Package bees in Northern California are available in April and May, in most years. Queens are available in April through June, but sometimes much later, depending upon the season. Favorable weather is needed for queen production, and package production is dependent upon almond pollination in early Spring.
We accept orders starting in early January and accept orders throughout our season. Our pricing is determined in mid-to-late January. Phone order confirmations for queens and packages generally go out in mid-February. Website confirmations are immediate via email. Payment is required prior to shipment (see below for payment methods). If you want to pay with a check you will need to place your order by calling the office.
Queens: We accept checks (2 weeks prior to your ship date) and credit cards.
For orders over 20 we only accept WIRE or check (2 weeks prior to your pick-up date).
For orders 20 or under we accept credit card or check (2 weeks prior to your pick-up date).
Most of the time your order will ship as scheduled. However, like all types of agriculture, beekeeping, particularly queen rearing and package production, is dependent upon weather. Nature is not always predictable.
Our queen and package production begins with production of queen cells. For a sufficient volume of queen cells to be produced each day, the breeder queens must have favorable weather to produce healthy larvae which is grafted into wax cups, placed in cellbuilder hives, incubators, then baby nucs. The cornerstone of queen production are these nucs, within which the queen cells will hatch. To produce nucs we use 800 lbs of worker bees per day, so the hives must initially be strong and full of bees. After Nuc production is completed (usually after about 3 weeks), the hives must stay strong, and continually be building for us to shake your packages (there must also be mated queens to put in your packages). Plentiful, fresh nectar and pollen makes the hives grown enormously, with lots of new, healthy brood hatching every day. We cannot shake your packages in the rain -- a day or two of rain will cause delays.
The queen cells hatch in their nucs and the virgin queens fly off to mate. Mating weather cannot be too cool or rainy as neither queens nor drones will fly for mating. Very windy days are not ideal for mating, as the queens can get blown off course. Very dry weather will affect the availability of nutritious forage for the bees, and can affect the package-making season (due to reduced amount of healthy brood). Very hot weather can cause the bees and queens in the mating nucs to fly away before they can be caged.
Nature must cooperate in so many ways to make your order happen. We follow the same schedule for our bee and queen production every year with minor adjustments. Conditions vary from year to year, and this does sometimes affect our production schedule. If your package or queen is delayed, it is almost always because of weather or another factor out of our control. To find out our current weather, visit the Contact Us page.
We are confident that you are getting a high quality product based on our many, many years of producing queens and package bees. The crews in each step of production are highly trained--many have been here over 20 years.
Unfortunately, things can go wrong when dealing with Nature. Not every queen will be accepted or lay perfectly (this is one reason why we always send you with 4% extra at no charge). Even in our own requeening program this is expected. Nowadays, there are numerous factors that affect the health and success of a hive. Chemicals, treatments, parasites, viruses, fungus, lack of food, malnutrition, bad weather, and even certain types of nectar or pollen can negatively affect your hive. It seems that new variables arise often, and it can take time to identify a factor which might affect your hive health or the queen's viability.
Your queens are caged only when they have mated and are laying normally. Then they are shipped to you via UPS--most shipments will be loaded onto cargo planes, while some will travel over ground before being delivered to you. We trust our shipper and they do an excellent job overall. However, we have no control over what happens to the queens after they leave our ranch.
If you have an issue with your queen, we will first have a discussion to determine what might have happened. Many times the problem is created by the beekeeper or the beekeeper's environment. Other times, it's unknown. We will try to be fair with you and work something out if you have a problem, but there are no "guarantees" in nature. We are very proud of our queen and package bee program and want you to have a positive experience--you are the reason we are still in business!