February turned out to be COLD, snowy and windy.. an Iowa winter at its finest. Not much to report about February, I made the trek to the outyards and checked sugar reserves. Found half a dozen hives that were finished, so I stole their sugar for other hives..
March came in with a roar, stormy and cold.. but then rapidly turned around on itself and it has been in the 60's.. Tomorrow, the 13th of March, which also happens to be Friday the 13th is supposed to be 70 degrees.. The bees are flying, the snow has melted, and I have been in the hives to check on them.. At this time, it looks like I have lost 12 of 41 hives.
When I got home and checked the hive number/ID, I was not so surprised to learn that 8 of the 12 hives lost were packages. Two were hives I attempted to winter with NO upper ventilation, and two were Nucs I had purchased last spring.. That leads me to the next revelation.. ALL of my local hives/queens/colonies are alive and thriving at this point... 4 of them overwintered nucs with queens I raised last year.
To me, this answers the question about genetics and overwintering with no room for error. This is the third time I have attempted to winter bees from packages.. With the same results. I might try to change my methods, but 90% of the nucs I bought last spring survived, and 100% of my own colonies survived, barring of course the two I personally killed in attempting a different method of wintering.. The center of both clusters was a ball of ice... Which leads me to the conclusion that there is a difference between MY bees and the bees that have come in the packages.
As always, I STILL advocate buying packages very strongly, then putting a locally proven and adapted queen in to replace the package queen once that hive is getting well established.
In other news.. my outyards will retain the sugar cakes at least until the maples are blooming. But here in the home yard, the bees are already being fed;
Syrup and Pollen sub are out, so these hives can begin building up..
The danger is that we may still get a prolonged cold snap, in which case my chances of losing more hives goes way up.. the bees will not leave the brood to cluster, and will freeze right where they are, so this is a risk. If it works, I have super strong colonies to split. If it fails, I will lose more production hives to replace the losses. Keep your fingers crossed!
Hang in there, Spring is rolling up on us fast! I hope all of your losses combined were less than mine!
Keep your bees happy!
OOOH! Almost forgot!
Oxalic Acid is now approved for use in a hive for controlling Varroa Mites. I will post more about this under;