National and regional loss/management surveys demonstrate the annual loss of bees overwinter fluctuates from one season to the next. It is not the coldest temperatures but fluctuating weather that is hard on bees. By January many colonies have brood, which winter pollen foraging promotes. In January and February colony size and amount of honey stores are most critical to overwintering success Effectiveness of previous season varroa mite control is also a critical factor. It is still too early to be able to determine how colonies have fared during this winter, although early reports seem promising so far. Increasingly, winter survival models, using the extensive multiple years of loss data, are being utilized to seek to correlate losses with colony managements and environmental factors. An earlier study from Penn State found overwintering success influenced by higher colony weight and size of the population colonies reached prior to winter. Origin of stock was not important, at least for central Pennsylvania. Higher temperature and precipitation during the warmest seasonal quarter was correlated with improved wintering success. Recently a detailed look at the data from the Bee Informed National Survey linked increased winter colony loss rates with winter weather. Specifically, November mean maximum temperatures and mean February precipitation predict success. In Oregon and Washington annual colony loss is assessed with the https://pnwhoneybeesurvey.com For Oregon backyarders, the overall trend has been essentially flat over the past 13 years at just under 40% annual colony loss; for commercially managed colonies losses are one-half that level, at just above 20%. The 2023 survey of the 22-23 winter and 2022 management season will be open for your participation mid-March through April. After you open your colonies and assess your winter success please take the time to enter your data in the survey. It should take less than 5 minutes. Reports by club are posted beginning within a month following survey close April 30th . Can we count on you entering your data and “beeing” among those counted? THANKS.
After our mild January the colder February is better for our bee colony overwintering in order to slow colony expansion.
Once the weather warms check on food stores by hefting at the back. It is too early to feed syrup as we do not want to stimulate or add to moisture stress.
If you feel the hive is short in required food you could consider feeding a homemade sugar brick until it warms up enough for syrup. Make a sugar brick by mixing a small amount of water to make a thick slurry of cane/beet sugar and letting it stand overnight to solidify. An alternative would be to feed drivert (confectioners) sugar but do not use brown sugar or any sugar that contains starch.
Peek quickly under the lid & below covers for water staining or sign of excess moisture in the hive. If seen, consider using some form of absorption filler material aka quilt box for the remainder of damp months or plan for this addition to next year’s wintering set up.
Clean bottom boards to clear the path for new bees and save them some labor (& honey store energy). This could be something as simple as brushing clear with a down feather for now until the temperatures are above 60 degrees and it’s safe to physically open the hive long enough to “change the underwear”.
The 12th annual Pacific Northwest Honey Bee Loss Survey will open up EARLY this year on March 15th and be available until May 1st. Please consider downloading and filling out the note sheet to aid in quick survey entry. Many have found that this simple resource has been key to have on hand in the bee yard throughout the year not only to track items but to remind of alternative bee husbandry options.
Lastly, if you would like an email reminder when the survey opens please visit https://pnwhoneybeesurvey.com/resources/reminder/ today.
We hope to see great health in our PNW honeybees and fellow beekeepers this spring!
TWO similar comments –
A- I am not a member of Willamette Valley Bee Association. I accidentally checked it and it wouldn’t uncheck. Using my phone, which is not ideal. Only affiliated with PUB and OSU Master Beeks program.”
B-“Some questions (radio button?) won’t let you remove a response if you’ve incorrectly marked it. It will move through the options, but won’t clear.
RESPONSE – This was an unforeseen bug that goes with the club expansion. In previous years we asked a participants club affiliation and many were troubled that they could only select one. Until we have the manpower to do behind the scenes web development, we are stuck with the options and minor programming that the Google form will allow us to do. Noting the error in the comments like you have done is sufficient for us to correct the error on our end so that it does not affect the reports. Thank you for bringing it to our attention and submitting your correction.
Swarm hive was going strong when I left for Europe mid Oct to mid Nov. When returning there was not one bee, dead or otherwise in the hive. There were a few capped cells with normal bees not yet hatched. Lots of honey storage left. My first hive(2012) was doing fine Jan 7, heavy boxes, lots of bees coming and going on nice days, by Feb 24 there (and still is) are only a few bees left (baseball size cluster), including the queen, but no eggs. The screened bottom board was covered with dead bees on Feb 25 when I could finally get in the hive to see what was going on. I am assuming it is varroa mite, as the frames looked like the one you showed at WVBA during your presentation. The varroa count was low last summer in all hives, so didn’t treat. As a suggestion, it would be nice if we could print this document, so we have a copy of our survey as well. I tried to print this but would only print current page.
