I ordered half a dozen NW Carnolian queens last year to try them out. They were scheduled for pickup April 24 but when the weather got sour I called Strachen and asked them to delay it until there was some decent weather for them to breed. They assured me that they would never sell queens unless they were certain that they had opportunety to breed. A few days before the 24th I got a call to pick them up on schedule. I put them in five frame nucs with a minimum of four frames of bees. Five days later five queens had been accepted and one was dead in the cage. The candy was as hard as adobe brick and the bees couldn't release her.
Two weeks later I transfered the nucs with the remaining queens to strong colonies with a minimum of ten frames of bees during a strong honey flow. I fed all summer whenever the honey flow slacked off but they never built up more than three or four frames of brood at a time. Menwhile, my Italians were pumping out 8 to 12 frames even when the temp got over 100 degrees.
By August or Sept. I became concerned and posted a topic wondering if this was charicteristic of NW Carnolians. Didn't seem like it was right so I called and talked to Vallarie Strachen. She advised me to treat for Varroa. I had been dusting with powdered sugar about twice a month from the start since I wanted to keep these girls away from chemicals. When I asked her about the early delivery she said yes they might not have been adequately bred but if so they would just supercede. I treated all of them with OA. One queen did supercede and I salvaged two of her daughters which are doing well. By the middle of Oct, of my remaining four queens three had completely shut down laying but still had about 12-15 frames of bees, one had appearantly absconded. OK, Carnolians are supposed to slack off when the flow stops so I fed and gave them pollen. Went to feed yesterday and took a peek under the covers. No bees. Lifted the top box and couldn't see any bees so I opened the first hive and found a patch of dead bees the size of the palm of my hand on one side of only one frame with the dead queen exposed. Same picture in the second hive, and a cluster the size of a small grapefruit of live bees in the third hive. Since winter has finally set in here the third colony is just going to have to make it or break it, it's too cold to shake bees from my Itallian hive and boost them up.
I'm not real happy about Strachen. I trusted them to keep their word about not selling queens unless they had a chance to breed and due to their reputation relied on their expertese. When I discussed the problem with Vallerie, I feel she should have offered to replace them with adequately bred queens, which she did not do.
I think I will try to get a couple of Russian Nucs from Fat Beeman this spring. I want to move away from the Itallians and find a way to minimize treatments but I have sour taste for the Carnolians now. It seems strange to be 100 miles away from some of the biggest queen breeding operations in the country and have to order from the east coast area to feel confidence in the queen breeders.