MORRISONVILLE — Beekeepers across the Northeast have experienced massive losses of bees this winter.
Champlain Valley Beekeepers Association President Dick Crawford said the beekeepers he has spoken with are reporting deaths of 90 percent to 100 percent of their hives.
"I have some friends in Pennsylvania who lost 100 percent of 2,000 hives."
Crawford personally lost 90 percent of his 60 hives and about half of his "nucs," the nucleus colonies that he creates in the fall to cover winter losses.
"This is the highest percentage I've ever seen."
But he expects most beekeepers will be able to recover from the setback in time for pollination season.
The warm weather this winter meant the varroa mite didn't go dormant, like they do most winters, and their population exploded. The varroa mite is a tiny parasite that attaches to a bee and gradually sucks the juices out of it. The mite also transmits viruses.
Crawford said he lost only 11 of his 60 hives last winter. The deep late-season snows then helped keep the mites and viruses under control.
"They had free rein this year."
Bees are typically treated for mites in September or October. Once they cluster for winter, they can't be treated again until they come out again in April.
Crawford said the treatment needs to be done carefully to prevent contamination of honey.
NEW HIVES COSTLY
He ordered replacement hives from a supplier in Georgia Jan. 2.
"I knew then we would have a major loss," he said.
The new hives cost him $6,000 and should arrive by mid-April. That should be in plenty of time for him to get them to Banker Orchards for apple-blossom pollination, usually in mid-May.
A lot of people are likely to be scrambling for bees this spring, Crawford said, as one of the major suppliers in the South has stopped offering bees.