Monthly Archives: April 2013

Finally a few days of melt


driving out of my bee yard island

Finally a few days of melt and the snow has left the fields.  The weather has slipped back into a coolish trend and looks like it will remain there til later in the week.  This weather is very frustrating and I am so far behind with my work it feels like I will never get back into the hives.  I don’t ever remember a time that the bees have been so slow off the start like this.  It sure is easy to fall into a pessimistic attitude with this weather but the important thing is that I forge ahead with the work at hand.

I started my hired hand today and we spent the day scraping and cleaning up boxes.  This is a job that waits for miserable weather so at least we are accomplishing something throughout the day.  The equipment is not in too bad of shape, so a few days of scraping and sorting should finish this up.

Our landscaping contractor made it by today and started work on the Honey house site.  The weather again holds us up as rain fell and we need drying weather to be able to prepare the site properly.  There is no frost to be found so work will be able to resume as soon as the sun returns.

Ah finally a nice day!

100_2409Ah finally a nice day!  Today was the first day my hives were able to fly free enough to find my soy feeders!  Wow, finally I am able to enjoy the sound of a bee yard once again.  Unfortunately this warmth comes too little too late.  I have down graded my entire operation down by one frames of bees bringing my losses up to a concerning level .  As many hives loose steam, I now add another 15% to my initial loss estimate of 25% bringing my overall operational losses just shy of 40%!  I am very disappointed and I am feeling the hang over from last winter.  I’m assessing only 20% of the hives as strong 6-8 framers, but the remaining 40% remain as solid 3-5 framers.  I miss assessed the hives on my initial round.  The weaker hives spread across the top bars gave the illusion of more strength, but it wasn’t until I actually lifted the box to count the frames underneath that I could measure exactly the strength of these colonies.  So deflating but very important that I keep my perspective realistic so that I can accurately respond to the situation at hand.

oh ya, this is my SUMMER yard

oh ya, this is my SUMMER yard

This weekend I should be able to get the last of the dead hives pulled and weak hives dealt with so that Monday I can finally get spring feeding underway.  The warmth of today felt like a turn around in the weather so here is hoping for a better spring ahead of us.

Honey House Floor Plans

This year I am building a new honey house facility.  What a year to start a project like this, but everything is in place and the farm forages ahead with its plans.  I must have mentioned my building intentions either in this blog or maybe during my bee chit chat on Beesource because I have gotten many inquiries in regards to my floor plans.  This scan is not all that clear but it will help anyone interested to understand my description of the layout. honeyhouse2

A – Old honey house, B – Extraction room, C – Hot room / wintering shed, D – lunch room, office, washroom, utility room, E – loading cement pad, F – Loading cement pad (barrel load out), G – Syrup tanks.

The old honey house will be used for storage and as a work shop.  It will be connected to the new facility with an ally way.  The new facility consists of a large extraction room which may include two extraction lines in the future and a large hot room which will double as a wintering room.  The building will have a lunch room, an office, laundry facility and a bathroom.  The cement pad out front is used to load and unload boxes and hives with my lift truck, the cement pad out back is where we load out honey into Rez-u-Drain-Pics-002-300x223our dry van semi trailers.  I have changed the floor drain idea to a gutter type system.  I’m looking into placing two 20 foot U-drain gutters, one in the hot room and one in the extraction room.  Both will have its own catch sump to screen off any wax and they will drain into my septic tank outside.  I like this idea because it is clean and requires very little form work as the sump ties right into the floor re-bar.  SS options are available.

Well, got another hour and a half

Saskatraz Nucs

Saskatraz Nucs

Well, got another hour and a half of hive work done today, . . .  I so desperately need to make this round and provide feed for some of my hives which are on the brink of starvation, but I can’t find enough day time warmth to get anything done.  The bees will not take any syrup because the bees refuse to break cluster to feed, so I have been adding a frame or two of honey instead.  This requires a bit more intensive hive work but I can’t get this job done during flightless weather.  I just have to remain patient and keep chipping away til I get through them all.  The hives which are at the most at risk of starvation right now are my nucs.  My nuc wintering loss was 18% which was ALL due to starvation. Many nucs that I have come across are sitting on just a small patch of honey!  I’m glad I put the time into supplying feed for the nucs while in winter storage.  While working through the nuc yard I noticed a few large hives sitting on half a frame of freshly stored syrup, yikes!

Guess what!?  Warm weather is on its way!  Just a week away . . . why are the snow storms so punctual this year, the forecasters have not missed on a long range snow storm forecast yet!

This just in from the Manitoba Beekeepers Association;



 MBA Members are invited to a Special General Meeting

Friday 3 May 2013.

Neepawa United Church Auditorium

475 Mountain Ave (At Ellen Street)

Neepawa, Manitoba

At 1:00 p.m.

 The purpose of the meeting is to review concerns for discouraging out door winter bee losses, the factors creating an early scarcity of package bees, the actions taken to source bee stocks, and then consider a plan to pursue emergency access to USA bee packages for Spring 2013.

 Jim Campbell, MBA Secretary

22 April 2013

The bees are out

100_2386The bees are out, the beekeeping year starts once again!!  Well, . . . my beekeeping work has started, the beekeeping year still sits under a heavy blanket of snow.  I have yet to get through all my hives but initial estimates show a 20-25% loss.    Higher than I expect but better than I was fearing.  I have been talking to a few producers about this years winter loss and I am hearing tremendous loss reports.  Just got an email from one of my beekeeping neighbours and he is telling me some relatively large producers are finding 90%, 65%, 55% losses.  And as they say in the cattle business, this is from people who know what they are doing.  The Manitoba beekeeping association is having an emergency meeting May 3rd ( to be announced ) in regards to opening the US boarder to packages.  I’m fairly fresh on the beekeeping scene but I know for a fact that this is one of the most contentious topics in the industry.  If the MBA does plan on going ahead with this meeting, I am going to attend and make sure I understand the entire issue at hand.


