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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    Shallowater, Texas, USA
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    355

    Default First year experience with Russians....help!

    I purchased 10 nucs of Russians in May. Brought them back to Texas and set them up in single deeps with feeders. I am located 35 miles NW of Lubbock(in the panhandle of TX). Had a late freeze which killed most of the wildflower bloom, so continued to feed them. They worked catclaw acacia and smartweed, then cotton started blooming. Hundreds of acres of cotton in every direction as well as corn(pollen cource). Pulled feeders off when cotton started blooming.

    When first deep had 7-8 frames drawn(new pierco frames) I added second deep. Seems like it took forever for bees to start moving into second deep and drawing comb. Added supers to all hives when bees started drawing comb in second deep. Then I noticed two hives getting weak. I added a frame of brood from stronger hives to the weaker two. Didn't help much, one hive eventually was a dead out, other remained weak. No signs of disease or parasites.

    First of October, moved the remaining hives to a field of late season sunflowers that were sprayed one time at the first of the bloom. Waited a week to move the bees on them as farmer said he wouldn't spray them again. Bees eagerly worked the sunflowers. I had pulled the single supers (which were empty anyway) from all but two hives(which were beginning to draw comb on a couple of frames). After three weeks on the sunflowers, the other weak hive was a dead out and another hive died out. There was no honey in the supers I had left on the two hives.

    In the end, I lost three hives of Russians and got no honey from the others. This is my first year in beekeeping and I chose Russians. I'm trying to figure out what I did wrong. Any input about what I might have done wrong would be greatly appreciated as well as input on how to manage Russians. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    collbran, co
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    546

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    I have russian/carni mix as far as brood the russian wont make brood unless there is a ample supply of nector and pollen.Also i noticed in my OB hive that they stop laying,when no nector and pollen they stop laying they need both.i placed a patty in OB hive and they don't want it.my itall consume the patty's tho as soon as i placed in hive.Go figure this is my second winter.I wouldn't place my hive were they sprayed as the chemicals in the spray is still present on the flowers.that could cause ccd as there immune systems will eventually shut down.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    GREENWOOD INDIANA USA
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    342

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    AC,
    It is hard to see anything you did "wrong". Using my vast powers of hindsight, there are a couple things I might have done differently, but I don't see that you did anything "wrong".
    When you first noticed you had two weak hives, you might have combined the two with stronger hives, but it is perfectly reasonable to add a frame or two of brood and eggs from another hive in an attempt to get them to raise a new queen. It's not wrong. It just didn't work. You might also have fed them all this first year to get them to build up, but as they were sitting in the middle of acres and acres of crops, I probably wouldn't have fed them either. I seem to remember someone on this website posting something about cotton as a nectar provider, but I can't recall whether it was a good one or a poor one. I know that my bees will work Sunflowers, but they do it pretty much as a last straw, so I'm thinking that, at least around here they don't get much nectar from them.
    I might not have added the supers until they had drawn out 70/80% of the second deep, but as they didn't use it anyway, you really lost nothing.
    As for honey, you shouldn't really expect any harvest the first year.
    That being said, how do the other hives look? If they are all heavy and happy, I'd be pretty pleased, if I were you. Remember, sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Malabar, FL
    Posts
    1,268

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    I don't really see anything you have done wrong either. I also have 90 russian colonies and they do seem to be a little different that other races in several areas. I noticed this year that it really helped to move a frame of honey up to an empty super, it seemed if I didn't some hives would not move up they would fill the brood chamber. It also helped to move a frame of brood up when expanding the brood chamber, again some would not move up without this direction. I had more queen problems this year than I can remember, supercedure, or just plain disapearance without a cell being made, oh and those darn laying workers. I'm not attributing the queen problems to the Russian breed, i have noticed a lot of people have had increasing problems with queens. I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to weak colonies that I agree with JOHNY, combine with a stronger colony. In some cases adding brood and or eggs worked and strengthened the hive or they produced a queen, but in for some it was not worth all the time and extra effort had I combined them earlier it would have been for the better. If your other hives look good and strong then pat yourself on the back your first year as a beek has been successful EVERYONE experiences some losses and defeats.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
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    2,758

