Did a bunch of hives die? Outbreak of AFB? Bear attack? Skunks? No, no, no, and I just found him dead on the road this morning. RIP, neighborhood skunk. Skunks are territorial by the way.
No, it's the weather. The weather sucks. Last year, I grafted queens near the end of March, meaning nucs were ready for sale in mid May. Also, then I was in college and had a pretty flexible schedule. This year, I have it worked out so I would graft on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, and make up mating nucs on the next Saturday.
A few problems:
Number one was the weather. Virtually every Thursday was nasty weather. Not a good time to go mucking around in hives, grafting into queen cups and getting cell builders going. By the time I did have a free Thursday, it was mid April.
Number two: Last year, I made a huge mistake and grafted from the wrong queen. She was nice enough, but her hive likes to keep some queen cups around (meaning swarmy) and her parentage was a little mean (meaning her progeny have a higher chance as well.) When the nucs came out, I realized my mistake and rather than selling any of these queens, I kept them. I sold the good ones. I had to fall on my sword or some goofy analogy like that. So this year comes around and none of the hives in my home yard are of the configuration, strength, and genetics to graft from and to serve as a cell builder as I like to do. One was correctly sorted to serve as a cell builder but it is mean and will be requeened. Long story short, I need a bunch of my own queens to requeen a bunch of my own hives from this line. I did save a number from the other line last year and several of those are good breeders, but they're at my outyards, an inconvenience.
Third, weather again. As you may have noticed reported, we are having a cold spell. Mating nucs are already made up, virgins are in, and these hives have no way to be fed. They could starve in a few short days. Today is one of those days. This is the latest it has ever snowed in recorded history in NW Arkansas. It is May, and it is snowing. It's not freezing necessarily, but it has been snowing. No bees are flying.
Hopefully, all or most of these mating nucs will survive this mess. And due to prior commitments I am not going to be able to start another batch of queens until next week. Fortunately for this area, someone has predicted a cool wet summer. However, I have a theory about predicting the future. Humans suck at it. And I don't mean "hypothesis," I mean theory, as in "explains the data."
I am doing what I can and will do what it takes to make good on my queen and nuc reservations. But this is one of those years where things don't work like you think they ought to.
That all being said, my established hives are doing well. Only lost one this winter, one absconded this spring. As usual, I will miss neither.