Monthly Archives: May 2012

May 2012

May 28, 2012

May 2012

This last weather system has delt us a lot of rain. Between all of our rain gauges we received between 25mm to 60mm of rain and most of it came down with in 20 minutes!! That much rain falling within that short of time caused a lot of water erosion especially to the areas freshly sewed fields. I have seen a lot of wash outs and pounded fields which makes me wonder how the freshly sewed and just emerging canola fared that abuse.

We scouted our fields to assess the damages and found our field held up very well. Most every place including our runs held its soil and we noticed the seed bed in good shape. Thanks to our newly adopted seeding system, we have now seen a huge benefit of minimized water and wind erosion. And we have seen both extremes within this last week!

I got back out to the bees today. I needed a few days to recover from the intense split I worked through. It was easy to take a few days off during unworkable weather. I released 150 queens and will be releasing the last 130 tomorrow. Then that will be it, the end of my split work!!

I am quite worried about my queen acceptance this spring. I do not like introducing queens into such large splits and during cool wet weather. Hearing of queen acceptance problems in the province this spring did not help either. So today I spot checked 5% of the first 200 splits I had made up. I do not like to disturb my freshly queened splits until at least a week or so after my release but I needed to know what to expect on the days ahead. The queens have been free for about 5 days now, so I should see some evidence of her in the hive one way or another.

My assessment was good. Most all the splits I checked showed evidence of a dominant queen present. Some hives showed eggs, others showed torn emergency queen cells. All the hives were calm, quiet and settled. This is an extreemly good sign especially when trying to introduce queens during cool wet weather. So my nerves have calmed and I am expecting a good acceptance.

Many beekeepers ask me how I introduce queens into a queenless hive or freshly made up split. This is a tough question to answer because there are so many methods and ideas to properly introducing a queen. My method my not be fancy but it works for my method of beekeeping. And that is the whole point, understand what your trying to do and work it into your method of beekeeping.

What Im doing is splitting bees by the box. It works very well but can result in varied strength splits. Because of such I do not allow the slow release method of queen release. I alway manual release and always leave the queens in the hive for 5 days. It may sound extreem to some beekeepers but I feel the consumption of the slow release candy is timed on a 4 frame split, not a box of bees and 5 days buys a bit more time to help ensure my $22 doesnt get killed off by slow to learn bees! Whats 5 days in the whole scheme of things. During the honey flow you would not be able to tell the difference between a split which had its queen released in 3 days as compaired to 5 days. Thats just my opinion.

This part of my queen introduction is disputed by many beekeepers. What I do is ensure there is eggs in the split to make sure the split has emergency queen cells going while Im introducing the new queen. The reason why I do this is I do not get 100% acceptance of my queens, I expect 90-95% acceptance and some years my acceptance can run as low as 80%, so if there is cells being built during the whole process, I have some insurance that that split will become a viable hive and contribute to my overall operational production. Nothing worse than shaking out a split after working so hard on it.

When that queen emerges from the cage, and is accepted by that hive, the first thing she will do is search the hive and tear down those emergency queen cells. Those virgins start piping as they mature and if the newly accepted queen is any good, she will prove her dominance and rule that hive by destroying those virgins. If not, she will be superceeded and the hive will be better off anyway. How am I to tell if my $22 is best for the hive. All I know is by investing that $22 into that split my chances of success increase and I am able to bring in some excellent genetics from professional breeders around the world.

Another trick I adopted from a fellow beekeeper is to spritzer spray the split down with a water/syrup/Honey-B-Healthy mixture before the queen cage is introduced. This is probably one of the reasons why I have been getting such good queen acceptance over the last few years because it removes some of the finicky issues that arise when introducing a new queen into a strong split or hive. What it does is mask all smells in the hive, including the new queen smell just introduced. By the time the bees relieve the Honey-B-Healthy smell from the hive the new smell of the introduced queen becomes the natural smell in that hive. I do not use smoke at all during the whole queen introduction and release process, but I use this spritzer instead. It works so well and I would recommend it to anyone. I also use it when combining hives to make up a two queen unit. All the same principles are followed and it allows more lee way in the way we can work with the hives.

Posted by Ian Steppler at 07:58 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2012

May 2012

With this cool rainy weather I am wondering about my queen mating sucess in some nucs I made up. I asked a fellow beekeeper who regularly builds cells and mates queens if he would share some of his experience with me. His comments were very useful to me and I thought it may help some fellow beekeepers who visit my blog site;

Question – how long can an emerged queen sit in a hive before she gives up and starts laying

Answer – fastest is about 10 days. 5 days to mature, 1 day to mate, 4 days before first egg. Slowest? I usually give them two full weeks before I even check. I wouldn’t give up for at least 21 days. They WANT to mate, sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate. The california guys cull the queens that aren’t laying after 20 days, but they have california weather.

a quick check of my grandmothers’ abc-xyz of beekeeping shows longest delay to egg laying that wasn’t a drone layer was 25 days. however if the queen is not laying after two weeks take a good look to see if A) the weather should have produced mating flights and B) is the queen in good condition to fly. often non-layers when you look closely have deformed wings or seem slow in their movements.


