The Eco Honeybees ….. Bees
Eco Honeybees provides two different types of bees, or a combination of them both. For the 2015 season the bees we’ll be providing will be of the Russian or Carniolan variety or a hybrid of the two mixed together. 2014 was the first year where all the bees in the Langstroth hives we sold were part of our own local breeding program.
Subsequently, for the 2015 season, the bees in all the Langstroth hives will be colonies that have already survived the 2014-2015 winter season successfully. This is hugely important. The vast majority of beekeepers, including ourselves in the past, source their bee packages and Queens from breeders in southern states, most commonly Italian Bees from Georgia. This means that, no matter how successful a hive is in the warm months, no one can predict a hive’s ability to make it through winter until it does so. Some survive, the majority don’t, mostly because the Queens are genetically attuned to the climate where she, and her forbearers, came from and not the one she is now in. Eco Honeybee’s goal has always been to increase the area’s honeybee population. To accomplish this successfully, we first have had to help create a type of bee that is genetically attuned to this area’s climate and challenges. This has been an ongoing project since our inception to not only accomplish that goal but also to provide client’s with hives that have a much better chance of survival.
We’ve been working with local bee experts since the day we went into business to breed bees that do have the characteristics needed to survive in this area’s environment. Some of our associates have had success in finding some established feral bee colonies locally over the past few years. We’ve successfully captured these colonies, moved them into better homes, nurtured them, and grafted new Queens from them into new hives. We also have tried hard to make sure our bees are as docile as possible and good honey producers. The end result is a Russian/Carnolian hybrid that is rather successful. This is the type bee we’ll be providing from now on in our Langstroth hives.
For our Top Bar hive clients, for the 2015 season, these hives will be stocked with hybrid colonies we’re obtaining from a very reputable honey company in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee. They’ve had their own breeding program for 15 years and their own “mutt” hybrids are a lot like our own. The reason we have to go with the package route for our Top Bar Hives is because our own colonies will have wintered over in Langstroth boxes that are not transferable to the Top Bar Hives. But, because we’re sourcing from a known reputable source, the Top Bar hives should have the same excellent chances as our locally sourced bees. We’re even getting extra colonies of these Tennessee bees so we can include their genetics into our own breeding program. Russian Carniolan hybrids bees have excellent frugal characteristics with their honey storage and consumption. They are also very resistant to mites and parasites.
Our decision to move over to a Russian/Carniolan hybrid was made more by nature. The few well-established feral hives we’ve been able to capture locally have generally been of this variety and not the Italian variety more commonly supplied by breeders down south. Our initial experience, and that of many area beekeepers, has been that the Italian bees are not as well equipped to handle the multitude of challenges hives have to adapt to in this area. This is not to say that some Italian colonies do not survive up here. Many do. But the wild bees we’ve come across have been more of a “mutt” hybrid that blends the positive characteristics of different breeds. This places us in the school of thought that hybrids have better survival genetics than a variety that is more pure bred.
2014 was the year that we stopped delivering Italian Bees altogether to our clients. We do have clients with Italian bees but these are the rare exceptions where we lucked into a great colony. several of our current Top Bar hive clients have successful hives utilizing “daughter” Queens from these Italians. Generally, when a client’s Italian hive needs to be split or the Queen gets old, we’ll replace that Queen with one of our own locally bred hybrids. These clients notice an almost immediate difference in their hives when switching from Italian bees because our own are so much more docile than the Italians and, internally, the hives are much better managed.
We’ll never stop doing and supporting continued research into the survival of the honeybee locally. Since Eco Honeybees has been founded and our client base has grown so substantially, we’ve been able to get a considerable amount of experience of how certain hives deal with, and survive, in all the different parts of the DC Metro area. As our business expands, so does our database of experience and so, we hope, will the area’s honeybee population.