A comparison of strength and survivability of honeybee colonies started with conventional versus northern requeened packages

2013 Annual Report for FNE12-756

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Erin MacGregor-Forbes
Overland Apiaries

A comparison of strength and survivability of honeybee colonies started with conventional versus northern requeened packages


The project compares 50 traditional 3lb honey bee packages all started on identical new equipment.  One half of the packages are managed as received, and one half of the packages were re-queened with northern raised queens in June.  We then continue to manage the colonies through the season and compare strength and survivability at the end of the winter.  This is a continuation of two years of similar projects comparing packages, requeened packages, and northern raised nucleus colonies.

Objectives/Performance Targets

This project continues work done in SARE projects FNE09-655 and FNE 10-694.  In those previous years we demonstrated that northern raised nucleus colonies and requeened packages experienced nearly double the survival rate of traditional packages in their first year.

In this project we continue that work, comparing a larger group of packages (50) and splitting them into two groups.  One half of the packages were managed as purchased, and in one half of the packages, we found and removed the queen in June, and then 24 hours later installed a northern raised mated queen that we purchased from one of two queen breeders in the Northeast. 

All packages came from the same breeder in Georgia and were transported to Maine together for this project.  Packages were then installed into identical 8 frame new equipment with wired beeswax foundation.  (hive paint markings distinguish one hive from the next for bee orientation.)  All packages were installed in and remain in one single yard in Jefferson, Maine.

Hives were fed 1-1 sugar syrup in pail feeders over the inner cover as is recommended for feeding in our northern climate.

Once the northern queens were available for purchase, we requeened 50% of the colonies with the northern queens, caged the package queens  with attendants and donated (mailed) them to a sustainabe beekeeping project based in Eastern Kentucky.

We then continued to manage the packages through their first year, monitoring their progress via the standardized hive assessment tool developed in the previous project. 

Any colonies which become hopelessly queenless (through swarming, supersedure or queen failure) are removed from the project at the point where there is no possiblilty that the colony might become queenright, recorded as colony loss.


First Year flying season

As of December 31, 41 of the original 50 colonies are still in the project.  All colonies have been assessed several times through the summer and the fall.  Varroa mite treatment (Apilife Var) was completed in September.   Colonies are now prepared for winter with homasote insulation boards and are strapped against wind.

Any colony deemed to have questionable honey stores was given a 15lb candy board made from pressed sugar in a wooden frame and intalled over the top bars of the uppermost hive body.

At December 27, all colonies in the yard appear to be alive, and we will continue to monitor their progress.   We anticipate doing final assessments at the beginning of April, depending on weather conditions.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

We have written a number or articles describing our project for The Bee Line, the newsletter of the Maine State Beekeepers Association.

We have also accepted to engagements to present the results of our work, the first will be March 8, 2014 in Keene, NH where we will present our preliminary findings as of that time.
The second scheduled presentation will take place at the Eastern Apicultural Society 2014 Annual Conference in Richmond, KY.  This will include the full results of this final year of the project, as well as a summary of our findings over the three years.


Anthony Jadczak

Technical Advisor
Maint Department of Agriculture
Division of Plant Industry
28 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0028
Office Phone: 2072873891
Website: http://www.maine.gov/agriculture/pi/apiary/index.htm
C. "Bee" Bee

Master Beekeeper
Overland Apiaries
188 Capisic Street
Portland, ME 04102
Office Phone: 2077723380
Website: http://overlandhoney.com