- Animals: bees
- Animal Products: honey
- Crop Production: beekeeping
Beekeepers in Pennsylvania are facing overwintering colony losses of 40% or more each year, which are commonly attributed to colony starvation, the parasitic varroa mite, and weather. New practices are needed to improve sustainability and profitability of beekeeping. Climate controlled storage of honey bees is a known and established practice in Canada, Minnesota and other regions, where it is shown to improve health and profitability in beekeeping. We propose to study the benefits of climate controlled storage during winter in four locations in Pennsylvania to determine if the practice is economically viable and beneficial to farmers in this region by reducing colony losses, food consumption, pest populations, and energy inputs. Additionally, climate controlled storage may offer beekeepers the ability to affordably overwinter very small colonies called nucleus colonies or nucs that are very difficult to maintain outdoors. Climate controlled storage of honey bees may offer Northeastern beekeepers an opportunity to adapt to a changing climate, reduce colony losses, decrease expenses, and increase profitability. Understanding the benefits of this system and communicating the results of this research will empower farmers to make informed decisions to improve the sustainability and health of their bees while increasing profitability.
Project objectives from proposal:
With this project, we seek to evaluate the benefits of overwintering honey bee colonies of two different sizes in climate controlled storage at four locations in Pennsylvania and compare this to colonies overwintered outdoors at each location.
We will compare:
- Survival: 1) Compare survival of nucleus colonies vs full size colonies inside cold storage. 2) compare survival of full size colonies in cold storage vs outdoor colonies.
- Feed consumption 1) Compare food consumption of nucleus colonies vs full size colonies inside cold storage. 2) Compare food consumption of full size colonies in cold storage vs outdoor colonies.
- Parasitic Varroa mite levels: Compare varroa mite levels in colonies wintered indoors to those wintered outdoors.
- Spring Colony Strength: Measure and compare the amount of brood and bees at the same time point of colonies wintered indoors vs outdoors.
- Economics: 1) Calculate the costs of overwintering indoors and outdoors. 2) Calculate the feasibility and profitability of overwintering nucleus colonies in cold storage.
- Differences between sites: Compare landscape effects across geographic regions.