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    The only thing that I would have done differently (and others are more than welcome to tell me I'm wrong) is to continue feeding even after you think it's necessary. One of my observations of beekeeping has been that I am not a good predictor of what the bees need, and I'm an even worse predictor of whether or not they have what they need. Just because they SHOULD be able to find enough nectar and pollen out there doesn't mean that they WILL.

    I continue to feed with sugar and pollen as long as the bees are willing to take it. Once they havn't touched it in over a week, I then take it off. If given the choice, they will take fresh nectar over sugar water, but if they arn't getting enough they will gladly take sugar water. It's almost impossible to over feed.

    But generally speaking, what was your goal of this season? To start with ten nucs and end with ten hives? Or to get a feel from beekeeping? To learn something? Or to get a ton of honey?

    What was the reasoning behind choosing russians? Not criticizing, just wondering. Often individuals choose genetics for different reasons, just wondering what yours are.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
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    6,973

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    nothing hypothetical here, but speaking from past experience in keeping bees (in very large numbers) in the texas panhandle... the panhandle has always been a dance between the beekeeper and pesticide sprayed from airplane.

    somewhat associated with this OBSERVED problem.... lack of available water and some of the newer product to combat pest may add quite a bit of risk to this preexisting problem.

    I also suspect (hypothetical for sure) that anywhere you have had long term production of cottom may not be the best environment for a honeybee. some of the old stuff they used on cotton just doesn't decompose that quickly.

    ps.. in the old days we would have been quite happy to have only lost 3 of 10 hive to the spray. as far as collecting a honey crop... I would suspect that there are only a very few environments where the russians can reasonable make a honey crop.

  7. #7

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Quote Originally Posted by tecumseh View Post
    I would suspect that there are only a very few environments where the russians can reasonable make a honey crop.
    T, I bet that statement will pull them out of the woodwork.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Palm Bay, FL, USA
    Posts
    2,297

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Quote Originally Posted by tecumseh View Post
    ... I would suspect that there are only a very few environments where the russians can reasonable make a honey crop.
    When my son and I started back up I thought that might be the case with the Russian bees in FL too, with all the hot weather we have. However, the Russians have proven to be great honey producers, better than our Italians. You do have to get used to some of their wierd traits, like constantly building queen cells and then tearing them down. At first I thought they were superseding every queen we had, but they'd build a cell, even to the point of capping it, and then the next time you went in the hive the queen would be merrily laying tons of eggs and the cells would have the sides chewed out. I'll give them another year or two to see how they do but so far I like the honey production and the lack of varroa. Another question mark is how fast they'll build up in Jan-Feb to get ready for the March citrus flow; this year it's not critical for us since we're just trying to build numbers, but in the future we need bees that come out of the starting gate gangbusters before the citrus.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Shallowater, Texas, USA
    Posts
    355

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Thanks everyone for the great input, it is very appreciated. I chose Russians for their hygenic behavior/resistance to mites. Everything I read about them prior to buying them didn't go into great detail about the pollen/brood production issue...no pollen...no brood. It was only after I bought them and began noticing their slow progress, that my bee supplier informed me what a critical issue this is with the Russians.

    Peacekeeper...thanks for the tips on moving frames up into new brood chambers/supers. I didn't think of that. You and Johny are right, in hindsight I should have combined the two weak colonies. In the end, I lost both of them.

    Specialkayme, I definitely wanted to learn something...and I have. I really didn't expect all ten nucs to make ten hives. I was just surprised(inexperience speaking here)that I set these hives out in an area surrounded by hundreds of acres of cotton and a long valley full of vegetation and didn't get any honey production at all. Now I understand I should not have expected any the first year. One thing I noticed, these bees didn't seem to be all that interested in the cotton...which is contrary to what I read. Cotton is supposed to be an excellent bee plant.

