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Thread: Russian Queens

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Yellowstone, Montana, USA
    Posts
    26

    Default Russian Queens

    I am wanting to use some russian queens in my hives. Who out there knows a reputable breeder of good quality russians?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,212

    Default Re: Russian Queens

    I saw an article in this month's ABJ, and from that I gathered that the people with access to all of the lines of bees that USDA released and are certified by the bee breeders group have the purest, most diverse Russian bee genetics.
    That would be these guys. http://www.russianbreeder.org/members.html
    It also said that queen availability is limited.

    Yet the article also left me wondering why the organisation is not bigger, and why we don't see more of these bees around? If I understood it correctly, the article said that the genetic diversity within the russian bees they have is as great as the diversity within all the italian honey bees in the US.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,947

    Default Re: Russian Queens

    The Russians were over hyped a few years ago and as a result beekeepers who were expecting the hype to be true have been disappointed. And Russians have behavioral practices - like keeping numerous queen cups ready to go - that require different management. The ABJ article described them as close to what we are looking for as a bee that can thrive without treatments and make a good honey crop.

    My experience with them has been completely treatment free - and they have made little honey and are in the process of being done in by varroa and associated viruses. One yard of 6 hives was recently inspected by the State of Maine - 5 of the 6 (going into their 2nd winter) were observed to have serious virus issues, serious enough that the inspector thought they would not make it through winter. The 6th was a split that was made up this year with a purchased queen. That seemed to be doing ok. By the time I got around to wrapping, 1 hive had already succumbed - the others had enough population still that I went ahead and wrapped them. The State guy is pretty good and I don't have high hopes.

    I'm starting to wonder if the Russians would thrive with regular mite monitoring and "soft" treatment(s) on a hopefully annual basis. I'm looking at other stock reputed to not require treatments and may give up on the Russians if they don't make it through the winter.

    The article went on to note that the rules for the Russian Bee Breeders require that Russian Bees are the only stock that they breed. That I imagine is a double edged sword - good for maintaining the integrity of Russian Bee genetics, but bad for breeders that already have investments in other stocks.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,212

    Default Re: Russian Queens

    Andrew, thanks for the explanation. I think it is good that they keep the genetics as pure as they can, but if your experiences are typical I can see why they haven't taken off.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Knox Co, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    857

    Default Re: Russian Queens

    My experience with Russian genetics is mixed. The first year honey production was good. The next year most of my efforts were spent trying to keep them from swarming. I have gotten rid of all my Russian genetics and moved to Carniolan.

    I think the Russians will work if you allow them to swarm and can capture those swarms.

    They will requeen themselves. I found the hives got hotter with time.

    Tom

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Pierce/Thurson County, Wa
    Posts
    186

    Default Re: Russian Queens

    I have found my Russians to be out much earlier in the mornings and out much later in the evenings. I saw a couple of drones hanging out on the outside of the hive last Thursday, but did not have time to look inside the hive (it started raining), so I am going to guess that they may have kicked out the drones. My Russian daughter still has uncapped brood. My Russian hive is the biggest one going into winter. I like them for their tolerance to cold.

    Edited to add: I have yet to do any treatment on them, and since you were asking about breeders, this is where I got mine from. http://www.wildernessbees.com/
    Last edited by seyc; 11-06-2012 at 12:26 PM.
    If you think anything organic is good for you, go drink some organic solvents.
    geek, learning how to be a beek

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Belews Creek, NC, USA
    Posts
    334

    Default Re: Russian Queens

    New Beek here. I bought 2 packages of Italians from Georgia back in May and 2 Russian nucs (from Ray Revis, certified by the Russian Honeybee Breeders Association) in June of this year. I located the hives pretty close to each other and also plot their weights on a graph every week so that I could compare the breeds. Several things became quickly evident... the Russians are far more paranoid. The guards stop every single bee that tries to enter the hive while the Italians were too busy bringing in stores and flying back out. It seemed the Russians weren't accomplishing much and seemed to be harassing the bees entering their own hive. The Italians were the first out in the morning and last to return. Russians like to propolis up everything while the Italians...not so much. The laying pattern in all 4 hives has always been very good. I found heaps of dead bees beneath each hive and did not understand why until I figured out it was robbing. Which breed was the main robber? Can't say, but I'm betting on the Italians. I had 1 hive of each breed to become infested in a really bad way with mites (wasn't checking). The other Russian showed no drops. During the month of October the Italians became pissy. The Russians became dangerous. As far as honey production, time will tell. Since the Italians were packages, by the time they had comb drawn to store honey the flow was over and the rest of the summer was hot and dry. Even the goldenrod was short-lived. Same for the Russians...too late for any real honey production. One interesting thing happened...one of my Italian hives' population has become about 40% black in color in the last couple of months. It is now my strongest, most active hive and I'm hoping the hive is now a Russian/Italian hybrid. I think the combination of the 2 would make a really good breed. I'm proud of all my girls, but until I get thru next spring I will have to hold my judgement of the Russians.
    Hives.jpg

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    972

    Default Re: Russian Queens

    Russians might not be too bad a choice up in Yellowstone, Montana. They do like to swarm, so I would advise getting into queen rearing yourself if you choose to use them. Velbert Williams sells Russian queens. He posts here on Beesource, so send him a private message. This late in the year, you might buy a nuc colony and combine any weak colonies with them, making sure to allow the Russian queen to keep the throne, that is, kill the other queen yourself if combining to move into Russians.

    The Russian strain of honeybee is one of the best at tolerating varroa destructor, as they actively groom mites off each other and even bite the mite to kill it. They can be crossed with VSH bees and promote the varroa - removing behaviors over generations, although some Russians already display these traits, too.

    One thing they are NOT good for is almond pollination in California. They over-winter in very small clusters and come out too slowly to pollinate in February. Once they get going, be ready to super up fast. Russian queens have been known to lay as many as 3,500 eggs per day, although 2,000 to 2,500 per day is more common. They start slow, but they often surpass Italians for hive population by mid-May (depending on where you have them). Try to check with others at your lattitude / climate who have had Russians. I see Seyc is up in Washington, so pay close attention to him, and to Adrain and Andrew too. Best of luck.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 11-06-2012 at 06:18 PM.

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