RESPONSE – Spring bee colony losses are “normal” for keeping bees – this is when we see colonies die. Varroa is always a good culprit to use when trying to diagnose a bee loss. I did offer paper copies at the WVBA meeting. The reason you could only print a single page is because the survey has “hidden” pages (when do or don’t pop up depending upon your entry response to that section). I recognize it is inconvenient to have only a single page – ask me if we have developed the way to provide this next year and if not you are welcome to use the paper mail in version next season taking a copy for your records prior.
I have 2 additional hives, due to swarming this spring. They swarmed the end of April. I don’t know if this is useful to you, but thought I would mention it.
RESPONSE – We will hopefully capture this in our next season’s survey, if you would return and provide information next spring. . Our year is April to April. We have had several April swarms this year – more than normal it seems. Trust the colonies do OK.
I would like an “I failed to keep track” option for number of queens and splits made!
RESPONSE – Yes I know this to be the case. We encourage good notes/records in our Master Beekeeper program and we all need to record. Our survey does suffer when we fail to have the notes to include what we did and when we did it. I encourage your keeping of hive records
Some of the early questions did not have the year changed. They use 2014 / 2015. I treated them as if they said 2015/2016. The question about monitoring mite counts did not allow me the option of saying I frequently monitor my white boards. It is the only thing I did this year because all four of my colonies were new. I do not intend to treat. I am following Michael Bush’s methods. The distance between the hives in a single apiary would be interesting. Mine are spread out. Special things one does would also be interesting. I add fresh mint and thyme to the fondant and a pinch of salt; sometimes brewer’s yeast. I also grow a patch of thyme in front of each hive. I have also turned my land into forage. Borage and Cleome (Spider Wort) was very popular. Only bumblebees like phacelia. Borage bloomed until late November and started up with a huge self-seeded crop in February. It’s like the Garden of Eden out there. I talk to my bees! (tsk… tsk..)
RESPONSE: Data should be 2015-2016 period. We did miss some date changes in our update. We asked what months you monitored using sticky boards – as you have done; use Comments at end for any additional items you think you need to clarify. Treatment decisions are your personal decisions – some beekeepers prefer to not treat. The reason for monitoring (using the white boards) is to confirm mite numbers. New colonies can die from heavy mite numbers as well as established colonies. It is excellent, when conditions permit, to space between colonies and to give all colonies a distinctive “look” to reduce drifting of adult bees (and spread of mites). Beekeepers will add various additional materials to their feeding of bees – for virtually all of them we do not know how effective they may be, nor if they might be harmful. A bit of fresh mint or thyme or pinch of salt should not be harmful. Honey bees, along with bumble bees, like the phacelia – borage (which blooms a long time is good bee forage and we know they need more forage.
The second swarm we caught was *tiny* so we did not expect it to survive winter, but thought we would give it a chance. Not sure that it should really count in statistics? Also, I think you might have a typo in section 3. It asks for how many colonies we had going into fall 2014, coming out in 2015. Shouldn’t that be 2015/2016? Thanks for doing this!
RESPONSE: First question of section 3 asks how many overwinter colonies from 2014 (so it was a colony overwintered in fall of 2015, i.e. not a nuc or package started in 2015) survived until 2016. It is an awkward wording so we will make it better for next survey year survey. A tiny or large swarm – we are not discriminating on basis of size.
I think another question you might put on is asking how much honey the beekeeper left for the bees to overwinter on.
RESPONSE: I do not believe most beekeepers KNOW how much honey they are leaving on their colonies. Only a few beekeepers weigh hives – most estimate the amount (from hive hefting – and I have used hive hefting as a field day activity and you would not believe how much variation occurs in the answers (like guessing how many candies are in a jar). And if we wanted to add it to our survey what date would be appropriate for this determination? I appreciate the suggestion but I do not believe we would get meaningful responses that would then help us understand overwintering losses.
The survey doesn’t give an option for “I would like to…” in the question about what things have helped us. As it’s only April and we’re just starting beekeeping this year, we’re still trying to find beekeeping mentors, classes that actually fit our schedules, and other local resources, so would love to be able to indicate interest in those things 😉
RESPONSE: The last open section is exactly for your adding something like “I would like to….” Please consider adding that information. Most short courses/classes on bees are in Feb and March – there will be very few for rest of the year….and those that will be offered are often for more advance beekeepers (such as courses on queen rearing, our Journey courses in the OR Master Beekeeper program). Courses are offered early in the year so beekeepers can start this year. What is still available however are the monthly meetings of the bee associations. Many have an open Q&A session so you can ask an expert – some have a meeting before the meeting to get questions answered. Check out the OR State beekeepers site orsba.org for the nearest local group to where you live.