Buckfast or Carnolian?

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greywolf 

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I have read up on buckfasts and have formed an impression that they may require an experienced beek to handle them.

I will be starting a national from a nuc next summer and fancied keeping buckfast bees. I have completed a course last year, have done much reading and intend to get some hands on experience before my nuc arrives. However, as a beginner, I wondered if it would be wiserr to keep carnolians.

Any advice would be most welcome.
 

Poly Hive 

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Would it not make more sense to see what qualities the queen has which comes with your nuc?

PH
 

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Given a choice between the two I would pick Buckfast every time.
I will let others give reasons for and against both strains.
See how your Nuc gets on first like PH says.
 

Finman 

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Carnolians have bad habit to swarm. It is not a good feature to the beginners.

Italians give more time. They swarm later if they do.

I am not sure what Buckfast is. They are so many. Carniolans and Italians are many too.

The most important is to the new beekeeper that they are tame to handle.
 

Gardenbees 

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Either Buckfast or Italian would be my choice for a beginner, but the thing to do really is try and find a fairly local source of good bees. Visit them and check out their behaviour etc. rather than just going by the "label". As Finman points out, there are so many variations.

I have two colonies which were sold to me as Buckfast, both from the neighbouring county so fairly local. They are medium-sized, attractive in appearance and very tolerant of bad weather. They both propolise everything into a solid matrix of gooed-together frames if allowed, but are also very clean when it comes to housekeeping. Good at slinging out intruders, as well. Both are productive and very good-natured, and not too demanding on winter food. So far they haven't shown any signs of varroa problems or dysentery. So they are recognisably the same kind of bee. However, they are clearly not quite the same as each other: one colony has some Italian influence, I think, and one is more Carniolan (greyer looking, more prolific breeders). The thing is, they will vary hugely due to outbreeding as soon as drones and virgin queens go off to mate, so unless you've got the whole population on an isolated apiary where they can't find other strains of bee, then any new "buckfast" queen could also be half Carniolan, Italian or whatever. I suspect that in the case of my two queens that had probably already happened. Photos are here:
http://www.beekeepingforum.co.uk/showthread.php?t=7225&highlight=pictures+bees&page=10

I'm very fond of my current colonies. They have done well despite an awkward year weather-wise, and have been extremely good-natured except when I was at my most clumsy, and quite manageable even when I annoyed them. I would definitely recommend them over Carnies for a beginner, just because of the very strong swarming tendency in some Carniolan colonies, which is great in some ways (more bees and honey!) but tricky to deal with if you're not used to it (they tend to bugger off unless you're really up to speed with swarm control...).

Whilst I like to raise my own queens, in this case I might go back to their original suppliers and get a Buckfast queen to re-queen both colonies, as they have both been so good. If your nuc doesn't turn out how you'd like it to, you could always splash out on a Buckfast queen from a good supplier, re-queen the colony and see how you get on with the resulting workforce?
 

gavin 

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It always makes sense to see what the beekeepers around you are keeping. One important reason for doing so is that your bees will hybridise with theirs. Some crosses, often at the second generation, can be the most vicious hard-to-handle bees you'll ever come across. So go local and raise your own!

In some parts of Wales the local bees are still native honeybees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and near-native mongrels derived from them.

G.
 

mbc 

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It always makes sense to see what the beekeepers around you are keeping. One important reason for doing so is that your bees will hybridise with theirs. Some crosses, often at the second generation, can be the most vicious hard-to-handle bees you'll ever come across. So go local and raise your own!

In some parts of Wales the local bees are still native honeybees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and near-native mongrels derived from them.

G.
Absolutely !
Also bear in mind that bringing carnies or buckfasts (which are really desinger mongrels/hybrids ) into an amm area might chease off local beeks
 

greywolf 

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It always makes sense to see what the beekeepers around you are keeping. One important reason for doing so is that your bees will hybridise with theirs. Some crosses, often at the second generation, can be the most vicious hard-to-handle bees you'll ever come across. So go local and raise your own!

In some parts of Wales the local bees are still native honeybees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and near-native mongrels derived from them.

G.
I agree but, if only that was the case.

My interest in beekeeping began several years ago when it became obvious that the honeybee population in my area was fast disappearing. I live in what may be described as a semi rural suburb with a meadow complete with bramble hedgerows within 200 yards yet the bank of aubrietia in my garden once literally buzzing with foraging bees rarely gets more than a handful of visitors in the summer. Also, you have to look very hard on the bramble blossoms or the clover in the adjacent fields to find bees at work.

I could be wrong but there are no active beeks within a few miles and I haven’t come across any reference to Apis m.m in this part of South Wales. Again I could be wrong and would welcome any information to the contrary as diluting a strain of Apis m.m. is the last thing I would want to do.

I haven’t gone into this lightly and have spent the last 2 seasons with several bait hives hoping to catch a swarm all to no avail. Introducing bees into my immediate area seems a good idea under the circumstances and after 2 summers of waiting for a swarm purchasing a readily available national nuc will hopefully be the start.

Apart from the national I also have a horizontal TBH and a Warre hive. I intend to run the national without a queen excluder and in time plan to go foundationless if it suits the bees. I know the effect all this will have on honey production but don’t care as long as the bees thrive.

Thanks to all for the replies, it is a great help to have your opinions while on a steep learning curve.
 

Crg 

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I have read up on buckfasts and have formed an impression that they may require an experienced beek to handle them.

I will be starting a national from a nuc next summer and fancied keeping buckfast bees. I have completed a course last year, have done much reading and intend to get some hands on experience before my nuc arrives. However, as a beginner, I wondered if it would be wiserr to keep carnolians.

Any advice would be most welcome.
As Finman says Carnolians tend to be swarmy.

In my opinion it'd help to have some experience to handle bees like that, though you'd probably quickly gain some.
 

Arfermo 

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I have read up on buckfasts and have formed an impression that they may require an experienced beek to handle them.

I will be starting a national from a nuc next summer and fancied keeping buckfast bees. I have completed a course last year, have done much reading and intend to get some hands on experience before my nuc arrives. However, as a beginner, I wondered if it would be wiserr to keep carnolians.

Any advice would be most welcome.
Why not ask around the local Association and use bees that are common to the area where you are. Surely there is somebody local who would sell and mentor. I was given a full hive c/w supers under and over from that source when I started. Maybe somebody wants to give up/share?
 

admin 

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As Finman says Carnolians tend to be swarmy.

In my opinion it'd help to have some experience to handle bees like that, though you'd probably quickly gain some.
I have known a few beekeepers who have either given up or failed to inspect when a Carnie Nuc has expanded in the first year.

I think a few Carnie swarms a year are due to beekeepers fear early on.
 

Poly Hive 

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I can't say I found the Carnies to be terribly swarmy but they did want to go earlier than I expected. However if you want increase then all to the good.

They do get strong and like all strong colonies that I have known they flex their muscles. So on that basis possibly not newbies fun.

Which leaves us with the question what bees are suitable for the beginner.
Apart form the NZ type, none. And I do not recommend the NZ as in my experience they ate, they loitered and achieved nothing, apart from making the 2nd generation very nasty.

PH
 

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Buckfast PH ?

I fully agree with your take on NZ strains,a complete waist of time in my experience.
 
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