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I've received some calls from beginners who have been struggling with issues of queenlessness. Some of these issues are really supersedure and swarm related and the new queen has not yet matured, mated and started laying. Others are dealing with virgin queens that never mated or found their way back after the colony swarmed.

At any rate, most of the beginners call me up and want a queen. And they want one today.

I raise a few queens, mostly for myself and some of the local beekeepers. What I try to convey is that commercial queen producers get their queens mated and set them up in a queen bank...a queenless colony with twenty or thirty queens held in their own individual cages. The queen bank holds multiple queens, and because they are caged, they are fed by the colony even though there are multiple queens.

It's really something. When you place your order, the queen producer goes out and plucks out a caged queen and pops it in the mail. Easy to do rain or shine and the producer never has to go hunting frame-by-frame for that elusively shy queen.

But I'm not a queen banker. I don't have a queen bank. I put all my queen cells in their own mating nucs that are really five- and six-frame nucs. I keep the nucs to restock my failing hives and drone layers, make splits, and if the season is still fairly early, sell a few here and there.

But here we are at the close of August and the new beginners seem to think queens are available any time. By now I'm looking to get my nucs settled for fall in anticipation of winter. I don't have queens available.

And it's frustrating for them, and for me. I don't really have queens available unless I rob a nuc and combine it with another nuc. They think I'm holding out on them. One guy wants to do a trap-out (I think it's too late for this) and another has a laying worker. I try and explain the seasonality of introducing queens (we're in a nectar dearth just prior to the goldenrod bloom).

Any advice, particularly from you beginners, on how I can still be pleasantly honest and tell them I just don't have queens at this time when they really need one? BTW, most of these guys have no idea where to order commercially-raised queens and they don't want to pay the postage and wait for the postal service to bring them a live queen.

Grant
Jackson, MO http://maxhoney.homestead.com
 

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I'd just be polite and tell them that. "I'm sorry but I don't have any extra queens right now. If you like, here is some information about commercial queen suppliers. They could probably help you. Good luck!" :)

I posted an ad on craigslist for picking up swarms a month or two back, and have gotten a lot if interesting calls from it. One was someone looking for a queen. I told them to post here :p When I posted that I was looking here some kind chap (Hello Pugs!) messaged me and let me piggy-back a queen onto an order he was already placing.
 

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Grant -

You care, and that should go a long way. Still, you can't provide what you don't have and people who want instant gratification and expect you to provide it can pay for it.

If I was you, I'd keep a list of places that have queens, explain that you can't provide them this late in the year, here are some commercial providers and if they keep pushing you, tell them ok, you'll sell them one of yours from a hive, but since you are hurting yourself by doing it, charge them a few dollars more than what they can get one for from one of the commercial growers, including postage. Charge them $50, $55 or $60. Just make sure it is more than what it would cost them including postage from one of the commercial growers.

If they don't like it, they can go somewhere else. You are doing them a big favor. Let them pay for it. I'd also let them know that this isn't your usual price, but since you are basically reducing your hive count, it is cheap as you are out a hive doing it.

Pugs
 

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If they insist on one, do as pug suggests, charge them extra for it, then order a queen for your nuc. maybe this is how you will try that queen from a different breeder you have heard about? or change a race or a charicteristic.. but be sure you are getting enough from your accepted established queen to make them think twice about getting the queen, and enough to pay to have the new queen shipped as fast as possible to you. They "just have to have it" then they will "just have to pay for it".
 

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Speaking as a beginner (third year beekeeper), I think it is just part of the learning curve to find out that bees (and particularly queens) are not always available, unless you are willing to pay a premium price. I work with young people as part of my daily job, and I can tell you that they are not used to waiting for anything! But they need to learn. And I think that your knowledge and compassion makes you a great teacher. Thanks for being gentle with us new guys.:applause:
 

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and if they keep pushing you, tell them ok, you'll sell them one of yours from a hive, but since you are hurting yourself by doing it, charge them a few dollars more than what they can get one for from one of the commercial growers, including postage. Charge them $50, $55 or $60.
Don't take $60 bucks for something you need. If they keep pushing you, send them away. You don't want them for a customer now or in the future. You don't have queens for sale this time of year. Period.

If you sell a queen for $60 in August that you may need in the spring, what do you do? That queen will be worth more to you in the spring than the $60 you got for it if you have a failing queen to replace or need to get a split going. If you're breeding your own queens, it's possibly partly because you don't want to deal with the genetics of southern-bred queens which likely will be all that's available then.

Say sorry, give them contact info for commercial breeders and say goodbye. If they get pushy, just say goodbye.

Wayne
 

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Grant,

Sell them one of your nucs, at normal nuc price (saves you the risk of overwintering) and show them how to do a newspaper combine. Then sell them a beekeeping book so they know what the heck they're doing and can maybe help the bees survive.
 

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I like referring them to other breeders who might have queens. Or selling them a nuc at a premium fall price, If you can do without it.
 

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Any advice, particularly from you beginners, on how I can still be pleasantly honest and tell them I just don't have queens at this time when they really need one? BTW, most of these guys have no idea where to order commercially-raised queens and they don't want to pay the postage and wait for the postal service to bring them a live queen.

Grant
Jackson, MO http://maxhoney.homestead.com
I'm a complete beginner and quite frankly I don't know what the problem is.

If I call my local grocery store and ask for a set of brake pads I'm quite certain they would just tell me they don't carry brake pads and they wouldn't feel the least bit bothered by doing so.

