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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Keeping bees alive in the frigid north has always been a challenge as this season has shown many of us. It appears as though my dark bees (mostly Carniolan origin and possibly some russian influence mixed in) have come through in far better condition than any hives stocked with Italian or Italian inluenced bees. I use the term "influence" because some may have swarmed, some have superceded in the past, I don't know the staus of any feral stock and I am reasonbly far from most other managed colonies 5+ miles as the bee flys. Also, moving towards a treatment free apiary adds to the excitement if you know what I mean. The russian bees have held my interest for some time and with almost 15 years of selection by dedicated breeders in the US, I think they have much potential for northern apiaries. Short of buying 50-60 queens outright (tall order at this time of the season not to mention the cost) what approach or plan would you use to transiton to an "all russian" apiary? Timeline? Logistics? or foolish thought? Thanks:scratch:
 

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Yes agree with that plus select breeders from your own stock.

By implication you have at least 60 hives with varied genetics, and maybe you allow them to supersede themselves rather than requeen. Just keep doing that plus breed and requeen a few as you wish & perhaps the genetics you have will meld into a bee well suited to you.

For me, I buy in some production queens each year to add genetic diversity and requeen hives I have chosen as the least desirable. Any other least desirables get requeened with my own queens and the majority of the hives are allowed to naturally supersede. All these hives contribute drones to the mating pool and my stock in my opinion has considerably improved over the last few years.
 

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buy a couple of russian queens, requeen all your hives the first year with the queens you raise from them. the next year buy another straight russian queen from a different breeder, raise some queens and mate them with the hives you requeened the year b/4, you are now raising straight russian queens and have eliminated all your old genetics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you all for the advice and encouragement. I have been doing essentially what you describe Oldtimer and do ave a handful of colonies wintering well, that have been gentle, and productive. As I began to move away from mite treatments 3 years ago (not 100% yet), winter survival has become a much bigger concern.
Mike, I like your approach and am wondering when to requeen full colonies with my own russian cells. (Assuming I can get pure russian queens this late into the season considering the demand for these bees). Also, I would like to continue to work with promising surviving stock (little as it is) and would consider keeping separate yards for each. i.e. Russian and survivor. My production colonies are mostly in double deeps so would you suggest a queen cell in the top story over a division screen and wait for a laying queen or something different. My nucs to over winter would be the easy part, split between russian and the best of my best colonies coming out of this present ice-age. 0 degrees F forecast tomorrow night again.
 

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when to requeen
Late May or early June with a flow on. If you are using cells as you say you plan to be sure there are adequate drone populations for mating.

I worked with Russians in one of my apiaries a few years ago transitioning from "Italian" packages. I found that the Russians were a bit more tolerant of Varroa than the other stock I was raising, but not immune to things like Chalkbrood or other common maladies. Tony J. inspecting for Maine found Sac Brood. Maybe the Russians available today are closer to being ready for prime time than they were a few years ago. My experiments with not treating Russians ended up with a bunch of dead bees and no surplus honey produced.
 

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I would like to share my experience on Russian bees from this winter. I went into winter with 11 hives of them. I currently have one left......and it is in my observation hive. I think that the combination of the days of the 10's of degrees below 0 and the smaller clusters could not take it. They all had plenty of honey but just didn't move to get to it. I am gonna try them one more time this year but more focus will go into my feral stock.
 

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Mike, I like your approach and am wondering when to requeen full colonies with my own russian cells. (Assuming I can get pure russian queens this late into the season considering the demand for these bees). Also, I would like to continue to work with promising surviving stock (little as it is) and would consider keeping separate yards for each. i.e. Russian and survivor. My production colonies are mostly in double deeps so would you suggest a queen cell in the top story over a division screen and wait for a laying queen or something different. My nucs to over winter would be the easy part, split between russian and the best of my best colonies coming out of this present ice-age. 0 degrees F forecast tomorrow night again.
I've never had russians, but have heard that other bees may not prefer the russian queen over there own. since you are going to over winter nucs, what I would do is start the nucs earlier than you intended if you are going with russian queen cells, make the nucs up and put the russian queen cells in the nucs, when the queen is laying, find the queen in one of the double deep hives, kill her, make up or buy some of those new covers that let you merge in a nuc to a full size hive(not sure what they call them), put the nuc on top of the hive.
when the queen is accepted, pull the nuc off the hive(make sure the queen stays in the full size hive) and put a new queen or queen cell in the nuc. if you are using the russian queen cell, your russian queens will have mated with your other bees drones, the following year I would buy a russian queen not queen cells and use her for breeding if you want pure russian bees.
 
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