We are proud of the nucleus colonies we offer and want to share why we think there are none better:
For the first time we will have approximately 100 nucs which have come through Winter with their established queens - and consequently these will be ready for pick-up a month earlier than we've ever been able to offer bees. In western North Carolina spring is the best time of year. At least 65% of the resources available to bees bloom between the first of March and the second week of June - so the earlier a colony can start building up the better chance of success.
Our nucs get started in southern Georgia to build for the earliest delivery in North Carolina. Don't be fooled by optimistic claims - bee season is affected by weather conditions during queen mating. If shipped before drones are plentiful, queens will be poorly mated - resulting in spotty brood, drone layers, or premature supercedure.( Did you know drones must be two weeks old before their sperm is viable?) Our 2016 nucs will be available as early as conditions allow, and our conditions are as early as any in the continental U.S. Claims of March deliveries - while not impossible - often are followed by explanations the original date was moved back. We think a reasonable date in an average year is about the middle of April.
Things can happen when bees are moved. Prior to your pick-up every one of our nucs are inspected to confirm a healthy queen. If we don't find her, we place a piece of tape on that colony and look again - until she is found. We confirm the presence of eggs, which indicate that queen has laid them. We look for queen cells - which would cause beginners grief. Started due to crowding (it's good to get a lot of bees:) we remove QCs in case there is a delay in getting the bees into roomier accomodations.
If your new colony swarms and you're not there, half go to your neighborhood and half are what you have left.
There's no such thing as a 'standard five frame nuc', and what you get from different providers can be like night and day.
Most who want to stay in business pack a lot of bees into their boxes - but more important is having brood of all ages that will continue to hatch as the queen lays more eggs. This allows for continual build-up without a dip two weeks after you hive the colony. Over the past six years our nucs have contained at least three frames of brood - and many have four. We favor a stronger colony, whereas some will give you capped honey or empty comb. We feel April conditions should be good enough for the bees to fend for themselves. If inclement weather prevents foraging , some feeding is recommended.
REUSABLE NUC BOX
Our boxes are no deposit/no return and yours to keep. At a cost of $17 each to have built, they're sturdier than cardboard and hold up to the weather. We've been using these for years without any appreciable deterioration. If you paint them they should last longer. You can set them up as 'bait hives' or use them for making splits, over-wintered nucs or catching swarms.
ONE TRIP PICK-UP
Our nucs are screened the morning of pick-up - and since their sturdy home is yours to keep there are no multiple trips to drop off equipment and come back for the bees. You pick the bees up and transfer them at your leisure.
NO FRAME EXCHANGE
This is getting to be the norm but it bears repeating. In some cases you are required to provide the seller with five new frames of foundation. Ours come with five fully drawn frames included in the sale price.
You will hear claims of Queens being 'Italian' 'Carniolan' 'Caucasian' and other. In point of fact bee genetics in the U.S. have become mongrolized to the extent that the historical races no longer exist. A yellow bee has as much chance to have 'Carniolan' heritage as 'Italian'. (Ask Dr. Debbie Delaney of University of Delaware who has conducted genetic surveys on both Coasts) Colony behavior is determined by genes inherited from the Queen and the drones she mates with, not by color.
Our Queens are selected by professional breeders, hatched and open-mated in southern Georgia. The prevailing drone source in the area is from our hives - which spend about nine months a year in the mountains of NC and northern GA. (The other three months are the time spent just south of Macon GA as the nucs are built up) Our nucs consist of all yellow bees, all gray, or some combination of the two. Queens vary from dark to Corduvan in color. What you get depends on the box you take home - but temperament has to do with the individual Queen and not the label we put on her.
Should you desire particular traits in your stock, consider re-queening from a trustworthy "in-line" source. Many advertised are not what they say, so be careful in ordering. We understand that some CA breeders offering 'Russian' 'New World Carniolan' and 'Minnesota Hygeinic' have mating yards within two miles of each other! With open mating none of those bees qualify as anything but "mutts"! When beekeepers become more demanding in the Queens they purchase we can begin making progress in improving our stock.