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Five common areas to care for any packaged bees that come to Canada from the Southern Hemisphere are detailed below. If you are new to package bees please be sure to read these tips carefully!
Arataki tube packages arriving at airport

Test for Nosema

Test for Nosema or better yet use treated feed for the first feeding of package bees.  It is inevitable that some packages will contract Nosema in transit simply because of the ripe conditions for Nosema to spread in a package.  This is largely due to the confinement, humidity changes and stress package travel causes.  Arataki queens are treated for Nosema in the breeding nuc’s but they are placed into packages with bees which are a bulk mix of bees from Arataki and other bee suppliers in New Zealand. If even one bee in that mix has Nosema, the days of confinement and humidity and temperature changes mean it can spread quickly within the Package.  Again this is with all packaged bees not just Arataki Tube Packages so best advice treat it like you have it or at least test for it in your packages and treat accordingly.


Varroa Mite

Varroa Mite are present in New Zealand and indeed most of the world and while all possible steps are taken to ensure "clean" bees in the packages it is in your best interest to test and treat if needed. CFIA import protocol  states that an exporting beekeeping operation needs to show it has control of Varroa with treatments available in Canada and that they are at or below and able to maintain a 1% mite level prior to exporting bees and queens. New Zealand mites are not resistant to any treatments used in Canada including Apistan and the packages are shipped with a partial strip of Apivar (Coumaphos) or other treatment placed into the package with the bees.  It would still be a good idea to inspect or test your package bees for mites and treat further if needed. Again this is with all imported package bees

Beekeeper with Honeycomb


Drifting is a continual problem with bees in general but package bees, during hiving, are even more susceptible to drifting than wintered hives. This is due largely to the unsettled nature of the hive in it’s first few days in their new home. Drifting is a manageable issue though with the primary factor being yard set up.

    We suggest using a yard structure that will make it easy for the bees to locate their hive during the windy spring season when there is often not as much cover due to lack of grasses and leaves. A yard structure with multiple small blocks or curving lines with regular wider breaks between the hives tends to work better. Even straight lines work well if they are shorter and/or have breaks every few hives to create landmarks for the bees to follow. If possible set up your yard out of the wind or in such a way that the prevailing wind will not blow along the rows preventing tired forage bees from getting the last few feet to their own hive, choosing rather to make the near hive their new home.

Beekeeper at Work

Chalk Brood

Chalk Brood is a concern for many beekeepers and presents problems for some. Chalk Brood is typically an operational issue in that it is in your equipment even if it is not present in the brood of overwintered hives in significant amounts. Bees seem to build up an immunity or probably more accurately a coping method for dealing with it. North America, according to some reports has been seeing a higher level of chalk brood in the last few years. With the size of pkgs, the stress levels of travel and changes in environment along with other factors such as humidity and cool temps the package bees are more susceptible to an outbreak of chalk brood than the wintered hives which have learned how to cope with it are. Rarely do we see Arataki bees showing signs of significant problems two years in a row meaning they do learn to cope with it. The Arataki Old World Carniolan Hybrid queen and her offspring are hygienic bees but like all creatures they need to learn how to care for new problems like Chalk Brood. the best way to help is to ensure your equipment, feed and the pollen you use are clean of chalk brood spores. For some beekeepers, irradiating their equipment has helped or using new built out comb rather than dead-outs, especially dead-outs that have shown signs of the disease. If chalk brood does occur it can be helpful to remove as many of the mummified larvae as possible as well as removing old comb from the brood nest that may carry the fungus. Caging the queen so she is unable to lay eggs and leaving her in the hive for a few days can also allow the nurse bees the opportunity to “catch up” with the house cleaning. If the problem persists it may become necessary to replace the queen but that is a last step

Bees on an entrance

American Foul Brood 

American Foul Brood (AFB) is present in New Zealand but their methods for  prevention and treatment vary from ours in Canada. They do not have any chemicals or approved treatments for AFB and as such it would seem it should be rampant, but it is not. They use an inspect and destroy method which consists of a labor intensive process of inspecting hives regularly and before any honey can be removed. If any signs of AFB are present in the hive the entire hive body and all frames and supers are burnt on the spot. They’ve gotten pretty good at keeping AFB at very low levels this way and the NBA (New Zealand Beekeepers Association) has powers and policing methods to ensure all beekeepers tow the line. However, they are not immune to AFB and with the prevalence of AFB in Canada the bees need to be treated and inspected for it here just as you would your over wintered colonies. As the hive grows it will come in contact with other bees so even if your operation and the package bees seem to be AFB free they do run a risk of picking it up from your neighbors.

Beekeeper Holding a Honeycomb

If you have any questions or require clarification on how to treat or handle package bees for optimal performance please feel free to contact us.

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