The changing ways of beekeeping.
 
I just recently visited a commercial beekeeper a few miles north of us.
 
As long as I have been keeping bees we have always overwinterred them wherever they were - and we will continue to try to do so.  After last winters disastrous losses (80 to 100% from everyone in our area) the discussion in the beekeeping community is how to go forward.
 
Replacing honey bees every year with packages is very expensive.
 
Many larger beekeepers are moving their colonies to warmer climates over the winter.  This beekeeper moved all of his (maybe 600-800) to California to overwinter and also pollinate almonds.  He showed us the nice healthy colonies (4 to a pallet) that he had ready to take out to his Michigan beeyard locations.
 
Sounds easy - maybe everyone should try it!  OR MAYBE NOT!
 
Then he started talking about the tremendous costs and effort to move and take care of these bees.
 
He mentioned that is cost about $3/mile for a truck/trailer to move his bees ($6000-$7000) each way? Then the vibration from moving the bees does not help them at all.  Fees & permits for crossing state lines, inspections, and also the owner usually has to stay there himself to take care of details.  Housing?
 
Hearing all these costs and doing a little math, does put a large figure on what he has to do to winter his bees and end up with live ones in the spring.
 
I talked to another on of my commercial friends who took his bees (about 600) to Florida.  He had similar experiences.  This was the first time for him.
 
Most people have honeybee yards of 20 to 50 colonies at the most - otherwise there are way too many bees for the area.
 
When his truck load arrived in the middle of the night he had to  unload all 600 IN ONE LOCATION at his farm.  The next day all the bees flew out and he had a huge amount of drifting - many of the bees did not return to their own hives.   There were many hives with huge amounts of bees (they killed the queens in the hive) and lots of hives with very few bees (lots of the brood was lost due to lack of bees).
 
Moving bees is not for everyone.  It also sounds a lot easier on paper and in the planning stage.
 
Certainly the smaller beekeepers like us (50 to 200 colonies) cannot do this - these beekeepers also have a day job and cannot leave all winter.
 
Years ago many beekeepers in Canada and very cold areas  would routinely kill their bees in the fall and restock all in the Spring.  Most people here do not want to do that, but we also cannot continue with losses like last year.
 
Maybe we could use a little of that so called "global warming" like some of our alarmist politicians are threatening us with.
 
The extremely cold weather we had over this past winter did add a lot to our winter losses, but most of the problem is still from varroa mites, chemical poisoning of the honeybees and a mix of all of the above that weakens the colonies.
 
No wonder the price of honey has gone up.