I think I remember a moment of confidence, perhaps a year ago, that the toughest year for me was behind me. I was definitely wrong! It turns out that the confluence of events that impacted my life in 2013 continued to have a significant impact in 2014, unfortunately for my bees. But, I remain ever optimistic and hope that I have learned more about how to manage my time between family, work and my hobbies. Only time will tell…
For the past year, I lost a significant number of hives. I am 100% sure that this was due to my lack of management (some hives simply went months without any inspections.) I firmly believe that the primary risk to the honey bee is its proclivity to swarm. This risk is, of course, outweighed by the benefit (to the species) of continuing to spread throughout the wilds, but it has significant impact on a ‘single hive’. Nearly all of my hive losses were due to swarms that resulted either in a poorly mated queen or no queen at all (maybe a bird ate her!) In the past, I managed this effectively by noticing it (I was managing my hives more frequently) and giving them another frame of eggs before things became dire. This past year, they received no such insurance. It was definitely live or let die.
This not only impacted me, but many folks who were hoping to get Nucs from me. Sadly, I started plenty but never could find the time to manage them. I had several swarm multiple times on me. It was sad – I’d finally have a moment to check their status, discovered several had swarmed recently (can’t sell them now, until they are proven queen right), and mark them to check in a month. Invariably, I would not get back to them for 2 months, only to discover they swarmed again! There’s not a lot of space in a little 5 frame Nuc. I can only hope that my lack of attention helped the feral population out.
Many will probably think poorly of me based on these results. But, I have long ago ‘let the anxiety and disappointment’ go. I probably went into the Summer with 70 or so hives. I believe that I am now between 45 and 55 hives (and I have a ton of equipment in my shed that needs cleaning!) This turn of events will create a new strategy for 2015 and we’ll see how it goes.
For the coming year (I always believe that now is the time to start mapping out your strategy), I plan to focus primarily on manageable increase and reduction of outyards. I will build Nucs to replace my losses from this year and I will ONLY use stock from the yard at hand. I have two yards that have been problematic for years and they are now down to 1 hive. If those hives make it through the Winter, I will increase (for that yard only) from that hive. If they don’t make it, I will retire that outyard. I will only move stock between proven outyards, to help with genetic diversity.
As to Nucs, this is the time of the year that I usually open up my Nuc List. I will not do that this year (I disappointed so many folks last year, it’s unpalatable). Instead, I plan to offer free Nucs to some of my best customers and only offer them when they are ready. I may get back into selling Nucs in the future, but not for 2015 (with one exception – a fellow left equipment at my house (not sure who it was) and I never filled those boxes. I will sell him Nucs as I feel horribly about it.)
At any rate, I remain hopeful!