bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Wanted -- beekeeper who can do the splits

Rufus wants some advice on sourcing early queens in the UK.

I haven't any easy answers.

In previous years we have been able to buy New Zealand queens early in the season (for example, by bidding for them at the beekeeping auction in east Hampshire every May). I'm not certain that they are still available though. Although they are beautifully docile, some feel they are too susceptible to diseases in our climes. I've also heard it said that when their offspring start to cross breed, a nastier temper emerges.

I've tried Hawaiian queens later in the season, but they nearly succumbed to acarine the following winter.

Perhaps you can find a good local beekeeper, perhaps a semi-commercial beefarmer, who will do a split of a colony or create a nucleus in May.

But I wouldn't take a queen or a small colony from any old beekeeper. I wouldn't offer mine, for example, as I'm not altogether happy with colonies on either of my apiaries. On one they are beautifully docile, but a bit too laid-back -- their nectar-gathering capabilities are in question. On the other apiary, they are great honey producers but decidedly grumpy -- though that might be because of nearby overhead power cables.

My best bet would be to ask around at a local association and see whose bees are docile and hard-working. Or you could of course chase a swarm -- but then that would just be pot luck and you could end up with any old (even diseased) rubbish, perhaps with a propensity to swarm!

Any other suggestions?


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