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Sub-Standard Nuc

 
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 2:28 pm    Post subject: Sub-Standard Nuc Reply with quote

Hi. I am a back yard bee keeper of several years. This year due to the overly harsh winter we had here in North Central Indiana, for the first time, I lost my hive. I have since picked up an 8 frame hive to start over. Last week, I picked up a nuc of locally raised bees from a supplier about 1 hr north of me. The nuc colony, by my eye is sub-standard (detailed in the email letter I wrote them below). After letting them settle in for 1 week. I checked today and was disturbed to see clear sign of a chalk brood infestation. I wrote them a letter today expressing my dissatisfaction. The letter is below. I would love to hear your input on this matter.

**pics added below**

Hello,

Last weekend I picked up a 5 frame Nuc from your establishment. I disappointed to say that I think it was of poor quality. I noticed immediately that the brood pattern was quite spotty, not at all what it should be for a healthy queen / hive. Also there was very little in the way of honey/pollen in the two frames flanking the brood. I set up the bees in their new 8 frame hive and let them settle in for week before disturbing them. Upon inspection it is quite clear that brood is experiencing a chalk brood infection. It level of infection seems to be rather high, and could be the reason for the spotty brood pattern. Selling sub-standard nucs at the price point you are asking borders on shady. I am not exactly sure what you are able to do at this point, but I would like to hear from you regarding this matter.


Regrettably,

Ian Thompson


Last edited by IanT on Mon Jun 23, 2014 11:40 am; edited 1 time in total
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biobee
Site Admin


Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1051
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you are completely within your rights to ask for a refund or replacement. Suppliers should not be sending out diseased colonies under any circumstances.
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do not feel in any way that a chalk brood infestation could have gotten to such levels in a week unless it was something in their apiary already. I am using a brand new hive, and brand new frames. Nothing has been introduced on my end and I have never had problems with chalk brood before.
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jumbleoak
Scout Bee


Joined: 03 Aug 2010
Posts: 295
Location: UK, England, Kent

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why don't you go and talk with them?
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jumbleoak wrote:
Why don't you go and talk with them?


Well they are over an hour away, and I did just write them a letter immediately after my first hive inspection yielded very strong evidence of a chalk brood infestation.
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jumbleoak
Scout Bee


Joined: 03 Aug 2010
Posts: 295
Location: UK, England, Kent

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe you will get better resolution by driving for one hour (which you have obviously already done before) and talking to them, rather than writing a letter of complaint - unless you have aready decided they are rip-off artists. How well do you know them? Do you need to confront or discuss?
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe, and if it comes to that, maybe I will, but time is valuable and so is gas. A polite letter explaining the situation, I thought, would be a good way to open communication about this situation and leave me a "paper" trail of how I made a good faith effort for these individuals to resolve the issue.
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stevecook172001
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Jul 2013
Posts: 443
Location: Loftus, Cleveland

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the sounds of it, you are well within your rights to be asking for a refund or some other reparation; perhaps in the form of a new colony. You may well be right, also, that their selling of an infected colony is evidence of possibly shady dealings. However, I might have been inclined to have left the insinuation of shadiness till the second letter should the need have arisen for a second letter. That is to say, I would have given them the face-saving opportunity, in the first letter, to make good the current situation.

Most people, even shady people, don't generally consider themselves as shady and they will become defensive when accused of it. Instead, they tend to construct narratives that help them to morally justify their actions to themselves as much as to others. That being the case, I have often found that people will be more likely to make good their mistakes if they are given the opportunity to do so while not losing face. If, on the other hand, after being given such an opportunity, someone still chooses to be dishonourable then they are owed no such courtesy and the gloves can come off with impunity.

Having said all of the above, maybe all I am observing here is a cultural difference in the way we deal with retailers and my English reticence vis a vis straight-talking is colouring my view. Sometimes, there's nothing wrong with saying it how you see it from the off.
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevecook172001 wrote:
However, I might have been inclined to have left the insinuation of shadiness till the second letter should the need have arisen for a second letter. That is to say, I would have given them the face-saving opportunity, in the first letter, to make good the current situation.


Yeah, you are probably right about that. I was searching for a way to sound as pizzed as I am about the situation. I am not sure if you know how much nucs are going for in the states right now, and I am not sure how much they are going for in the UK...But $190 for a nuc that is diseased and weak is not okay. Prices have gone through the roof and I could not even get a package last year until june, so I skipped it, rolled over my "store credit" with these people and added enough to get a "Minnesota Hygienic" local nuc. Which, given what I know now, I should have taken my package and run...
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Smorning
Foraging Bee


Joined: 20 Aug 2013
Posts: 150
Location: Faversham Kent UK

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In UK supplier would replace or provide a partial refund generally if you decided keep the colony to cover cost of requeening and loss of production. If the company does not respond I think a call would be better than writing in the first instance as general beekeeping folks are reasonable and talking it through is better in my view. I had a nuc that failed this year and was given a complete replacement so here's hoping you get it sorted and have a great beekeeping year after this early setback.
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Trip
Foraging Bee


Joined: 19 Mar 2010
Posts: 127
Location: USA, New York, Westchester

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What about picking up the phone and calling them. I have found that a polite phone call leads to quicker resolution and is harder to ignore than a letter. I also always assume the person on the other end is honest and interested in doing what's right until proven otherwise, which makes the conversation friendlier and less confrontational.
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are some pics from the hive, both in the frame and at the bottom of the hive where the mummies are.


