Boy, it’s great to see the back-end of 2018! It’s been quiet around here for good reason: we’ve been trying to figure out if we wanted to continue in this business or just pack it in. It’s been that kind of year.
Something that we’ve always been proud of is that we’re generally able to keep our losses in the same ballpark as the Ontario average without any kind of hive treatments. There’s some variability, but we’re generally even with, if not a bit better than, the rest of the industry.
That said, keeping up with the conventional beekeepers is only really a good thing when their numbers are sustainable. According to the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association annual survey of 900 beekeepers, the losses weren’t even close to sustainable:
Almost a third of Ontario beekeepers lost more than 70% of their hives last winter. If that’s not a dictionary definition of “unsustainable,” I have no idea what is. Of course, there are economies of scale at play here as well: it’s far easier to recover from, say, a 50% loss of hives when you have several hundred or more than it is when you’re a much smaller operation. Either way, it’s devastating. Both financially and emotionally.
In the end, the only thing we can say for certain is that mites didn’t kill our colonies. There’s absolutely no evidence of that.
Eastern Ontario had a yo-yo winter & spring in 2018 and that can be absolutely fatal. The colony spends the winter clustered together for warmth. When it gets warm in the spring, they break cluster, take their cleansing flights and the queen gets back down to the business of laying and raising the workers the colony needs to survive.
In a normal spring, that’s all well and good. But last winter, we had temperatures as high at 13C followed by lows down to -20C. March was up and down in much the same way.
As I write this, the temperature outside is just above freezing and it snowed last night. That’s more like it and I hope it stays that way until it’s supposed to warm up. Too many people threw in the towel last year, including a local queen breeder, and bees are just as important as ever to us all.