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  1. #21
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    Jan 2003
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    Default Re: Should new I automatically plan to requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by chrisd4421 View Post
    Here are my key points:
    1. Any hive that has bees in it is a good hive of bees.
    2. Having two hives is better than one. Several reasons - Comparison, sharing resources, etc...
    3. Re-queening will not guarantee success; it may leave you queen-less regardless of your intent
    4. If I second guess myself, I breath, refer to #1 above and research things before I act.


    Chris in NJ
    sounds like good advice
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  2. #22
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    Nov 2012
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    Haymarket, Virginia
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    197

    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    I almost always rear replacement queens for first year packages or let them rear one on their own. With the exception of time restraint I never let package queens head a first year hive into the winter.
    Someone said the same thing at our meeting. IF she's mediocre and I were to requeen the package hive for overwintering, couldn't I then create a nuc with the original package queen as an experiment to see if she makes it until next Spring?

    Quote Originally Posted by franktrujillo View Post
    you should order a package of carnolians they winter over well.also fly at lower temps also gives a genetic difference into you apiary in case your package or packages supersedes.i always let the queens out of my packages if bees are not biting or stinging the cage feed well while there in the package so they will be full and sluggish.Oh ya let foraging bees start exiting the hive before letting her out this way younger bees are left in the hive i put packaged bees in around noon time..
    They're on my wish list (along with a local hybrid, SKCs, a plain old swarm, and a few others), especially if I could get my hands on a local nuc or even a package. As I get more experience it'd be nice to see how the various breeds perform under local conditions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravenseye View Post
    So, my advice is to not worry about the kind of bee but check on the colony fairly frequently and address concerns (queen or other) as they come up. That's what it's all about. If you do have a queen slow down on you, just re-queen and move on!
    Excellent advice and thanks for the reinforcement.

  3. #23
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    Jun 2011
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    brownwood, TX, USA
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    827

    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Major:

    "We want bees as early as we can get them in the spring so the bee package sellers are getting these queens mated and shipped and there is just not enough drones flying for proper mating, so the queens may do ok for a little while and then get less productive and get superceded."

    Thanks so much for the above explanation. That is exactly what happened to my first three packages. They came to me in early April in 2011. All three hives built up comb and brood and then the brood just slowed up. It was my first attempt at beekeeping and did not have a mentor. I don't think there is another domestic bee hive within 60 miles of my bees. In the mean time my continued experimenting with feeding caused the early death of many of my bees. (that's another story)

    I inspected the bees in mid July and could not find any brood or eggs, but I did see two queens that looked smaller than the original queens. A week later there were eggs in all the hives. Over the past year these bees built from about three deep frames to fill a deep and two medium boxes. These packages were Italians.

    Thanks again for the logical explanation.

  4. #24
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    Jul 2006
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    Worcester County, Massachusetts
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    3,626

    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    ...I'm not sure it is fair to assume that a queen that looks good building up a package (which is what those queens are selected for...a fast buildup) will be good for overwintering.

    Deknow

  5. #25
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    Aug 2006
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    Danbury, CT
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    2,887

    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by urbanoutlaw View Post
    Someone said the same thing at our meeting. IF she's mediocre and I were to requeen the package hive for overwintering, couldn't I then create a nuc with the original package queen as an experiment to see if she makes it until next Spring?
    You could if you wanted... I can tell you the results ahead of time though. Many of those nucs will not make it. Like others have said, package queens are reared in huge numbers and open mated, they are competing for a limited number of drones. Some get mated better than others, some will fizzle out the first summer and the bees just replace her, unless she is marked the beekeeper may not even notice she was replaced. Other will make it into the fall and fizzle out mid winter dooming the colony... very few will make it until spring.

    It isn't about being a mediocre queen, the queen could be fine. It is about quality mating. If you open mate replacements in your own yard you will likely get max drone density per queen and get matings with up to 20 drones... A package queen may have only mated with 2-3 drones because of the huge number of queens competing for the available drones.

    Hope that makes sense? Sometimes I think you have to see a package operation to understand the numbers we are talking.... some of these guys need 1000 or more queens per day to fill their orders. For good matings they need up to 20 times the queen density and a drone is one time use... so they need 20000 ripe drones per day if they want to mate 1000 queens... Often that isn't achievable.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  6. #26
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    Nov 2012
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    Haymarket, Virginia
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    ...I'm not sure it is fair to assume that a queen that looks good building up a package (which is what those queens are selected for...a fast buildup) will be good for overwintering.

    Deknow
    I'm begin to see why:

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    A package queen may have only mated with 2-3 drones because of the huge number of queens competing for the available drones.