I recieved this email from Rhéal Lafrenière, who is our provincial Apiarist working our of the University of Manitoba. This is not exactly what I wanted to hear at this time;

I have had a few inquiries about queen acceptance this year. Please take the time to answer the following questions and send them to me at your convenience:

In you experience how would you rake the queen acceptance this year (e.g. poor, fair, good or Excellent)? If there were problems what were the predominant problems (e.g. poor queens acceptance, supersedure shortly after acceptance, drone layers or poor egg laying) What was the source of queens (i.e. import or domestic and if imported from where)? What was/were the date(s) when the queens were released?

Posted by Ian Steppler at 12:50 PM | Permalink

May 2012

I completed the spring split of 2012! There is alot to reflect on. Finally got through the last of the hives on Thursday and the last of the queens went in on Friday. The split went a bit longer than I had anticipated with running two straight weeks of work. My hive work went very well during the first week with sun sine and beautiful bee working days, but the second week was a bit more challenging as cooler wet weather fell upon us slowing the hive work significantly. I adopted a different method of splitting this year which allowed me to accomplish my split work during the whole range of weather conditions. It not only helped me keep on schedule but also allowed me to work impossiblely huge hives with little disturbance. Basically what I was doing was taking the bottom box as my split. It evolved alot of lifting but I replaced the bottom box (1st) with an empty, left the top box as a 2nd, counted my brood frames in the second to ensure the proper brood nest size, then place that 1st box on top in the 3rd position. Normally I added a gallon of syrup to bulk the 3rd ( split ). Prior to the queens arrival, I would then go around and push the bees out of the 3rd box with smoke and fumes, place in an excluder and allow the bees to come back up over the brood. That evening or the next day I would come back and strip the boxes off as queenless splits.

This method worked very well, but required three visits. I was able to work through two yards of 36 in a day, I was able to push eight yards of bees down in a day, and strip 8 yards of bees off in a day. An incredible amount of work by myself but as I worked through my yards I developed a system which I figure I could easily employ one or even two hired workers. With this help I believe I could increase my initial hive work to at least 3 yards per day and possibly working the split with two visits instead of three. And this will buy me the ticket to be able to manage more bee hives.

As I mentioned, the split went very well. I managed to split off 430 full hive splits which brings my hive count to well over 1000 hives. That is as long as my queens are properly accepted. The weather has been cool and rainy, my splits are full of bees, so Im a bit worried about the acceptance of my queens. Queens acceptance is better under sun and nectar flows but I noticed as I removed corks on the queen cages of my first splits the bees were quiet and settled in the hives with very little aggression towards the queens in the cages. This is a very good sign but I will not know the success of queen acceptance until I spot check in a week or so. Kind of nerve racking!

I have been selling off hives from my increase yard. The sales are going very well and I am very happy with the quality hives Im sending out. Actually I think the buyers are getting a fantastic deal, getting 8 frames of brood and bees, 2 sheets of foundation, box top and bottom for $150. My tops and bottoms are surplus right now anyway and my so are my boxes as I acquire new equipment through a bartering deal with our bull sales. Its working very well for me and I think I am going to have to get serious on selling off some hives next year to help manage my work load. That is if my bees winter as they did this last winter.

Now, as I look ahead my focus shifts to bee yard maintenance, feeding, moving, and soon to be supering. Canola is going start flowering in 3 weeks time along with the clover. I have to find places for all these hives. What Im planning is to claim summer yards along our field edges. I like to keep my yards behind shelter but Im counting too many hives to fill my current yards. We manage alot of land so I can easily spread my hives around. I hope we have a good honey flow this year, and if we do Im planning to pull and extract honey without a break between flows to keep that honey running. I have a staff that is experienced with my operation and full of piss and vinegar to get going. That provides me with a huge advantage as I try to manage the work load ahead. Next year Im going to have to seriously think about trimming my numbers down but until then I am going to take it as it comes!!

