Happy New Year, I always like to try to sum up the previous year to reflect on how the season progressed. The good and the bad.
January was pretty much a normal month. Warm to start out then a couple weeks of very cold weather with warmer temps to finish the month. Maybe a little warmer than average.
February was cold from the 8th to the 15th. This did cause some colony losses to some beekeepers. There was brood in the colonies and starvation occurred when bees could not reach honey due to tight clusters because of the cold. Beekeepers using winter patties did fare better. The winter patties provided emergency food during this cold snap until the weather warmed up. February is also the time when beekeepers find dead colonies of bees usually killed by viruses brought on by mites. I myself lost several very nicely populated colonies to viruses.
March bought normal to above normal temperatures. Overwintered colonies had great weather to increase their populations. Pollen patties and feed help bolster the overwintered colonies.
April started cool but warmed rapidly with above normal temperatures. Packages arrived and the weather was good for installing and for the bees to get a good start. Overwintered colonies continued to build with colony strength looking very good. Divides started a little early with the warm weather bringing up populations a little sooner.
May, the above normal temperature brought the spring bloom in faster than normal. We were about two weeks ahead of schedule. The fruit bloom started in early May. Many areas had a freeze in mid May severely damaging the fruit blossoms around MN and WI. Packages were building nicely and overwintered colonies were starting to swarm in late May. The Black Locust bloom was early. Beekeepers that have a large amount of Black Locust trees were able to get several supers of honey by the early June.
June the temperatures were at or slightly warmer than normal. The main nectar flow started two weeks early, Overwintered colonies put up honey, package bees and nucs still were not up to good populations yet. When the packages and nucs were ready for honey collection in late June the nectar flow was pretty much over. Swarming occurred from lack of a nectar flow in some areas and that followed us through the summer.
July and August were pretty much average temperature wise. There was no Basswood honey around the state. This hurt many new beekeepers preventing them from getting any excess honey this year. Many large commercial beekeepers depend on Basswood honey to get a good crop of honey and they were were hurt with the Basswood flow no show. Some beekeepers did get decent crops off of hay fields and ditchweed flowers. There was never any hot weather this summer. Good nectar flows need heat to produce good honey crops, the heat was lacking this year. Over wintered colonies that were not being monitored for mites, started crashing during this time. Splits that were done off of untreated overwintered colonies were showing stress from high mite counts. These failing colonies contributed to passing mites to other beekeepers colonies. Even package bees that initially had very low mite counts, saw suddenly very high mite counts do to this passing on of Varroa from some unwary beekeepers. Mite treatments were put on in August with good success. Some beekeepers that had a high mite count in August, even though they treated, their bees were so damaged they ended up not making it to late fall.
September and October, were warm months. Mite treatments were going on. The early mite treatments kept the mite numbers down. As beekeepers treated in late September and early October in many cases the mites had reached too high of a level. So their survival over the winter is not assured. October was very warm making Oxalic Acid treatments difficult. Many colonies had brood late into the season producing more mites and eating stores. Some beekeepers were feeding late into October which made brood and mite population increase in the colony. This also made Oxalic Acid not very effective on these colonies.
November came warmer than normal with many beekeepers not being able to do Oxalic Acid treatments until mid November. Normally we would like to have this done by the third week of October. Time will tell if this helped colonies treated later than we wanted to. Winter came on like a flip of a switch. Cooler weather and snow finally came in late November and December.
My summery, while we have no control over the weather, we do have control of our mite population. Monthly testing of colonies will help keep the beekeeper aware of the overall health of a colony. Mite treatments are loosely based on time of year, but sometimes the beekeeper needs to intercede if the mite counts creep to a higher level before the normal treatment times. Mite testing is easy to do and with more experience, it will become a simple task. Keeping mite levels at the proper mite count is the key to being a successful beekeeper.
New beekeepers that just started, you knew nothing of this beekeeping process at the start of the season. You started with new equipment, fed and managed your colonies. The bees thrived and at the end of the season there was a strong colony to winter. I would call that success. Cheers to the new beekeepers.