    Hope that makes sense? Sometimes I think you have to see a package operation to understand the numbers we are talking.... some of these guys need 1000 or more queens per day to fill their orders. For good matings they need up to 20 times the queen density and a drone is one time use... so they need 20000 ripe drones per day if they want to mate 1000 queens... Often that isn't achievable.
    Wow. It's hard to visualize the scale that you're referring to, Bluegrass, but your and Deknow's points are well taken. I never considered how many queens have to compete for drones. One would think there would be a cost-effective way to raise adequate drones for this scale...but I know that's my ignorance talking. With that, it makes even more sense why local beekeepers tend to recommend nucs over packages.

    I think it'll be enlightening to see how the package queen performs against a nuc.

  7. #27
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by urbanoutlaw View Post
    I think it'll be enlightening to see how the package queen performs against a nuc.
    1. Not all nucs are created equal. Some are of excellent quality, some are made up with comb the beekeeper is culling post pollination, some are made up by busting up colonies and adding a "package queen".

    2. If you started 2 hives right next to one another, with sister queens, and do exactly the same things to both hives throughout the season, you would be unlikely to have 2 hives that look the same come fall or spring. This makes comparing two hives started differently difficult at best.

    deknow

  8. #28
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    Pepperell, MA.
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    2. If you started 2 hives right next to one another, with sister queens, and do exactly the same things to both hives throughout the season, you would be unlikely to have 2 hives that look the same come fall or spring. This makes comparing two hives started differently difficult at best.

    deknow
    This singular statement is at the heart of so many beekeeping issues that surround the "why" or "what" questions. We seem to more easily accept variances in nature when it comes to pets, but often fail to grasp the complex and intrinsic differences between individuals that are wild. Put those individuals into a colony of thousands and add genetics, nature and the subtle influence of our good natured intrusions and the end result is often over our head. Better to seek and understand broad statements that seem to reflect the cause and effect of our actions when dealing with bees than to consistently fail at specific predictions.

    In the end, I'd prefer nuc's over packages for a lot of reasons but some nuc's are worse than some packages. Sometimes (perhaps often so), package queens fail sooner than you'd expect. The statements are simple, the answers are startlingly involved.

    I love it. Be humble in the face of nature.

    ps..and thank you deknow for humbling me again by your post. I'm grateful.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  9. #29
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    Aug 2006
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Some nucs are headed up by queens grafted and treated with the up most care, but it pored down rain or was cold when they needed to make mating flights... Stuff happens.

    My approach to queen problems is mostly hands off. I have a hive here at the house that was created last spring when I was trying to depopulate some of my nucs. I pulled frames from the over populated nucs and gave the new hive a spare queen I had... They superseded her and her daughter, then the grand daughter before settling on the great granddaughter... It was September by the time the last queen emerged and they seem to be doing fine right now.

    It is easier for me to take this approach than it is for other people though, because replacing a failed hive cost me very little. I am not putting out 90-125 to repopulate a hive.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  10. #30
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    Jun 2009
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    Montgomery County, NY
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Many say that playing around with a nuc that rejected a queen or queen cell multiple times is like....


    Well peeing in the wind. They say its better to either kill rest of nuc or combine back with strong colony and resplit after the bees been re acustomed to a queen right colony.

  11. #31
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    Jan 2009
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    Bristol,MA,USA
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    727

    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    ...I'm not sure it is fair to assume that a queen that looks good building up a package (which is what those queens are selected for...a fast buildup) will be good for overwintering.

    Deknow
    There is more to digest from this quote. In the following spring these queens will also build up more rapidly than expected (they were bred for rapid build-up) and their considerable progeny will consume all of their stores earlier and if the beekeeper is not on his toes in keeping up with supplying them with enough syrup or stores, they will all starve. Happens often with new beeks. If you can, also get a nuc so that if your queen falters, you can simply put a frame of day old eggs from the nuc and both will do well. OMTCW

  12. #32
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    Aug 2008
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    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    How to enter my opinion without stepping on toes of the previous posters?
    IMO the supesedure of queens of first year starters is more ingrained instinct than a result of queen "failure." The queen can be recycling brood cells as fast as they are prepared by the workforce, and still be superseded. When we started, we collected perhaps 80 swarms and twenty trap-outs/cut-outs in the first 3 years. Almost all superseded in the first year, regardless of performance. I think the supersedure can be traced to the natural instincts of the swarm process. They left the parent colony with an overwintered queen from last year. Some time in the establishment process, they invoke the insurance of superseding that old queen to gain the advantage of wintering and buildup next season with a young queen. Opinion based on observation.

