Does anyone have an opinion on russians, and what type of bee do you prefer. Are russians mean. Have two hives of russians and was wondering what to expect. by the way thanks for the replies to my earlier question.
Russians are basically Carniolans, to my understanding, or at least very closely related. I have favored Carniolans for over 20 years for their gentleness, good wintering ability (valuable to you there in WVA) and good work habits. I have in recent years gotten some Russian Queens, and have been totally satisfied. I expect that you will be, too.
I installed 2- 3# packages with Russian queens on April 5 this year and one of the colonies has already superceded! It could just be that something was wrong with the original queen, but I've heard other reports of similar behavior. The queen in the other colony is laying faster than the workers can draw out cells. The queen is even laying in cells that have only been drawn out about half of their full depth!
I'm liking my Russians - I started with them two years ago and have been pretty happy with them. I also stopped treating (chemically) for Varroa two years ago. I'm a fairly big believer that improved honeybee genetics will be the ultimate solution to the Varroa mite problem (I guess that makes me a Darwinist, with survival of the fitest and all that rot...). It just makes sense to me that if you can breed queen bees from stock that has somehow managed to survive in the original Varroa-infested regions, and get those traits more widely spread, then all us beekeepers will benefit (not to mention the bees, themselves).
I have noticed a little variation in some of their characteristics: some build up early, some haven't; some are very furgal with their Winter food stores, some aren't; some are inclined to swarm, some aren't. I'm mainly guessing this is a result of their "open" breeding to perhaps non-Russian drones. I guess, for the first many years they're here (in America), we will probably see some of these highly variable traits. But as long as the Varroa resistance remains, the rest of the traits will improve over time.
When anyone says the first year a certain strain may be mite resistant and as the years progress they seem to fall off, I hope they are aware of the relationship of the drone brood number as the hive ages. This would be true of almost any strain as long as the new hive is put on new foundation. If your putting a new queen in an established "old comb" hive, then disregard all of the above.
I guess there are some okey people in tx other then those "chicks".
Just add a few more comments about these Russian ladies... I put in six new 2lbs package this year in mid April. I had to requeen one hive the first week. I have one hive that wants to supersede. Otherwise, they all are doing quite well up here in northern Minnesota, I will need to add the second hive body next week. Also, I have actually observed them out of the hive in good numbers at 40 degrees. Thus far my Russians are a very friendly group of bees.
I am very interested in Russians and enjoyed reading all of your comments on the Russians.
There are a couple of complaints that have generally been brought up about Russians and temperment seems to be at the top of the list for many people. My understanding is that there are many, many lines of Russian stock which havent been tested yet by the bee lab and that finding more gentle stock could be at the top of their upcoming list of to do items.
I think a good point was made about the hybrid impact and the link to increased defensiveness. Keep in mind that the only pure Russian stock you probably can get your hands on right now would be breeder material from Bernard or AI material from Glenns or Ohio Queen Breeders. People who work with pure Russian bees indicate that they do not seem to be aggressive at all.
My only direct experience with Russian's is from stock from last year. Purchased a small number of production queens which were mated in the south to what I would call domestic italian drones. From a temperment perspective I would put them in the "middle of the road" category. They arent a gentle New World Carniolan but they dont attack the truck as it rolls into the beeyard either. During good weather they are generally calm but they don't like to be messed with in the rain or at night. Overall not a bad honey producer. Seem to hold back in the spring.....they seem to wait to make sure winter is really over before they explode into spring but they can make up ground fairly quickly.
Also raised about 50 Russian daughters and mated to my drone stock. I have seen more of a mixed temperment here. All daughters had the same mother.......some resulting colonies are very calm and gentle, others are HIGHLY aggressive. Thus, I suspect as a purchaser of a Russian queen you could see about anything for temper just depending on what the drone source was.
As a side note, this year's releases of Russian queens from the bee lab include two lines.......purple and yellow/blue. The Purple line is suppose to be similar in nature to Ligustica. Whereas the Yellow line is considered to be more closely resembling Carnica.
