We recently received a call from a person interested in beekeeping but was overwhelmed by the choices. Their statement was “I’m just getting started and there are too many choices! Carniolan or Italian bees, marked or unmarked queens, packaged bees or nucs…help! Which one is right for me?
The answer is…well, it depends.
Italian or Carniolan?
Both of these types of bees are appropriate for the Pacific Northwest, so the choice is yours. Each has slightly different characteristics but GloryBee sells both about evenly in our packaged bee sales. You really cannot make a wrong choice since both are from the Apis mellifera or European honey bee family. Although there are other subspecies of European honey bee - like Russians, Germans and Caucasian - the Italians and Carniolans are both well adapted to North America both in temperament (gentle) and surviving the wet and cold seasons.
Marked or Unmarked Queen?
New beekeepers typically prefer a marked queen for several reasons. Marked queens are easier to find to ensure you have a hive that is queenright, which simply means having a queen in the hive. The color marking also signifies the year the queen was bred, which makes it easier to know if you need to re-queen your hive in a few years. White is the color marking for Queen bees in 2016. It only takes a little practice to spot the queen once you know what you are looking for, so a marked queen is not necessary for those with some experience.
Packaged Bees or Nucs?
If your interest is honey in the first year, then you will want to purchase a nuc (or nucleus hive). A nuc is half the size of a typical beehive with 5 frames instead of 10. Of the 5 frames, there are 3 frames with brood (baby bees), and 2 frames of honey (food for the bees). Nucs are typically available in late April and with a nuc, you are getting a small hive with a queen who has already been laying eggs for at least several weeks or possibly months.
If you purchase a package of bees, you may get honey in the first year, but not always. The package comes with either 2 or 3 lbs of bees and a queen in a cage. After installing the queen and packaged bees it takes a few days for the queen to be accepted and released from her queen cage, and another few to start laying eggs. So you will begin seeing hatched bees approximately 4 weeks after installing your package of bees. Long story short, the nuc gives you at least a one month head start on building up the colony to be ready for peak nectar flow.
With all of these choices to make, feel free to call our Natural Products department at GloryBee for help in choosing what is most appropriate for your needs. 1-800-456-7923