People aren’t the only ones having a tough time with the prolonged cold weather. Local beekeepers are reporting a higher loss this year.

It’s not uncommon for beekeepers to lose hives during the winter. Local beekeeper Bruce Zimmer said he lost seven of his eight hives, which is a higher loss than normal.

Zimmer said there are at least two issues at work damaging the hives. The primary problem is Varroa mites. Beekeepers have been dealing with the pests since the 1980s. The mites attack honey bees.

The second issue this year was the prolonged cold weather.

“As the Varroa mites take its toll, on cold days, these bees will surround themselves around the queen to keep warm. Less bees and means less heat,” Zimmer said.

Bees can live through a harsh winter, but Zimmer says March can be a tough time. As the mites impact the population, there are fewer bees to help keep the hive warm and the food source stored since summer has gone down.

Bob the Bee Man said his hives did a little bit better. He only lost two of his five hives. Now, both Bob the Bee Man and Zimmer are waiting for the swarm season when bees reproduce. When a beehive becomes overcrowded, roughly half of the bees will leave and start looking for a new home.

If you’ve never seen a swarm, it can be intimidating. There can be a cluster of 10,000 to 20,000 bees in a swarm that will attach to tree branches or other structures. The queen is at the center and other bees are protecting her. They are trying to find a new home. I

“If you see that, don’t touch them. Don’t spray anything on them and don’t throw anything. Call a beekeeper,” Zimmer said.

Swarming typically starts in May and continues into June.

A list of beekeepers that can help remove a swarm or answer questions about bee issues can be found at