The unstoppable passing of time, it gives me perspective and keeps me humble. As I write it is the end of the beekeeping season, the time of year where I can sit down and gather my thoughts on what happened and what to plan for in regard to next season. The 2022 bee season was all over the place. The bees came out of winter in good conditions to make for a productive base to produce a crop of honey, nectar flows were great right up through June. Come July everything dried up. Overall, my honey crop was good with an average of 80lbs per colony. Dry conditions in mid and late summer prompted me to put more time and energy into the nutritional needs of the bees by feeding pollen substitute and even feeding syrup to the locations that needed it. lots of sugar syrup was fed to prepare the colonies for winter, there was not much honey produced from the fall honey flow this year. It is very important to keep a forward momentum on population growth in honeybee colonies in my locations in late summer. I don’t need huge population growth at first, just a steady trickle to start the process of raising a healthy population of bees to make it through the winter. Nature often provides for the bees very well, this year not so much. On another note I incorporated some new tools into my breeding program this year one being an assay to help in the selection of the VSH trait (Varroa Sensitive Hygiene) in my breeder queens. I know my bees already have this trait established, at this point I am looking to improve upon it and keep a better pulse on how this genetic trait plays out on a larger scale in my apiary.
Continuing thought and discussions with other beekeepers in our area have me pondering what is happening with our managed honeybee populations. After my 2020 – 2021 losses this is always on my mind, especially since I continue to see and experience a constant pressure upon my bees. From where I stand it appears that more aggressive and virulent viral strains of Deformed Wing Virus are at play, this virus being vectored by the Varroa Mite. I believe this needs to be played out and eventually the viruses will not be an issue. There was HUGE colony mortality in Canada this past winter. So, this is by far not just playing out in my apiary. Not to mention other commercial beekeeping entities in New England that are experiencing high rates of mortality with their bees. What about the environment? How we farm and grow food? How we manage our land and personal properties? This is where I believe it can get confusing and messy for many due to the constant politicization around this topic. If you think you really know what is going on when it comes to the issues of growing food for example. I beg you to seek out a few farmers who are successful at what they do (pick out one that would agree with your ideologies and another that you could disagree with) at the end of a good round of conversations and listening to what is said you may have a better idea on what is really happening, in particular with the issues surrounding the farmers themselves, that the issues are complex. I have come to understand that our culture really has no clue what it takes to farm or what it is to be a farmer now a days. From a Micro viewpoint in regards to the Upper Valley (where I live), we need more forage that extends into summer and early fall. Where is all the alfalfa and clovers? Vast fields of wildflowers, goldenrod, and asters in the fall? Oh, and what about Japanese Knotweed where it’s appropriate? Preferences for perfect forage conditions also include the right amount of sun and rain.