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.