-Posted by Isaac
It was a big week on the bee farm. We got our package bees installed.
For the last three years on the last week of March, I’ve had the good fortune of driving down to Georgia in the tough little Ranger and coming back loaded with bees.
Bought 120 this year— about all that would fit! I look at it as good fortune because it’s really hard to get packages this early unless you’ve been in the business for years and years. And I’m still a relative newbie. It’s an enjoyable quick trip, 12 hours down, sleep, 12 hours back, and if the weather is suitable we’re giving those bees a home the very next morning.
For us, buying packages has been a real shot in the arm. It’s helped in so many ways. But I hesitate in even posting about it because, as you may know, the bee world is divided on this. Some, maybe even the majority of beekeepers are quick to cuss and spit when the subject of packages comes up.
So it’s a conundrum. Should I tell you about it? Will it make you hate us?
We obviously fall in the ‘packages are awesome!’ camp.
Because it’s such an fun little adventure, I think I’ll go ahead and show you the process. But I won’t turn my back on you ‘packages suck!’ people. I’m going to try to acknowledge many of your thoughts and misgivings. How about I make a list? The good and the bad of package bees…
While you go over the two lists and figure out where you stand on this divisive issue, I’ll simply caption the photos with explanations of what we’re doing. You know,… for those of you interested, but undecided. Pick a side, you spineless lily-livered centrists.
Package Bees- The good:
-A fun trip to the south
-Quick and easy way to fill dead-outs
-You’re starting with a clean slate (No varroa)
-New young queens
-Added and mixed genetics
-Many early drones for your own breeding endeavors
-The bees are on the upswing and ready to go, filled with southern enthusiasm.
-It’s spring! You haven’t had to deal with frozen toes and mud as you take them through the winter.
-They’re fast! A March package on drawn comb can actually make honey in May.
Package Bees- The bad:
-It’s too easy. You should have to earn your beekeeping stripes.
-You really don’t know what you’re getting into.
-We’re creating 4-H projects, not enough disciplined lifetime apiarists. Bee-havers, not beekeepers.
-These are “weak” southern bees with inferior genetics.
-We’re polluting our strong, hardy overwintered Ohio stock.
-Who knows what kind of diseases those packages hold?
-You and your packages are the reason the bees are going “extinct.”
-You and your ilk are knowingly unleashing a plague.
-You are solely responsible for a host of ills, including but not limited to: rampant ecological destruction, the insect apocalypse, climate change, the Spanish flu, both world wars, the 2008 recession, and Donald Trump.
-Oh yeah, I almost forgot—original sin. Your fault!
So where do you fall on the package bee spectrum? Are they bad or good? The curse of the beekeeping industry? Or the savior?
Maybe you’re just still indifferent. It is what it is, right? Say what you will, many a lifelong beekeeper (including this one) got their start with a package.
Maybe having a 4-H project isn’t such a bad thing.