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

2014 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


On April 19th, 2014, we released the colonies from our SARE project. By this we mean that since their installation, each colony had to be treated equally in all respects. So when we fed one colony, we had to feed the rest of the colonies, and if one colony was strong and ready to swarm and the next colony was weak and needing boosting up, we could not switch locations or move brood. In these cases we simply had to note the state of the colony and allow the bees to do what they were going to do. By releasing the colonies from the project, we are now able to work with each colony individually in ways that might have skewed our data during the project.

To release the colonies, we had to conduct our final inspection and assess each colony’s strength coming out of winter. We did that final inspection on April 19, 2014, which was literally the first day this spring that we were able to get into the colonies long enough to do a full inspection without jeopardizing the health of the colonies. April 19th was the first day that we saw natural pollen coming into the hives (only a little bit) and the weather was in the low- to mid- 50s with a fairly strong breeze.

Master Beekeepers Cindy Bee, Jacky Hildreth and I conducted the inspections with note-taking and other assistance from Anne Simpson who had come out and inspected with Cindy one time last summer.  We worked quickly but thoroughly to minimize interruption to the colonies, but we needed to make a full and accurate report of colony strength for our
final assessment. The reason we were conducting these inspections as early as possible in the season was so that we could feed any colonies that were light (many were) and so that we could simulate the efforts of a capable beekeeper who is trying to ensure colony survival.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Of the 50 colonies that we started with, as of our final inspection on April 19, 2014, 27 of the colonies were alive and still in the project, with 19 of them being “ready for spring”, meaning able to build up for the spring bloom with minimal beekeeper assistance.  Eight colonies were alive but in need of beekeeper intervention in order to enable the colony to build up on the natural spring flow.   This is a fairly high loss level, but considering the poor nectar and pollen flows in 2013 and the particularly long and cold winter, these loss levels are not unusual for an average apiary.  (Our loss levels are also inflated by “disqualifications” which were colonies that needed requeening due to swarming or supersedure, and were therefore disqualified from the project.)

What is extremely notable is the difference in survival rates between the groups of packages.

The colonies that were purchased as packages and not requeened had only a 28% survival rate (only 7 colonies remained in the project as of 4/19/2014) and three of those seven were “ready for spring”. 

The colonies that were purchased as packages and requeened with a northern raised queen had an 80% survival rate (20 colonies) with 16 of those twenty “ready for spring”. 

Our apiary experience showed that requeening the colonies doubled the survival rate of packages, and the requeened colonies were over five-times more likely to be “ready for spring”.

This data is consistent with our previous work in FNE09-655 and FNE 10-694.

We have compiled this data with the data from our two previous projects and are currently presenting the results to a number of beekeeping groups.  We have developed a presentation describing the three years of study as a group and are using our results to encourage the adoption of a requeening strategy in northern apiaries. 

Our strength and survival data for the final inspection of this project is attached below.  I have also attached an article reporting this data that I wrote for the Maine State Beekeepers Association newsletter, The Bee Line.

Additional media and presentation information will be uploaded with the Final Report.


Anthony Jadczak

[email protected]
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

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