November 27, 2011
I don’t have a lot of experience making up nucs, although I have been making up a small number of increase hives every year I have been keeping bees. I enjoy making up smaller “non productive” hives. They bring a certain satisfaction to me as I make them up and watch them slowly grow into viable winter-able hives. One nice thing about them is their growth does not overwhelm my workload. Ill collect a couple of boxes of honey on them and toss them into winter shed, no fuss no muss.
Last winter I was planning on making a bunch of nuc to be used within my operation as replacement stock next summer. Thanks to mother nature and the hard spring she dealt us I had to re adjust my plans and ditch the majority of my nucing plans. I think I would of probably been able to make things work but mylocal queens supplier fell flat on his spring and summer queen order. Kinda frustrating but out of my hands. I have recently made connections with another breeder and I have plans on making up a bunch of nuc in June.
For the small amount of queens I received last summer, I did have a chance to experiment a bit. I have been tossing around the idea of two queen hive arrangements for a few years and final made a few up last summer. For the most part it worked out great, but I encountered a few annoyances that has convinced me to adjust the arrangement of the nucs a bit.
I had taken an old bee box and inserted a makeshift divider down the center of the box which allowed me to make up two, four or five frame nuc in each box. The idea is to get two nucs going independently in the same box and as the nucs progress and grow, I would toss an excluder over the box and super it up. The idea is to have two separate units established but have their work force combine efforts to collect more surplus honey than if they were working independently. This way I will build my nucs, but also have more honey to harvest.
In many of my units it worked well and just as planned. But in some of my units the whole process did not work out as well. I had units reject queens, or reject queens during the whole mingling supering process. This is normal when making up any type of hive arrangement but in this hive two queen arrangement it caused me a lot of work. I had to removed the queen-less unit from the box and replaced it with a viable unit to which I would carry out my plans of mingling and supering. I did not have the time to do all that work and simply just took out the divider and made the box back into a single hive unit.
Another problem I had was trying to manage the development between the two units. I had problems with one unit explode with growth while the other slowly ticked along. One side needed space, the other side needed bees. Shifting brood was the answer but I dont have time for that kind of hive work at that time of year. I tried to mingling the two sides which provided space for the strong side and introduced bees into the smaller side. Some cases it worked well, but some other cases the strong side killed off the other queen. So again I was left to take out the divider and made the box back into a single hive unit.
Its frustrating making these unit back into singles after putting so much time and money into a double arrangements. But from what I observed, the pay back in honey was well worth the time in making up two queen hive arrangements.
A beekeeper around here has been making up this kind of arrangements for a few years now, and I have been listening to how he manages this kind of arrangement intently. He makes up individual nuc boxes, which hold 5-6 frames and slides 3 of them together which he adds 2 supers over the three of them. He swears by it. The reason why I hadn’t gone this route was becasue of all the added building that is required to make up these boxes. But now I can see all the advantages in this kind of nuc arrangement.
First off Id be dealing with independent hive bodies, and manage them totally as such until they needed space later in the hives development. And when it is time to provide more space I can grab any like sized nuc to mingle together and super them up. Also when a nuc doesn’t take, Id just simply remove it from the yard and replace it with another unit near by. It eliminates all that timely frame exchange work I would of been doing with the divider board arrangement.
I’m going to fuss around with a few of my ideas and see how I’m exactly going to do this, but I think I’m going to simply cut an old bee box in half and nail a plywood side to make up the unit. Two units will likely fit under one super, so it will provide me with two queen units. I want to be able to use a lot of my old culled honey supers to do this so I don’t have to spend more money on materials. I’m thinking this all should work, I just have to work out some minor details
Posted by Ian Steppler at 01:23 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2011
This time of year is probably the slowest and most relaxed. The bees are in, the crop is in, land work is done, hay is home and the cattle stand in the yard. Just feeding cows and farm maintenance keeping us busy.
Couple of days ago the temperature got up to 12 degrees here. Very warm for this time of year. I checked on my wintering shed and the fans were working as planned running at full capacity. I wandered inside and noticed the bees bearding on the outside of the hives a bit. A bit of activity but for the most part they didn’t seem to agitated over the high temp. I bet in the spring with that higher temp they would be dancing a bit more! Over all not a lot of bees on the floor and things working well so far.
I signed up for the crop insurance bee mortality program this fall. They are running it as a pilot project this winter. It seems like a great program to me. I insure the hive for two something bucks for a $150/hive coverage. They run a 30% deductible, which is high but the idea is to also run a IP adjustment factor that would in time lower the deductible to each producers average wintering losses. Some beekeepers are getting hug up on the 30% deductible, but I think they are missing the point. This is disaster coverage, and bought to protect a beekeeper from loosing his livelihood over a heavy loss event.
