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When to buy package in North America


While I’m on the subject of absentee beekeeping… this is my first winter, and I cannot get to my hives. My two hives were populated by two nucs at the beginning of May, 2017, which is later than I now understand is best for our location in the mountains of west central Virginia. I also learned that dearth comes earlier in the summer than I thought. So I am quite worried as to whether my hives will survive. I am prepared to start over with a package, but I understand that you need to order in January… if that’s true, how do I know if I need packages to restart my hives?

Any thoughts/suggestions?

Frustrated in Florida, where my friends in the Suncoast Beekeepers hum right along all year long, lucky dogs!


Hi @HTB - I think you’d enjoy your time away more AND get a jump on your beekeeping season if you could get in contact with a local beekeeper somewhere near your VA home. I bet there’s a beekeeping club in your parts, where you could maybe enlist the help of someone in exchange for your help and/or honey later on. Of course I have no idea if having a strange beek show up on your property taking a peek at your hives in our absence would be feasible :thinking:

Failing that scenario, how about a good friend, neighbor or family member giving you a virtual tour of your apiary to check for vital signs?

As for packages, I am not a fan, but I do know they are available a lot earlier than nucleus colonies…


Thanks for those thoughts Eva. Actually, I took over the county beekeepers meetings due to the absence of the previous leader, and the proposed cancellation of all the spring and summer meetings. It was very rewarding, and I met a number of the beeks in the area. I also arranged for the meetings to continue during most of the winter in my absence.

In fact, I asked a really nice couple I had met there, and become friends with, (also new beeks), to look in on my hives. They reported that they observed bees leaving and entering both hives – just a few. They did not open up the hives.

But I still will not know if my hives run out of sustenance during the winter, unless I can beg them to keep checking. And if the hives die in February, I am concerned I will not make the list for either packages or nucs.

As between packages and nucs, getting a good nuc within reasonable travel appears a lot harder than getting a package mailed – and is materially less expensive.

Thanks again.


One option could be to order one or two now and get some extra hive parts, even a couple of wood nucleus boxes. Then if your hives overwinter well and you don’t need them, install the packages in the nuc boxes, let them draw some comb and get established, then sell them locally. If you are running a club, they should go fast. :blush:

The other option is to order the packages and ask the supplier about their cancellation policy. Some suppliers are pretty generous with cancelling, if you give them enough notice.



I’ve read n reread your thread here. Glad you hopped into Beekeeping I think ! Just why did you get into beekeeping n why is your Apiary soooooo remote from you … I’m guessing hundreds of miles.

Most of us are rather lucky n have our apiaries in our yards or only a hop, skip n jump from us. I do help with a local smaller commercial beekeeper n do drive to two apiaries 60 miles apart (lucky we are between with 30 ms in two opposite direction.)…

Out here near Seattle Nuc’s start arriving about mid April (depending on local Nuc wintering over conditions) … and since I want my bees off n going I’ve not used packages since I was a wet nosed kid. I’ve heard 3 pounder are about 2 to 3 weeks earlier in our Puget Sound region. I’ve got 3 or 4 more Nuc’s ordered for replacements n growth in my two personal apiaries (6 hives my backyard n 2 hives my daughters property 15 miles away from my shack ! Locally we had a bad bout with yellow jackets that killed off n then robbed out two of my weaker colonies …

Wishing you luck n Merry Christmas,



Appreciate your comments, Gerald. I always make it a point to read your posts when I see them.

I did not set up my apiary 900 miles away – it is in the yard of our summer home. But in respect of my wife’s preference, we spend the winter in Florida, so I am away from my hives in the winter.

In west central Virginia where my apiary is, we need to get the hives working early in order to build and store, as we can go into dearth as early as mid-June. So if one or both of my hives fail, I was trying to get a new colony going in the existing hives boxes as early as possible. Trying to find good stock with a marked queen for delivery in March.



Aaah ! I get your drift now. Wow ! A dearth in June … That would so early for Puget Sound region. We’re still waiting for our huge wild blackberry bloom at that time.

Yip ! I can see why your reving up the Queen n Hive in mid-winter ! Our would be totally running out of food supplies if I kicked mine in gear that early … I have emergency winter patties atop the top super even now for backup.

Little chilly to check right now ! Here’s our unusual Christmas event this season: SNOW !


If I tried to open now the temps are way too cold. We could be warming n drier in day or two so I can get a quick peek under the lids.

Good luck on getting those two colonies up n running soon. I’m not aware of East Coast weather at all.

