Wintering bees in south central Alaska

South central Alaska is centered at latitude 61°N and is a region designated as a plant hardiness zone 4b by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).   Zone 4b is defined as ‘an area that experienced an annual average extreme minimum temperature within the range of -34°C to -32°C between 1978 and 2005.  The current local mean annual temperature is around 2.8°C, but it is predicted to rise over time due to the changing global climate patterns.    

There is nationwide interest in the use of single and double nucleus colonies to overwintering young queens.  Notable contributions have been made by a number of experienced beekeepers (e.g., Kirk Webster and Michael Palmer in Vermont, and the Sustainable Honeybee Program led by Billy Davis in Virginia).  Although the practice of overwintering queens in nucleus colonies is not new (Brother Adam did this for many years at Buckfast Abbey, England), northern beekeepers previously reliant on annual packaged bee supplies have recognize the utility of the system.  Specifically, it can provide a means of replacing wintering losses in a sustainable way.

2018/2019