February 22, 2023/From the Hive

Found this cool Art work on two buildings in town. As we roll into February 16, 2023, today’s temperature will be a high of 30 degrees, and yesterday most of the apiaries received at least eight inches of snow. Even with the snow storm, nearly all of our queens have began to lay eggs. I have not pulled any frames from colonies to see which queens are currently laying the most eggs, but do have some ideals based upon entrance observations & increasing number of foraging bees. This Winter has been quite cold and snowy in my opinion. Of course, Winter in CO is always a roller coaster ride of bitterly cold days mixed with beautiful warm Spring like sunny days, and some high wind fire danger warning days.

We went into this Winter with fifty hives, and still have a goal of ultimately managing around sixty hives. Since I had really good success in previous years with over wintering single nucleus’ hives, fifteen of these were single or double nucleus’. Thus far nine colonies have perished, and all of them except for two were Varroa mite load or mite related viruses that ultimately killed them. Of course, this has to do with there genetics, and the fact that they could not deal with Varroa Mites and the viruses they bring on there own without beekeepers’ intervention. I have decided this year I am going to start doing mite counts on these type of colonies, and some random mite counts on other colonies, particularly on hives that are not growing, hives that are booming, and hives that I know are genetically struggling with controlling mites on there own. My initial thoughts are to use these data points to re-queen colonies that are struggling with growth and have a high mite count that they can not keep in check on there own. If nothing else, it will give me an ideal of the likelihood of them surviving there first Winter, if I choose to do nothing. A few challenges I foresee are what about colonies that have a high mite count, but the count/mites are not negatively effecting there growth or health? What about colonies that are doomed without some intervention? Would it be easiest to just Oxalic Acid Vaporize these colonies, and if so at what cost? Perhaps, creating a treated yard for these colonies, if re-queening them doesn’t solve the equation? Could these potential bees now be used for brood factories for our TF grafted majesty’s?

Lots of beekeeper’s blame their yearly Fall/Winter losses on TF beekeepers, due to the “mite bombs we” create. However, if that is the cause, shouldn’t they count their mites & take an appropriate action? In addition, I personally never let a mite infected colony collapse and then get robbed. All I know is that the Varroa Mite & the viruses they bring are a lot easier to control for some colonies than others, so we will continue to propagate from the colonies who show they can control the Varroa Destructor on there own, and hopefully continue to grow our genetics/apiaries.

I am a little disappointed that we did not reach last year’s goal of increasing our hive numbers to fifty-five. Although, some days I still feel like how could I possibly manage another hive;) Although, the last few years I have been hiring seasonal help. This year I will need to make up for the nine losses. Which brings our total Winter losses to eighteen percent currently. Since we did not meet our hive count goal from last year, I will raise it to sixty. This year I am certain we will meet or surpass sixty colonies by focusing on more queen rearing and splitting hives that are bent on propagating themselves. In addition, I will be bringing in some additional drone genetics this year, a Cross-X from Apis Hive, pure Russians and old faithful Beeweavers. I am very excited to witness how they will adapt to my apiaries’ environment and management techniques. I will also be working on putting grafted queens, and/or cells into two frame mating queen castles again this season, as opposed to putting them right into five frame nucleus or mini colonies. The ideal here is that it I will loose less resources if the queen does not successful make it back from her mating flight. If so, I can then just combine those two frames of queen less bees to the queen right two frames next to it, by pulling the divider.

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 having more hives sometimes comes with more losses, especially if your management game is not up to par. 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.

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