I had to scrap a few dead bee from the entrance so my girls have easy access in n out for poop flights.




Got nosie :nose: yesterday afternoon as it warmed up to 36.3 dgs. Still several inches of white on everything but as usual for Puget Sound … the canopy comes n goes quickly. Snow level rapidly rising above 2k by afternoon here 20 plus ms S.E. of Seattle in the foothill.

I popped the lid for a quickie peep after sweeping out a mass of dead worker bees blocking most of the enterance of my strongest “Pine Hive”.

Under the top “moisture quilt” to help absorb n dissipate extra wettnedd I was able to view a good mass/cluster of the colony. Also the newly introduced winter patties (2) look intact so they must have enough honey stores below in the honey super. I’d like my brother to bring over his IR camera so couple see the extent/size of the cluster but too slick n icy for him to drive here. Here’s a pix or two of the top cluster :blush: (I pleased with what I saw) …

Got to get busy now. My morning coffee :coffee: cup is empty so other things to do here. (Weekly laundry, vacuuming, feed the chickens n more)…

Wishing you a Happy :blush: New Yesr,



Happy New Year to you, too, Gerald! I was stunned at how many dead bees the survivors had dropped at the front door. That may well be normal, but I had not seen it before, being a new beek.
Your cluster does indeed look solid, and hopefully you won’t get too much more severe cold.
My Virginia place has taken a cold hit, with temps down to 0F, and single digits F. My friends said they would give my hives another look once the ice cleared from the roads – should be this week.
I’m thinking I should make reservations for a couple of packages or nucs to hedge my bets. I have my doubts that my hives had sufficient stores to make it. We’ll see.

Do you run Italian hives? Do you think that it is worth the premium $ to get one of the special queens (Saskatoon, hygienic hybrid, etc)?

Stay warm.




I run Italians here because they are the easiest to get. They are hungry “girls” too n often don’t decline until later thus the big wads of dead bees …

I’ve got three Nucs ordered … these will replace my losses from yellow jacket kills this last Autumn …

I was hoping gain one hive this coming season but it will be status quo only. Maybe I’ll get a swarm or gain by a split … Time will tell.

Now as for the Queens. Not sure it’s worth it in my region. To many muts for the hives to mix with around here. Not convinced the new Hybrid do that much more for the $$’s. Now for the Saskatoon Queens … no opinion yet. Don’t know enough about those … not sure we have a source over here to try them. I had to replace couple Queens this last summer n was not impressed with the replacements ! Going to look for a different supplier for sure.

Weather (winter) seems to be breaking early here by almost a month … Getting snow fall in our Csscade Mtns but staying just cool, wet n cloudy here in Puget Sound … not like your east Coast deep freeze. We have Witch Hazel blooming n bulbs sprouting up thru the leaves in the soil.

Yaaah ! Hope you friends check in your bees turns out okay. I’ve just found out I have prostrate cancer n will have to do either surgery or radiation soon. No panic. I have several beekeeper friends that said they’ll cover my butt if I need help.

Got to hit the sack now. Storm coming in my morning ( rain :umbrella: n strong wind :dash:) … my hives are all secure n okay. Check them this afternoon between pre- waves of :cloud_with_rain:

Cheers n chat again soon,



Hi Gerald, really sorry you are crook mate. All the best with the treatment…



Just taking it one day at a time. Life has bumps in the roads … this one I guess I didn’t steer around.

Appreciate the thots bro. Life can be a nice rose garden but even roses :wilted_flower: have Bugs n Thorns to tend too.




Gerald, you always take the best photos (former occupation/avocation?)!
Sorry to hear about that prostate diagnosis. Before you do the surgery or radiation, ask your doc about proton beam treatment. Have a friend who went that route, and he is really happy. Did a little research on that myself, and it appears you avoid the risks of surgery and dealing with the radiation effects. But you have to be fortunate enough to live within reach of one of the machines — there aren’t too many yet, but increasing in numbers due to the results. Anyway, worth the ask.

You definitely look like an early spring there. where my apiary is located near the Blue Ridge in VA, we have had another fine bout of single digits and just above. Tough on the girls.

I have ordered a couple of ‘overwintered’ nucs for March delivery as a backup plan. If my two hives survive, I will have doubled my apiary… and if not, then the new girls will have an early start on the (hopefully heavy and looong) nectar flow. BTW, these nucs are ‘mostly italian’ . If you want to try the Sask breed, I think you can order from Mann Lake.

Chores call. Offline for a couple of weeks. Be well.