Bear attacks, swarming, supercedure. Robbing, mite loads, treatments, no treatments.... Too many other factors come into play to really track any good data...
Then something occurred to me... Of all the samples from dead hives I have sent into the bee lab over several years... not once was the cause of death "started from package". There are always some identifiable cause of death and often those causes are the same in both package started and nuc started deadouts.
i've never tried a package, only nucs.
it only makes sense that you could have more confidence with success with a colony that is already queenright, has comb, and is expanding.
meeting the guy and getting to look at the brood pattern were big plusses for me.
but i understand the availability factor.
I've noticed package prices going up in price also. I only pay $90 bucks for my nucs.
No offense but there is no way you can raise as high of a quality queen in a package as in a nuc. The environment is much more natural and stable.
Thanks squarepeg for your honest statement.
The divide on this topic is completely biased around here due to the fact that many who unbudgenly back one product or the other either #1. earn income selling one or the other like MP and I. #2. Have experience with only one or the other.
Kamon: A queen cannot be raised in a package at all. The method for raising package queens is the same as the methods nuc producers use. The queens that come in my packages are all pulled from their matting nucs the day before I deliver them and placed in their cages in the packages. Also many many nucs are made up with queens bought through package producers. That is especially true in the north where we can't produce a queen early enough to make a nuc... So if the nuc isn't over wintered like MP does it is likely headed up by an introduced queen bought from a breeder somewhere warmer.
In the northeast there is also a lot of southern nucs being brought in from down south to supplement "local" nuc availability. Many guys are honest about the fact that the nucs they sell come from down south, but I know of several who are not.
Of course none of this matters in your situation because of your location.
And for $90.00 I would buy nucs also. $90.00 isn't a realistic price in my area... $130.00 is the low end and up to around $175.00.
An interesting question, and not too far off the topic, is what percentage of beekeepers don't have to buy nucs or packages each year to maintain their colony numbers?