Winter Weather

By | April 12, 2011

This is post #3 which compounds on thoughts around hive survival in the winter.  Many times beekeepers will say how bees survive in this configuration or that with respect to box sizes and counts….Two deeps, a deep and a medium, a double stacked nuc, etc.  This is really just based on previous experience of survival.  Two years ago maybe the bees wintered fine in a nuc, the year before that they did great in a single deep, and so on.

As beekeepers, we often use past experience as our guide.  This is only natural.  Unfortunately when it comes to winter survival, I don’t think a “survivable” box configuration can be garnered in this way.  There is one variable that renders past experience nearly useless, and that’s weather.

We can’t control it or predict it.  All we can do is measure it as it happens.  As for the winter losses this year, the temperature data at my house, which I record 24×7 every minute, show that January, when my hives died, was 4° F colder on average than last year.  There were 4 days above 40° this January, while last January saw 14 days above 40°.  This long duration of cold weather has to give at least some semblence of an explanation for the losses this year.

And for those that think 4 degrees just isn’t that much….

I’m starting to think that Lancaster, PA is in a weird place, winter-weather-wise that is.  In researching average temperatures, I began looking north and south of my home.  Just 95 miles south (as the crow flies) in Washington DC, the average daily high in January is 7 degrees warmer than it is here.  Yet going north, I can go 324 miles, 240% more distance, to Concord, NH, and that is only 6° colder.

So let’s lay this out with respect to January highs:

~325 miles north: -6 degrees
~95 miles south: +7 degrees
~325 miles south: +14 degrees

So somehow if I go 325 miles north, I only lose 6 degrees, but if I go the same distance south, I gain 14 degrees. We seem to be the southern limit of the cold north, there’s not much of a transition.  I think we need to start treating our hives like they’re in the cold north.

At some point this year I hope to have a decent weather station at the house recording data.  I already have temperature data, but wind and precipitation are in the works. I’d like to get a feed of the current data onto this site.

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