Are Russians Worth It?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    Cherokee, IA
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    Default Are Russians Worth It?

    I know this has probably been asked a zillion times, so forgive me. I did try searching but there are so many related posts and I was too lazy to weed through them for an answer!

    I have a supplier that is offering Russian bees which I've heard good things about but I've not hived before. $179 for a box. My usual supplier has Carniolan for $131 which I'm very familiar with. So a $48 difference.

    Is it worth the extra price for Russians? I'm in Iowa and we have some cold winters and hot, humid summers (which I would gladly take right now since it's 7 degrees F with 30 MPH winds) and I don't know if Russians would be any better or worse in this environ. Any insight?

    Thanks in advance!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    Gainesboro, Tennessee
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    1,475

    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Not worth that much money difference. I have had russians, carnie and itals and local stock some are good, bad and great. That is why I am a firm believer in grafting from your best whatever breed.

    I did not notice any significant difference in survivability or resistance to varroa compared to my carni / ital hybrids
    Feeding early patties. https://youtu.be/bUDd3vk7bgY

  4. #3
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    Mar 2016
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    Cherokee, IA
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Thanks for the response. That's what I was wondering about: Survivability. Obviously I want honey and friendly bees, but not having to buy new bees every year was my big concern.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Not unless you like bees that will be mean as junkyard dogs, if not right away, as soon as the colony supercedes. They have that swarming thing down pat too! Get Carnies if you want winter hardy bees. My Italians winter very well cause I know how to winter and produce big crops without stapling my socks to my ankles.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    Skaneateles, NY
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    Not unless you like bees that will be mean as junkyard dogs, if not right away, as soon as the colony supercedes. They have that swarming thing down pat too! Get Carnies if you want winter hardy bees. My Italians winter very well cause I know how to winter and produce big crops without stapling my socks to my ankles.
    ive got carnis, italians, mutts, some feral bees. To be honest so far the most productive have been the queens from swarm captures. Apart from the fact the hives are marked i wouldnt even remember which hive has which breed of bee. They all seem about the same to me.
    I have lost 3 overwintering nucs this year. I will have to look at my records to figure out if those were russian queens ( im pretty certain that they were but again i have to look that up).

    Tennessee is right grafting from your best colonies seems the way to go , and its easy and cheap.

    Ill be grafting 50 queens this year ...at least thats the plan.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Farmington, MO, USA
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    150

    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    The advantage of Russians is better mite resistance. If you are concerned about or lose hives because of mites or are a treatment free beekeeper, then get Russians. If your treatment regime has worked great for you and mite loses are minimum to none, then it doesnít mater what you have. I have purebred Russians and Italians, and have had hybrids. Iíve watched my purebred Russians in my observation hive pull pupae with varroa. They do that much more consistently than Italians. As far as temperament, I usually canít tell the difference between my Russians and Italians or even the hybrids. However, I let a Russian hive build up to be absolutely humongous with more bees than I have ever seen in a hive before and in August when there was nothing coming in, they were the meanest hive I have ever seen. But, as soon as the goldenrod started up, they went right back to being gentle.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Location
    Knoxville, Tennessee
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    73

    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Quote Originally Posted by ffrtsaxk View Post
    The advantage of Russians is better mite resistance. If you are concerned about or lose hives because of mites or are a treatment free beekeeper, then get Russians. If your treatment regime has worked great for you and mite loses are minimum to none, then it doesn’t mater what you have. I have purebred Russians and Italians, and have had hybrids. I’ve watched my purebred Russians in my observation hive pull pupae with varroa. They do that much more consistently than Italians. As far as temperament, I usually can’t tell the difference between my Russians and Italians or even the hybrids. However, I let a Russian hive build up to be absolutely humongous with more bees than I have ever seen in a hive before and in August when there was nothing coming in, they were the meanest hive I have ever seen. But, as soon as the goldenrod started up, they went right back to being gentle.
    You sure your not describing my ex-wife ? As long as the nectar was coming in she was fine but let it stop and it was painful