If I continued in my quest and insisted that THEY give me brake pads they would do one of two things. Laugh at me and hang up the phone, or run down to NAPA, pick up a set of brake pads and charge me 10X what I could get them from NAPA myself plus some.

Same thing here. I may be completely ignorant on who carries queens, when and how. But if I called someone and asked if they had queens I would expect them to say yes or no. If they said no and I was stupid enough to insist that I get one from them it's on me if I get completely overcharged.

I've been in business, not bees, for almost 17 years now. In that time I've learned some customers are just not worth having.

If you've got customers that expect things of you that you normally don't deliver but are unwilling to pay for you to deliver them, cut your losses and drop them like a hot potato. They aren't worth the trouble or the headache...that much I know.

OTOH I've had customers that just call me up and order things from me I don't deliver. At first I would direct them to where they could get them but they would insist on getting it from me. IOW they wanted to deal with me and not hassel with another vendor. They would never complain about the price either though. In some cases they could have order the item direct and saved 50% or more. But they didn't care.

I don't know if you can order queens or not, but if these people keep pressing you and you can get queens, order them from someone else and charge them 20-50% over what it costs you to get them in and out the door.

Don't feel bad about it either, some people are quite happy to pay the extra for the little hassle they would avoid and the ability t deal with someone they know.

So you got any queens I can have :) Kidding I don't even have any hives set up yet.

~Matt
 

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Sell them one of your nucs, at normal nuc price (saves you the risk of overwintering) and show them how to do a newspaper combine.

Bingo! Do an upsell. I'm sold out of extra queens right now, and it is too late in the season for me to be raising queens. (Late season, queen larvae are not well fed in dearth, etc.)

However, since it is late in the season, you will sell them a $125 nuc for $75. They can get it RIGHT NOW, instead of having to order a queen from Kona in Hawaii.

Quit selling yourself so cheap. 2 overwintered nucs are worth more than 1 sold queen + 1 overwintered nuc with a population boost from the nuc you sold the queen from. Don't lose money trying to be nice - do an upsell. At best, you sell a nuc. At worst, they go elsewhere to find a queen and you still have your nuc.
 

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Have you thought about banking and selling queens? Sounds like you'd have some guaranteed business! :)
 

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I was thinking the same as Capricorn. Still, if you can get queens from a good breeder - You might sell them a queen at breeders price(inc postage) +50%. Then they get a queen right now, and you get to try out a new queen.
 

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From what I understand, banking queens involves large resources of bees and big losses in failed queens to absorb. I wouldn't think for a minute of getting involved in that aspect of the business, especially to please a few pushy last minute customers.

Nor, as I said previously, would I sell them nucs, even overpriced nucs, that I need to continue raising my own stock in the spring. Nor would ever I sell them my own stock of proven worth and have to replace them with commercial stock of questionable value bred in an alien envoronment. Nor would I waste a minute of my time in ordering and reselling southern stock for a pushy customer, too lazy or impatient to place an order themselves with a southern supplier that will gladly cater to them.

"Sorry, out of queens for sale" is about as far as I would go.

Wayne
 

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Wayne, since you don't want to part with your own stock and you still want to be friendly with them, I suggest you just keep a list of commercial raisers and politely tell callers that you don't have any queens, period. Here are some phone numbers of companies that might have some in stock, wish them well, and then tell them you have a previous commitment and hang up.

You've helped them as best you can, been polite and provided a reason to not stay on the phone any longer. About the best you can do.

Pugs
 

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Not his responsibility to hunt down a reference for them either.

No need to feel obligated to set someone up.. new or otherwise to be quite frank. If they need a queen.. they can go hunt one down. Something that takes more effort to acquire also tends to be more appreciated.

All you have to say is you don't have any available. Stop feeling guilty. If they are motivated, they will locate one regardless.
 

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I don't disagree, but Grant was looking for opinions. Maybe he does feel like helping the customers in some way, if he can.

That's what started the conversation in the first place.
 

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I hear ya.. just from what I picked up on his post he doesn't regularly sell them, yet feels this obligation that he should.. to the point where he sounds like he is almost ready to.. or may have at some point.. short changed himself to help another. While that is a really sweet thing to do, my point was that he's feeling guilty about not having queens available and he shouldn't.. at all.

If that was his business.. selling queens.. that's a different story.

From a beginner's perspective.. if I am bound and determined to start something, information, or pointing to a good source is very helpful.

There are a lot of mooches in just about every hobby. If they don't want to pay.. that is their issue. If they are too lazy to google sellers, information about sellers, etc. also not his responsibility.

I'm not in the hobby... yet. Which is why I am here.. researching.. IMO.. if I want a queen.. I am expecting to pay for one.. including shipping. If he doesn't have it/ sell it, but could point me in the right direction.. I'd be more than content.
 

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Speaking as a beginner myself;
  • Telling them how easy it is to raise an emergency queen, and the difficulties involved (wrong season?)
  • Telling them they could combine that queenless colony with another colony

would be very helpful.
Over the last few months reading about bees, I've discovered I could raise queens just by putting eggs in a queenless colony or using swarm cells. Wow...
 

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Grant - I think I'd gently enlighten them that you raise queens primarily for filling your own needs and occasionally have surplus queens to sell, but only at certain times of the year. If there are any national vendors you are comfortable recommending, by all mean recommend them. Otherwise refer them to your local club/association. (Might not be a good idea if the club is going to turn around and steer them back to you!)
 
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