100_2387I have started going through my hives pulling out the dead, assessing the survivors, adding insulation tops and emergency feeding.  Before I do anything, I need to know what I have to work with.  Besides the losses, I am fairly happy with the condition of the hives.  I am counting 5 framers up to 8-10 framers but its hard to gauge colony condition until they tighten up and start brooding. As soon as I get through this first round, I plan on making my second with patties and syrup.  Its hard for me to think about brooding in this cold weather but surely this weather pattern will turn and bring us nice beekeeping weather.  Moving the hives out on this forecast seemed kind of ridiculous to me as we are still seeing cold cold nights but how long can we keep them locked up in the shed?  Its a case of taking the best of two bad things.  Cold nights and wind, or starving and drifting in the shed.  At least outside I can spend some time on feeding the hives short on stores and by adding an insulated top will help conserve some heat.  There is also a lot of equipment to work through and time is ticking.  The next major problem is going to be accessibility to my yards.  I have six holding yards full of bees right now and three have easy access.  The other three might require some help from the tractor while the frost leaves and til the ground dries.

Moving out a load of Nucs









This is starting to rack up as one of the most challenging years I have faced in beekeeping, and I have just gotten started.  I have an optimistic feeling deep down inside me though, I have a feeling that anyone with bees this year may be rewarded.  As long as the heat returns, farmers will be sewing a very late and staggered crop this year.  Compound that with record honey prices and we beekeepers have something to work towards!  Oh that absurd sense of a farmers optimism, sometimes it is the only thing that keeps us going when nothing else is motivating.


My yards are ready to take bees,

My bee truck sitting ready to go, but the landscape is still buried in snow

My bee truck sitting ready to go, but the landscape is still buried in snow

My yards are ready to take bees, the tractor sits on site to pull me out when I get stuck and my IPod is ready to blast tunes as I work.  This has been one of the slowest springs I can ever remember!!   Tomorrow the forecast is +4, sun and no wind, perfect weather to set bees out into.  Im going to try to get at least three loads out tonight depending on how I make out in the mud.  The forecasted low tonight is -8 so I am counting on the ground to firm up around midnight.  Very little frost in the ground this winter, I have a feeling a lot of this snow melt has been going down.

The month of April is disappearing

The month of April is disappearing and the farms work load is starting to pile up.  We are weeks away from seeding which puts planting late, a strike against the crop before we even think of seeding it.  We have not revised our cropping budgets yet, but if we don’t start seeing some optimistic weather patterns move in the farm will start shifting towards a defensive operating strategy.  Way to early to start thinking like that, but this weather makes it hard not to anticipate the worst!

100_0954Calving is near the end as we only have a few late calving cows to go.  The work carries on strong as spring always makes yard maintenance a challenge.  Breeding is well underway and the cattle are cycling extremely well.  Our herd is in fantastic shape which we credit to the silage based ration for being able to target the animal nutritional dietary needs.  So far we are holding out well with our feed reserves but we are anticipating to be tight if the spring pasture is late.

My bees sit tight in shed and I am glad I decided to wait this weather out.  My indoor wintering strategy is working exactly as it was designed for.  There would of been no benefit to have set them out into this weather.  These are very tough conditions to winter honeybees in and by having the ability to manage some of those conditions helps me keep my bees alive.  Looking at the promises of the forecast, good weather might prevail by the end of next week, so as I tentatively make my plans, I set my sights on Thursday Friday and Saturday.


A bright and cheery April 12th morning

A bright and cheery April 12th morning. . . .

A bright and cheery April 12th morning. . . .

We have yet to feel the promise of spring. This cold snowy morning reinforces old man winter’s unwillingness to let go. I’m shifting my focus away from moving hives out until I see something optimistic in the weather forecast. On to other projects at hand.

Well, that squashes my plans

Well, that squashes my plans for moving bees out for this weekend.   By the looks of the forecast I’ll be planning to move out for next weekend.  Far as I can tell the hives are holding up well in the shed.  I am glad my hives went into winter heavy and healthy.

Picture taken on a coolish day, October 15, 2012, during my last feed round.  Trying to fit as much syrup into these colonies as they would take.  The yard was in excellent condition for winter.

Picture taken on a coolish day, October 15, 2012, during my last feed round. Trying to fit as much syrup into these colonies as they would take. The yard was in excellent condition for winter.

Hives sitting patiently inside

Hives sitting patiently inside

Sometimes its hard to stay optimistic

Sometimes its hard to stay optimistic in this business.  This cold weather continues to linger on and the forecasts shows little promise of good bee flight weather.  Within the last two years I have experienced extremes from both ends of the spectrum.  An incredibly mild winter last year presenting me with the challenge of an overheated winter shed all winter long, to an incredibly long winter this year presenting me with the challenge of not finding the appropriate warm weather to be able to set my hives out into.  I manage my shed with a certain set of rules to follow which makes overwintering indoors very effective.  Years like the last two force me to stretch the boundaries and test the limits of the bees.

I checked on the shed yesterday and swept up another half barrel of bees.  I am going to prep the shed today to move the hives out as soon as these COLD nights pass.  Looks like I’m going to start my move Wednesday night OR Thursday night.  Still not ideal weather to set them out in but the double digit lows will have passed and the day time highs are forecasted to be above zero.  For some reason they have snow/rain further out in the forecast on Sunday/Monday so I have to work to get these hives out into the flight weather before hand.  If I cant move them out over three nights, I’ll be forced to work two all nighters.  My yards are ready to go, and at the very least I’ll be working on frost so getting stuck should not be an issue.