Well, here I am writing another post warning people about another unscrupulous business. And so soon! Of course, it must be because I’m nine months pregnant and have a hundred better things to do…
Most beekeepers I have met in person so far in my bee tending career have been absolutely lovely. I have had a few transactions over the years buying bees and equipment and everyone has been the epitome of helpful and honest. Then I decided this spring to buy a nuc from Mr. Paul Petersen of Red Queen Apiaries. Here is my horror story:
If you follow my blog you may know that I am trying my darndest to be a treatment free beekeeper. This doesn’t mean I throw my bees into a hive and ignore them until fall. I follow a very intensive integrated pest management program where I am constantly checking mite levels with sugar rolls, treating with sugar dustings and controlling mite levels with drone brood trapping, screened bottom boards, brood breaks and small cell comb. I keep very detailed records of mite counts, mite kills, colony health and progress. I just so far have not had to resort to any harder treatments such as oxalic acid, formic acid, thymol or agaricides.
Since I had been hearing more and more about the success that beekeepers in my area were achieving with hygienic and VSH queens, I really wanted to get some of these genetics into my apiary. For those who don’t know, hygienic bees are very good at detecting mites, diseases or issues within the brood cells and cleaning them out. VSH bees are very good at grooming varroa mites off of each other. They are different, but both types are better able to deal with varroa infestations than a standard hive. There is currently a program at the local university here (UBC) where hygienic queens are being bred with great success.
Lo and behold, I see a local online ad from Paul offering UBC hygienic queens for $45 and nucs for $220. I decide to inquire, and am told that the queens will be ready later in May, but the nucs will be ready in a few weeks. I ask if the nucs come with hygienic queens and he responds that they do not come with the hygienic queens from UBC (University of British Columbia), but that they ARE hygienic.
All right, I thought. That sounds good enough for me. I also asked him if the nucs were 4 frame or 5 frame. He responded that they were 4 frames. Three frames of brood (and bees) and a frame of honey. So far so good, sounds pretty standard. So I sent him my $100 deposit.
Then things started to get weird. I knew that hygienic bees didn’t necessarily mean treatment free bees, so I asked him what his treatment regimen was. No answer. Then the three week mark rolled around and I asked when my bees would be ready. I was told in another 2 to 3 weeks. What? Well, ok. The nectar flow was in full swing and I wanted to get my new bees going but I guess I had to wait.
I then get an email two weeks later asking me to call him. I did and he told me my bees would be ready for pickup the next day, I just had to drive 30 minutes to the pickup location in Nanoose Bay. He said he would email me the exact address the following day but that it was near a landmark gas station. All right, I said, see you at 6pm tomorrow.
The next day dawns and I’m excited to finally get my new bees home. I begin emailing Paul around noon to request the pickup address since I haven’t heard from him. I email over and over. Then I start calling and leaving messages. Finally 5:30pm rolls around and I have to leave if I want to arrive on time. We drive 30 minutes to the gas station and park. I continue to call and leave messages, by this time getting very annoyed.
He finally calls me back and says, “The pickup is tomorrow.” What? I tell him he told me the pickup was today. He says, “Oh sorry, I must have thought yesterday was today”. Seriously? Then he goes on to tell me he’s getting his bees inspected tomorrow so how could he possibly sell them today? Apparently my mind-reading skills didn’t pick up on that important fact. What was I thinking. We drive home.
After arriving home beeless, I email to ask him to please just drop the bees off at my house, which is no more than 5 minutes out of his way, since he is coming from Cobble Hill and since he has just wasted an hour of my time. He agrees, and tells me I need to get a deposit ready for the nuc box. I respond that I have a hive ready to put the bees in and can do it immediately, thus returning his nuc box right away. So far so good… Right?
So, it’s 6pm the next day and Paul arrives with one of his helpers. I show him to the backyard where the hive is waiting and he begins unpacking the bees. He removes two frames of brood and bees and a frame of honey, then he takes out an empty drawn comb and says it’s a fresh comb for the queen to lay in. That’s odd. I thought we agreed upon three frames of brood. I have boxes and boxes of empty drawn frames, I don’t need to buy another one for $55. I should have said something about it at the time but for some reason I didn’t.
Then, sensing he was not an entirely honest businessman, I asked him again if the bees were hygienic and what their treatment schedule was. He responds that no, technically they’re not hygienic but you know, they’re good bees. They’re fine. Still no elaboration on treatments.
Now I was getting upset. I told him I specifically wanted hygienic bees because I was trying to be treatment free, and that’s what I thought I was buying. Well, apparently that was the stupidest thing I could have possibly said.
For the next solid half hour I was laughed at, ridiculed, interrogated, debased and basically told how ignorant and unscientific I was in about a dozen different ways by wanting to be treatment free. I was told that it was impossible, that it was a “fad” that young people were caught up in, that my research skills and experience were insufficient, that the experienced treatment free beekeepers that I followed were scam artists and assholes just trying to sell me bees, that hygienic bees basically didn’t exist, that I was in effect just infecting everyone else’s bees around me and that I was doomed to fail. To top it all off his lackey called me over and asked me if my dog got sick, would I refuse to take it to the vet? It was an absolutely horrible experience and I could not get the two of them to leave my yard fast enough. To Paul’s credit he did begrudgingly say that I could pick up a free hygienic queen later on in the season.
As soon as they left, I shot him an email saying that he had promised me both a hygienic queen and three frames of brood, and I wanted the replacement queen when they were available as well as a refund of $55, 25% of what I had paid for the nuc. No response.
Three days go by and my phone starts ringing. It’s the bee inspector, saying a beekeeper has called her saying that my hives are diseased and she needs to check them. Well now, I wonder who that could be? She shows up later that day and I tell her the story of the nuc purchase. She checks my hives and says they are perfectly fine, then she checks the brand new nuc. I am told, “It’s not the worst nuc I’ve ever seen, but it’s close”.
Doing business with Paul earned me a retaliatory visit from the bee inspector
Yeah. So there you have it. Mr. Paul Petersen of Red Queen Apiaries in Cobble Hill, BC. He is on the board of directors for the Cowichan Beekeeper’s Club and he even used to be the president. I definitely recommend staying far, far away from this dishonest, rude and vindictive man and his bees.