Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mirror Hive Part 5, Other Musings, New Conclusions

I was getting tired of having my Mirror Hive be so far behind everyone else and am fortunate enough to have had a spare Russian hive that I set aside as part of my bee addiction.  That hive was doing very well, and was housed in a 2-story 6-frame nuc of my own design and construction.  So I admit to cheating and taking three frames of brood and putting them in the stale hive.  I hope they take!

In the meantime I had left from this nuc hive nine more frames and a queen, and as bad luck would have it the Prince Georges County Community College hives remained weak and one hive that appeared queen-less even though we had purchased a new queen for it several weeks back.

I took four frames (one that included the Russian queen) and added it to the queen-less hive using copious amounts of smoke to create enough havoc in the hive to allow the new bees to be accepted.  The second set of frames, with brood, went into the queen-right hive to strengthen with more bees.

Our other Maryland hives, in La Plata, were also showing signs of weakness.  I installed a new package in the middle hive which had absconded, and took a nuc I had been developing with a Carni queen and added it to the weak, and also apparently queen-less, hive on the right.

The results showed, at least within the hour of installation, lots of activity and promise for these hives.  But all this work is leading me to some educational conclusions.

All the hives I installed on April 16 (51) were Russian in breed and four-pound packages.  I had hoped they would build up quickly with all the feeding we were providing.  But the outcome has been somewhat variable, disappointing, and given the high number of rejected or absconding queens, the time and financial cost has been frustrating.

However my luck with both buildup and queen acceptance has been much more successful with the plain-vanilla Italian packages that I received in the mail.  I don't know if that is a more broadly-understood comparison viewed against the Russian breed, but it will change my strategy with packages going forward.

Next year I will install Italians rather than Russians in April.  To pursue our focus on sustainable beekeeping and hearty genetics we will then recommend to our beekeepers that they re-queen with treatment-free stock in July when the hive has become better established.  In the long run this will provide fewer frustrations for new beekeepers (and I am pleased that most individuals have been pretty successful with their hives and the problems have been with the ones I manage, about 25) and greater potential for honey in the first year.

I have been offered a job in the real world and thus will have only weekends to tend the hives under my watch, so getting my hives on auto-pilot and thriving is all-important now.

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