My bees did not survive the winter. I know they didn’t starve, because I saw there was still honey to be eaten and raw sugar piled on newspaper as emergency ration. I think they were severely weakened by varroa mites, and being from Georgia, just couldn’t hack the sleet and snow and the wicked wind off the East River.
At a NYCBA meeting I saw a Vermont man with thistle-down hair speak about how Italian bees from the bee farms in Georgia just can’t hack it up North. However, I know other Georgian bees survived this year, so I must claim some responsibility for the thousands of deaths within the combs of HiHat Honey. But Italians, in addition to being sensitive to cold, are also vulnerable to varroa mite infestations, which spread across New York this year. If I were doing it again, I would try Minnesota Hygenics or other breeds better suited to the conditions here. I think the best thing you can do when starting a hive is buy nucs from someone in your region.
As my mom says, beekeeping today is harder than ever, with so many pests, diseases, and pesticides to contend with. But the honey is still sweet and the stings few and far between.
I am not starting another hive until next spring, in Oxford, Mississippi, where I am moving for graduate school. There my bees will flourish among bottle-tree orchards and Faulkner’s honeysuckle. Until then, this blog will explore apiaries and pollination from Brooklyn to Bolinas, as oy vey! — I depart the city soon for a cross-country road trip.