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Bees look distinctly different 6 weeks after purchasing nuc


I am a complete novice at beekeeping, but read and watch videos a lot. Also studied some valuable beekeeping books in German. It all helps down the line.
Did a beginners beekeeping course at a place where I also purchased my first nuc for $200. Australia, near Gold Coast. With Graham from NTBees.
My queen was in a cage when I brought her home, but left it the next day. All good.
I really liked the look of my bees, because I had some golden ones and some more black ones. I supposed this would be my bees forever. It looked like 2 types mixed up.
Now all my bees look the same, with some rather black stripes and hardly any golden. They look totally different to what I purchased initially.
When I asked, I was told my queen is Italian. And it would be no good to raise a queen with this lot, as it would be inferior.
I am really keen to learn and understand, but Graham never answers to any messages.
Is there anybody out here to help me understand?


My brother in law purchased a split from a friend and his bees never changed appearance. They all look yellow/golden like on the day he got them.


My thoughts:
Queens can mate with 40+ drones. How can anyone prove she’s Italian unless her mother was instrumentally inseminated which isn’t likely. Each time she fertilizes an egg, the race of the father is anyone’s guess.
Make a queen and let her go mate with the locals. You’ll have some good bees.


I didn’t ask for any prove. I asked what race my bees were and got told Italian.
I guess my queen would have mated with the drones in my nuc.
Initially, most of my bees looked like all my neighbors’ bees, but now they look so different, I wonder what I’ve got.
Can you tell by their looks if they are still suited to our subtropical climate or could they shut down for winter coz genetics tell them to stop action for months?


Where I got my nuc from, they may well have been instrumentally inseminated. Graham seems to be quite a whizz. Just wish he would answer my questions.


Not if you bought a mated queen. Once a queen is mated and ready to lay…that’s it.
She doesn’t leave the hive till the bees take her away in a swarm to start a new colony


That’s one of the questions I would have for Graham. I understood the queen only just hatched. She was in a cage with 3 other bees, but they all left the cage when I checked the day after arrival at our place.
And why would Graham say not to use my own queens? Could it have to do with his breeding practices or is there no difference!


Ah if she was a virgin then she would have mated with many drones. Maybe some of yours but queens tend to fly further to mate than drones so maybe not so likely.
Rather than buying virgins I agree with chilli. Make your own


What Dee said: Queens fly far to mate and do so in the air.


Did the queen cost over $500.00?


No, nuc cost $200.
I will just have to except that my bees changed their looks. Nobody else seems concerned about it.


Only new but will take a stab, I would guess the variation in bees when you originally got your nuc would be due to it possibly being made up with frames from different hives. Could have been brood frames from different hives, bees shaken in off frames from different hives or any combination. 6 weeks later most of the original bees will be dead, you will now have what ever original brood was in you nuc and daughters from your new queen.
Another month and just about all the bees should be daughters of your queen, after then appearance should change unless the queen changes.


You are probably correct Sean. I know they were 2 differently colored bees initially, golden and black ones. They are all gone. The bees now have very strong black stripes. It’s been 7 weeks.
I hear about different bees, like Italians, Carniolans, African,… are they distinguishable by colour, or shape? Or are our bees in Australia all mixed up and perhaps adapted to climate zones?
I would still like to know what I’ve got. And I never managed to see my queen yet.


Hi Weber Clan,
There are only a few specific genetics in Australia, the two main genetics are italian (golden yellow) and caucasion (dark with very little yellow) then there are mixtures in between. In saying this it will be difficult to guess the race of bee from colour and markings alone. Graham is a well-renowned beekeeper and he would have sold you a quality line of bee but the difference in markings main mean that there are some caucasion or hybrid genetics mixed in. The bees will have been chosen for docility, productivity, hygiene and pest control. Small Hive Beetle loves the warm weather where you are, it would be preferable to have a hive that can cope in these conditions and if this means the colour markings are a little different then so be it to keep your bees healthy and strong. May I suggest that if you would like to pursue the golden bee then you could source a queen from Kangaroo Island however it may not have the pest resistance and resilience your bees need in your climate. otherwise there are other queen breeders in Queensland that will stock golden italians and I have ordered used them before, I have found there performance to be patchy and unpredictable, I know use caucasion bees in my backyard and italian bees on larger properties. Hope this helps… Cheers Rod


my guess is you had Italian and Caucasian blend. The yellow Italians seem more sedate to me- a local beekeeper I know has both but he is phasing out his Italians as he thinks they are not as productive where he is. My brother has some and his hive is going superbly- he installed a nuc about 3 months ago and has already harvested 9 kg’s of honey with lots more soon to come. His bees are very sedate and orderly.

I think you either had a nuc made up from frames from several hives and/or your queen mated with Italian and caucasian bees. Apparently the queen stores all the drones sperm sacs- and uses them up one at a time- so the look/genetics of the bees can suddenly change as she goes from one sac to the next. It’s pretty freaky right? Then they could change back again when that one is done.


I’ve wondered about mixing of sperm from different drones within the spermatheca, the organ inside the queen where sperm is stored. According to the link at the end of my post, there is some mixing but that mixing is incomplete.

What this means is that if a queen mates with 10 drones for example, and is laying 1500 fertilized eggs a day, then each of those 10 drones will be posthumously fathering some of those eggs but they won’t be fathering exactly 150 each. Because sperm mixing in the spermatheca is incomplete, some drones will be better represented in each day’s fertilization events.



Thank you all for your thoughts and wisdom. That book link sure is excellent for a curious newbeek.
Love this forum.
My bees are not aggressive and seem to be doing all the right things. The queen is excellent as far as I can tell, lots of brood, very happy with our new hive.
It’s been just 7 weeks, learned so much, and must keep learning for years to come.
Would love to raise my own queens selectively one day. For now I will be buying them off Graham and attend more of his workshops.
It’ll be interesting to see if my bees change appearance again.


I attended a course at Graham’s in Sept 16. Graham said at the time (if I recollect correctly) that his nucs had a combo of brood from his different lines (carniolans, Italians, Russians from memory) with a bred queen of carefully selected genetics. Hope this helps.


Hi Raelene @RaesBees. Yes, it helps. By now my bees look more yellow again, with very few rather black ones. I am sure Graham knows what he is doing with all his hives. If he does another workshop as follow up to the beginners, I will surely attend. Maybe meet you there?
Still can’t believe I took off my bee suit and stood amongst all those bees while we opened brood and queen boxes. I learned so much at that beginners workshop. And he wasn’t opposed to flow hives at all. In fact, he thought the screened bottom is really good to keep an eye on those Shb.


Lol. I was the one who loaned Graham’s suit as I was yet to get one. Standing amongst all those bees was quite an experience and really was great in terms of building confidence with handling my own hive.