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This will be my first season. There is so much info that's relative to much colder regions that here in Southern California that I'm wondering if I might be missing out on some of the season. For the last couple weeks I've been building like crazy in anticipation of my first colonies.

Please, help me out a little with the following.

1. When can I install foundation in my brand new frames?

2. Our last freeze has already happened. We only have one or two freezes every few years. When can I reasonably start my bees in their brand new Hives?

3. Can anyone tell me where in So Cal I can reasonably expect to buy packages or nucs?

Thank you so much.

Curt
 

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I'd imagine you could install the foundation immediately then store them for next Feb-March. I store the frames/foundation in the boxes and stack them somewhere in my basement.

Starting depends on what's available for forage in your area. When do the trees, flowers, and dandelions bloom in your area (Spring time) is a better question.

Others can give you better clues to where to purchase your new colonies. Out by my area, I have to pre-order in November of last year to get on a roster. That may/may not be the case with yours.
 

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Curt, there are several sources of bees, both packages and nucs, in California or near there. Check the ads in Bee Culture and American Bee Journal, there will be some indication there. Also google honey bee packages or nucs, you might have to sift thru a lot of garbage, but that should turn up some possibilities. If you use the search feature here on the forum, you might be able to find some sources of bees. Or some larger beeks in CA who could steer you toward a source.

Then ASAP contact them about ordering, and they'll tell you when the bees are available. That should help.
Good luck to you!
Steven
 

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Search the web for beekeepers associations in So. Cal., maybe inland empire or all of Cal. A nice drive up to the San Joaquin Valley after a little research would probably be productive. There is someone who posts on this site living in Littlerock which is east of Palmdale/Lancaster on the Pearblossom Hwy who could probably help you. From my experience you should find a So Cal association and will be amazed at the number of hobbiest in your area.

Good luck and keep asking questions. Beekeepers are the best at helping each other.

Soapy
 

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Hi Curt,
Down where you live, you might be able to catch a swarm months before packages are available.
As others mentioned you need to get you're order in for the bees early. Start trying to find someone.
 

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Even though this thread started with questions related to Southern California, given the title, I hope it's OK to ask questions abut Northern California as well.

I'm curious about when the earliest swarms will issue in the Bay Area - caught a late one last July and want to try to catch another 1 or 2 earlier this year. Anyone know how early one should put out a swarm trap to catch an early spring swarm in Northern California (Bay Area)?

Another somewhat related question -how early will the first drones hatch in Northern California? Said another way, how early would a walk-away split have a chance of success in this region (virgin queen needs to find drones to mate)???

Dan, you are the closest to my area of those wo have aleady replied to this thread, so I am especially interested in any insights you can provide...


-fafrd
 

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I remember first swarms dates in recent years as March 4,8,&15. I have heard of February swarms on the Peninsula. I saw a drone flying last week so if there is sunny weather for mating, there are drones available. Berkeley - get your baits out by 3/1.

Here are some swarm catch dates from last spring:


CATCHES
1 Salvatore – 3/17
2 Claude
3,4 – 101 -3/15 , 3/28 SC
5 Ken - 3/25
6 1928 - 3-26 Styrofoam
7 Roger
8 3/29?
9
10 4/5 ,10???
11 4/13?
12 4/13
13
14 tiny 4/10?? died
MP, swarm 4/13
15 101 4/17/09 DEADOUT 6/21
16 Atherton 4/16
17 4/17
18 jumbo 4/18
19 Jumbo 4/18
20,21 94027 Canada 4/18
22 Cabin 4/20?
23 Swarm vacuum 4/29
24 winebox 4/28? absconded
25 Jumbo 4/28? DRONE LAYER 5/20/09
26 vacuum on fence 5/3
27 94401 into fish box transferred to jumbo frames 5/3
28 94402 plastic frame box 5/4
29 94010 Jumbo 5/5
30
31 huge bait 94401 5/09
32 Yard shade house 5/13
33 cabin May
34 94402 05/17/09 Styrofoam nuc box
35 94010 05/16/09
36 94401 05/19/09
37 94401 Red Trailer Bait 05/22/09
38 Salvo 6/2 qless???
39 Pal Alto Waverly fence 6/10
40 101 Father’s Day Solstice 6/21
 

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odfrank,

thanks for the info. So if first drones are already hatching in the Bay Area now, it sounds like a walk away split may have some chance of success already, especially since the virgin queen won't be ready for mating until late January in any case.

