Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Russian Bees and More

The Honey Bee Club of Stillwater January meeting was chock full of information and lively discussion.  The main theme of last night's meeting was Russian Bees.  First, though, some important information was shared regarding various activities, announcements, and recipes. This information can be accessed by clicking on the links to your right.  

Please participate!  The U of M Bee Lab is asking all beekeepers throughout MN to help form a color coded map to indicate approximate colony location.  This map will be made public for the education of pesticide applicators and other state agencies.  Please send an email with your colony count and county location to umbeelab@umn.edu.


Keeping Russian bees seems to be a no-brainer to Mary, a beekeeper of 35 years. For good reason.  I think she has convinced many of us to give them a try, or at least to re-queen with a Russian!  So enjoy and...Na zdorovye!

A large and lively crowd was present
Russian bees originated in the Primorsky Krai region of Russia and were imported into the United States in 1997 by the USDA’s Honeybee Breeding, Genetics & Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in response to severe declines in bee populations caused by infestations of parasitic mites. 

Russian bees are:

  • very different than other bees.
  • Extremely adept at dealing with winter losses and varroa mite issues .
  • A little higher in price, although there is no need for chemical treatments and Russians have a better survival rate.
  • In demand!  Sources are more limited so getting an order in early is essential. 
  • Excellent at over-wintering.

    • Normally, Russian hives winter with a small to very small cluster, 3-4 frames, sometimes 2-3 frames. The small clusters can be the size of a grapefruit.
    • frugal with their winter stores-- Many Russian hives will come out of winter with only a two-frame cluster. Fewer bees, less winter store consumption. 
    • Russians take fewer cleansing flights.
    • The last winter bees die a month later than the Italians. 
    • Have a fast spring build up.
    • A strong natural pollen triggers extensive brood development
    • Russian queens will stop laying if there is a pollen or nectar dearth.

  •  A little tricky for queen introduction

    • Introducing a Russian Queen to a non-Russian colony is certainly possible; it just takes a little more time and prep.
    • If the nuc is Russian, introducing a Russian Queen is usually faster.
    • Hand release after 4-5 days and observe as mentioned before.
    • Check in 4-5 days to look for eggs and verify a successful introduction.

  • Tend to swarm more than Carniolans and Italians. 

    • When pollen and nectar become available the queen becomes very active and workers draw out foundation quickly and the queen fills up the frames fast. 
    • Swarming is not delayed while the workers build swarm cells. Russians already have them. 
    • Give them plenty of room.  Add supers immediately after division.
    • Brood cycle is shorter, worker brood hatched in 19 days instead of the 21.

  • Build and maintain supercedure queen cells all season long.

    • Best practice is to leave the queen cells alone, check for eggs. A queen getting ready to swarm will stop laying. 
    • They do not normally allow the new queen to mature unless the hive needs her. 

  • Have evasive queens.

    • There have been several reports that the Russian Queens move away from combs being worked by the beekeeper. 
    •  Trying to find the queen can be a large waste of time--it is usually best to separate the two deeps with a queen excluder. 
    • $1.50 for marked Queen is well worth it!

  •  Have excellent hygienic behavior.

    • Hygienic behavior can have a positive impact on a colony’s ability to control Varroa destructor populations. (69% vs 37%). 
    • Russian colonies showed Varroa mites with missing appendages and bite marks. 
    • Numerous observations of Russian bees grooming themselves and each other have been reported. 
    • Bottom boards—clean even after the long winter months. 
    • No mite treatment required. 

  • Have excellent honey production.
    • have a longer work day.

Characteristics by type and trait:


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