What kind of Bee’s
July 29, 2020
Yes this really is something that gets asked. This link shows a popular graphic with some different bees breeds and some traits that they are known for. Of course its an older chart so there are others now that are the must have bees of the day. When I get this question I usually kind of just laugh and go back to my default answer of, well it depends.
I am not saying that the daughter of a highly productive VSH queen is not what I want running my hives but I am saying that spending a huge amount for a good queen when you have never introduced a queen to a hive before may not be the best use of resources. VSH is Varroa Sensitive Hygienic and in just a few words it means that when the workers sense something is wrong with capped brood they will uncap it and may haul it out of the hive. Cory Stevens a queen breeder here in Missouri has a post about it here if you want to read more on that.
So what bees do I recommend, bees that you can get, preferably from someone who has hives near your hometown. I know I keep saying that you need to learn how to raise bees before you get fancy and experiment and this is true. Bees that are already from your area are accustomed to your winters your summer dearth and the way the weather is in your area so it gives you one more advantage when starting out. This is not to say that you can’t buy a package of bees from Florida and have your bees do great and make it through the winter with no problem, but you will have more luck with local bees. Consider just the stress put on the bees that are usually sold in packages. Many of them are brought back from almond pollination and shaken into huge funnels and into the packages. Then a bred queen, not their queen, is added to the package and they are shipped all over the U.S.. Once received they may sit for a few days until being picked up by their final owner and taken to their new home.
Package, Nuc (Nucleus Colony) or full hive? Even though I have a few full hives that I would sell I think most beekeepers should start in the spring with two nuc’s of bee’s. To me this provides the most opportunity to learn with the greatest chance of success. With a package you have to deal with everything I mentioned above and still get the queen accepted and laying, and in many cases these queens are superseded within the first year so you have to have your new queen come back and start laying. With a full hive you are starting out with a LOT of bees, which is a great thing when you know how to work them but not so much when you are just getting started and trying to learn what everything is and should look like. The nuc to me is a happy medium.
If you noticed I never recommended a breed of bees, its kind of simple really, healthy bees want to swarm and many times this nice fancy queen, of whatever breed, will move into some tree and her daughter, your new queen, is going to go out and get bred by the local mutts anyway so its not really something to worry about in the beginning.