The Great Guarantee Debate

Should sellers offer a guarantee on stingless bee colonies?

It seems to be an accepted practice and even expected throughout the stingless bee community that Stingless bee colony sellers offer a 12 month guarantee on the colonies they sell, though many people, sellers and buyers, believe there shouldn’t be a guarantee as you don’t get a guarantee when buying a puppy, suggesting the buyer is responsible for researching and educating themselves before purchasing. I don’t think new buyers take the purchase as seriously as buying a new puppy though and don’t do much research at all, maybe only researching where to buy them from.

It may be different to buying a puppy though as that could be thought of as common knowledge and expected with something that is so common in society. Most people don’t even know we have native bees. The stingless bee industry is called an “emerging industry” so with something completely new to buyers, do sellers need to provide extra value in the purchase? I think people generally wouldn’t value their bee colony as much as a puppy. Dog owners will pay $400 to $900 per year for pet insurance to cover vet bills. Would you pay for insurance to cover replacement of your stingless bee colony in the first year? Could the seller offer extra cover for an extra cost at the time of purchase?

While there are no regulations for this, currently the expected standard in the industry is a 12 month guarantee. Sellers generally give a 12 month guarantee because they want the customer to have a good experience with their business. Most sellers do provide good after sales support and advice and with the sale provide plenty of advice and info for the care of the colony and you will usually find a large FAQ section on a sellers website.

It can be very difficult to diagnose the cause of failure in a stingless bee colony if you just notice it dead one day and has a pest infestation. No one will know if it didn’t requeen, was cooked in the sun, ran out of resources or was poisoned with the pests coming later.

The most likely cause of failure that the seller could be responsible for is failure to supply a queen and the colony doesn’t create a new queen then the colony slowly dies out over months. If the seller can show there’s a queen, lots of brood and bees should that be all they need to provide and no guarantee after that? Once you buy it then it’s all up to you not to kill it, like buying a puppy.

One problem could be sellers supplying very weak colonies. These could be recently established colonies from splits, eductions, transfers or rescues. If a weak colony is sold to someone that has no idea and it dies out four months later, who is responsible? The buyer was just excited to get a new colony because they’re hard to get and paid $600 for it but didn’t know what they were getting. Should the buyer have educated themselves and not accepted it?

There’s a lot of different scenarios to consider and most suppliers would just try to fix the problem by giving a 12 month guarantee though a lot of failures would be out of the sellers control, yard position for sun and shade, resources, pests etc. The last two years have been bad for the bees with regard to weather and we have lost a lot of colonies and sellers have taken a big hit.

Could there be alternatives? A shorter guarantee or none at all? If there was no guarantee but the colony being sold had to meet a quality standard? Extra cover for extra cost? At the moment it’s up to the individual supplier to decide what kind of support they give.

Maybe we need guidelines of what is expected from the seller and what is expected from the buyer?

How is any of this implemented anyway? The debate continues…

No matter what the current status is, buyers need to research and improve their knowledge around stingless bees before purchasing and there is plenty of educational material out there with books and website info.

Start here:

Hivecraft - Australian Native Bee Supplies

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