Seeding is done now, and we are starting to spray. The crop emergence was excellent and our weed pressures are low. Other than a few hitches seeding went very well. The addtition of the zero till air seeder has proven itself to be an excellent addition to our line of equipment. Our spring tillage was eliminated other than the land we sewed with the press drills and our spring emergence weed control has been completely controled with our pre seeding burnoff. A good example of the advantage the zero till seeder provided us was during the massive wind storm we encountered a week ago. Horrible winds nearing 100 km/hr swept across the land pulling up dust from the fields. Alot of crop was damaged due to the sand blasting effect which caused alot of farmer to reseed. Our fields has very little damage mostly because of the trash that had been left over the soil becasue the crop had been sewed without tillage. Our soil structure remained moist and intact and the soil held itsef down during that wind storm. Who knows, it may of prevented crop damage through that wind storm.

Cattle are almost out to pasture now. The grass is growing and the pastures are in fantastic shape. We are now working at feedlot maintenance preparing the yard for this fall. The calves looked great as we sent them out to pasture and with this grass ahead of them we are expecting them to come back heavy. We have been busy setting in fence as we have acquired more pasture. We have let alot of our little pastures go now as we are able to group more cattle in larger pastures ranges. Maintaining small pasture fences is alot of work, so we are happy to be able to acquire larger areas to pasture on. And with this we can rotational graze and manage the grass alot more efficiently.

Posted by Ian Steppler at 09:35 AM | Permalink

May 13, 2012

May 2012

Im getting so behind its not funny. The hives are booming! 300 Queens arrive middle of next week and another 100 the following. I have gone through 10 yards so far and I will be ready for my first queen arrival on Wednesday. If things work as planned, they will all be in splits by Thursday. I have been able to work 75 hives per day. My work is slowed down because of the shear amount of bees in the hive. There is no where for the bees to go as I try to work the frames. Its so frustrating but Im not complaining. I think I have my equipment shortage problem figured out. Its going to be tight, but I might as well get use to it.

Posted by Ian Steppler at 08:36 PM | Permalink

May 06, 2012

May 2012

I had made up 30 or 40 nucs last year using the two queen hive arrangement. I am very happy with this arrangement of building nucs and those nucs made it through the winter in fantastic shape. I went through them yesterday to equalize, medicate and feed them and while working them I’m thinking I have to pull their strength down a bit or they are going to swarm later in May. The yard sits with 4 frames of brood which is a frame of brood more than I want them at this time of year. Ill likely cut this yard completely down to make up my June nucs but thinking I should sell off some of these hives to help cut down my summer work load. Anyone interested in buying some hives this May email me and we will make an arrangement. I have no experience in selling live hives so Ill be taking my ques from other producers but one thing is for sure, Im easy to deal with and will help set them up.

Posted by Ian Steppler at 11:44 AM | Permalink

May 04, 2012

May 2012

I have made my feeding and assessment round and I am quite pleased with the way the hive look. I have marked over 70% of my hives to make a full split and they look to be ready to split anytime now. The hives are brooding well despite the iffy weather and I noticed the hives are very hungry. I fed them all a gallon during this last round, which they have already consumed. I might have to make another feed round if the weather doesn’t smarten up. I have noticed plums saskatoons and dandelions peaking through so a flow is near! I have culled out my last spring dwindlers which brings my total losses to 12%. As far as culling losses, spring dwindling appears to have come to an end. I requeened 5% of my viable queen problem hives which is about what I have expected. Most of my queen issues this spring have been isolated to a certain batch of queens I had brought in last spring. These specific queens were great producers last summer and topped my honey production but they do not seem to be able to make a full year without issues. Its a trend that I have noticed from years past as well.

As I worked through the hives, I started to realize I do not have enough equipment needed to split my hives. Im starting to panic a bit because Im not really sure how Im going to manage this size of hive split off. I have some new equipment coming in but not near enough to handle a 1/3 increase in operation size. My notes tell me I have 450 splits coming off 650 hives middle to end of May, plus I have a planned 200 nucs to be made up beginning of June. So, 1100 possible producers and 200 nucs running this summer. I have enough equipment to handle 750 hives. The nucs I can manage easy enough, but the production hives are going to require some creative thinking. Busy times ahead!

We have finished seeding 1200 acres of wheat and with this nice wet weather, some of the crop is already up! We now wait for the sun to start seeding Oats and Canola. This delay in seeding is good, delaying seeding of canola helps manage frost concerns but more importantly delays the canola bloom! I find the later the canola planting, the more honey I collect from its flowers. It has to do mostly with colony maturity and staggered plantings make for a longer flow. The zero till air seeder works great, so efficient and quick. Its going to be a good addition to our equipment line up. The efficiency has saved us thousands already!

Pastures are starting to grow and by the looks of it the livestock will be heading out in a few weeks. Breeding is nearing the end and bull deliveries are almost complete. The busy times with the cattle enterprise start to wind down.

The forecast looks promising. Alot of work is going to get done in the next couple of weeks!

Posted by Ian Steppler at 05:42 PM | Permalink