Pat Ennis describes it as a sad sight. The majority of the bees he’s kept this winter have not made it.
“It’s very hard because inside of a bee hive is 92 degrees when they’re raising their babies and they have to create friction to cause heat to do that and in that process they eat a lot of their food,” he explains.
During the long winter months many of the hives run out of food, leaving many keepers left with empty hives.
“Being the president of the Iowa Honey Producers, I hear a lot from different beekeepers and it’s about 80% winter loss.”
But one of his hives did survive.
“Basically they got a tropical bug that they’re trying to keep in subzero weather and it don’t work so good,” says Ennis.
Besides keeping hives for fun as he says he’s mainly a commercial beekeeper, one of just 9 in the state.
So the bees he uses to make honey, they got on a littler winter get away.
“As a commercial beekeeper I take them to a safe place, either Texas or California so they stay warm so they don’t have the stress of the cold winter. Where they hobbyist they’re stuck here for the winter and they have to figure out how to do it.”
Ennis’s goal is to figure out a way to ensure majority of his hobby bees survive Iowa winters.
One thing the winter loss won’t affect is honey prices.
Ennis said the bees that didn’t make it through the winter are usually not used to make honey products.