I had about the same experience with the Russians.I raised around the same number of daughter queens from 2 inseminated breeders from Tom Glenn.They didnt seem agressive at all to me but the problem I had was they are too conservative.I have to have bees that go into winter with a big population to make an 8 frame standard for almond pollination.Most of the Russians didnt have it this year.They all are trying to swarm with only half the population of the Italians.I guess I am just not too impressed with them ,but my experience is limited to just the 2 lines I bought,purple and yellow.They did raise a million drones,so maybe they will add something to the gene pool.
My opinion of the Russians is falling fast. I was told by guys in the south who have lots of Russians to make sure they were supered good with plenty of empty supers or they would swarm. Well I watched 4 colonies of Russians which are under 12 months old swarm yesterday. They had 4 supers and 2 1/2 of those were empty.
I have a bad feeling about their tendency to swarm. Guess more time will tell but they are going to have to show me much more impressive results if I am going to keep any number of them around.
Yep,pretty much all of mine did the same thing.They built up to about half the population of the other hives (which are mostly Italian type with Carn mixed in)then swarmed or were trying to swarm.I expect good hives to try to swarm ,thats their nature but it irks me when bees try to swarm before doing much in the supers.Their best use may be to add some genetic diversity to the population.They are supposed to be somewhat virus-resistant so that would be a good trait if it could be passed on.Who knows.
The history of the USDA Russian bee program can be found on my Yahoo profile, under 'Cool Link' #2. The five year co-op program with the Russians ends this year. It seems to me a common misunderstanding is that the USDA set out to introduce this 'Russian' line of bees, when in fact, they've only been interested in trying to get the Varroa genetic resistant trait(s) introduced into the U.S. They apparently don't quite have a handle on all the genetic-based reasons for the Varroa resistance, but I don't think they've ever advertised the Russian bees to be the greatest, "end all" solution for the best bees ever! I think the only true objective of this project has been to get the Varroa resistance genetics introduced and let "natural selection" pressures handle the rest of the problems. "Expectations" are a very fickle thing to try and meet to make everyone happy but I've never viewed the USDA Russian honeybee project as having the end objective of trying to produce the "perfect" honeybee. IF the Varroa resistance traits can be incorporated with the beneficial characteristics of some other race(s), then I think the program will have to be labeled a success. There may be many other less-than-desireable characteristics (which I mentioned in my earlier posting in this thread) demonstrated by these Russian bees but if you can stop using chemical treatments to control the Varroa mite problem, then the objective of this particuliar project will have been met. What will be left for longer term problem solving will be the incorporating of the Varroa resistant genetics with the "good" qualities that we consider other races of honeybees to have. This whole thing is not a 'quick fix' to the Varroa mite problem but it certainly is a necessary first step. It's okay to be disappointed in their slow Spring build up; it's okay to be disappointed in their swarming behavior, it's okay to be disappointed in their preceived lack of honey production. That's not "what they bring to the table" - it's their natual Varroa resistance that's their true contribution to American beekeeping. Hope this posting has expanded your thinking on the subject at hand. Be patient, as honeybee generations pass, things are bound to get better!
It is always a roll of the dice when you start raising queens from stock which you have never worked with or seen how it mixes with your bees. When I use my own breeders I have a real good idea what the outcome will be. In this case, I am mainly disappointed that the results are outside of my normal expectations. The current outcome may not be exactly perfect but in future generations things could get better if the dual mite resistance can be passed along. I guess that will leave me trying to figure out if the resistance levels are that good and if so how to best combine that with colonies which exhibit other desirable traits.
Well I just got home off the boat and was reading the posts. We our russians and they are doing fine. We tried to roder a couple more packages but couldnt get them. Turns out we didnt need them. our two russian hives hve swarmed four times. One three and the other once.Tore into them and cleaned out all the remailning queen cells today.Seems they do like to swarm. Our italians havents swarmed yet. and dont seem likely too.hopefully we can get the russiansns to stop.If the weather improves maybe we will get some honey.
Since my last posting I have had a chance to look at all my Russians. I would say that approximately 70% of them have swarmed. If you havent noticed, I don't consider that a good thing especially if they havent made me any honey. However, those that didnt swarm seem to have actually made a fair amount honey.
In hindsight I should not have used them as a group for drone sources but should have tested them all this season to sort out the good from the bad. Guess this decision should go with Michael Bradshaw's list of mistakes to avoid in the future.
Well hopefully they at least passed along some good traits. Only time will tell.
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