    You commented you feed pollen. What exactly do you feed? Is it a substitute or the real thing? Frank commented earlier his Russians had no interest in a patty.

    Tecumseh, you are right about the spray planes....and they put out some wicked stuff. However, my wife's uncle farms most of the ground in the area I put the bees in. All his cotton was BT cotton and he didn't spray. The corn was "triple stack" corn and it wasn't sprayed either(although I have sinced learned about IMDs and how they can travel from the treated corn seed to the pollen). He has used BT cotton since it has been available to cut out the costs/use of pesticides. I guess the possibility exists the bees may have traveled past all these crops to something else. I did notice they kept on working the smartweed even after the cotton started blooming. As far as water, there was a full stock tank about a hundred fifty yards from the hives.

    Tecumseh, you may be right, Russians may not be suited to this panhandle environment. One thing I noticed...at times, there was not much activity as far as bees going in/out of some of the hives in the middle of the day. When I would open these hives, the bees were in there, just hanging out on the frames. It seemed like they didn't have a clue as to what to do...so they just stayed home, yet there was cotton blooming all around them.

    I also noticed the Russians seem to be very docile. Even when pulling frames of brood out, the house bees would just go about their business...not run all over the frames. They didn't seem to care much about anything I did in handling them.

    Does anyone have any recommendations as to what race of bees would work best out here? What about Carniolans? I have stayed away from Italians because of their susceptibility to mites, etc. Wanted to stay away from chemicals in the hives as much as possible.

    Thanks again everyone, I look forward to your comments and advice.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Shallowater, Texas, USA
    Posts
    355

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Fish stix...we're on the same page. My first year of being a new beekeeper combined with the habits of Russians has been interesting to say the least. The Russians seem to have traits contrary to everything I have read....which led to a lot of head scratching on my part. It will be interesting to see how many of my hives make it through the winter and yes, how fast they build up in the spring....which seems to be directly related to what produces pollen the earliest here(or feed them a pollen substitute they will take).

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    GREENWOOD INDIANA USA
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    342

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    AC,
    Why don't you try a couple hives of Carni's and Italian's and see which ones do the job. It sounds like you have a perfect location, if you can find the right bees to exploit it. You don't HAVE to treat. I don't treat my Italian Mutts.

  12. #12

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Quote Originally Posted by ACBEES View Post
    All his cotton was BT cotton and he didn't spray.
    I put some bees on BT cotton a few years ago. The farmer assured me that he didn't use any pesticides. I was working those bees one day and a spray plane was making his passes over the fields. I asked the farmer what was going on. He said, that isn't a pesticide, they're spraying a growth regulator. I pulled my bees and haven't put them on cotton again.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Shallowater, Texas, USA
    Posts
    355

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Hi Dan, I know about the growth regulator. Can't recall what the ingredients are at the moment, however, it is my understanding spraying a growth regulator is an option, not a necessity. My wife's uncle and I discussed the possibility of him maybe having to use a growth regulator and he said he would inform me if he was going to spray so I could move the bees. He wound up not spraying any of his cotton in the area I had my Russians.

    I'm curious...what kind of bees did you put on the cotton? How did they do working the cotton before you pulled them off?

  14. #14

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Quote Originally Posted by ACBEES View Post
    I'm curious...what kind of bees did you put on the cotton? How did they do working the cotton before you pulled them off?
    None of my bees have a pedigree. Just a bunch of mongrels. The cotton they were on was pretty late in the season, so they were better off (or so I thought) than they'd be somewhere that nothing was blooming. In my opinion, even without the growth regulator, it wasn't worth the move (120 miles each way).
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    acbee writes:
    Does anyone have any recommendations as to what race of bees would work best out here? What about Carniolans? I have stayed away from Italians because of their susceptibility to mites, etc. Wanted to stay away from chemicals in the hives as much as possible.

    tecumseh:
    I was just trying to suggest acbee that just because you started out with this or that breed, you need not stick to it like you were married to it. the basic genetics of the bee would suggest some diversity is highly beneficial. real lack of diversity will definitely show up in the brood pattern pretty quickly. In short I guess the optimal idea would be to find some genetics (breed of bees) that complimented what you already have.

