The first winter we lost both package Italian bee colonies. The first collapsed in late fall due to a combination of Varroa load and robbing yellow jackets. The second hive met its demise when the hive population suddenly crashed in early January, and then the Queen flew off during a brief hive inspection to see what was going on.
Both feral colonies, however, appeared to come through winter with flying colors, and in late February the following year we split the first of these colonies, Salvia, in the hopes of encouraging the rearing of a new, robust Queen. At the end of March, we also split the remaining feral colony, Lavender, bringing our total number of hives in the apiary back to four. By splitting these colonies, we hoped to reduce Varroa load that season, and encourage the production of strong, healthy, local Queens that are better adapted to this area than the commercially sourced bees. Over time we hope that by splitting our survivor hives each spring that we’ll gradually be selecting for more Varroa-resistant colonies.
Despite the challenges associated with modern day beekeeping, we’re finding it to be a very rewarding, and exciting hobby. The bees never fail to teach us something new, and the honey they produce is divine.