> Actually, the idea of wintering nucs over on top of full hives sounds interesting, but I don't have access to the 1997 American Bee Journal (and I only have a subscription to the "other" magazine). Are Kirk's articles or discussions of his method published anywhere online? I've found very little, and what there is seems conflicting.
You are quite right, not much is available. However, he has told me that starting in April the American Bee Journal is publishing a new series of articles by him. I have the issues from 1997, but I can't put too much up without infringing on copyright. ANyway, there are some key changes since then: mainly, he stopped treating with chems. Back in 97 he was still treating to keep the bees alive. It's hard to watch your bees die!
I will try to summarize agai
Here's what normally happens in the north. I bought 12 hives from a beekeeper who has raised northern bees for years. Got em in spring and had to super up right away. These were boilers, and they made al ot of honey that year (I think it was 2001). We were collecting mites for laboratory studies, so there was NO treatment. After the goldenrod, the supers were taken off. By October, already they were crashing. (Much fewer bees in the hives, bees with shriveled wings, dead brood due to PMS). By November, they were ALL dead. This is the normal course in the north.
Now, a hundred years ago, many beekeepers in the north suffered very sever losses. They tried double walled hives, cellar wintering, etc. This is why the package bee industry was formed and why it has kept going all these years. A six month winter can kill off half or more of your colonies. The difference with varroa is that the bees were dying in the fall! But it amounts to the same thing, dwindling numbers.
Now I have recommended to people who want to keep bees without treating, to just let the bees dies out and replace with packages. The extra honey you get might even pay for the packages. But it isn't sustainable, obviously, and you keep getting bees from the south, which is not what we want. Now, I have nothing against beekeepers in the south, nor the package industry. But the stock selection should take place in the north, where bees are subjected to hard winter.
So here's the deal: you make your own increase in the summer when it is the easiest. If you have good hives, these can give up frames of brood and bees to make the nucs. If you don't want to or can't raise queens, good northern queens can easily be bought IN THE SUMMER. These nucs are allowed to build up until they are strong one story hives packed with honey. They are very unlikely to swarm because: 1) swarm season has passed. 2) hives with queens less than a year old seldom swarm. Still, if you get a heavy flow in September, you may need to put on a super.
The wintering of the nucs doesn't not have to be on top of colonies. In Kirk's article he shows pictures of single story hives stacked in piles and wrapped. There's one picture of forty singles in a big pile, in four layers! This is similar to the bee sheds of Austria. The hives there receive no special wrapping but they are all touching each other, and covered on three sides by the shed. Only the south side is exposed, and that way the sun can warm them during winter, but they are sheltered from wind and shade on the north side.
In the spring you should have enough bees to start the whole process again: building up the colonies to make honey, and make increase, and raise queens from the survivors. By the way, Kirk has strains of Russian bees that are doing well in Vermont. SO it helps to start with stock tha tshows some degree of mite resistance. There are good sources for northern and Russian stock, I am not goin gto name names.
PS. Despite what my detractors say, I am not pushing an agenda. I am trying to promote what I think is a sustainable method that closely follows the work of my heroes: A. I. Root, L. L. Langstroth, Brother Adam, and others too numerous to mention.