Winter Production of Nucleus Honeybee Colonies

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,944.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: winter forage

    Proposal summary:


    • (1) Unsustainable winter loss rates for honeybee colonies, (2)starvation of small colonies, and (3) unsustainable importation of Africanized bees from deep South bee-breeding operations.

    • Due to Colony Collapse Disorder, Small Hive Beetle, and Varroa mites, Virginia winter losses of honeybee colonies rose to 40% in the winter of 2008-2009. Other mid-Atlantic states had losses over 30%. These large losses are not sustainable for a farming operation.

    - Winter losses are caused in part by starvation of small hives, a condition that can not easily be detected when hives are kept closed by winter weather.

    - For decades, Mid-Atlantic beekeepers have replaced winter losses by purchasing spring packages of bees from Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana. However, Africanized bees are now spreading through the Gulf Coast states from Texas to Florida, and all those states are also thoroughly penetrated by the Small Hive Beetle (a pest that destroys brood, comb, and hives weakened by starvation or mites).
    • In the near future, it is highly likely that the importation of package bees from the deep South will involve the movement of Africanized bees into Mid-Atlantic states.
    • The importation of Africanized bees to the Mid-Atlantic is not a sustainable practice and may in fact release so-called “killer bees” in densely populated areas, and thereby cause state and local governments to attempt to outlaw beekeeping, to regulate beekeeping to beyond sustainable levels, or to seriously restrict importation of packages from Africanized bee regions of the South.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Using a greenhouse that is normally used for rearing plants from April - June, and passive solar heat and wind protection in the greenhouse -
    - overwinter hives without great expense, in moderated temperatures
    - reduce winter losses of small colonies by weekly inspections and feeding,
    - reproduce honeybee colonies without Africanized honeybees
    and without material damage from Varroa mites and Small Hive Beetles;
    - use honeybees that are adapted to the mid-Atlantic climate, molds,
    fungi, nectars and pollen sources.
    - use Winter lull in apiary work cycle to reproduce colonies
    - avoid Winter loss of colonies by feeding and shielding colonies
    from worst winter weather, thus encouraging early and larger brood nests
    - use rapid buildup of colonies to “outbreed” Varroa mites and thereby provide partial
    Varroa control in milder temperature conditions; treat for Varroa in any hive that shows
    excessive mite population
    - prevent Small Hive Beetle reproduction by physically inspecting frames ,boosting
    weak hives with brood from strong hives, and destruction of small hive beetle larvae
    - begin Spring season with strong colonies with earlier, larger populations of foragers, to
    take advantage of early nectar flows and early pollination demands
    - split all strong colonies in February and March and produce 100% increase in number
    of colonies at end of project

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.