The first week of March, I swarmed down to Oracle, Arizona (an hour north of Tucson), for an organic beekeepers convention. It was fun and interesting to meet and compare notes from treatment free beekeepers from all over America, Canada, England, Mexico and New Zealand. The most interesting part of the three-day conference was not so much the formal presenters (okay , they were good too) but the water cooler chats that sprang up during breaks and hanging out by the fire at night. It was then that I had time to compare notes on how the heck you can keep bees in 120 degree F. weather in the deserts of Mexico. Or can bees really survive along the coastline in British Columbia where they get close to 150 inches of rain in a year? Of course, everyone would ask how do Minnesota bees make it when temperatures get down to -40 F and snow is piled up to the second floor windows of your house. Like the people who live in all these climates, the bees adapt or die.
It was a time to share and compare with people that have been treatment free a lot longer than the three years we have. Though the conference numbered under a hundred people, there was a lot of support and solidarity to avoid going back to the dark side of chemicals and corn syrup beekeeping.
An interesting fact was announced on the last day. Everyone in attendance was asked to report their annual hive loss and the conference would then come up with an average loss for the group. The group as a whole had just under a 10 percent loss ratio out of over 1,500 clean hives. That is dramatically lower than the 31 percent loss that was reported a month earlier at the American Honey Convention held in Las Vegas where the big commercial beekeepers and pollinators congregated. Numbers don’t lie. We have to risk failure to achieve success!!!
Wow, leave the state of Minnesota for a few days and come back and find spring waiting for you on the back steps. Saw the first robin of the year yesterday – a full week ahead of last years first sighting. Canadian Geese are back a full ten days earlier than last year returning from their Gulf of Mexico states. Temperatures were setting records all weekend up here in the northern plains.
I had a chance to peek under the hoods of most of the hives. Out of the eighteen hives I inspected in five different locations, only one did not make it. That particular hive had superseded its queen in early fall and it appeared it did not have ample time to build up its colony strength so I was not shocked to see the hive lifeless this spring.
The rest of the hives were flying around and all seemed to have capped honey stores in reserve to hold them over until the buds break and pollen forms in another week or so. Lone wolf hive was in good shape with bees on five of nine frames in the top box and a small area of capped over brood to keep population stable until natural food sources explode in the wilderness.
The majority of these hives are coming out of their first winter being totally chemical treatment free and sugar syrup supplement free. There are a few of these hives coming out of their second winter with two year old queens that look just as strong and healthy. The future looks bright so far in this little parcel of earth. Bees being bees at the 49 degree latitude with an all natural attitude.