New beekeepers just starting out with their very first hive most likely have started it from a 2 or 3lb.package. Most package producers don’t select their queens for the same qualities and behaviors that we do and they do not have the time to monitor how the new queen lays before she is shipped out in the package.
We produce queens that have a natural resistance to parasites and diseases and select our breeder queens based on: low mite counts, hygienic behavior, gentle temperament, honey production and spring population build up. Our queens lay for a minimum of week so we can determine their vigor and health.
It is a very sad thing for a beginning beekeeper to start out with one or two hives and then lose them in their first year. We always get asked by new beekeepers if they should use chemicals to treat for the Varroa mite. We suggest that new beekeepers monitor their hive closely for any mite infestation especially in the hottest part of the summer. Depending on how many mites they have they should treat their bees if necessary and re-queen with resistant stock from a local queen operation after the treatment in the late summer. Your September bees are the ones that need to be fat and healthy to survive the upcoming winter.
Nick Calderon from the Cornell Dyce lab made a presentation to the New Jersey Beekeepers association in 2010 and suggested new beekeepers use chemicals for the 1st two years. Then after getting a couple years of experience they can decide if they should change their treatment protocol. On the other hand our state bee inspector has told beekeepers they should definitely treat their bees in August.
We have found that deciding to not treat our bees was a very personal decision to make. The first year that we stopped using chemical treatments we lost large numbers of hives. But as we progressed into the following years our hives became stronger- to the point that we are now in our 11th year of not treating bees – but all this success was achieved with a lot of hard work; there was no easy and quick solution – we had to stay true to our new course.