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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a complete novice, starting up with two hives this spring. I've just begun reading about beekeeping basics, but I'm leaving on a trip in a couple days and I need to order my bees before I go. Then when I come back in mid-February, I'll have time to figure out woodenware and so on before the bees will actually be available in April.

My question is: I'm planning to order bees from a local supplier, and they sell packages of three kinds of bees: Carniolan, Minnesota Hygienic, and Italian.

I've been thinking of starting out with two hives. I just can't sort out which bee qualities should have the highest priority, so I'm stumped as to which kind of bees to order. Ones which make it through cold winters? We're in USDA zone 7, out on a small island in the San Juans (northwest WA state.) Ones which are resistant to mites and so on? No one else on this island keeps bees, but there are various wild ones. How do I know if mites are a problem? Gentle bees? I'm not that worried about being stung. Big honey producers? Sure, that sounds great, but am I trading off other more important strengths?

So, since it's hard to decide on a type, I wondered if I could hedge my bets and get two different types. Would that create any problem? Would I have to put them far away from each other?

I emailed the supplier, and the person seems nice enough, but maybe a bit busy, so they didn't answer my question as to how to choose a type. They probably have way more to do than spend time online teaching new beekeepers. So.... here I am with my question.

Advice, anyone?
 

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I won't help you pick a type. But, you can keep them 2ft apart and bee just fine the first year. Once one decides to swarm you will possilbly get a mix. Not guaranteed, but quite likely.
 

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Shouldn't make any difference if you have 2 different types of bees. Actually Minn. Hygenic are Italians with a tendancy to groom. The other Italians may also have the MH gene in them.
 

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I'll second the fact that Minnesota Hygenic's are Italians with grooming tendencies. Hence, they will be quite compatible.

But, that doesn't mean that Carniolans aren't compatible with the others. Because they're "close" in relation, you shouldn't experience any problems when placing these hives close to each other, or even when swapping frames of brood.

Now, my suggestion is to get two of the same, whichever you select. That way, you have a baseline to compare the other against. This will be important during the first year of beekeeping. If you see differences between the hives, you can research to see WHICH hive is normal, and what to do about the other. If you select two different breeds, you won't really know if what you're seeing is abnormal, or simply normal tendencies of two different bee strains.

Enjoy!
DS
 

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There is an expression you will soon learn and that is, two different beekeepers will be able to give you at least three different opinions.

What DS says is perfectly sound. BUT from what you said you are on an island (you didn't say how far offshore), the only beekeeper, with a unknown population of feral bees. You have no idea what the genetics of the local population could be, or if they will still be there in the spring. You need to increase the gene pool. Get two different genetic strains. Even if you decide to get two hives of the same bee "race", ask the supplier if he can make sure they are from different genetic lines. If he can't do that, I'd opt for two different races. Purity makes bad genetics. Survivor mutts are best.
 

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I hate to say this, however, from what you're describing, are Russians. Mite resistance and very cold tolerant. Very docile too and easy to work with. Gene pools will not matter much if you buy locally because they've stood the test of time. Personally, I'd acquire the rarest species in your area.

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Beekeeping/Honey_Bee_Races

This may help you decide.
 

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To be honest, I wouldn't worry about it the first year. The only bee that makes a difference when you buy the bees is the queen. The others will die off in a couple of months to be replaced by the queen's children.

I would suggest getting a carni and either one of the Italians to see which type you prefer. I keep both right next to each other and re-queen from one to the other. You will see differences though. In winter you will think that your carni's are dying off as the cluster gets quite small compared to the Italians.

After you have kept bees a couple of years and know which you like better (or like me, like them both) start getting queens from different sources until you find 2-3 that you like.
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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They will all do fine. Any strong hive may rob any weak hive, but that has nothing to do with race, although the Italians seem a bit more prone to robbing, they don't care WHO they are robbing as long as they are weak...

Race is easy enough to change. Experiment. In the end I think you should raise your own so you have local adapted bees with the traits you want.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoursimplesteps.htm#breeding

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesafewgoodqueens.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearing.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
What an interesting collection of replies... thank you, everyone!

Well, after one long cram session on bee qualities, I held my breath and ordered two packages of Carniolan from a supplier in the same climate zone / bioregion. I'll travel over in spring to pick the bees up from him.

Although I had initially considered getting two types, I eventually reasoned along the lines of what DS wrote, above, about having two hives of the same kind so that you can get a sense of what's normal for that type of bee.

I ended up deciding to start with Carniolans because we have short, coolish summers out here, and long grey months with lots of moisture. I think the early nectar flows here are better than the late ones, so maybe that'll work out with the Carniolan fast spring buildup. And I'll just have to learn to watch out for and prevent swarming, I guess.

I'll learn. Just today, I received my copy of Beekeeping for Dummies in the mail.

Again, thanks for all the input, and when I'm back from a month's travelling, I'll be back on these forums as I sort out all the initial beekeeping mysteries.
 

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at the same time, I would suggest that you watch out for your local Ferel bees. If you can locate them, and remove a colony from somewhere, you will get good survivor stock, and stable genetics too. I wouldn't suggest trying to do it on your own, but if you find one watch it for a year or two. If you see it throw a swarm one spring, I would gladly catch it if possible to add to your hives. I have one ferel hive that comstantly amazes me as to it's hardyness and strength.The only downside to it is that the swarm has an old queen, but if she makes one year, you can pinch her and let them raise a new one from her eggs in the spring.
 

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What an interesting collection of replies...

Snip

Betsy,

You're going to like it here.

I hope you will be back as you "sort out all the initial beekeeping mysteries" ... and beyond

You might consider using "What an interesting collection of replies..." as the signature on your postings. :)
 
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