We have passed the Winter Solstice, so most queens in the apiaries will have slowly began to lay small patches of eggs. It is still a little early, calendar wise, to pull frames to see which queens are currently laying the most eggs. However, the Winter so far has been a rollercoaster ride of bitterly cold days mixed with beautiful warm sunny ones, and of course some high wind warnings.
Going into this Winter our hive numbers were the same as last years, and we did not hit our fifty-five hive count goal! Although, some days I feel like how could I possibly manage another hive;) We went into this Winter with fifty colonies, but twelve have perished since then. Three of the colonies were late cutouts, and even though we transferred the queen while relocating the colonies, none of them made it. Most likely because they just didn’t have enough time to regroup before the first extended cold period. Several of the other lost colonies had to small of a cluster to move to the honey frames around them. This was due to mites weakening the Winter bee population. Another hand full of the perished colonies had no cluster of bees at all in their frames or on the bottom board. Again, mostlikely 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 a little disappointed that we did not reach last year’s goal of increasing our hive numbers to fifty-five. However, this year I will also need to make up for the twelve losses. Which brings our total Winter losses to twenty four percent. This is the highest percentage we have ever had, so it is a little concerning, because we have apparently been spoiled in past years.
Since we did not meet our hive count goal from last year, I will keep it the same. This year I am certain we will meet or surpass fifty-five colonies by focusing on more queen rearing and splitting hives that are bent on propagating themselves. In addition, I will be bringing in some new queen genetics this year that are “mite maulers” and “mite ankle biters” from New River Apiaries, so I am very excited to witness how they will adapt to my apiaries’ environment and management. I am also working on getting a hold of some treatment free Russian queens from Revis Russian Apiaries, but currently have not heard back from them.
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 beats our highest percentage ever, which was twenty percent. However, I am confident we are working with good genetics and I am not discouraged, but determined to keep bees alive and productive off of mite treatments.