The February bee hive update has a mix of happy and sad news. The good news is that one of the colonies has survived the winter thus far, sadly one did not.
Throughout the season, the colonies were built up to be able to face the many challenges that come with the colder season. However, the unfortunate reality is that honey bees are facing many challenges and in some cases, the obstacles are just too great for a colony to thrive through the season and into winter. These challenges continue to be loss of natural habitat in which to forage, pesticide exposure, and a variety of diseases that are widespread amongst honeybee populations. It can be difficult to pinpoint an exact cause of death.
For the failed colony, it seems likely that varroa mites were a primary factor. Varroa are a parasitic mite that feeds off developing larvae as well as adult bees. The mites themselves can reduce population size, food stores, and shorten the lives to the bees affected. It is also a vector for many other viral infections that can reduce the strength of the colony. Though many colonies can survive throughout the warm season with mites, when colder weather comes, they often weaken the bees’ defense against it. All colonies are treated for mites at several stages of the beekeeping season. This will continue and procedures will be adapted to ensure the mites do not build up a resistance to any one treatment.
For the surviving beehive, they have enough food for the months ahead and they have a tray of winter feed consisting of a mixture of sugar and local honey. Due to the colder weather, a deeper check was not conducted, as it would release the heat they have been working to build up inside the hive. The beehive health will be assessed more carefully on future visits when temperatures are conducive to a full check.