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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is to be my first year of beekeeping. I live in SE Michigan and late this winter I saw an internet add for package bees that would be available for pick up in Benton Harbor about the end of April. I sent in my deposit and a few weeks later received notice that the delivery date would be May 10. That date seemed fine, I still would have time before my fruit trees flower. Today I see on the website the delivery date is now May 31. Okay, so my question is can I still expect these colonies to develop enough strength to go into next winter? Should I just relax or panic and try to find another source?
 

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Sure glad my package supplier was on time. Actually a day early.
 

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Whether it is too late depends on your goals. You are probably out of luck on any remote shot at a surplus. IF the weather is good, your bees will probably make enough to support themselves over winter. That is if there are no missed steps. If you get a bad queen, your colony probably won't have a chance to recover. If you can find a nuc delivered the same time, it would be far better than a package that late. All is not lost but it is not good.
 

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It seems to me that as long as bees are swarming you could start a package. You just may need to help them through a dearth by feeding more the later it is started.
 

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I think that you can get a package ready for winter if you receive them by end of August, provided you feed heavy, starting with 1:1 sugar to water until they have drawn out the comb on 80% of the frames with a target date of getting frames drawn by end of September, followed by 2:1 sugar to water for them to store for winter, followed by feeding sugar or sugar bricks in the winter. It is not an advantageous situation, but it is probably doable.

I base this on my experience last year. In late August I had a 2 box hive; there was a serious dearth starting in late June which I did not realize was as bad as it was. This was right as I created this split from a very healthy hive. I had pulled several frames of stores which in a month the bees depleted. To remedy this I fed copious amounts of 2:1 sugar water (there was plenty of drawn comb, but completely empty). I kept feeding for about a month to allow the girls to rebuild their stores.

Hope this helps.
 

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Last year was my first year. My packages came in the second week of May which means I didn't see new brood till the second week of June. They have to build comb before the new queen lays, so it's about a month. I fed fed fed, all summer and they actually did rather well, considering. Late summer and fall came and I was still feeding but but I didn't recognize robbing till it was too late. All three packages were dead by December. Almost all of it was my fault. You will have to feed and I recommend feeding in an empty hive body on top of the inner cover. (that part I didn't get wrong) At the end of summer I should have shrunk the entrance down. About the time the golden rod comes out is when they became more defensive.

This year I started earlier, I'm scheduled to pick up four packages this week. Now I'm worried I ordered too early:). I still have Carniolans that seem like they're doing well but I really let those Italian packages down.

If you decide to stay with the your supplier just spend time on this site, there's a ton of info. Better yet, visit Michale Bush's site "The Practical Beekeeper". I've spent hours there.


PS Maybe you could look around for some local nucs.
 

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I think that you can get a package ready for winter if you receive them by end of August, provided you feed heavy, starting with 1:1 sugar to water until they have drawn out the comb on 80% of the frames with a target date of getting frames drawn by end of September, followed by 2:1 sugar to water for them to store for winter, followed by feeding sugar or sugar bricks in the winter. It is not an advantageous situation, but it is probably doable.

I base this on my experience last year. In late August I had a 2 box hive; there was a serious dearth starting in late June which I did not realize was as bad as it was. This was right as I created this split from a very healthy hive. I had pulled several frames of stores which in a month the bees depleted. To remedy this I fed copious amounts of 2:1 sugar water (there was plenty of drawn comb, but completely empty). I kept feeding for about a month to allow the girls to rebuild their stores.

Hope this helps.
You had drawn comb. It makes a HUGE difference. My first year I got my package early May but it was drowned. I got the replacement late May. They didn't supersede the queen but we had a drought and heatwave and she shut down laying. I waited too long to requeen, the new queen took off and turned it around. I fed syrup in the fall but they just didn't have enough time to put up enough. I put a bar with candy in (KTBH) but not all of the cluster was in contact with it so they froze/starved on brood in a late February cold snap (was very sad, I felt terrible). I think this is what Vance means when he says if you do everything right. In your first year the likelyhood of that happening is low.

My second year I hived the early April 5th package on the drawn comb from my first year deadout. They took off like you wouldn't believe and despite my best efforts swarmed on me June 4th.

I think the drawn comb and arriving in time for all but my earliest flow made a world of difference. If you will have good pollen and nectar flows and no queen issues I would think the end of May will be okay. If not you might consider some pollen supplement along with your 1:1 syrup and hopefully it will work out. If it doesn't, order an earlier package for the next year and use the advantage of the drawn comb.

Meanwhile...try your hand at swarm traps!
 

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I started the end of May last year...the bees managed despite me:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks to all the poster responses for their insight and suggestions I find them very helpful and so must a lot of viewers because this thread has a five star rating. My goal is to establish two healthy hives that can make it through next winter. I realize the difficulty but that is the goal. Because of the late start I am getting I will try to set up a couple of extra nucs to use as brood boosters if I can get the bees. I might even be able to get one of the nucs to survive the winter. I will also try setting out a couple swarm traps. We will give it our best shot and keep a close eye on their stores and guard against robbing.
 
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