Bee x 3

“But I always say, one’s a company, two’s a crowd, and three’s a party.” –Andy Warhol, American Artist


After breaking the sad news in my last post that I lost both my hives during the brutal winter, I vowed to get back on my feet and dust myself off.  No time to dawdle though, the next beekeeping season is quickly approaching and I need to be ready.  Time to order those bees!


Italian, Carniolan, Saskatraz?

This year, I have three options as to what honeybee breeds I would like to try in my hives.  Last year I kept two Italian hives as they were the only option given.  Now I have access to not only Italians, but also Carniolans and Saskatraz.  I’ve done some research on these breeds and have found that all have some positive traits (and a few possible pitfalls) that I should consider.  However, being only in my second year I’m not sure exactly what is the right fit for my beeyard, skill level and situation.  Or if the breed of the bee is really that big a deal anyway.  However, the time is down to the wire to get my order in.  So I’ve made an executive decision: why not try one of each?

“Hmm, where to start? Italians, Carniolans or Saskatraz? I’ll take one of each, please.”

The more the merrier…

For those keeping track out there, I did mention I had two hives this last year.  That’s two hives that already have comb built on frames and are just waiting for some new residents.  But if I want to try all three bee breeds this year I have to add another hive to my apiary.  Which gives me another learning opportunity:  I can compare the progress of the bees on the already built comb vs the bees on brand new foundation.

Let’s get creative!

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve got quite a few tasks to tackle before my 3 packages arrive.  The bee yard needs some maintenance (maybe some upgrading but that will be another blog post), getting all my equipment checked and ready, and setting up the new hive are just to name a few of them.  Despite my list though, I can’t help but want to add to it with a creative project.  This year I want to give my new hive some creative flair: a pretty paint scheme.  I regret not adding a little creativity to the exteriors of last year’s hives, but I certainly won’t pass up this new hive’s blank canvas.  You can be sure I’ll keep you posted for the big reveal!

An inspiring blank canvas!

In case you’re curious what my new hive setup contains I’ve left a list below:

Krista’s New Hive Setup List:

1 x HK-170 10 Frame Traditional Complete Hive Kit – Wood Frames – Painted

1 x HK-190 Assembled 10 Frame 9 5/8 Hive Kit – Wood Frames – Painted

1 x FD-631 Top Feeder – Painted


Do you have a preference for a particular bee breed?  I’d love to hear about it, leave me a comment below!

35 thoughts on “Bee x 3

Leave a Reply to Christian Schelthoff Cancel reply

  1. Vic

    Hi. You did not loose your bees because of “the brutal winter.”
    I went into winter with 20 hives. I live in Maryland and we got flown to 4-5 degrees. It was a typical cold winter. All 20 made it. I just added honey supers. One of two things or both did you in. Mites and or starvation.

    1. Kirk

      Same here in Maryland
      I had 15 hives and all 15 are building up quickly and bringing in nectar already.

      1. Barb Nemec

        I also would put some drawn out comb in the center of all 3 boxes so the queens and new girls can get comfy. Different parts of the country have different winters. Don’t worry about someone else’s experience. Just keep trying and learning.

    2. Mary Flanagan

      Cut her some slack. First of all, read carefully: she did not claim that the loss of her hives was due to the brutal winter. If you read her previous blog, she admits that both hives were weak prior to the winter. That being said, No Way does your Maryland winter compare to what MN (and most of the upper Midwest) went through this past season! Your -5 is our usual winter. This year we had week+ temperatures of -30 with gusts of 50 mph followed immediately by 40 degree days. I had two hives blow apart even though they were wrapped and enclosed in a shelter. Exceptional beekeepers with decades of experience lost hives–and not to Varroa or starvation necessarily. Everyone here feeds fondant or sugar from October on in addition to leaving 60 lb honey. Most treat with oxalic acid in the fall. At our local bee keepers meeting yesterday, the president noted that in twenty years he had never had mold. . . until this year. It was an unusual and harsh winter.
      Good for you, Krista, for going forward!

    3. Zeb

      With respect, a brutal winter in Minnesota is very different than your typical Maryland winter. It’s apples and oranges.

  2. Daniel Christenson

    I had same issue so understand completely. I dusted off myself as well and trying Italians again because so many suppliers have them but decided to try Russian’s as well. I went with two of each in case I have to combine them (though having two of each would give me some flexibility)

  3. Cheryl Alvarado

    Why not take some of the comb you already have drawn out and put it in the new hive? If all 3 hives are starting out with essentially equal resources, it will be easier to see how the breeds compare. Otherwise , the bees with no drawn comb will be delayed in their buildup compared to the others because the queen won’t have anywhere to lay until they get some drawn.

