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Winter the end or the beginning?

     Solstice time nears, and there is an energy under the din of holidays, where we can gather deep inside us that which we choose to let go and allow that which we have seeded to sprout for the new year. It is a still point in the northern hemisphere. the days bottom out to a mere 9 hours from dawn to gloaming. The winds arrive bring the tails of frozen water from far away, and the air crisp with the reality that for 90 days this is gonna suck lol.
 I enjoy winter, I remind myself, really enjoy loading up my back pack with sugar cakes and my snowshoes going out to the apiaries, and pondering just why I put my bees in these locations. Ever wonder why they made dog sleds, my suspicion is they got tired of having their dogs pounce on the back of their snow shoes. Face plant....thanks Hoot.

     Besides the obvious of checking entrances and counting chickens, feeding if needed, there is an energy in the hives that is fascinating to watch through the winter. I feel that is such a unique time in the northern realms where besides the who the heck knows what they do in cluster, there is a force building up in them like a battery being charged. you wont really see it till February as they start replacing those that have passed with some minor brood rearing and by march it is tangibly happening right before your eyes, and you might have missed it, and wonder why mid late April you got ya self a swarm.  Dang Swarmiolans.  It is incredible to witness the initial explosion of this pent up energy in the early spring. Like a train you didn't hear coming, 6 frames of bees now ready to explode into a honey gathering army. 

     The Lord give and the Lord take    back when i could easily remember which hives were awesome and those who were average, and those that didn't stand a chance, ( replaced now by sharpie on a lid A B C), I am dumbfounded by who survives and who does not. As the fall management which really starts in April gets better, we do see less extremes in mortality. After seven years of making increase and selective breeding, we finally have eased the ride a bit, but we ain't even close yet to where we want our bees to be. Now this is the kind of statement that reeks of power over, I do not mean it in that way at all. When I say we I refer to myself and the bees, and the merry increasers who struggle on the path as kindred spirits. cheers boys!

     Winter is the big daddy of natural selection in the apiary. You don't know Bo or Jack about your bees until they get tested and stressed. By the time winter arrives ( meteorological DEC 1) you already lost your hives gone queen less, absconded, yellow jacked, robbed. So for myself, winter begins DEC 1, the bees say the 23, anyway my point is that theres a pretty good chance whats alive on 12/1 is probably going to be alive 3/1. If I have a few nucs/colonies that I have compromised by my own actions I try to bear responsibility for that and nurse em a bit to get through. I don't baby the lassies but I would try to keep the ones I hurt by taking too much brood or acing their queen and giving them cells in late august, bad location,  a fighting chance. 

     We really short change our beekeeping trip by nursing weak colonies. We let that which the Lord would have taken, limp along till spring. In my experience once a dud always a dud, they never seem to amount to much, and if I feel after i have given them a fair shot at it, I will replace the genetics and move along. 
     When you have 2 colonies you will baby your bees, because you can,  there is also a chance you have no idea you have a dud. Your dud makes a few drones who happen to catch my queen and now f1 dud hybrids causing a slight back step or weakening of the superior genome. multiply this by a few million episodes a year and voila you got some shizz that ain't worth jack. A whole lot of bees we got in this county ain't worth Jack. But you don't know that yet as a beginner or 2 yr expert or 3 yr expert. you think the trip is going well. I can tell you while its not all on the genetics, management is to blame as well, but most of you early entry folks should spend some time in a proper apiary and see what good bees look like, so you have a frame of reference. Obviously some new entry folks got some local nuc stock so they are way ahead of the disaster curve.

Back to our regularly scheduled programing...................................

Winter is our best friend in the apiary. it eliminates that which snuck through the drought test, and the pitiful brood test cause i didn't treat for mites, and actually made it to 12/1. Here it comes, the Lords Reaper, 0f degrees. The old saying the wolf makes the elf strong, natural selection by taking the weakest and the slowest the herd improves year after year. We really need to think about how we can make our apiaries stronger, ever hear of Bee Improvement?  Embrace winter as saving you from the initial selective process and allowing that which survives to be at least better than what ya had in the Fall. Whats a good Bee ? Any bee that lives through winter.......Mel D.......

My own thought is the sins of the fall will require your presence in the spring.
If year after year you find yourself questioning your sanity with repeated failures in the apiary, perhaps look at your lack of knowledge, your choice of genetics, and do a real sit down during the winter with yourself and figure out a new plan. Buying packages year after year is tragically retarded, and is not the way to go forward.
While the bees dont read books, I reccomend you take a peek and learn something about biology, hive math, management, diseases and the environment. 



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