The temptation of getting bees as early as possible drives beekeepers to fuel the importation of packages and nucs from the south or west every season. But the reality is that the earliest bees to arrive and the strongest colonies are .....the ones that survive winter in your own bee yard.
If you’re just starting out on your bee journey, you were probably advised by your bee club to purchase a package from a bee importer and wholesaler. It’s how things have been done here in WI forever and everyone seems to enjoy the tradition of getting out their checkbook and signing their money over to their favorite bee importer. This cycle repeats itself every winter as the beekeeper sees their colony die, the beekeeper gives up or goes broke. Sometimes the beekeeper begins to think “maybe the bees that are bred for migratory beekeeping and winter in warm climates don’t work for my operation.”
It’s at this point the beekeeper looks for local nucs for sale and unfortunately finds them sold out! AHHH! They buy a package again hoping that maybe they will get lucky this season. A smarter beekeeper would think about requeening their package with a local mite resistant queen in June.
We are big fans of local stock here at Lloyd St. Bees and we wanted to share some data with you from a previous study that really got us interested almost a decade ago.....
A three year long SARE grant study conducted in Maine by Erin MacGregor was done where half the packages purchased every season were requeened using Northern local stock at the summer solstice. The remaining half kept their original queen from the imported package. The author concluded that “A look at all three years’ data combined, excluding the disqualified colonies reveals the following:
Colonies headed by a northern queen had a
75% survival rate, and 64% of them were “ready for spring” upon final inspection. Standard packages had a 45% survival rate and 24% of them were “ready for spring.”
We encourage you to read the study yourself here and consider re-queening your package with a local mite resistant queen this June as a first step to getting off the package buying treadmill.