Pretty much new here, and a lot to learn. This is our first instance where we need to re-establish a colony. We had 4 hives total, and one absconded earlier in the summer, and one just recently, we believe due to hive beetle infestations. We've addressed this infestation we believe with new screen bottom boards/Freeman traps and BeetleJail entrances on the remaining hives. Seems to have done a bit of good for the 2 remaining hives, as the "Great Beetle Holocaust of 2013" has just occurred in them. Too many dead beetles to count, it seems. For those doubters, there are quite a few dead beetles in the entrance traps, so they are somewhat effective. Over time I'll try to report back on the in-hive populations so as to give a better opinion of the entrance traps.
To get to the point, we could use advice on how to restart these hives this upcoming spring. We've cleaned up the hive bodies (even repainted them since they were out of service) and will start with new or cleaned-up frames.
1. Should we get packages with queens, or nucs? A note here, I know we could do swarms but don't the old queens go with the swarms? I'd prefer to get a new queen if possible. Your thoughts?
2. Given whatever the answer is to #1, what should be the state of the hives when we get the bees? Never done this before, and I have very little drawn comb. I know we'd put new or refurbed frames in there, but would you use foundation, or use those foundation starter strips? I have both, would you alternate them? I'd love to see which one of those they prefer.
3. If the answer to #1 is to get a swarm, should we re-queen it?
4. If the answer is to purchase, can someone give a good list of Northeast AR - West TN/KY - Southeast MO sources of bees? I'd like to stay local but above the TN/MS border. MS is quite a bit warmer than here so I'd like to get more cold-hardy stock, if that matters.
I looked for posts on the above, but didn't find anything quite matching my situation, especially the locale. I know the adage "ask 10 beekeepers a question and you'll get 11 different answers", but surely with something this elemental there would be a good consensus?
Thanks in advance for all your expert help.