Well the polar express has come and gone; hopefully there will be no recurrences for the remainder of the winter. By my count we have now had 9 below zero F nights this winter; the worst being -30F. On the positive side the amount of daylight has increased more than an hour since the winter solstice back in December.
They say healthy, well fed, bees can survive extreme low temperatures. I’ve worked hard at both aspects with a strong varroa control program, fall feeding and adding emergency food stores to all hives. Just prior to those two nights of -30F temperatures I went out and surveyed my hives. At that point I was still holding at the 97% survival level. But it was with more than a little trepidation that I went out today, February 1st, to check on my hives again. We can say that these extremely cold temperatures are acting to biologically winnow the weak from the strong. I guess the survivors can be truly called survivor stock.
The three amigos shared their varroa control programs from last summer during our December club meeting. All three programs were shown to be effective based on Randy Oliver’s varroa model. The results we are seeing this winter seem to agree.
So here are my results. Over the past 9 below zero nights I lost NO hives. To date 97% of my hives are still surviving! So far, I am a happy beekeeper. At this time last year my survival was only 60%. Even all 12 nucs are still alive, which totally surprised me. Beekeeper Gerard reported yesterday that all of his home hives are still alive. He also reported -36F. Wow! Beekeeper Jon has reported that 94% of his home hives are alive. So, the increased focus on mite control by all of us appears to be improving winter survival and also confirms the prediction of Randy Oliver’s varroa model.
After a brief early February thaw, I see the weather forecast has another short bout of below zero nights about a week from now, but this time for only three days and only down to -4F. There are still 2 months of winter to go, so tomorrow we will all be checking the emergency food supply in our hives.