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Should I start with a nucleus or a package?

Forgive a very basic question, but I am just starting my beekeeping adventure! FlowHive2 is ready to be placed outside in a good spot, my brood box has waxed Acorn frames, and I have a rapid round feeder ready to get my new bees off to a good start.

Do you think that it’s better for a neophyte to purchase a nucleus or a queen and package of bees?

thank you for the advice!

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I’d suggest a locally sourced nuc is your best bet. A nuc has a laying queen, eggs, larvae, pupae and food. Local is acclimatised to your region. A package is starting from scratch.
I also suggest starting with two colonies. This gives you resources to boost the weaker of the two if there’s problems. It’ll give you a way to compare progress. It’s not much more effort with a lot of reward.
Find a local mentor or at least join a club. You’ll learn more in a shorter time and boost your success rate.
Welcome to beekeeping. It’s the best obsession in the world.
Cheers,
Mike

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I agree with @aussiemike, a nucleus is better if you can get one. Many nuclei sell out by November of the previous year, but if you join a local bee club, you may find a member who will sell you one. Failing that, Mann Lake still has packages for sale, but they are likely to sell out pretty soon, so I would place your order ASAP. :wink:

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Hey @cmm - I would argue that a nucleus is always the better option as you pay for already drawn brood frames with brood, honey and pollen stores, whereas the package is just bees. However, perhaps there is a higher risk for the spread of disease with a nuc. Always buy from a trusted seller.

This previous forum post may offer some more insight too - Sourcing bees: Nuc/package/split - what's the difference?

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Here’s part of a letter I submitted to our Minister of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry around the end of 2020 suggesting that a governmental effort is needed to re-establish shipping of New Zealand packages to northern Canada…it worked!

It appears that an option promoted by parts of the beekeeping industry is to replace colony winter loss by restocking with nucleus hives from external sources…what a misconceived solution. In our case, our experience has shown us this:

1) Nucleus colonies arrive after the spring honey and pollen flows…so we miss the portion of the crop that traditionally paid our annual operating costs…i.e dandelion/willow honey and pollen.

2) Nucleus colony producers are also prone to unpredictable weather conditions and a host of other events that can adversely delay crucial shipment dates.

3) Nucleus colonies from British Columbia…even though inspected before shipment to Alberta…have a percentage of diseased colonies or harbor disease such as nosema or European and American foulbrood…this has been our direct experience.

4) From a recent large Canadian research project, bee bread in nucleus frames from hives from the Lower Mainland and Okanagan areas have a level of acetamiprid that may hinder nucleus buildup progress.

5) Nucleus colony acquisition means purchasing more equipment…not just bees. More equipment is usually the last thing a beekeeper needs.

6) Nucleus colonies often include frames that are aged, damaged, or non-standard…in other words “cullings”…this has been our direct experience.

7) Nucleus colonies have a greater potential to break down with varroa infestations earlier in the season than package bees.

8) For the above stated reasons, novice beekeepers entering the industry are put at a distinct disadvantage…and additionally then those novice beekeepers may indirectly affect neighboring beekeepers adversely.

Item #5 and perhaps some of the other items may not be applicable to the new beekeeper but that’s where experience has led us. I think Australia is “playing with fire” by promoting nucs over package colonies…that’s exactly how American Foulbrood spread across North America 80 years ago.

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Thanks for great advice! Today I took the plunge and ordered a nucleus from a local source. Can’t wait :slight_smile:

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I’m new to this fun business. I picked up my package of Saskatraz bees April 17 and was brave enough 2 put them in their new home that evening. They R doing well and the round feeder is keeping them happy. Only one dead bee. At what point should I pull the frames 2 C what they’ve built?

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First you need to check after a few days, 3-5 depending on who you ask, to make sure the queen was released. You shouldn’t do too much poking around during that check, just get the queen cage out and remove any wonky comb they might have built around the cage, get the frames pushed together, make sure they have syrup, and close up. After that, wait at least a week before checking their progress and checking for eggs/larvae.

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Thanks. Now I have something 2 do 2morrow. I’m using the smaller opening for the entrance. Is there any reason that I need to make the opening larger? The girls aren’t bringing in any pollen. I suppose they are working on nectar or enjoying their simple syrup.

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You’re good with the small entrance. Continue feeding them unless there is a strong nectar flow/they aren’t taking syrup/comb is built out.

By week 2 after installation, you should have seen some pollen coming in already or sometime soon - hopefully your queen is out, and there are some larvae in new comb.

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Doug, a very thoughtful set of points, some I can easily validate from my own experience as limited as it is. I have wondered about some very sorry looking frames included in nucs I’ve purchased and now thinking about them as ‘cullings’ makes total sense. Funny how I never gave a thought to the fact that buying nucs meant paying for someone else’s used equipment, even though it’s a frequently repeated caveat :exploding_head:. Many package sellers in my area truck them in from southern states, so they’re available earlier, the long haul and unknown history of treatment being aspects I dislike as well.

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I grew up in Mechanicsburg, PA. I still miss the place. I finally got into my hive and retrieved the empty queen box. So far the girls have only one frame about 1/2 covered with comb. I still don’t see pollen coming in. If anything nectar and the abundance of simple syrup. I must say that these Canadian bees I got from MANN are so laid back. Knock on wood. I only had my hood on this afternoon and weather folks say rain later 2day. Any more advise, please throw it my way.

The two photos R from my hive from April 17 2 now. Does anyone see anything unusual with either pix?

About a month ago I travelled out to our nearest bee supply center where I was waiting in a lineup of beekeepers to get my order. So of course this was the perfect jaw-flapping scenario…but two of the beekeepers were down-in-the-mouth of their wintering success. They had both restocked buying nucs from the same nuc supplier the previous spring and all their hives died over winter…diagnosis…European Foulbrood. So they said they were building all new equipment so they didn’t have to go down the “prophilactic use of antibiotics” route…and stocking their hives with New Zealand packages.

Well the unfortunate saga continued…with the first air shipment of NZ packages arriving in unsaleable condition and all subsequent 2021 air shipments cancelled…so if they want to beekeep, they have no choice but to resort to nuc colonies for restocking…I felt sorry for them.

Dawn_SD Do you know how long the European Foulbrood bacteria can survive in equipment?

I don’t think that there is very much information on this, but I suspect that wood parts will not have very high bacterial levels. I have never had EFB, but if I had a hive die from it, I would remove and destroy all of the comb, then scorch the remaining hive parts and run my tools through the dishwasher on a sanitize cycle. I would be happy to use the equipment after this on a strong hive with a hygienic queen, watching like a hawk for disease. Personally, I am willing to use antibiotics if necessary, but with this approach, I doubt that it would be needed. I would not use them “prophylactically”.
:wink:

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