Last winter many Manitoba beekeepers experienced heavy losses. I hear of a lot of 50-95% cases and from beekeepers who had been in the business a lot longer than I. These are good beekeepers, and good beekeepers don’t carelessly prep their hives for winter. By the way the packages sold this spring, I think there was a lot of surprise and distressed producers when setting the hives out and or unpacking hives in the spring. I say that because I had bought 90 packages late April from BeeMaid and I could of bought twice that sitting on their loading dock. Not two weeks later beekeepers couldnt find packages to fill dead out hives.
A Lot of details have to be worked out yet. I still dont understand how they are going to police this project. Its not like crops where you have tangible assets to assess. The program has to trust the beekeepers to be honest when assessing the strength of hives going into storage. The program also has to trust the producer in their effort in preparing the hives for winter. Nobody want to crack open hives for assessment in fall. Not only do beekeepers not enjoy that thought but who would be the poor soul that hast to count brood frames!! Yikes!! Grouchy bees, robbing bees, hives full of heavy honey, frames cemented together ready for winter. All this provides doubt to the success of the program, but here is hoping beekeepers don’t abuse this offering from the government and instead use the program to help manage risk within their operations.
I have got big plans this winter building equipment and reconditioning my old equipment. Now that I have a solid beekeeping plan of action I can build and adjust my whole operation towards that plan. First on my list is to fully convert my equipment to migratory tops and bottom board pallets. It fits in so well with the Ezyloader and makes my work so much nicer set up in this manner. Next is to build a whack of boxes and exchange them with my old supers. I will not completely change the boxes over this year but I want to get 1/3 done every year for the next few years. I will slowly replace those boxes and use the old ones as nucs. As I go through my supers Im going to scrape and staple my honey frames and get things set up and ready to go again for next summer. Lots to do, I just got to get at it now,
Posted by Ian Steppler at 12:22 PM | Permalink
November 20, 2011
I went to the manitoba beekeeping association s AGM the other day . I was very disappointed with the turn out . Our association does great work for our industry its a shame so few care to support it in person Our industry has many issues and the directors work hard to voice the memberships views and concerns. I think at the very least their work should warrent our attendance
Posted by Ian Steppler at 11:17 AM | Permalink
November 11, 2011
Still no snow which is nice but the temperature has dropped to more normal range. The bees are tucked away inside and the fans are making the daily cycles to keep the temp exactly where I want it.
With this great stretch of weather we have been able to get a lot of work done on the farm. I wouldn’t say we are caught up but we are in great shape. Just a few hundred bales to bring in and the summer season is a wrap.
Posted by Ian Steppler at 11:06 AM | Permalink
November 06, 2011
I Finished moving the hives in Friday afternoon. On Tuesday I started cleaning and readying the winter shed for the hives to come in starting Wednesday morning. They were calling for snow on the weekend so I decided to start packing the hives away. The weather was real nice, probably to warm because I had some flying during the heat of the day but for the most part the nights were cool and the bees moved in real easily. I use to get fussy about bringing the bees into the shed where as there would be zero bee flight but I have realized over the last two years that at this time of year the hives are real content on holding their cluster even when day time temp rises to 10 degrees. I have come to believe that the bees that are in flight this time of year are probably the first ones to die during the winter anyway, so loosing a scattering of bees during the best part of the day isn’t worth delaying the work schedule.
I really enjoyed moving the hives this fall. This Ezyloader keeps proving it self time and time again. I have all my hives in doubles on 2 hive migratory pallets. I stack the hives 2 high on the truck which fits 80 hives nicely on its 16 foot deck. The conversion of all my equipment to a 2 hive migratory pallet has made my work so easy and quick. Ill pull into a yard, set up, load and strap within half an hour. Ill hit 2 1/2 yards to make a full load and on my way back within 2 hours of leaving the yard. Unloading takes a bit more time because I then use a skid steer to lift off 8 hives at a time and walk them into the shed to be stacked. Straight off the truck into the shed couldn’t be more efficient except for having to watch that I don’t spill the load on to the driveway. With the construction of my new wintering shed, I’m tying it into my honey house loading pad so all my unloading will be done with my electric forklift. Its going to be so smooth and quick! I cant wait!
Before I closed the doors on Saturday morning I walked through the shed amongst the rows and rows of towering hives. I am very impressed with this method of wintering bees. It provides me with many advantages. Moving the hives into a shed is much nicer then having to wrap yards with mouse infested wrap. There was something about wrapping that I just hated, especially when having to unwrap the next spring. I think the hives handle our winters better inside away from the -30 degree weeks of our 5 month long winter. Having hives indoors in a climate controlled shed make it feel like I’m managing the extremes of our Canadian winters. I cant do anything about the weather but I can manage my operation to protect my hives from the weather.Wintering indoors also allows me to further utilize my investment into the Ezyloader and helps justify its expense.
As I was walking the rows I noticed a low rumbling roar within the whole shed. It was a noise that felt alive and was a sound of content. In other years I have heard the same noise but it always seemed to be more of a sound of distress, and perhaps it was. While I was walking the rows this year It felt more like a sound of contentment. I hope it is. Time will tell
Posted by Ian Steppler at 09:50 AM | Permalink