  4. Robert Guntren (60 years commercial honey producer)

    The brutal winter had nothing to do with your loss. Honey bees have been surviving brutal winters for centuries. The problem is one thing and only one thing. Its a parasite called Varroa . Stay completely away from light colored honey bee queens. The California ones in particular are bred for (almond producers)producing large colonies which become a huge buffet for Varroa and their off spring. They are not suitable for beekeepers that do not move their colonies to a warmer climate in the winter months. If you keep honeybees today you have to have a thorough knowledge about honey bees and also a thorough knowledge about the parasite that is devastating your beehives. You cannot manage a beehive today without addressing the varroa problem. If you think you have a handle on the varroa problem you are going to lose .everytime

  5. Randy

    I have three hives in the colorado springs area. All three are from ferral swarms that were caught here in colorado. I started my first year with a nuke. Those bees swarmed on Sept 1st. I caught them and houses them which gave me two hives. Last year i caught a small swarm of small cell bees which i managed to keep alive so far and through the winter. That makes my third hive through swarms.
    My pic would be for mutt bees from swarms from your area. They are survivors.

  6. Jill Stubenvoll

    I agree with Cheryl! . I lost 2 of my 3 hives this year – all Italians: one had a laying worker and I’m not sure about the other – I’m thinking mites (I treated but I think it was too late). This year, if my remaining hive makes it as it currently has a very small cluster, I will have 4 hives. I’m also getting one of each in packages: Italian, Carnoilian and Saskatraz. Since my dead outs were seemingly not from a contagion, I am splitting the drawn comb and honey reserves up between the new three.
    I’m having so much fun with these bees! I wish I had more space! Good luck!

  7. Josh Wolfer

    Do yourself a favor and forget the packages, or at the very least requeen them with local queens in the summer.
    Packages have a very good failure rate in my experience and that of our club. The queens are inferior and the hives typically die over winter, even with proper mite treatment.
    The best option is to buy local nucs with local queens, or catch swarms. Best of luck this year. Oh, and you need to monitor mites, with an alcohol wash. Forget the sticky boards, they don’t give an accurate perspective of true mite levels.

  8. Sheila

    Maryland is a far cry from Minnesota zones and weather people..

  9. Ed Andrascik

    If you are going to have 3 hives I would expect that you have a plan on treating and testing for mites. Mites are a common issue for colonies not making it through the winter. Starvation is the next. If you don’t test and treat for mites are you killing your hives and all the beekeepers hive around and the hives around there hives.

  10. David Sparkman

    I lost 2 to mice. The Hive entrance reducer was loosened with I cleaned the bottom board of dead bees. I added a strip to the entrance reducer so that the hive body puts pressure on the board to keep it from being pushed aside.

  11. Nancy

    So what was the research you found on these bees? Italian, Carniolan, Saskatraz Pros Cons???? Be interested to know what you found out about them.

  12. Christian Schelthoff

    Sorry, but you can’t take the blame just because some people were more fortunate. Several people I know lost ALL their hives (I probably lost my four; haven’t seen any bees, but we really haven’t had warm and sunny days here in the Chicagoland area yet) due to the polar vortex we experienced with -21 degrees and windchill down to -50 for days. Even though we all had moisture traps, wind breaks, insulation and lots of extra food (plus leaving about 70+ pounds of honey per hive), it sadly wasn’t enough.

  13. Derek

    Yup, lost me at “ …I lost both my hives during the brutal winter.” Massive snowfall, -30 temps, all my colonies survived. “Winter is the great selector of good stock.”- Micheal Palmer.

  14. Cathy Bogucki

    Carniolans have been a favorite for me. My first couple years I had Italians. After beekeeping 6-7 years in NJ we relocated to WV. After some setbacks I got my Carnies rolling. I captured a swarm last year from this hive ( the first on my own) that hive didn’t survive. I believe she lost her queen But I have to say my original hive has survived another winter ( she’s awesome) and I plan to grow to 4 hives. I retire in 20 months so I’ll have time for a larger apiary

  15. Mike Shaw

    Make sure you have a hole 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter drilled in the top of the deep for moisture to escape. If moisture has no way to escape it will condense keeping the bees wet and chilled. Nobody likes being wet, especially all the time. Once I did this, my winter success improved dramatically.

  16. Larry Moss

    Another thing that wiped out alot of hives this last year was yellow jackets. They are as bad as mites. They do there worst damage in the fall. They can fly in cold weather. And the bees cant. They sneak into your hive. Grab your Queen. Cut her head and legs off. Then take the body back to there nest. Then they will start to kill all your bees. Then take out the honey.

  17. Phil

    Winters are a lot different around the US. In Maryland you probably already have nice warm days and things are coming to life. I’m in Upstate NY, Its still freezing up here at night and there is very minimal signs of life…

  18. Robert Crawford

    It was probably not the cold , but with everything , wind breaks , wrapping , helps keep them from needed to eating more honey . Starvation , mites and moisture , kills .Bees .

  19. Granny Roberta in nw CT

    I agree about equalizing your drawn comb.

    (also, less seriously, equalize your artistic endeavors!)

  20. Granny Roberta

    I forgot to say. I’ve had Russian and I thought they were fine though others said they were mean. Then I got Saskatraz and OMG they were SUCH gentle bees. (The Russian seemed better at conserving stores by cutting population for the winter, while the Saskatraz kept their drones around astonishingly late into the fall, and a relatively large worker population going into winter. NB very small sample size.)

