Long read? You bet, and here’s why:
I’m very selective about who I sell bees to. Beekeeping is very complex and requires significant preparation and study. Without that, odds for success are very low. Which means it’s usually the bees that suffer. I want my bees to go to people who are well prepared to care for them knowledgeably and sustainably.
I try to be as candid as possible with my students and customers. It’s not always what people want to hear. Keeping bees is a wonderful experience, but it requires much more work and expense than people anticipate. If you’re good with challenges, you might be good with bees.
Here are the details for this year:
2020 Nucs: Depending on spring weather, I plan to offer nucleus hives for sale beginning the middle of May 2020. These will be 5 & 10 frame true nucleus hives featuring queens from my 11-year long selection process for suitability in Whatcom County conditions.
All the brood in these nucs comes from the queens in my hives. The bees are all from my own mother queens. The combs have been drawn by my colonies. These are features you only get with true local nucleus hives.
My five-frame nucs consist of one frame of capped honey, one rich in pollen, an empty drawn brood comb for the queen to expand into, a frame of capped brood and a frame of mostly open brood. Ten-frame nucs simply offer more of the same; i.e. a longer head-start on the season.
Queen Option: Proven 2019 Queen or New 2020 Queen. A 2019 queen will have led her colony through a long Whatcom Winter and come out with flying colors in Spring 2020. A New 2020 queen will have emerged in April or May 2020 and is a daughter of one of my best queens. Both will be Carniolan-ish, dark bees, marked yellow for visibility and currently laying at a high rate. I don’t release nucs until they are operating robustly and the queens are proven layers.
Features: These are Carniolan-style bees, so any buyer should be familiar with effective swarm control methods. I select for good overwintering, gentleness and rapid spring build up. I do not select for low swarming tendency as I’m perfectly able to control swarming. You should be too! Carniolans are just more “swarmy” than the other subspecies and that’s a small price to pay for their many other admirable qualities.
I keep bees for fun and Carniolans are pleasant to work with. They are polite, get out of the way when you are working in the hive and exist in reasonable sized colonies. I dislike working with Italian bees that are constantly under your fingers and make huge hives that often don’t survive Whatcom Winters. I like scrappy bees that reflect my goals of locally sustainable beekeeping.
These are local bees, available in May, carefully selected for Whatcom County conditions. That takes time and the right weather. It significantly delays availability by almost a month in May, not April.
The traditional and not very successful local beekeeping paradigm that’s based on cheap package bees arriving from California in April, offers a faint chance of a first-year honey harvest but low odds of survival into the next year. The same is true of cheaper nucleus hives with out-of-state queens and bees sourced from returning almond pollination hives.
True local bees are known to produce better outcomes, have less exposure to agricultural toxins and are not subject to all the pressures experienced by large commercial operations. My nucleus colonies, cared for correctly in good equipment, will thrive in most conditions Whatcom County has to offer, produce reliable honey crops and over-winter consistently. Good beekeeping required, of course.
I don’t generally lose hives over the winter. But, over the winter of 2018-19, I lost a significant number of hives because I didn’t discover in time that Varroa mite conditions had become much more serious where I keep bees. The hives that survived that winter were selected by Nature for extreme winter-hardiness. And those hives produced the mother queens for my 2020 Nucs.
If you want to succeed at beekeeping, a thorough understanding of Varroa Mites and how to control them is imperative !
Most years, the vast majority of my hives overwinter strong and come out strong in the spring. With some major adjustments to my Mite Control Program, this winter’s hives are doing just fine. As usual.
I have had very little problem with any of the common bee diseases, though I do treat for Varroa mites with great care several times every year. No bees are immune to mites, sadly. If you don’t have an effective method for controlling mites, pick another hobby.
My Deal: You bring me a complete 5 or 10-frame hive filled with new wooden frames with black plastic foundation. I transfer the bees, queen and frames into your equipment and keep the frames you brought. I don’t sell woodenware as I put a lot of time and effort into making it just right for my purposes. I like to think my bees are going to well prepared beekeepers who have gone to the trouble of preparing their own equipment.
I usually inspect your nuc with you present, so you know precisely what you’re buying, but coronavirus put an end to that. You’ll just have to trust me. Ask around. I’ll contact you when the bees are ready to pick up, usually the next morning.
Five-frame hives will be ready to graduate to ten-frame equipment soon, in a week or two. 10-frame nucs will need a second super in a few weeks. These nucs will build up quickly on the blackerry nectar flow and be ready for successful over-wintering if cared for correctly.
5-frame Nucs: $225. 10-frames: $275
Phone/text: (360) 483-9754 or contact me on my website: Whatcom Bee Help