    The package has at least two different timing characteristicts for supesedure (SS). If they are not too fond of the foreigner in the cage, they can provide "tentative acceptance" and let her lay a few eggs. They, then can knock her in the head and rear their own queen from scratch. That gets the package off to a poor start.

    Typically, though, they use her to develope an adequate brood nest - say basically fill a deep box. At that point, they have enough population and brood in development to add winter stores. Time to SS. That's about the same timing the beekeeper has added a second box, and he doesn't see it happen. Adding queen cups in the early buildup is not a frivolous endeavor. I call them insurance cups - provided for SS when it's time, or when it's necessary before that.

    The overwintered nuc is not immune to this instinct. When confined to the small space, they treat it as their cavity size, and respond accordingly. But when the colony is transferred to larger quarters, they automatically revert to the establishment mode.

    We have said many times that the establishment mode has a separate and distinct set of operations or format. You won't find that in the prevailing literature.

    Walt

  13. #33
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    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
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    2,492

    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    I didn't have an queen trouble with my package, but I lost the hive through ignorance later (grossly insufficient stores and not feeding up. Didn't make that mistake this year), but my brother has had packages fail to supersede a number of times.

    The best way to get bees is to catch local swarms -- wherever they came from, the hive was healthy, well stocked with stores, and the queen lays well, or they wouldn't have swarmed. Only time this is a problem, of course, is when you live in AFB territory, where ALL swarms are suspected of being Africanized and hence very hard to handle.

    As far as re-queening goes, I'd wait and see how they do first. Feed protein and syrup, generously, and watch. The queen should lay well as soon as there is comb available (I assume you don't have any drawn comb) and should fill a deep frame pretty quickly. After that, it takes three weeks for the new bees to emerge, and she won't lay much more since there are not enough bees to cover more brood. This is the point at which the package may supersede the queen -- not enough open brood, I suspect, so they "think" she's a dud.

    If you see queen cells, you have two choices -- get a new queen, cut out ALL the queen cells, and introduce your purchased queen. This may fail, the bees are quite good at hiding queen cells from you, and they will kill your new queen. You can also just let them have a new queen that they made.

    You will have more lag in growth if they raise a new queen, which is why I suggest feeding heavily. Should keep the bees healthier and longer lived (less flying for forage) and feed up nice, fat, healthy new bees with less tendency to supersede the queen. They will also increase faster -- feed until you have a full brood nest, whatever size you use (two deeps here) and continue to feed if they do not draw out frames in a super after that. In particular, watch that they don't just move up into the second box and leave the bottom one empty -- this is what happened to me, and in the fall I suddenly had an empty bottom box, little stored in the top box, and two shallow frames of syrup stored, not enough by far.

    Come August, if they are not up to weight, feed 2:1 syrup until they are, you won't be getting any honey.

    Hope this helps.

    Peter

  14. #34
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    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Occurs to me that my post above did not answer the OP question directly. Gave some background without applying it. The answer, as I see it, is no. If you requeen early in the package developement, you may be wasting time and money. The colony may well supersede your new queen later in developement. Of course, queen genetics will mostly carry down a generation, and her characteristics will still be present after supersedure. But I would wait until later in the package developement to requeen. (If I thought it importent)

    Walt

  15. #35
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    Nov 2012
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    Haymarket, Virginia
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    As before, thanks to all who've posted.

    Walt, your initial post answered my question, but I appreciate you taking the time to write a follow up. Your theory(?) on hive modes is fascinating (and I'd be interested in reading any background sources that you might have). Anecdotally, how frequently does a colony NOT supercede a sub-par queen? OR fail to produce a new queen (assuming uncapped brood) if queenless? Does it matter whether dealing with a full colony vs a nuc? Suburban area? I'm basically curious if there is any wisdom in buying a spare queen the first year (aside from a hot hive)? Given that I'm not starting with local bees, perhaps the last thing that should be done is to bring in more outside genetics/phenotypes since a swarm/SS queen would potentially provide this.

    Feel free to enlighten me if I'm missing critical questions.

  16. #36
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    U.O.
    Almost asked about your screen name. Lots of undeveloped countryside out there.
    To your questions:
    Typically, a sub-par queen is detected by the colony well before the beekeeper peeking in occasionally. They don't hesitate to start SS, even if there is considerable risk in doing so. And often terminating the existing queen before the results are in, to amplify the risk.

    My records show that the colony was about 95% effective in requeening themselves. That data is from the period before the mites decimated the feral population in this area. The wild bees are coming back now.

    I don't buy queens. But if you are careful to acquire mite-tolerant stock, you are not likely to hurt the feral population's recovery.

