It's 35 degrees right now and I was heading home from a meeting and decided to stop and check on my north yard. I set up this yard about a year and a half ago and it has gone through two winters. Only last summer did I discover that it is actually within spitting distance of a commercial (ish) queen mill.
I like to do quick checks on hives when the weather is cold. I can look down in the hive and see how much honey is left and the size of the cluster. It's cold so the bees don't fly out and the propolis is brittle so it breaks loose pretty easily.
Turns out, four of the six hives at that location are dead. The other two have very small clusters and I expect them to be dead in the next month.
I'm not disappointed and I'll tell you why. First, due to what I expect is influence from queen mill down the street, these bees were mean. I visited the queen mill last summer and his bees are mean. My bees are not mean generally speaking and I breed against meanness. I replaced most of these queens last summer due to meanness and poor performance. Second, it was a bad location for the reasons above. The hives didn't make much honey due to over saturation of the area and they were no fun to work. Third, I'm in the process of moving and don't need a pile of hives to take with me. Fourth, as I did not feed at all this past fall, the process of losing hives not adequately prepared for winter is actually a positive. It is selection for hives which store a lot of honey and which are frugal with it.
I've also lost two more hives at my home yard which I am slightly bummed about. One of them was an old queen I purchased from Zia several years back, and the other was my oldest hive, one continuously alive since I purchased it, 11 years ago. So it lasted about 10.5 years, totally treatment free. It was however susceptible to robbing which is not very helpful, so there's a positive to that as well. A major portion of my current hives are descended from that hive, so life goes on.
So that's six down out of 25, a 24% loss. I expect I'll lose a couple more including the remaining two at the north yard. If I get down to 18, I can fit them all on my truck and trailer and move them all at once.
As some of you already know, I am not able to raise queens and nucs this year. As I said, I am in the process of moving and all my queen rearing equipment is in storage. Any makeup splits I need to make will be with walkaway splits, with the goal of covering equipment and maintaining no more than 18 hives for the time being. No honey production this year either, that's all in storage too.