Yesterday April 6th, I visited my apiary and at long last the bees were actually flying. No sign of pollen arriving but I had the most cursory of looks as I was there to see what has survived this long and lethal winter.
Yes I have had losses, no surprise there then. The reality is that all my nucs were gone by November, and I put that squarely against the disastrous mating weather. Of the units I put into winter I have lost three colonies, 30% and to my astonishment my one remaining nuc, a Langstroth is still alive.
If they thrive, and we are not yet out the woods by a country mile then I am planning on raising a few queens from that nuc as they clearly have survivor genes.
Which in turn reminds me, that with Nature having had a serious clear out of the weak lines over the Winter then it behoves us to take heed and to breed from the survivors as they are tough and we need that in this country of ours with it’s Maritime climate.
The immediate dangers are three fold. The first is still starvation. The 2nd is Spring dwindle, as in too many old winter bees now dying off in droves with not enough new bees being hatched and the population “dwindling away”. And third the queen turning into a drone layer.
Answers to these are simple. Feed to avoid starvation, and the other two are out of our control. There is as far as I know, nothing that can be done to repair a DLQ, and nothing that can be done to stop a colony from dwindling to nothing. Spring Dwindle is a symptom of a strain that is unable to cope with our climate and they are better gone to be honest. The only useful thing that might be done is to kill the queen they have and unite them to a stronger unit to give that a boost. Personally I let them go as the stress of uniting in some few hundreds of bees outweighs the “benefits” the recipient colony gets from a bunch of old dying codgers. Rough possibly but then Nature is ruthless.
Now is the time to be honest with yourself and from your survivors work out what you want to achieve and how to do it. Now is the time to be planning, and especially planning on how to raise queens from your successful stocks.
There is plenty of information on the site to help you achieve just that. By all means ask questions if you want more explanations, but I hope what I have already written is clear enough.
The season is up and running now. Good luck and full supers.