A few days ago, in the midst of our cold weather (in the teens for 3 nights in a row... a rarity in these parts), I went out to check on the bees and nearly had a heart attack. There were tons of dead bees at the entrance. When I brushed them off, more tumbled in their place. All I could think was that we'd lost the Nuc... first of all, I've never over-wintered a Nuc before, and these guys didn't have nearly the stores of honey they should have had going into the fall. I fed them sugar syrup (and, with the cold weather, straight sugar) in hopes of getting them through. Not to mention, this is the first colony I've had on our property (our other hives are at a neighbors' place)... they are right on our deck, where I can watch them out the window while I do dishes. I am emotionally attached to these bees. I did knock the side of the hive and was able to hear some buzzing, so I took that as a hopeful sign even though my heart had sunk at the grim prospect of losing the whole hive.
Today, I went out to check on the bees, since it's almost 50 degrees, the sun is shining, and there's no wind... in other words, perfect conditions for them to be out flying around. And buzzing, they were! All is right in my bee world... for now!
Originally, the plan was to sell this hive in the spring, but if they prove to be such hardy beasts that they can make it through THIS winter without succumbing to the cold, or mites, or any other number of calamities facing our bee colonies, I will probably end up deciding NOT to sell them. Because our original bees came from a wild swarm, and we were able to split them in their first year, these bees have good genetics. There's a relatively new queen in there, and I've been very happy with what she's doing. I like the idea of keeping a spare Nuc just in case something happens to one of our other hives. I don't have any desire to spend the money on the boxes a third hive would require, so a Nuc is a great way to always have a spare queen. When the colony threatens to outgrow the Nuc box, we can either add another box on top, or split it and make another Nuc to sell. I have a feeling there is going to be a huge market for local bees this spring, as many of my fellow beekeepers are reporting significant losses already, and we haven't even gotten to February yet (which is, historically, a bad month for hive losses).
We are due for more snow and more cold temps tomorrow, so we're not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination. But there's still hope for this one!