Beekeeping has been fraught with bad news.
The battle against varroa wasn’t going so well for us. Colony collapse disorder has been wreaking havoc across the country. Beekeepers are going out of business, and the effect on our environment is yet to be fully understood.
Making chemical solutions seemed to be a good idea at first, but then we, the people, did what we always do. We abused them. We do it with cough syrup, painkillers, and now miticides.
So, the very pests we were looking to destroy became resistant to our chemicals and thrived in our beehives.
So, in 2004, we looked to Mother Nature to give us a solution, and it looks like she delivered with the Saskatraz bee. The following is our Saskaatraz Bees review.
What Are Saskatraz Bees?
Saskatraz bees are a new strain of bees that have been developed in Saskatchewan, Canada. The project was set up to come up with a strain of bees that produces high yields of honey as their primary objective.
The apiary is quite secluded, which helped maintain the results’ integrity. In addition to that, the bees found in Saskatchewan tend to make it through the winter successfully, which is an advantage for any beekeeper.
When they first started the project, the original colonies were wiped out by varroa infestation in two years. They then decided to introduce stock that is known for varroa tolerance.
Russian and German bees fit the bill quite nicely, so the Canadians collaborated with the Americans, and those particular bee races contributed to the project. This addition to the genetic pool proved to be very valuable in building resistance to the tracheal mite and tolerance to the varroa.
What resulted was the Saskatraz bees that we have come to know today.
Saskatraz Bees Traits and Characteristics
1. Honey Production
Naturally, money would be the first motivator for the project. In the U.S., the Italian bees are known for being prolific and ideal for honey production.
Most commercial beekeepers prefer the Saskatraz breeder queen traits for that reason. Since the Saskatraz breeder queens are so great at their job, this race is also fantastic for pollination services.
Pollination is about the size of the colony rather than the number of colonies. The downside of the Italian bee race is that it doesn’t winter well. The Italian bees have more brood than they can care for as they go into winter, which leads us to the second characteristic of the Saskatraz Bee.
2. Wintering Ability
Winter in Saskatchewan can be quite harsh. With temperatures getting to -22°F, the bees have learned to withstand these freezing temperatures and make it to spring. Since they survive there, they can almost make it anywhere.
Most beekeepers lose their honey bees during the winter. It’s the most common cause of colony loss for new beekeepers. Acquiring queen bees whose genetics allow them to create a colony that winters well gives you one less thing to worry about.
That also helps to save you money because feeding colonies in the winter can be costly.
3. Varroa Tolerance
We all know that varroa tolerance and resistance to the same are two different things. If only this was resistance rather than tolerance. For now, tolerance is definitely a step up. Even today, breeders continue to look for ways to increase this trait in the Saskatchewan strain.
Tolerance is evident as the worker bees show increased hygienic behavior. They are able to detect young adult bees that have been infested with mites. These are uncapped and expelled, controlling the mite population in the hive.
This increased varroa tolerance in these bees also makes the other treatment options, especially those that don’t involve chemical miticides, more effective.
4. Resistance To Brood Diseases
The Saskatraz hybrids have also been bred for their resistance to chalkbrood. Chalkbrood is caused when the bee larvae ingest the spores of a fungus called Ascosphaera apis.
If the colony is strong, the disease is manageable.
Colonies are vulnerable to the disease when temperatures drop. If you’re worried about the wintering ability of a colony, resistance to chalkbrood will be an added advantage to you.
Saskatraz Bee Pros
1. Queens Are Bred Without Chemical Miticides
Even though pharmaceutical intervention is initiated to solve a problem, it isn’t without its side effects.
The chemicals we have used to fight these pests have negatively impacted our bees’ immunity system. They now succumb to every little virus that blows their way.
These bees have been bred by natural selection. They are stronger than most of the other bee races on offer.
There’s a great shift toward the organic way of life, and breeding has not been left behind.
2. Winter Survivors
The first milestone for every new beekeeper is getting their colonies through their first winter. Bees will either starve to death, freeze to death, or will be too sick to survive the winter.
Ideally, the bees will make enough honey in the fall to get them through the winter. If not, you will be courteous enough to leave some honey behind in the hive when you harvest to take care of their needs.
As a last resort, you will have to feed them with sugar syrup at first and then a candy board when the temperature really drops. Bees have been known to die between feeding sessions.
Sometimes, the cluster is too small to keep warm, and they die while surrounded by food. The colony needs to generate enough numbers to keep warm, but not so many that their stores aren’t enough. A genetic advantage in this area can be a definite advantage for the first year of beekeeping.
3. Varroa Tolerance
This has been covered in the characteristics section, but it’s so important it deserves another mention. Since this breeding takes place without the use of pesticides, the survival of any colony heavily depends on its genetic predisposition.
Fortunately, by adding Russian and German strains, they have bred bees in Saskatchewan that clean house. This reduces the need for chemical treatments and is good for the overall health of the colony.
Saskatraz Bee Cons
Despite how many pros we’ve discussed in this Saskatraz Bees review, there is one noteworthy disadvantage that you must consider.
Capital Intensive To Breed
This is not a bee race that you are likely to graft on your own. It requires a hefty investment in infrastructure, and the specialists you will need definitely don’t come cheap.
When you need to replace your queen, you will need to order one from a supplier, and there aren’t many of them available. That’s assuming you want to maintain that strain.
Wrapping Up Our Saskatraz Bees Review (Plus Helpful Video)
If you’re a new beekeeper, this will make for a great starter package. If you’re experienced, this would be a valuable addition to the apiary.
You can learn a lot just by observing the behavior of these bees and comparing their output and resilience to disease against your other bee races. They may cost you a little more, but it is definitely a good investment.