April 2022 Blog: Beekeepers across Ontario are reporting major winter losses this year, varroa mites being the main suspect. Unfortunately, I'm incredibly sad to report we lost all of our colonies. So, what happened?
Firstly, I'm a beekeeper with 12+ years of experience. I am by no means an expert, but neither am I a newbie. I've always followed best, sustainable beekeeping practices and have been a member (past vice president and current board member) of our local beekeepers' guild for many years.
I suspected trouble in late fall, when two colonies suddenly failed. One simply absconded with the queen and all the bees, leaving their winter food stores behind. The other was losing it's population so we combined it with a stronger hive. For some background info, all of our colonies are monitored for mites through the season, and were treated in spring and early fall. They were fed sugar water in September after the honey harvest, and all the hives had plenty of honey to get through the winter. They were seemingly strong, healthy colonies and I was confident they were ready for whatever winter was planning to throw at them. When the nights get colder in Oct/Nov, the hives are fitted with winter wraps, ensuring there is enough ventilation to let moisture escape. In February, I noticed that only a couple of the hives looked they had any activity.. a few dead bees outside the entrances are always a good sign. Bees will clean up on warmer days by carrying out their dead, and will take short cleansing flights if possible. By March I was pretty sure only one colony was still alive, and it died by the end of the month. Heartbreaking to say the least. But, onwards and upwards. It will take time to rebuild the apiary, at least a couple years to be back to where it was. We have nucs on order, and amazing supporters rooting for the bees. Your support is appreciated, step by step the yard will be humming again.