  9. #8
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    Mar 2015
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    Kamloops, BC, Canada
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Do some sampling of your stock. Maybe you have some VSH and mite biting already. If so do a brood sample late summer, early fall before treating and determine mite levels. Make queens from the hives with the best mite levels and are productive. Russians have some good traits, but you may have these already. You just have to select for those that do well.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Massac County, Illinois
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    In my experience, Pure Russians are great honey bees. PURE being the difference. 100% Russian genetics are docile and easy to work, small winter clusters (won't eat winter stores by Christmas and starve to death by Valentine's Day), fly on cooler days than Italians and are hygienic. Russian crosses are a bit testy but the more protective, not aggressive, honeybees are they seem to be much better survivors. Big difference between protective and aggressive.

    Depends on what you want, buy Russian queens and make splits. Pure genetics for much less $$.

  11. #10
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    Jul 2011
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    Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    IMHO, the problem with any "pure bred" bee strain, is that you lose that "pure bredness" the first time the hive supersedes, which usually happens in just two years. Your $50 queen quickly becomes a mutt, unless you continue to buy those $50 queens and continually requeen. Unfortunately, the benefits of the "improved genetics" are never enough to warrant such an expense.
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

  12. #11
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    Apr 2015
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    Massac County, Illinois
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Quote Originally Posted by shinbone View Post
    IMHO, the problem with any "pure bred" bee strain, is that you lose that "pure bredness" the first time the hive supersedes, which usually happens in just two years. Your $50 queen quickly becomes a mutt, unless you continue to buy those $50 queens and continually requeen. Unfortunately, the benefits of the "improved genetics" are never enough to warrant such an expense.
    Your Pure queen has produced hundreds of drones for your collection areas over two or three years. Since the drones carry the genetics of the desired colony, it certainly helps with breeding better genetics within the neighborhood.

    If honeybee genetics in the 5 mile radius of your apiary are less than desirable, what does it hurt to flood the area with desired genetics?

    If the genetics in your neighborhood are what you want/desire, no need to enhance the current situation.

  13. #12
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    Sep 2016
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    Denver Metro Area CO, USA
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Geno, At least for us in the denver metro, its like taking a dump a mile off shore in the ocean, no one is going to notice. We don't have the the isolation like say a back yard pool were its going to have an impact
    here is one shop of many, one delivery of many.
    to have an impact on the drone pool here your going to need to buy a breeder and graft and distribute hundreds if not thousands of of cells.

    Do some sampling of your stock Maybe you have some VSH and mite biting already. If so do a brood sample late summer, early fall before treating and determine mite levels.
    The OP is replacing/increasing by buying packages. That kind of advice is likely over their currant skill set, and genetic footprint.

  14. #13
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    Mar 2015
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    Kamloops, BC, Canada
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    Quote Originally Posted by msl View Post
    Geno, At least for us in the denver metro, its like taking a dump a mile off shore in the ocean, no one is going to notice. We don't have the the isolation like say a back yard pool were its going to have an impact
    here is one shop of many, one delivery of many.
    to have an impact on the drone pool here your going to need to buy a breeder and graft and distribute hundreds if not thousands of of cells.


    The OP is replacing/increasing by buying packages. That kind of advice is likely over their currant skill set, and genetic footprint.
    Not hard to make your own bees. The argument is stop wasting money on buying bees. Not rocket science.

  15. #14
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    Sep 2016
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    Denver Metro Area CO, USA
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    Default Re: Are Russians Worth It?

    I don't disagree with that
    But to follow your advice they 1st need to overwinter bees, and learn how to split.

    While I think they need some local help with some basics( Outsider looking in, and maby not having the full picture ) If I was in the OPs shoes I would think about buying what ever bees were the cheapest, letting them build up a bit, and then pulling some nucs out as local queens become available for sale.

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