What is winter?

There is no calendar, nor astronomical or holiday event to make today my first day of winter. Today is simply the first fall day when my hives are covered with snow. Astronomical winter begins on Friday, December 21st this year. A new twist to me is that December 1st is the meteorological start. I’m not sure what condition signifies the meteorological start of winter any more than today’s snow storm did for me. Spring 2019 follows the same pattern so I’m pleased to see that spring starts Friday March 1st (meteorologically speaking), some 20 days before the sun crosses the equator. I’ll take what I can get when it comes to spring.

Now that my winter has started I can worry more about my bees and worry my bees less. They are mostly on their own until increasing day length and scattered warm days become too much temptation for the both of us. The bees start brood and I start the early spring management process. By then both of us will have had enough winter even if the start and end dates can be elusive.

Because neither my bees nor the spring wait for me, I make excessive plans for how spring 2019 will be different; no last minute rushing around trying to do too much with limited time and equipment. Right!

This year I made a larger number of summer nucs than I usually do. These nucs are three supers tall in 5-frame equipment. As always, I fed heavily going through lots of sugar. The year was a record for rain and by some measurement saw the 6th highest amount of rain since records have been kept. I can’t confirm that fact but my midsummer nucs were a bit lighter than normal in August so sugar was my answer.

These nucs will, with some luck, be the foundation to my 3rd year of managing a training yard. The 2019 plan is to make as many nucs as possible for the people who have participated in the training yard. The goal is to introduce less experienced beekeepers to the rewarding practice of expanding their hives or replacing lost hives. The training yard group has a solid number of their own hives going into winter and hopefully will have the resources to add to the hive counts.

I’m looking forward to spring no matter what day it starts.

Happy Beekeeping.