We are proud of the nucleus colonies we offer and want to share why we think there are none better:
Estimated Delivery. Our bees get a head start in southern Georgia to build for the earliest delivery in North Carolina. Don't be fooled by optimistic claims - bee season is determined by weather conditions when queens are mated. 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 bees 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 - likely will be followed by explanations the original date was moved back. We think a reasonable estimate in an average year is about the middle of April.
Quality Inspection.Things can happen when bees are moved. Prior to your pick-up every one of our nucs are inspected to confirm a live queen. If we don't find her, we place a piece of tape on that colony and look again later - until she is found. We also confirm the presence of eggs, which indicate that queen has laid them. We look for queen cells - which beginners often don't know how to handle. Started as a result of 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.
Plentiful Brood. 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 five 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.
Clean Comb. We don't guarantee new wax or every frame to be 'straight as an arrow' - but we do know none are older than four years and that the wax has never been exposed to hard chemical treatments. One provider on the Internet brags that his nucs are pre-treated with miticides and medications so the buyer has 'nothing to worry about'! - ours are exactly the opposite. We think contaminated wax is bad for bees and have gone to great lengths to find comb which isn't. The only mite treatments our combs have seen are thymol or organic acids.
REUSABLE NUC BOX
Reusable Langstroth Deep Nuc Box. These are no deposit/ no return. We think they are easily a $15 bargain. They're sturdier than cardboard and hold up to the weather without painting - in fact we've been using these for years without any appreciable deterioration. If you paint them they should last even 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
One Trip Pick-Up. Our nucs are screened the morning of pick-up - meaning there are no multiple trips to drop off equipment and come back for the bees. You pick the bees up and transfer them straight to your beeyard. The box is yours to keep.
NO FRAME EXCHANGE
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 fully drawn comb and it's included in the sale price.
Queen Stock. 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. You will find producer claims of Queens being 'Italian' 'Carniolan' 'Caucasian' and other. In point of fact our bee genetics have become mongrolized to the extent that the historical record of assumed behaviors can no longer be applied. A yellow bee has just as much chance to have 'Carniolan' heritage as 'Italian'. Behavior is determined by the particular traits inherited from the Queen's mother and the drones she mates with.
Our Queens are from cells produced 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 northerm GA. Our nucs will consist of all yellow, all gray, all dark or some combination of the three. Queens vary from very dark to almost Corduvan in color. What you get will depend on the box you take home - but the temperament has more to do with the individual Queen than her color.
If you desire particular traits in your stock, you should consider carefully re-queening from a trustworthy source. Many advertised 'in-line' stock are not what they say, so be careful in ordering. We understand that CA breeders offering 'Russian' 'New World Carniolan' and 'Minnesota Hygeinic' have mating yards within two miles of each other! Only when beekeepers educate themselves about the selection of their Queens can we expect to make progress in improving our stock.