That is an inmpressive list of swarms - are those swarms you have caught in your operation or are they the list from a Bay Area club?

I'm going to plan on having my swarm trap up before the end of February, but I am tempted to try a split wth one or both of my hives before then.

Any thoughts or advice appeciated (especially those relevant to the Bay Area). Also, does anyone know when the large queen-breeding outfits in Northern California begin breeding their mated queens for spring deivery? I've seen that alot of them will deliver proven queens in early April / late March. Assuming that they want to see evidence of capped brood to ship only proven queens, ths ought to mean thst they need to start the operation about 6 weeks in advance - meaning mid-January. Is this correct?

-fafrd
 

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odfrank,thanks for the info. So if first drones are already hatching in the Bay Area now, it sounds like a walk away split may have some chance of success already, especially since the virgin queen won't be ready for mating until late January in any case.
That is an inmpressive list of swarms - are those swarms you have caught in your operation or are they the list from a Bay Area club?-fafrd
There is more involved in getting a queen raised from a split than having a drone or two available, it must be the natural "season". I would not try this until it is the season we know the earliest normal queen mating commonly occurs early - March.

That is a list of the 40 bait hives I caught and about seven or eight swarms I caught or were caught for me by my posse.
 

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Thanks for the reply odfrank. So the list is largely swarms from your own hives that you have recaptured, and only 8 out of the 40 were feral swarms? Still a very impressive list. What is a 'posse' and how does one go about getting one established?

From your response, I understand that even though there may already be drones hatching, until the drones are flying and gathering in DCAs, it is not possibe for a virgin queen to be mated, correct?

And it sounds like around here (Bay Area), early March is the earliest part of the season when there is likely to be a sufficient number of drones gathering in DCAs to successfully have a virgin queen return mated.

To mate in early March, doesn't that mean that the process of rearing the queen (ie: the walkaway split) should start in early February? Is that when the pros start?

-fafrd
 

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Just the opposite - 40 were baited feral swarms, 2 were caught feral swarms, 6 were from my own hives.

It might be possible to get a queen mated in beautiful January or February weather, but you might waste a divide if it doesn't happen.

I doubt that many pros do a walk away split or are in a climate that they can do one so early. They need strong hives to for into February almond pollination or strong hives for a spring honey flow.

You might try to get some Hawaii queens early, or ask a pro importing Australian queens if he any to spare. I got a small share of a big Australian queen order a few years back - wouldn't do it again.

Forming a swarm catching posse - leave a bee suit at your sites where the owners might hive up swarms for you, get to the age where some of your beekeeping friends are retired with little to do and will jump at the chance to chase a swarm.

Here is one of my posse watch a very large bait hive arrive:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWujzDDUERM
 

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That is an impressive video, Odfrank. The swarm I caught this summer was already settled on a tree branch in my back yard, so I did not get to see them in the air. And thanks for the explanation of 'swarm posse' -I'm just going to try to catch another swarm or two this spring, so a posse is overkill for my needs (at least this year :D).

So the pros (such as the queen breeders in Vallejo) start their breeding operations after the February pollination season? I guess that makes sense - Honey Bee Genetics starts shipping from April 1st, for example, which means they would have to start queen cells in late February, correct?

If I try a split now or in early February, sounds like I might have a virgin queen flying around a month or two before there is any significant population of drones waiting around to mate with her. On the other hand, if it does not succeed, I guess I assumed that I could just combine the split back into the main hive, so no serious impact. Since I am still in the early learning phase, I may give it a try just to learn the answer. I'm more interested to find ways to breed more feral qeens from around here than I am in purchasing pure bred queens from Hawaii or Australia (or Vallejo).

I appreciate your feedback and if I do go ahead with my early split experiment, I will let you know the results...

-fafrd
 

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Didn't you already miss the GPHF (Great Pasadena Honey Flow)? I hear it happens only once a year on January 1st... :D You know... lots of roses...
 

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I missed part of the gardening season from being WAY too conservative. SoCal has an almost year round growing season, and it's sounding like that turns into a lot of variability in beekeeping seasonality, as well. Excited to start trying!
 
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