How about sharing some experience in purchasing spring nucs or packages from suppliers in the Northeast? Please avoid the tendancy to only share bad experiences, and remember that a single bad experience may not be a good reason to condemn a supplier; particularly if they made good on a complaint.
I will start by sharing mine...the nucs I have bought from Lloyd Spear have generally been superior. He delivers when he says he will, and the nucs have been very strong.
I have also had very good experiences with Wilbanks packages (Georgia), but only when I picked them up myself.
I am looking for new sources as Spear never has enough nucs. Prefer Northeast package pickup in early to mid April.
have you tried Hardeman's in Georgia, they'er not to far from wilbanks. I called them the other day and they said they will have nuc's and packages ready by the first of april.
Lloyd Spear sold me junk.
I ordered packages from Betterbee (Who I thinks gets them from Wilbanks). These were superior and built up fast. The queens however had a 40% mortality. within 3 mo.
[This message has been edited by dickm (edited October 31, 2004).]
The past two years have been overwhelming for breeders in the Southeast. Many new beekeepers and many more expanding with the honey prices the way they are. Weather has been poor in early spring, and many had problems getting the first or second grafts to take this past year. This not only set them back for deliveries, but I think poor queens were produced. This is enhanced by the amount of beekeepers who all want bees and queens at the same time. Yes, they are responsible for putting a good product out to the consumers, but alot goes into it.
I know of at least three breeders(major) who had swapped or assisted other breeders with queens this year. They help others when they can, because they may be the one who have bad grafts next year. So who you bought from may not be who bred the queens, and you might end up with the same breeder next year even if you choose another "name".
I had one batch of queens that went to drone laying within 30 days. At a rate of 40%. Not good.
I like Wilbanks except they will not give prices before the end of the year. Puts a crimp on taking orders when you do not know the prices.
Hardemans are one of the only breeders with Russians in Georgia. I did have past problems with queens though.
Schumans is a bit higher priced (1-3 dollars), but are nice people to deal with. Good outfit and good queens.
Wootens (Ca.) are breeding for resistance and are good producers. Nice operation.
Arnold apiaries in tennessee had a problem delievering on time, but worked with me and gave a full refund. When you pre-pay to a small operator, you sometimes think you'll get screwed with refunds and the like, but he kept his word. May deal with him again in the future as he has somewhat northern raised queens. Russians, Italians, and a few others.
Champlain valley bees in Vermont have northern stock, but had limited capacity the past few years. I would like to get some northern stock from them but you have to go on a list and get them when they have them.
These comments are based on 2004. Things change alot from year to year. The one thing I try to stay away from are the discounters that sell way below the going rate for queens and packages. You wonder what they do to go so low to make a sale. I wonder what quality product they put out on the market. I will pay slightly more for good operations, but also visit almost all that I order from. This may not be feasible for all. But a phone call, some conversation, and some questions is not too much for anyone.
The price of queens is going way up too.
I have over the years purchased packages, nucs, and queens from a number of sources.
Most of my purchases have been from Better Bee, as they are physically the closest and many of the suppliers have stop shipping into the Northeast, or at least where I am.
The packages from Better Bee have always been good quality, and from that matter the packages from Weaver and Hardeman have also been of good quality.
Last year I purchased (6) Nucs from Better Bee, even with the weather we had last spring, they were ready on time. These were northern raise nucs. These were picked up at Better Bee.
I also purchased (6) packages that were from Hardeman; they were part of a truckload shipment. These were picked up at a drop off point across the river.
I have had packages from Weaver shipped by Next Day Service. I do not like having packages shipped and the bees cooped up for long periods of time. I have found that the general carriers are not geared to handling livestock / bees.
I do not purchase enough packages or nucs to make it worth while driving to a Southern Supplier. So I look for packages that I can pick-up that have been brought up directly from a supplier.
From my perspective, I look for a supplier who will stand behind what he sells. There will always be problems when dealing with livestock, but being able to work with your supplier makes all the difference.
I would not hesitate to purchase packages from anyone that I have dealt with again.
OK... well here goes nuthin'....
I am trying to start a queen/package operation... I help(free labor) what I would consider a "major" breeder here in Ms. My wife does all of his grafting, we all go out and catch queens/feed/etc etc... He is helping me big time to get started. ANYWAY... He ALWAYS has more orders than he can possible fill, yet his prices are as low as anyone I have seen advertised...he says he WON'T raise his prices because he doesn't want to "gouge" people..he forgets the price of his fuel has gone up 30-40%... but nevermind that. I see him sell to suppliers up north who turn around and make what I consider significant markups in price... or the significant cost of shipping.
Well... what I'm getting at is... I am considering making nucs/ packages/ queens and deliver tyhem MYSELF to somewhere in the Northeast that would be convenient for as many as possible to pick up. I have relatives in the Northeast, and could take a couple days before heading back home to continue the business... I just need to know if there would be enough interested in it to make it worth my time... I am NOT trying to make a ridiculous profit or gouge anyone...but I ain't gonna do it for free. If I did it, it will cost me maybe a week of queens I coulda raised had I stayed home. But I could pretty much guarantee bees/nucs from the hive to your hands in 2-3 days..maybe even less time. Mr Russell has orders for > 6000 queens this year ALREADY in his hand... but I believe I could talk him into helping me fill one good order that I will haul myself up north. They are Italian bees, and IMHO are excellent... we don't have a huge mite problem here, and as of today, we don't have the SHB yet..NONE. I hope it is not offensive that I say all this here... maybe someone will say I should have posted in the "for sale" section... but it is what I do..sell bees.... and it seems many people CAN'T find 'em when they want 'em etc etc.... Well, since I read these pages religiously, I guess other people that read here also has a bit of an edge of getting what they want/need. So everyone discuss it amongst yourselves and see if there is anything I can do to help. If there is enough people interested, we'll talk about how to do it in another post.
Sippybee is offering to 'maybe' drive a load of packages to the Northeast from Mississippi. He talks about the possibility of making the trip in 2-3 days.
I don't have a lot of experience, but I have made a total of 3 trips to south Georgia and returned with 400, 600, and 100 packages. The 100 I did myself in a pickup that is rated for a full ton. The others I helped a guy with, and he used a 4-ton flatbed (F-550) with walls and a ceiling and special ventilation specfically for packages.
I have always understood that non-stop driving is a must. I took along a helper, mostly to talk to me, and I was the helper for the other guy. In all three cases we drove straight through on the return, and it took just short of 24 hours.
The 100 packages came through 100%, and the bees looked and performed just great. Losses on the 400 and 600 package loads were just about exactly 15% and were almost all in the front of the box. Because of the time it takes to physically load and unload, these bees were in the box about 4 hours longer than those in the back of the box. I understand that the 15% loss is 'to be expected' and is part of the reason that delivered package prices are so high.
All that said, Reg Wilbanks used to personally made two deliveries to the Northeast (and perhaps still does). He had a special gooseneck trailer built for the purpose, and it cost him (I recall) about $10,000. He said his losses were less than 5% and I think he hauled around 600 packages each trip. He attributed the low losses to the ventilation system he had built in. The problem is that his delivery was (and perhaps still is) after May 15...much too late for me.
I would be willing to be part of a consolidated order for early April delivery, but for only a small part of my needs (maybe 30 packages) and subject to paying for live delivery. If it worked well the first year, I would consider commiting for my entire order the second year.
Still looking for a source for about 150 packages...and thanks for those who have contributed ideas so far.