It was an interesting spring here at the HBRC! A cool early spring led into later high temperatures and good foraging opportunities for our bees. We anticipated high colony losses over the winter given that the varroa mite levels were higher earlier last summer. This caused some of our hives to dwindle in strength in the fall. However, we are quite pleased to find our losses were modest, at approximately 10%. Another 10-12% of colonies were rated as weak, having between 1 and 2 frames of bees in early April.
The measures we took last year to reduce the number of mites present in the colonies seemed to work well. In early August of 2021, mite levels were high in some of our colonies. We opted to treat the colonies with higher mite levels with Formic Pro but had to wait until late August for the weather to be cool enough to use this miticide. Spot treating these hives helped them survive the winter, as well as prevented them from crashing and spreading mites to neighbouring colonies. All colonies received late September Apivar treatments and early November Oxalic acid dribble treatments.
In mid-October, we rated the strength of each colony, choosing to indoor overwinter those with less than 5 frames of bees. Of those, we lost 5%. Indoor wintering significantly helped to reduce our colony losses.
The challenge this spring was tending to the 10-12% of our colonies that were rated as ‘weak’. By adding bees and brood from other hives, we were able to give the weakest hives a boost. The rest were able to bounce back on their own. Those that were previously rated 1-2 now have a full 10 frames of bees and are producing a honey crop.
Our early spring mite testing has shown slightly higher levels than normal in a small number of hives. We plan to do some mid-summer mite treatments. The colonies are now putting on a significant amount of honey. With the nice warm days we had in late spring, plants such as Hawthorn, White Dutch Clover, and Black Locust have yielded good nectar flows. Perfect for our bees!
We are excited to announce the full re-opening of tours, courses, and our volunteer program. We were able to offer both in-person and virtual courses this spring and plan to continue with both options in the future. We have expanded our volunteer program and have more volunteers than ever before.
Spring rolls into summer very quickly, and by the time you read this, we will be harvesting honey already.