    Walt

  17. #37
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    Aug 2006
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by urbanoutlaw View Post
    Given that I'm not starting with local bees, perhaps the last thing that should be done is to bring in more outside genetics/phenotypes since a swarm/SS queen would potentially provide this.

    Feel free to enlighten me if I'm missing critical questions.
    "Local" bees is a common misconception... If you buy them off of somebody "local" at some point they came from somewhere else. Often the bees you buy off of a commercial producer are migrated so they are not local to anywhere in particular... Around here I see semi loads headed south well into late fall. They may be in Florida for a few weeks and head to North Dakota or California early spring... They are well adjusted to a varied climate. Other than the relationship with another local beek, there probably is not really much benefit derived from buying local bees.

    Look at Canada for example. All of their Package bees and early spring queens come from New Zealand...
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  18. #38
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    Nov 2012
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    Haymarket, Virginia
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    I've been obsessing over this again.

    If the optimal way to deal with the possibility of a queen failure is to maintain at least one "backup" nuc, wouldn't it be best for new beekeepers to start with 3-4 hives instead of just 2? The 1-2 extra hives can be maintained as backup nucs. It might mean closer management on the part of the novice, but it gives one more resources to work with. Perhaps it also offers better quantity and variety of drones for any SS queens to mate with. IF we new beekeepers are better off with >2 hives (and I'm assuming we are), why do so many people recommend having just two? Expense? Fear of overwhelming the novice?

  19. #39
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA
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    3,594

    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Beekeeping money is often limited when someone's starting out. Regardless of the number of full sized hives you have, 5-frame nuc equipment is real handy. I have six carniolan colonies in double five frame medium boxes that I started at the end of last summer. I had 10 colonies in five frame nucs going into the winter.

    I really think starting with two full sized hives and two complete nuc setups would be nice. If you are interested in buying any queens (or virgin queens) you should order them very soon.
    BeeCurious
    Trying to think inside the box...

  20. #40
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    Jul 2011
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    Default Re: Should I requeen packages?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    "Local" bees is a common misconception... If you buy them off of somebody "local" at some point they came from somewhere else. <snip>...
    Yes and no. All of our honey bees did come from somewhere else...Europe (and some from Africa ) But some strains of bees have been in your area for a fairly long period of time, have adapted to the climtate, the local pest loads, the nectar sources, etc,. Something else with buying local bees is you know the situation regarding chemicals that may or may not have been used with the bees...you might could say you know a little of the bee's "family history". Normally you will buy a hive of bees rather than a package from a smaller local seller. You will actually buy an established colony. Buying a package of bees from a commercial seller is buying bees from several different colonies dumped into a screen box together to make up 3 pounds or whatever...a mated queen is added. Naturally the established colony should take off faster than the package bees but with the package bees you get to watch the colony "come together" and see it start building from scratch. Another positive aspect of a package of bees is that they are usually less than half the cost of an established colony. Package bees and established colonies both have their pros and cons. Whatever the case, If you keep bees long enough, where ever you get them from, eventually they will be "local" bees.

    The best bees to start a fresh colony from ...in my mind...is a swarm. They are all related, the queen is their mother, they are in hyped up colony building mode, their guts are full of honey, they want to start building comb,...their main focus is on building a new colony.

    As for local bees, how long do they have to be in an area to be considered "local"? My mentor and his best friend have almost a 100 years of beekeeping experience between the two of them. They have sporadically bought a few caucasian queens from a couple of queen breeders (they are focusing on caucasians) along the way but most of what they have came from swarms, cut-outs, and splits. Some of the swarms and cut-outs are thought to be possibly from a bee company that was in the area close to a century ago. My mentor has been in his present location for 15 years and his friend for 50+ years. I would consider their bees to be local.

    urbanoutlaw, I would suggest that you try to find a listing of beekeepers in your area, maybe even call your state apiarist and see if he/she might can connect you with an older beek to help you along. Every year my mentor has a few colonies for sale. He helped me acquire bees from two swarm calls (that he received) last summer. I'm leaving some boxes at his place this spring so when he has a swarm he can put it in the box for me and call me to come pick it up. I'm sure there are exceptions but it seems the older guys really want to help younger beeks get started. My beekeeping experience actually started one day after church by riding back in the woods to my mentors house and buying a jar of honey from him (I didn't know him at that time)...I had *not* thought of keeping bees at that point. After buying the honey I got to thinking about keeping bees. I called him back a week later to ask him if I could come talk to him about keeping bees. Besides learning some about honey bees I've got to know a very good person.

    I guess what I'm saying in a very long, round-about way is....find a good mentor...they're worth their weight in liquid gold.

    Ed

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