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MN-Hardy Starter Colonies

Bolton Bees starter colonies are bred for select traits: high honey yield, low mite load, favorable temperament and hygienic characteristics. These colonies are already established-- meaning that we did not combine a Queen with brood from other colonies. Each Queen has laid the brood that you are purchasing, and all the worker bees and drones are her offspring. All hives undergo a rigorous selection process to ensure the best quality Queens. We are non-migratory; our hives have genetics to withstand the long, cold, northern Minnesota winters. We are the beekeepers, we do not resell other beekeepers hives.

Spring-made, Winter Ready

Our Spring-Made hives have over-wintered genetics. These Queens are genetically adapted to survive Minnesota's harsh northern climate. Throughout the beekeeping season, mishaps happen, beekeepers use spring-made hives to replace their Queen and/or boost their established hives. Spring-Made hives are also great options for beekeepers to overwinter as a nucleus hive and transfer into a production hive the following spring. These hives will be able to smash a honey crop the following year. 

Click here to learn more about the importance of having bees that are:

MN-Hardy Genetic Line

We offer a MN-Hardy genetic lines with our Starter Colonies. This line is named after the location where the parent Queen over-wintered (Minnesota). Our base stock is called MN Hygienic. The MN-Hardy Queens, that we graft your queens from, have withstood a long and cold MN winter. Typically these long and cold winters would impact honey stores, cleansing flights, and brood-laying. Our MN-Hardy Line has survived these conditions. Most nucleus and Queen suppliers sell bees that have never survived a Minnesota winter. Continue reading below learn more about our queen selection process.

Bolton Bees and our Queens

We select our Queens based on their genetic traits. We take this process seriously, because we want to ensure that our customers receive the best quality bees. We use the process of elimination to determine which Queens we will graft. We keep records about each hive's performance specifically designed for each trait to be evaluated. As much as possible, our evaluations are conducted under controlled conditions: each apiary is subject to the same management techniques and similar environmental conditions.
First Elimination
WINNING TRAIT: Surviving MN Winters

We use natural selection to determine which Queens have the genetics to withstand a northern winter.We are non-migratory beekeepers. We do not use artificial heat. We use only natural windbreaks. We leave our hives with ample honey stores. In Minnesota, winter typically begins in November and lasts until early April. Our winters are characterized by cold (below freezing) temperatures, commonly dipping down to -40°F for extended periods of time. Snow is the main form of winter precipitation, with an average total snowfall of 45 inches. Those hives that survive the winter are chosen to go to the next round of selection to become a breeder Queen.
Second Elimination
WINNING TRAIT: High Honey Yield

We first select the colonies that were naturally prepared for winter. From those hives, we choose the ones with the largest honey yield to go into the next round of selection. Working only with hives that have successfully over-wintered, we examine our records from the previous summer about their honey production. We select the hives that both produced the most honey and required the least amount of sugar water feed to go into winter.We only take surplus honey from hives. We record how much honey we take from each hive. Those that possess the favorable characteristic of high honey yield (120 lbs+) are chosen to go to the next round of selection.
Third Elimination
WINNING TRAIT: Low Varroa Mite Loads

We believe that our bees' mite loads are only as good as our neighbor's bees' and vice-versa.Meaning that if our neighbor's bees have Varroa Mites, our bees have Varroa Mites. This is unavoidable. We follow an integrated pest management system.

First, we implement cultural controls to maximize colony health and strength, which will minimize the risk of spreading disease and pests. Strong, healthy colonies are able to control their mite populations and reduce our need to use treatments. We use these management techniques in order to reduce hive stress and promote healthy colonies:

• Selecting Queens that demonstrate hygienic behaviors and disease resistance 
• Choosing strategic apiary locations
• Culling old combs
• Removing dead-outs
• Requeening hives throughout the summer as needed
• Placing hives in ways to reduce drifting

We monitor our hives for mites throughout the season and keep detailed records. We implement powdered sugar mite checks and/or alcohol wash mite checks in the spring and fall (click here to learn about the powdered sugar test). If the cultural controls do not keep the mite loads down below our pre-determined threshold, only then will we use chemical controls. The amount of treatment used will depend on the mite loads of each apiary.

Our preferred treatment method is oxalic acid. This is a natural acid that can be used during a brood break. If a hive in the spring or summer has unmanageable mite loads, we will requeen the colony and use a small dosage of oxalic acid when there is minimal amounts of closed brood (click here to learn about oxalic acid treatment). We also recommend Mite Away Quick Strips® for a late summer treatment. We use our records to select Queens with low mite loads. Those that do not display this trait are not incorporated into the future gene pool.
Fourth Elimination
WINNING TRAIT: Calm, gentle temperament

We record information about the hives' temperament throughout the summer. Any hive that shows signs of being overly aggressive or has a non-necessary frantic demeanor will not be considered to become a breeder Queen.
Fifth Elimination
WINNING TRAIT: A good, clean hive

We hygienic-test the colonies that have over-wintered, have high honey yield, have low mite loads, and have a good temperament. Bees that carry the hygienic trait will detect and remove diseased brood before infection can spread to the entire colony. We simulate a situation for bees to remove dead brood from the hive, and we record the amount cleaned up after 24 hours. This reveals how quickly the colony can remove disease from the hive, thus becoming less susceptible to chalk brood and foul brood. We do this by using a frame of brood from the selected hive, a 3" pvc pipe, and liquid nitrogen (click here for more information).
Winners!
Any hive, and in turn, queen that survives the rigorous tests we set out becomes a breeder queen for Bolton Bees. We graft Queens throughout the summer in order to create high-quality Starter Colonies throughout the spring, summer and fall.
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