2018 has now past us by, so I think it is appropriate to go back and look how our beekeeping year was.
January was not bad. Minus 13 to a high of 46. Average temperature was 17 degrees F. Hives were not stressed much this month.
February was cold the first half of the month and warmer the second half. Really close to January with a average temperature of 17 degrees F. The second half of February was warm so starvation issues with brood now in the colony was not a huge problem in the metro area and points south. The northern part of MN/WI is always faced with stresses of cold weather at the time of brood rearing starting up. Which is usually around mid February. Sooner if the weather has been warm.
March was a warmer month, average temperature was 32 degrees F. The last half of March had daily highs in the upper 30's and low 40's. Perfect weather for overwintered hives to start expanding their brood area. Pollen patties were being gobbled up at this point.
April the weather tanked on the first day of April, cold for a few days then a glimmer of warmth then cold and snowy through the first half of the month. Below average temperatures and high winds. Beekeepers were caught off guard. Some colonies starved, when 10 days before they looked great. The bees could not move to their honey stores and some overwintered colonies did not survive. Package bees arrived in this same time frame. Beekeepers had to scramble to get their bees in. The installation while a little unorthodox, proved that beekeepers were up to the task. Most of my customers were able to save their bees and had a good beekeeping year. The weather finally turned around on the 17th of April and 40's started to show up. There was a steady uptick in the temperature from that point on with 60's being the common theme and the last day of April was 82 degrees F. I will say that in thirty years of keeping bees this was the worst weather I have ever seen. It had been cold at times, but in April, cold is usually a one to three day event, not two weeks. Average temperature was 37 degrees F. With a range from 11 degrees to 83 degrees,
May was a warm month. It was great for colony build up. Package bees were increasing nicely. Overwintered colonies were up for divides. There was fallout from the cold spring with many overwintered colonies. Some had great populations while quite a few overwintered colonies came through the cold weaker than normal. Many beekeepers were not able to do divides, do to weak colonies. Some beekeepers did late splits in June but many beekeepers just ran their colonies the way they came out of winter. Dandelions were about a week late in the Stillwater area. The fruit bloom was delayed about a week also. Apple trees were blooming into the third week of May.
June, The Black Locust flow came a little late. This flow is usually in late May but it came in very early June. Some overwintered colonies with strong populations were able to put up a super or two of Black Locust honey. Package bees and nucs were increasing in populations. Swarming was not widespread. More than likely due to weaker than normal of some overwintered colonies. Mite levels were lower on the bees coming out of winter. The nectar flow started in late June and ended in early July. Beekeepers with strong overwintered colonies were getting great honey crops. Most package bees and nucs missed the show as their field force had not fully developed yet. By the time the package bees and nucs had good field force numbers, the nectar flow had really trailed off.
I have been told that whenever their is a prolonged cold spring, the summers nectar flow is usually poor. For most of us that seemed to be the case.
July and August hives looked good, populations were there, the only one that failed to show up for the party was available nectar. The plants were not giving it up. I looked at my colonies around the first of August and the supers were barren. Not a drop of honey in them. But mites were starting to rise and beekeepers turned to mite treatments because it was time to start to prepare colonies for winter. Most colonies did have some decent honey stores for winter by mid August.
There was a September surprise for me. most of my colonies did put up a super of Goldenrod honey. This is usually uncharacteristic of me to get Goldenrod honey. I usually get a good crop of Goldenrod honey about every ten years or so. I think the last time I got a super of Goldenrod honey was about, hmmmmm, ten years ago. Mites had built up by September, the beekeepers that treated in August and very early September were in good shape for winter. Beekeepers that waited until mid to late September may have winter survival challenges. Feeding bees was ongoing and the bees were taking it down very well.
October was a colder than average month beekeepers who waited to feed found that it was difficult to get sufficient stores into light colonies. Oxalic acid treatments were being done starting in mid October. The weather was good for treatments. Oxalic acid treatments should have helped reduce any mite remaining high mite counts. The good thing of the cooler weather was there was not much of mite transmission from colony to colony. The cool weather had the bees staying at home. We did not have much of a fall. The weather cooled off in early October and never warmed up again.
November and December while cool were good for bee survival. Not much winter stress on colonies. Beekeepers covered their colonies and wished there hives good luck and see you in February.
The weather up until now has been very good for the bees. We have not had much severe weather. There has been no deep freeze. At the moment, if the colonies have sufficient food stores, mite treatments were applied at the right time and mite loads were low going into winter, the odds are very good that there will be good survival of colonies around the upper Midwest this winter.