A Curious Beekeeper thinks about package bees

I got an e-mail last night from my local club president.  The packages are coming.   On Easter weekend. The timing wasn’t so great, he said.

 Growing up Easter was a big family holiday.  Not any more.

Package bees work for me.  I understand that I’m not everyone, and my situation doesn’t apply universally.

 I want bees.  I don’t want more comb. I’m in the midst of down-sizing.  (3 yards to 1)  I cycled out the all plastic frames as quick as I could anyway.

 Here’s the kicker.  I’m planning to replace the queens that come in the packages with local stock bred for qualities I like.

 Sure it adds to the expense AND I have to find the queen and go through the queen introduction process a second time.  Finding queens doesn’t bother me.  You get real good at finding them after 1 or 2 get alcohol washed.

 Some people report problems with queen introductions.  They haven’t been an issue for me, though I may get even more conservative this year.  Like having the hive queenless for a day before giving the new queen.  And staying out the hive for a whole week.  Which would bring to an end my practice of manually releasing the queen after 3 or 4 days.

 I find I really like the new California Mini and JZ-BZ queen cages.  The three hole Benton cage not so much.  Proper frame spacing and all that.

 Two of the packages are bound for non-Langstroth hives (a Warre´ and a deep Horizontal), two more for medium boxes.  Medium nucs are hard to find where I live.  And how did the upper entrance on the horizontal get covered with duct tape?  I won’t do that again.  (The Warre´ went to a bear last summer)

 I did raise my own nucs this past winter and some of them made it.  Enough for me to work on my equipment design so that I do some more this year.  The nucs were all on deep frames.  Maybe I’ll try some mediums this winter.

 I haven’t yet found out what the medication regime of the packages is.  If I can’t find out, I’ll have to test.  Testing is probably a good idea anyway.  If I need to treat, it will most likely be a single OAV application before they have sealed brood.  I haven’t decided yet about removing the queen when treatment is applied.

 The weather race to get things ready starts in earnest today.  I’ve got some bottom boards that need another coat of paint and I like to have the hives in place for several days before the packages arrive.  That will give me the opportunity too to check the levelness of my hive stands.

 My testing supplies for the BIP Sentinel Apiary program are set to arrive Monday.  I need to decide if any of these new colonies will be tested.

 I know bee season started long ago for many, but here in northern coastal Maine it starts for me next week.

 Spring is always chaotic.  The garden needs preparation and planting at the same time the bees need attention.  It rained last night and that took most of the remaining snow away.  We had 5 inches fall on Monday and Tuesday.  (Yeah, my potatoes, onions, strawberries and leeks all arrived during the snow storm.  Now if the ground will only dry.

 I did manage to prune a few apple trees.

Ah, spring!

Andrew Dewey