Reflecting on 2021 from the beeyards

The spring of 2021 brought a new experience or some would call it an adventure my way. I had lost 90 percent of my apiary. In the moment it was trying, and difficult to come to grips with. Looking back now I still have a lot more questions then answers, as to what killed off all the bees. I do know that the drought of 2020 along with high mite loads was the leading culprit. But there are so many nuances behind the obvious circumstances, questions that leave me scratching my head thinking. How can I begin to frame the right questions to ask in regards to finding long term solutions? If there are any to be found. Some questions that come to mind are: Have we entered a new era where it is no longer possible to keep bees without chemical intervention to address varroa mites and the viruses they vector? What is the missing component in queen breeding? It appears to be that only a small percentage of colonies from one season to the next truly have mite resistant traits. Is there an environmental component that I am not paying attention to?

On the working end of it all. I did learn that I can jump start my apiary with a few surviving colonies and a lot of California packages, Oh yeah and some cash that was saved up to pay for it all. (Please note, the last time I bought any bees to replace my losses was in 2008). Back to the story. I was able to set aside 50 packages and by the first week of July turn them into 300 nucleus colonies ( all of the nucs where given mated queens or cells from my survivor breeder queens). The real work is getting all my production colonies requeened with my own stock. I was able to get a few, however the rest will be requeened this spring. To keep all the production colonies alive into next season I did resort to using Formic Pro with way to many unsettling outcomes after the treatment period was over. It’s been over a decade since I last used any treatments for mites. Having to jump back in and use a formic acid treatment was difficult to navigate within my conscience. This whole experience had me thinking that we can do better than this as an industry. In regards to IPM, just the work alone in sampling for mites (alcohol wash) over the whole apiary, in this part of the world, is barely, if I dare say an impossible task to achieve in a commercial apiary. Enough for now more to come later.

Nucleus colonies wrapped for winter.

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