THE FOLLOWING IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. MY BEEKEEPING METHODS MAY OR MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU.
The past 10 days of below zero temperatures has put our central Wisconsin bees under a good deal of stress. Any hives infected with a lot of varroa mites and the associated viruses will have had a tough time coping do to a lower bee population and smaller cluster size. My records from previous years show the demise of most hives occurs after a below 0 F cold snap. After the many below zero nights in the last ten days it was with a good bit of trepidation that I went out and checked on the status of my hives. Listening with a stethoscope through the upper winter entrance (also acts as a moisture vent) I hoped to hear the comforting hum of the bee cluster warming themselves.
Prior to this cold snap my hive survival was at an excellent 94%. After this 10 day cold snap the survival rate has dropped to 88% with the demise of several more hives. It looks like another 3 or 4 below zero nights yet to go before a slight warmup.
In the next few days I will be checking each hive. This involves a quick removal of the outer and inner covers to assess their food situation. I try to do this on a windless day. I fully expect the bee cluster will have moved from the lower to the upper brood chamber in all hives. I will add additional emergency food (sugar discs) to any hives that look in need. Total time the hive is open is usually less than 30 seconds. I will be repeating this procedure every two weeks until spring. Although I don’t like the thought, I suspect I will have further losses yet this winter.
Here are a few other tidbits about my apiary as of today.
-Survival of Ankle Biter hives is 100% so far. 10 of 11 hives are 1st year queens.
-Survival of Saskatraz hives is also 100% so far. All 1st year queens.
-Russian hives are at 85%. All but one Russian hives lost had 2nd year queens.
-Survival of package queen (California Italians?) hives is 67%. All 1st year queens.
-Wrapped hive survival is at 84%, while unwrapped hives are at 91%.
At this point, other than the occasional addition of emergency food, beekeeping is pretty much a waiting game until warmer weather arrives in March. Cold weather adapted queens seem to do better in our Wisconsin weather.