Mar 15

Winter Losses

As I wrote the previous post I know losses were high.  But until I got into the rest of the yards, I didn’t know how high. At home they weren’t too bad, but some of the out yards got hit hard.  It’s nothing like anything I’ve seen before. Everyone I’ve talked to in the state are seeing losses of 50-80%, and unfortunately mine are no different.  I got a good chance to look at the hives this week in the warm spell and many of the remaining hives are week.  I expect to loose a few more before spring really hits, but most of the remaining should survive, but won’t be ready to split for nucs come April.  The only good thing is that most of my breeding stock (Instrumentally Inseminated queens) made it.

I’ve spent the past few days trying to decide how to proceed from here.  After long consideration and several sleepless nights, I’ve decided to scale back the queen rearing significantly this year to rebuild and concentrate on the breeding stock.  I simply don’t have the bees for mating nucs and financially bringing in outside hives just isn’t an option.  It’s depression and I just want to go outside and scream, but I’ve got to deal with the hand I have.

Some Observations:

I haven’t spent much time looking at the dead outs yet as I’ve been concentrating on the live ones.   I can’t say if it’s this CCD that is all over the news.  Only one hive ‘dissapeared’ as described, and that was back in October.  There were also only a few that outright starved (we had a very poor honey year and I ended up doing a lot of feeding in the fall).  Most so far seem to have smaller than normal clusters and appear to have starved surrounded by honey.  Possibly caught in this last cold spell we had.  I’ve talked to several people who’s hives were alive before the cold snap,  but then lost around half.  My hunch is that it is due to lack on nutrition or nutritional stress.  They seem to have little pollen and haven’t begin raising brood like they normally would.  Hives in the latter part of last year had trouble building up as well.  Some others have noticed that bees going on cleansing flights over the winter (on warmer days) didn’t seem to return.  I also saw a lot of dysentery, someting I usually don’t see in more than 1 or 2 hives at most.  All this (and more) makes me lean towards a pollen deficency as it reduces overwintering success, health, increases sensitivity to pesticides (herbicides, etc.).

Overall, my the bees at home did the best (I did open feed pollen substitute in the fall), and The II queens did well.  The 2 yards that had the larger losses last year (though it wasn’t high), were nearly decimated this year. 

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  1. Al Cascaddan

    We had a 23% loss this past winter. I can say most starved as there was not as much as a tea cup of honey left in any dead out. I blame most of it to the monsoon like fall we had. It started raining in mid Sept nearly no stop which killed the golden rod flow. In early Oct we got freezing rain and snow for a week which killed the wild aster Flow. Yes we fed heavy, but have been told by Roger Hoopengarner Former prof. at MSU that they couldn’t really store it. Also the weather being on the mild side I feel kept the bees active so they used more food than normal. Lost one of the NWC colonies which is cause sadness as that colony had looked so good during the first part of Sept check and was still alive in late Febuary when we started our feeding program again.


  2. Cheryl

    Do you think it’s possible that the pollen/honey from hybrid or bioengineered crops is affecting the bees’ immune systems?


  3. Tim Arheit

    It’s possible GMO had some impact, but it would be hard to say. I would have expected that type of thing to show up sooner, and while it is widespread, it still missed some areas with the same crops. Latest news from the experts is still that everything is still suspect, though queen genetics and corn syrup (one possible GMO connection) have ‘virtually’ been rulled out.

    I’d still have to say the biggest part was simply weather added to the other stresses in the hive.


  4. Eric

    Man I was going to buy a 60lb bucket from you for my mead. Hope this doesn’t drive the price up above what I can pay. Wish I didn’t have to wait till April. I’m completely out of honey. Hope everything works out.

  5. Eric

    I ment August : p

  6. Tim Arheit

    I’m not expecting any significant price changes. A small change, yes, but mostly related to generally increased costs of running the business (gas, jars, shipping, equipment, etc.) and not really due to the loss. So far things are looking pretty good. Weak hives are slowly recovering and the package bees I brought in to make up for some of the loss are looking really good. Still have a ways to go, so only time will tell, but I’m hopeful.

  7. Robert Buntine

    Where are you fellows operating from? Which state? What normally flowers at this time of the year?
    Is winter feeding always required ?

  8. Tim Arheit

    We are near Lima, Ohio (Halfway between Toledo and Dayton along I-75). Right now we are seeing a lot of tree (wild and fruit tree) and a lot of wildflower. Quite a bit seems to be blooming as they are ignoring all the dandelions. Wild raspberries and roses should be blooming in just a few weeks.

    Most years we don’t have to feed for the winter. A few light hives may need some feeding, but most will not. Last year was very unusual in that nearly all hives needed some feeding.

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