We are busy putting together nucs to over-winter for next spring. We typically do this by taking two or three frames of brood, a frame of honey, and a shaking of some bees from the hive and put them in our 6-frame nuc box, outfitted with a frame feeder. We then feed with pollen substitute and syrup to get them plenty of population, drawn comb, and carbs to overwinter.
Usually finding queens is pretty easy during the summer when producers are in full swing. And while we hope to produce our own queens eventually from our best hives, it remains good beekeeping practice to provide a mix of genetics to any apiary and breeding program.
We have been big fans of queens that show resistance to mites and diseases which only bolsters the ability of our hives to survive, and because we are cheap and lazy when it comes to chemical treatments. We have been using queens from The FatBeeMan, Long Lane Honeybee Farms, and Bee Weaver and have been extremely happy with each. We also love the Sunkist breed by Russell Apiaries, but Russell is going through a reorganization that has put their supply chain is a bit of a backup, and their smaller clients are being directed to local (and untested) suppliers of their breeds so we now recommend them with caution.
Which now brings me to our new best friend, Mike Bruen at White Oak Apiary in Brewster, NY, just a short drive from our NYC base in Fairfield, Ct. From his website:
Our queens are specially bred from hygienic stock that has been selected for honey production, wintering ability, and ease of manipulation.
You can ask any of our customers you wont find a better queen anywhere.
We have bread every queen on small cell frames and ensured they have the best genetic stock available in order to avoid any common mono-cultured or inbreeding problems.
Our mating yards have Italian, Buckfast, Carniolan, Russian, German, Australian, and our own breed of bees that have been selected from YEARS of rigorous trait testing.
These aren't Georgia queens that are raised in factory yards, and have a difficult time wintering over with there tropical bee traits. We test each queen for laying ability, and production before shipment.
What a treat it is to find a supplier who is not only breeding queens acclimated to the cold weather of the New England area of the States, He is also able to fill my order for six girls, delivery next week! I will keep one of these nucs for my rooftop next spring to add to my diverse genetic mix. The rest will be sold in the spring.