  21. Bruce Rafoth DVM

    I am so tired of hearing about mites that I get furious. I did sugar rolls on 19 hives and had low counts(1-4) on all but 3-5 hives about 9/1/18. All hives were then treated with formic acid and fed 2:1 syrup. Really mild winter in NE Iowa until about the middle of January, then winter set in, polar vortex(-20 F for 2-3 days, then 30-40 for 1-2 days and right back down to 0 or below for 2-3 weeks. All hives dead except for 2. All kinds of honey, low counts, dead bees. If mites and nutrition are the problem, WE ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION!

    1. Paula Fisherraines

      Agreed (see your a DVM) would like to connect with you privately) Here in SW Montana we had a mild winter till about 3rd of Jan, then all hell broke loose, I wintered 4, 8fm, have a thermal device and monitored them all winter, sometimes 2xs/day and went out at night and checked warmth, it was amazing to see how tight they became when the vortex hit us, they centralized to the center and didn’t move for days (we had weeks of sub 0, not counting wind, it did warm up couple times to +3), my bees started dying so I put the hives on my sled and moved them to the covered back deck and stacked them up against my house, Tdeviced them each time i went out to feed/tend stock, and noticed the ball became looser and more of a thermal hit upwards on 3 of the 4, 1 had lost too many so the cluster stayed centered, so I moved that box into my unheated addition, stuck a small milk house heater in there and started bringing the temp up slowly till the cluster loosened and could see they had moved up a bit and were able to eat, while not everyone has a TID, I learned a lot from it, and know had I not moved them, would have lost all 4 (they were all strong going in, w/top box mostly honey with some pollen around the frames, patty’s on top, etc) it was just so cold the clusters as a whole couldn’t move around to eat) would imagine its like jumping into bed on a cold night and ya dont want to move till the bed starts warming up, I was able to slowly drop the temp on the addition bees and sat them in the middle of the boxes, and tossed a horse blanket over the top of all, its almost mid april and still no real warm days, they come out briefly and go back in, I have top feeders on now, and some loose pollen thats keeping them going, our weather is suppose to break on 4/16, (still have snow from drifted spots) maybe my girls aren’t strong? (Italian mutts) but like all stock I have i couldn’t just let them die, so we do what we can, with what we have, even though its nasty weather, can see they are building numbers from the heat signatures. Cudos to all who keep bee’s… warmer days have to come? right??

  22. Daniel Thompson

    Just my opinion. Putting new bees in the hives of colonies that were lost is the same as feeding them honey from an unknown source, a disaster waiting to happen. Our winter consisted of feet of snow and temps well below zero and my two hives survived in great condition. I use bars in my warre hives and two weeks after placing the bees in the new hives they had comb on every bar and about 4″ down. Reusing old comb for new bees is false economy.
    Just MY opinion.

  23. Marta Soltyszewska

    I’m on my 3rd year if beekeeping in CT. I have 2 hives with Italian bees. I lost one of my hives this year, due to starvation. My fault, they overwiteted ok, and were active bringing pollen on 3/15. I checked, they had extra sugar cakes, but it was too cold to check for honey in the frames. 10 days later I found them all dead… bud lesson learned, this was my bigger/ stronger hive. I ordered Russian and Saskatraz. Will expand to 3rd hive and compare the breeds.

  24. Dallas Rinker

    I hope some of the old timers will chime in and tell us what to do when. Timing is everything. The books are good for telling us what to do, put we need people with the experience to tell us when to do it. I hope they will help us here on the blog.

  25. Jon Sweemer

    I bought two nucs last year and one made it through the winter looking good. The other died of starvation. By the time I got the nucs, most of the blossoms were off the trees, especially the black locusts that can make a huge difference for a colony here in MD. So they started out behind. I fed one colony syrup much more than the other because it started failing quickly. The irony is that the weak colony got stronger and survived the winter and the other wasn’t able to put away enough stores. I chalk that one up on me for not being knowledgeable enough to know that they were short. I am waiting for another nuc. I hope I get it before we lose the blossoms that are already starting to come out.

    1. Julie

      I too lost hives this winter. I treated for mites, but apparently not enough. I read an interesting article about mites, the exponential explosion of them in late summer and how they carry viruses and diseases that affect the winter brood. Many universities are doing major studies on why we’re losing bees. Here are a few links to check out:
      this site has an excel spreadsheet that you can enter data to determine if your hive will survive based on the varroa counts:
      This site talks about the exponential growth of the mite:

  26. Paul Shuck

    My first year as a Beekeeper. I too order three different Queens. I will be doing it Marla & Gary’s way here in Minnesota. Well see!! Peace

  27. Bob Fanning

    Any thought of distributing the drawn frames equally among your 3 new starts so as to give them all the same opportunity?

    1. Krista

      Hi Bob,

      After I posted this a few beekeepers mentioned that’s what I should do, so I dispersed the drawn foundation among the three hives. I’m glad I got the advice, my bees are off to a great start! Thank you to you and all the other beeks that shared their knowledge. I’m always learning!

  28. Jim

    I’ve learned that there are as many expert opinions as there are beekeepers.
    My advice, listen to and learn from others, but don’t become obsessed with their opinions, observe your hives closely and over time you’ll learn to react to the colonies specific needs. Keep trying and smile!