Over the past few years we’ve been blessed with mild winters in this part of the northeast, which has created our comfort zone. Inevitably, as human nature goes, new habits are formed based upon short term conditions. More than a few of us have jumped to the conclusion that “climate change” has produced some sort of defined pattern that can be explained and predicted, i.e. that climate change will now continue to produce mild winter weather indefinitely. There is a saying that stock market investors have heard many times before which is “past performance is no indication of future success”. How does this relate to winter weather you ask? Just look back at a period of time you are familiar with. Your lifetime will suffice as an example. Can you remember any extremes in the climate over the course of just one lifetime? Winters that were very cold, very mild, very wet, very dry, very cold and windy, and so on. If things go as they have in the past (and they will) we are in for one whopper of a winter sooner or later. When it will occur, nobody knows. We will be aware of extended, extreme weather only AFTER it happens. Will you run out in mid-winter and wrap hives? Really? Come on now, be honest.
This brings me to that age old argument of weather to wrap hives or not. If past performance did guarantee future success, I would say don’t wrap, but I know better. Habits and assumptions have undoubtedly been formed lately. I have been listening to the argument of wrapping hives swing to the negative side in conversation as well as in forums in cyberspace. Even if another winter goes by like past mild ones, don’t be fooled. I do not advocate wrapping hives as a general rule. I strongly suggest wrapping hives on an “as needed basis”. Hives sheltered (natural or man made) from the extremes may not need winter wrapping but unsheltered hives, undoubtedly, could use the insurance. The long term forecast described by the weather channel may not relate to the “micro-climate” which may exist in your locality, apiary or even around a single hive. Also, the condition of your hives plays a major roll in the wrapping debate. Does all of your equipment fit tight and securely? Are you relying on propolis to make up for your careless attention to equipment? Have you fallen victim to the myth that “the cold don’t kill bees, moisture kills bees”? This nonsense is written into beekeeping literature everywhere and is absent-minded thinking to say the least. While excessive moisture can kill, if a cluster cannot move to honey for an extended period of time due to the unexpected cold snap, they starve. Have you ever heard “I don’t know why they died. There was plenty of honey but they were all dead with their heads stuck into the cells. The mite load was low because I treated. They just died!” Sound familiar?
Don’t find yourself in the position of realizing that the past month has been “unusually cold” which wasn’t “predicted” by the Weather Channel and you didn’t wrap those hives which “may have needed it” and now your “worried” that they may starve and that it’s “just too damn cold” to go out and wrap them and “it will probably warm up anyway”. This good weather we are now enjoying is the time to consider if wrapping winter vulnerable hives is necessary. Don’t get caught by “Danger in the Comfort Zone”. Your bees’ comfort and survival this winter (or next) may depend on it.
The September meeting of BOS will present “Wrapping Hives” as an important part of the agenda.