As many people know we’ve had challenges with supporting good populations of honey bees in North America in recent years. And a big part of this factor is overwinter survival. So many of the bees are dying off during the winter and then colonies are low in bee populations the following spring.
Some research that was conducted at Pennsylvania State University has shown that overall colony weight and the number of worker bees that are in the hive the previous October before going into winter is a big factor in colony success.
So this group of researchers set up some honey beehives in northern and southern parts of North America and compared their overwinter survival. What they found is about 30 percent of all bees didn’t survive the winter and there was little genetic difference.
Worker bees for a thermo-regulatory cluster around the queen bees to keep her warm during winter. What they found was that the best predictors of overwinter survival were indeed the colony weight and the number of worker bees in October just before winter begins.
And so the take-home points are that to maximize overwinter survival it’s important to build strong colonies by using quality queens and controlling pests like varroa mites. So these are factors that can help improve our honey bee population is in North America.