Coming out of the 2012-2013 winter we experienced our worst bee loss in 17 years. It was a blow to us – our operation’s honeybee survival was at stake. Coming out of the prior 10 winters our average winter loss was always between 10-20% and that was with bees which had never been treated. We made a point to make sure our hives had good daughter queens from Charlie Harper Russian queens and good daughter queens from Sue Cobey’s instrumentally inseminated Carniolan queens.
We suspended our 2013 winter nuc spring-sales and added those hives to our operation and then brought in package bees to fill things out. Later in the season we re-queened those package bees with new daughter queens from our queen rearing operation. By the end of June we were back up to our previous number of 200 hives and by the end of July we harvested a record amount of honey.
We ran an analysis from our database records for the 2012-2013 winter losses. Our losses were evenly divided between our Russian and Carniolian daughter queens. All the dead hives were populated with daughter queens from (17) mother queens which spanned the 2009 to 2012 breeding years- in each of those years we had brought in new Russian queens and also a new Carniolan breeder queen. Our hygienic testing numbers for 2009 to 2012 were always above 90% hygienic for our breeding yards.
All our hives had plenty of honey stores going into November 2012. The 2012-2013 winter was very warm with daylight hours well above 32 degrees and the night temperatures dropping below 32 degrees–there were many above 32 degree days when our bees were out flying. We had to begin feeding over 60% of our hives with 5-pound sugar bricks beginning on January 2013 since our bees were running out of stored honey.
We are happy to report that coming out of the 2013-2014 winter our Honeybee survival rate is 80%. This year we have another Sue Cobey New World Carniolan breeder arriving in May. We will not be adding any Russian queens this year since our long term goal is to rear only Carniolan queens.
What is new this year is we have ordered (3) naturally mated VSH daughter queens. They should arrive around the end of May. We will set up their hives a half-mile from our two breeding yards so their drones can add additional mite resistance to our locally produced queens. Weather permitting, we should be restarting our queen rearing operation with our first grafting session the 1st week of May.