After having great loss in my nuc yards this winter, I was very nervous about going out and seeing some of the full size colonies. Although the nucs were sitting next to full size hives that seemed good, suggesting it was the cold that wiped out the nucs, I was still laying awake at night worrying about the full size colonies.
So this past Sunday, I had two local beekeepers, both beemaster members, assist me to visit one of the areas I pollinate. This what we found....
1) 15 alive 6 dead
2) 19 alive 5 dead
3) 9 alive 2 dead
4) 13 alive 4 dead
5) 7 alive 4 dead
6) 2 alive 1 dead
7) 8 alive 5 dead
8.) 2 alive 9 dead
At least 18 of the 36 dead, were completely ravaged by wax moths. One hive was a massive yellow jacket nest. An indication that half my winter losses were actually dead hives last summer or fall, and were not really winter killed hives. So if I had been doing my job, I should of combined and probably would of saved at at least 36 boxes of comb. Not counting the hives that died last fall, my winter loss stands at 19.3% Not bad for hives I do not treated and had not fed, and were sitting in orchards.
Site #8 was a test site for queen evaluations. I expected no loss at all. All had ample food stores and looked great upon inspection in September. Why my losses were so high is unknown. Maybe a case for the location being exposed to chemicals as it is an isolated yard from the others. If I further subtract the 9 hives from this site, which I feel had something effect the kill rate, the rest of the yards would be at 10.9% loss.
Sites 1 through 7 are permanent yards in apple orchards. I had not visited them since last August.
This was a year where colony size mattered. My nucs had a poor fall flow and poor brood buildup. This no doubt caused small clusters. And this year, although we lacked any real snowstorms in this area, was a brutally cold winter. Small clusters that overwintered in years past, were knocked out.
I'll need to reevaluate my operation when it comes to overwintering nucs. Was it the cold, or the lack of a good fall nectar flow resulting in poor brood production? Would wrapping of helped? So many questions. Every year I tweak something. I'll look at what I could of done based on what I see now. I guess I should start by looking at my hives going into winter in this particular area. And my nucs may need to be wrapped or 'bundled" instead of stand alone units.
I'll be checking another group this coming week. If I do no worse than what I found on Sunday, I'll be pleased.