Only eleven days until Spring! This Winter in CO has been the driest and warmest I have been around to witness. Hopefully, the weather pattern will change, but currently the extended forecast looks like much of the same. What I don’t want to happen this year is for everything to start blooming and a Spring storm brings in snow and freezing temperatures. However, at this point the bees and I will take any moisture we can get. One of the two nucleus colonies that were blown over last Winter in those 90+ mph winds lived on to make a bumper crop and I propagated from their majesty to create additional colonies. The other one unfortunately did not make it through till Spring.
Again, this year, rather than trying to keep them warm, I put more emphasis and energy on making sure the hives were healthy and had plenty of honey stores going into Winter. Therefore, I did some selective insulation on particular smaller colonies. I felt that these bee populations would benefit from having the extra R-Value created by the one inch foam insulation on the back and sides of their boxes.
The smallest nucleus colonies this Winter are two deeps and several of them are three deeps. I tried not to stack them taller than this based upon what happened last year. I have begun to closely monitor there weight as Winter progresses and exchange any of their empty frames with full frames of honey before Spring. I don’t want them to starve!
Going into this Winter our hive numbers were higher than last years, and we finally hit our fifty hive count goal! We went into this Winter with exactly fifty colonies, but ten have perished since then. Several of them had to small of a cluster to move to the honey frames around them. This was due to mites weakening the Winter bee population. Several of the colonies had no cluster of bees at all in their frames or on the bottom board. Again, most likely due to mites and the viruses brought on by them. Some beekeepers when they see a dead out in the middle of Winter with no cluster of bees think their hive absconded at some point. However, in my experience, it is more likely that they had been dying off for a while. Choosing to die outside of the colony to preserve the health of their sisters, and eventually once the colony is inspected there is not a bee in sight. I am pleased that we reached last year’s goal of increasing our hive numbers to fifty. However, this year I will need to make up for the ten losses. Which brings our total Winter losses to twenty percent.
Since we did meet our hive count goal from last year, I will increase it to fifty-five. This year I am certain we will meet or surpass fifty-five hives by focusing on more queen rearing and splitting hives that are bent on propagating themselves.
Once Spring arrives, I will be updating how particular hives are doing and giving an update on hive numbers. It’s definitely a numbers game, because with more hives this Winter we have had more losses. It’s our highest percent ever, typically, it’s in the twelve percent range. However, I am confident we are working with good genetics and I am not discouraged.