Looking back: 2014....I had 6 hives "on the deck" all summer long. Only two HUGE / MASSIVE / UNBELIEVABLE producers. The other four just PUTTZED ALONG all summer (how do you spell PUTTZED ?) I chalked it up to WHO KNOWS what goes on in bee brains. After harvest, the largest hive dwindled to NOTHING - lost the queen - and remaining population was combined with other hives...WHO KNOWS?!?! The other producer went WAY DOWN in population and strength...but held on. Lost one more hive last fall - it was having a hard time - apparently struggling to requeen. OVERALL: 4 hives are in overwintering status.
Looking forward: 2015....I'm planning a genetic change... I'm not entirely happy with package choices. I'm GOING RUSSIAN. I have four Russian Queens ordered from COY. Due for arrival end of May. Plan A: if I have any surviving hives....I'm planning on using them / splitting them to "serve" my russian queens. Plan B: if I don't have sufficient population to split, I'm planning a split/population infusion from another beekeeper (Miksa). I have FOUR NUC boxes ready for this purpose. My thinking: starting these queens in 5 frames requires less equipment, workforce...and they're easier to keep an eye on. I've gotten one word of caution from another Russian keeper...."they'll fill your nuc box PRONTO - keep an eye out."
Of course - it's beekeeping...and a lot of FINGER CROSSING and experimentation.