    I rear a range of your basic 'italian' bee here and I don't think I really have that much problem with varroa. can't say I don't treat my bees (since certainly if I notice a problem I will attend to the problem) but I don't (have never) placed anything like an insecticide pest strip into a hive.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    VENTURA, California, USA
    Posts
    3,604

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    I purchased 10 nucs of Russians in May.
    Were they 5 frame nucs? And, were they the doughters of a Russian breeder queen?

    Regards,
    Ernie
    Ernie
    My websitehttp://bees4u.com/

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
    Posts
    985

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Everyone has a opinion, opinions are like noses...everyone has one. Here is mine....I think you only made one mistake.....buying Russians!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Shallowater, Texas, USA
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    355

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    Hi Tecumseh, I have thought about what you are suggesting. In many places, I have read about developing a bee that suits your area. There are feral bees in the area. Do you think it would be worth while to capture some of these feral bees, hive them and place these colonies in the same yard with the russians and allow them to hybridize? Right now, I have my Russian hives in a secluded bee yard by themselves(not to say feral bees I don't know about aren't in the area).

    Bees4U, I purchased 5 frame nucs. The frames were pulled from Russian hives and each was queened with new Russian queens from Taber.

    Suttonbeeman, can you give me some more detail on why you think I made a mistake buying Russians? Tell me about your experience with them and why you don't like them.

    Thanks everyone.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,163

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    My take on the Tabers Russian's,
    I bought a russian package from Tabers this year, the bee's built out the plastic frames very well. They came back well from a queenless period, when the queen was accidentally killed.
    They're open mated, & don't build queen cells, but keep several cups in the hive.
    Dan

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
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    6,973

    Default Re: First year experience with Russians....help!

    acbee writes:
    Hi Tecumseh, I have thought about what you are suggesting. In many places, I have read about developing a bee that suits your area. There are feral bees in the area. Do you think it would be worth while to capture some of these feral bees, hive them and place these colonies in the same yard with the russians and allow them to hybridize? Right now, I have my Russian hives in a secluded bee yard by themselves(not to say feral bees I don't know about aren't in the area).

    tecumseh:
    I don't put much stock in someone trying to (in some reasonable time period) rearing bees suitable to an area. Start by selecting a set of traits that somewhat meets your needs and area and go from there. I guess the first think to keep in mind is THE PURPOSE for which you wish to raise bees. Quite obvious to me (but this ain't my first rodeo either) what I would pick if I was a pollinator is not the same thing I would pick if I wanted to capture a honey crop. Add other traits as you move along always remembering the old bee breeder adage that you don't acquire anything without cost or losing someting else... this is a pretty basic rule one and folks that attempt to deny this are usually either naive (wishful thinking) or snake oil salesman.

    feral may or may not represent value but I would never (given my current purpose) expend the energy to try to place them in a box. there is nothing wrong with leaving them where they are and capturing their genetics via swarms and the drones. the casualty rate for takeouts is high and the rewards highly questionable. at this location anything that is feral is tested by the bee lab before I move it anywhere near any of my locations. at your location anything that survives the winters (and most especially the wind + cold) would likely pass the bee lab's test also... so that concern may be less critical at your location that it is at mine.

    the often overlooked question by most folks new to beekeeping is 'the kind of flow' you experience can be highly variable (somewhat predicable as you move from the equator to the poles) and your first selection should first somewhat match this physical reality with consideration of 'your purpose' following close behind this....

    just my 2.5 denaro...

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