https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/381767/DSC03399.JPG

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/381767/DSC03400.JPG

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/381767/DSC03402.JPG

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/381767/DSC03403.JPG

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/381767/DSC03404.JPG
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not having had chalk broad in any of my hives, at least not at levels I detected, I would like your opinions as of the relative severity of what you see here.
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 2:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spoke on the phone today and explained my observations. It was a pleasant conversation. The woman on the phone stated they inspect everything before it goes out and there was no disease and what I was seeing was not chalk brood mummies, but rather wax flakes from robbing. I sent her the links to the pictures above, which I feel is pretty strong evidence against the "wax flake theory". We shall see.
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was the response from the bee keeper:

Dear Ian, Respectfully, I do see a small sign of chalk brood (under magnification), but not a severe infestation. I have seen other beekeeper's photos of a severe chalk brood infestation where the cells are half full of it. Ian you are seeing spotty brood because when I loaded it into that nuc box the frames were completely full of capped brood. A lot of your capped brood has emerged and the queen will lay it full again and begin the cycle all over again. Hope that helps! Thanks Carrie
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How to proceed?
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ValBee
Nurse Bee


Joined: 03 Apr 2013
Posts: 26
Location: UK, MIDDX

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Make it clear that an infection no matter how small is not acceptable to you and you would like a replacement of a clean brood or a refund. Tell them if it had a note saying small amount of infection you would not of purchased it. Any infection makes it a high risk and unfit, it wasn't advertised so it's a not what you agreed to buy. If you bought a car with an oil leak it would be returned right.
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biobee
Site Admin


Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1051
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those are not wax flakes on the floor, but look like pulled larvae, which may be chalk brood.

I would get those bees looked at by an inspector, as some of those larvae in cells look suspicious to me.

If it turns out they are sending out diseased nucs, the inspector has the legal clout to do something about it; otherwise, they will reassure you that all is well.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1569
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My bees have chalk brood and I would say that was a moderate infection without need of a magnifying glass, especially if those mummies are from a 5 frame nuc with only 3-4 frames of brood over the period of a week with perhaps many also having been deposited outside the hive during that time. Of course, as with anything appearances, especially in a photo, can be deceptive.
Personally I don't consider chalk brood a big problem. My bees have always had it and probably always will, but then I live in a damp area. That said, I didn't pay good money for them.... or any sort of money for that matter, so I accept them as they are and they live with it. If I had been crazy enough to fork out that much money for some bees and they looked like that, I too would be rather disgruntled.

For info, 5 frame nucs here run at about £200, so yours would probably be considered cheap by our standards, although I'm not sure what the current exchange rate is. Still, if you were buying what you expected to be a healthy colony, then you have a right to be dissatisfied with what you got and if those pictures were taken a week or so after you received it, then it clearly came with the infection as the spores that infected those mummies would be in the cells when they was capped.

Replacing the queen will not necessarily sort the problem as the comb and hive will now be contaminated with spores. To my mind, return them for a refund or negotiate a discount and be prepared to live with it.

I think Phil's suggestion of getting an inspector to look at it is a good one, if the service is free in your area, but not sure I would spend more money on the problem. Maybe suggesting to the supplier that you have had other experienced beekeepers look at it and they support your diagnosis may encourage them to sort it rather than risk adverse "word of mouth" publicity. The internet is a very powerful medium!

My view is that there is a big demand for bees right now(beekeeping is fashionable at the moment) and that can lead to unscrupulous practises......
One of the sad things in this country is that new Natural beekeepers are starting to create a market for packages (previously unheard of in the UK) because they are not patient enough to wait for (or feel they are not experienced enough to catch) a swarm, or are intimidated by the prospect of carrying out a chop and crop on a nuc to populate their TBHs. Also, once supplying bees becomes big business, the whole process becomes about profit and the interests of the bees themselves becomes a very low priority.

Sorry but it's one of my pet hates, which is why I do my best to supply swarms free of charge to anyone who wants to get started. It's the only way I can see to counteract this market and if everyone I supply bees to, also supplies swarms to other people, then (with my bees' love of swarming :roll) we could soon flood the market and knock the bottom out of it.

Anyway, hope you get something sorted with these people. I'm not saying that they are unscrupulous as, there may have been no obvious sign of infection when they sold it.... the brood would still be too young and it may be that the spores come from some 2nd hand hives or even contaminated foundation they bought in, but if there was no sign of it a week previous, then there must have been significant exposure from something, to show that level of infection so quickly in my opinion.

Regards

Barbara
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biobee
Site Admin


Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1051
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Barbara's dislike of packages, especially those masquerading as nucs, taking advantage of the lack of a legal definition of what a nucleus colony should be.

We have had a phenomenal year for swarms down here in the south west - notwithstanding the odd few going inexplicably queenless - and I have also helped a number of beginners get started with free swarms. I intend to establish some top bar nucs to overwinter and hope to have some in the spring to sell at a reasonable price to local beekeepers only.

It would be good if local groups all over the country could get together and do some queen rearing and make up nucs this way, and then - as Barbara suggests - we could undermine the profiteers as well as localizing bee breeding.
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