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They Raise Winter Hardy Bee Colonies

Bee keepers Travis and Chiara Bolton specialize in creating bee colonies suited to cold weather climates.
  “We sell starter colonies to non-migratory beekeepers,” Travis says. That means anyone from hobbyists to larger bee operations that overwinter their bees in Minnesota and other northern states.
  The Minnesota bee breeders learned how to raise queens in Texas, but have been raising and selecting bees that are winter hardy in Minnesota. Keeping notes, careful observation and testing has improved the quality of their queens and overall colony health. Last winter, for example, they only had a 30 percent loss compared to many Minnesota beekeepers that lost more than half. They’re continually breeding for overwintered genetics from survival hives in order to lessen the percent loss.
  Hygienic bees are another key factor to their breeding program. First they select colonies with desirable traits (honey production, temperament, wintering ability), then they test for hygienics.
  Bolton explains that testing involves nitrogen and a 3-in. pvc pipe to kill a small portion of young bees in a sealed brood. Hives that clean out a high percentage (>95%) of the dead brood are hygienic, which promotes disease resistance.
  After six years of raising bees and selecting quality genetics, the Boltons will begin selling starter colonies in the spring of 2016.
  “We will be able to show that they are winter hardy bees,” Bolton says. “We want to be a resource for other beekeepers. The key thing is winter survival; there’s a real need for it in Minnesota.”
  Prices have not been finalized, but Bolton says they’ll be somewhat higher than other suppliers because of their genetic selection process. They will sell queens and starter colonies throughout the season. The Boltons also make their own hives with their unique design. Their double nuc boxes contain two hives in one unit with four frames over four frames.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Bolton Bees, 1631 Dayton Ave., St. Paul, Minn. 55104 (ph 651 728-1530; boltonbees@gmail.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #5