Monthly Archives: June 2013

The “early sowed” crop has just started to bloom

Adding thirds as the first of the bloom peaks through

Adding thirds as the first of the bloom peaks through

The “early sowed” crop has just started to bloom across the country side. Not many fields here were put in before the May long, but a few are poking through.  As I have mentioned earlier in my posts, I have built my hives a bit smaller than normal so that I was able to build more replacement colonies and fill boxes.  This means  my hives are generally not working into thirds yet, but by the way the hives looked today they will be needing space by the end of next week.  Today we made a quick round to add thirds to about 10% of the hives needing space. This will hold the operation for a weeks time til we are able to get back into the hives in a weeks time to start the supering round.  This year my hive work timing and the way I managed the hives so far this year is much different than most years.  Alfalfa is just coming into bloom, the clover is slowly making an appearance and my Raspberry bush is still attracting bees. Heck, looking at the broam grass today in our hay field and it has just headed out!  Looking at the land scape around Altamont and Miami, I would tell you the date is more like June 10th, not June 29th and June 10th is about where I have got my bees right now.  I have trimmed two weeks off the start of my honey flow and I am hoping that I recapture that lost time at the end of the season.

Here is a video of bees on the frount of one of my hives.  I have seen this before occasionally and do not know what they are doing.  Email me with your thoughts on what the bees are doing and why.  The bees will space themselves out evenly and work in a back and fourth motion polishing the frount of the hive.  I only see this from time to time and rarely do I find more than two hives doing this within my operation.  Bees Polishing Hive

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Tis the season of thunder storms

the face of Zeus, the god of sky and thunder.  My brother taking a picture of his face as Zeus lead last nights powerful storm

The face of Zeus, the god of sky and thunder. My brother catching a glimpse of Zeus as he lead last nights powerful storm.

Tis the season of thunder storms as they roll through the prairie landscape blessing farmers with much needed rains and destroying the crops of others.  I call this the thunderstorm lottery!  Some make it rich, others loose their shirt and none of us have any control or knowledge of whats ahead of us.  We all have to be careful cursing the clouds though, most years these storms are what brings our crops through til the end, but unfortunately over these last few days the sky opened up on some farm land in the province resulting in massive flooding and crop destruction.  We were fortunate enough to miss the severity of those storms.

We shift gears to honey production mode now as crop blooms start to peak across the countryside.    This year I will have a staff of five or six guys including myself to help collect the honey crop.  I am looking for another temporary honey house worker which jobs include working the extraction line  preparing the honey frames for the extractor.  The work will only be during extraction days with a possible 50 or more hours of work.  If you know of anyone interested contact me asap as this position will start sometime end of July.  Contact my email stepplerfarms@hotmail.com

Snapping in 9000 frames of foundation, getting ready for the summer flows!

Snapping in 9000 frames of foundation, getting ready for the summer flows!

Today we started preparing the supers for the flow by sorting frames of foundation throughout all our honey supers.  The boxes are a little slower to go out this year as I had made my hives up a bit smaller matching the late crop this year.  We are scheduled to start fully supering the hives by end of next week, which should be about the time our canola crops starts its bloom.

Talking to an American Migratory beekeeper

I have been talking to an American migratory beekeeper on Beesource about storing and loading hives out of holding yards.  These are yards where the beekeeper will congregate their hives for load out onto transport trucks shipping them to their next destination.  These beekeepers operate in a much different manner than we do and their shear volume of scale astonishes me as they move their beehives from state to state all across the US either chasing pollination contracts, chasing the honey flows, or both.  Here is a picture taken of a drifting situation going bad in one beekeeper’s holding yards, his transport trucks were delayed by one day and the daytime temperature soared.  I asked him if I could post his picture here.

Drifting bees in a California beekeepers holding yard,

“Ian: Sure, feel free to. Scattering, as you do, is much better no doubt. This is just a situation of doing what you have to do. We haul in from about 3 to 8AM for a 7PM load out. There is no perfect way of moving that many bees at that time of year when the hives get this large and the temps so high. Nightime temps weren’t even getting below 70 so there wasn’t much relief. On the whole it went pretty well, we did 7 loads in 10 days with myself and another man in Texas, my son and a fourth man in South Dakota unloading and setting out yards. I wish there were a better way but unless the truck has 2 drivers if you haul in all night and load in the early morning then the truck arrives up north mid to early afternoon which is not acceptable. So we do an early evening load and tell the driver he must be in SD at sunrise the second day. it’s been an incredible year for bee raising. We made up 5,300 nucs had a little over 4,500 first catches and caught about half of our rebuilds for a final count up north of about 4900 queenright colonies. Now the tough part, raising a honey crop.
All the best to ya”

Another migratory beekeeper's California holding yard

Another migratory beekeeper’s California holding yard

We are done seeding now

100_2518We are done seeding now, what ever is still too wet will sit as summer fallow til next year.  We sowed the entire crop this year on 5 days, 5 very long long days, but we did not have any other chance to work the land this spring other than those 5 days!  That is ridiculous and it is amazing how we were able to accomplish that task.  If we ever get a nice spring, its going to seem like a dream after working through this one!  Spraying is well underway and I might even say we have sprayed most of our land without putting ruts in it…. and …. we ….  are just about caught up, .  We ended up not re seeding any of our crop.  The corn

Corn up and growing in this heat !

Corn up and growing in this heat !

fought through nicely but the canola sure looks sketchy.  Maybe the canola should have been re-seeded because if we thought the plant population was good enough after getting pounded by those monsoon rains, the bugs took a lot more of it.  The bugs have been so bad this year that we have had to spray the canola twice!  Poor poor canola, and poor poor bees, our farm has taken all the proper precautions to minimize colony death and so have many of my neighbours and I greatly appreciate that.  The deal with pesticide spraying this time of year is mostly the machine drift, which will kill a yard if it is exposed to any of it.

My split round nucs, nicely transfered over into singles today.  Many nucs were needing space as they were plugged full with brood and HONEY!

My split round nucs, nicely transferred over into singles today. Many nucs were needing space as they were plugged full with brood and HONEY!

My hives are all working into seconds and the split round nucs have been transferred into singles.  My over all impression of the bees right now is very good.  All the hives are growing and in most cases they were waiting for me to add that second box.  I am very happy with the amount of nectar and pollen they have brought in and right now they are not needing any major supplemental feeding.  I am going to use up the last bit of the syrup next week.  I think I was wrong about having a late clover and alfalfa bloom, as those crops have stretched with all this heat and buds are not too far

Bee working the buds on a ceder tree, I think...

Bee working the buds on a ceder tree, they are absolutely covering these trees in my brothers yard!

from blooming.  Mustard is blooming here but the “early” canola looks to be about two weeks away yet.  Thanks to my staff, and their steady hard work, I can comfortably say, our work is caught right up til Monday.  Not too often I can boast about that!

I have had queen acceptance in the high ninety’s with nearly all of those queens laying a masterful brood pattern.  The queens I got my hands on this year were Olivarez and Saskatraz both reared out of California.  I hope these queens perform better than the stock I received last year.  Even though last year’s queens gave me tremendous hives throughout the year, many of them seemed to peeter out mid-way through our terrible spring.  Do I blame it on the queens? Do I blame it on the weather?  The decision I made was harsh as many of those queens did not make it to June, as I had many pinched off and replaced.  The chalk brood has finally relieved itself and even though I was hard on the queens with this infection, I am thinking it had a lot to do with the weather also.

My hive count is still a rough estimate as I do not make my final count until I send them into the flow but I’m counting 900 queen right colonies working up into the second box, with another 75-100 remaining in nucs.  This should keep my staff busy for the production season!

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Seconds going on my hives this week

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Adding seconds to my operation

I had my tonsils taken out last Monday and today, finally, I start to feel like living again….  Immediately after the operation as I laid in surgical recovery I felt instant relief from not having my tonsils and felt like a new man.  I think my tonsils have been dragging me down for quite a while, slowly sending my body into a continual state of sickness.  Now, I sit here in a terrible amount of pain, but I am glad to have this done and look forward to not having to deal with tonsils ever again!

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Pushing the limits on some of these hives, sitting on four frames of brood ready to hatch anytime! Space needed asap!

I made it out to the bee yards today to see the bees. My crew has kept busy this last week while I was in recovery and has kept my work load caught up.  All the queen work is now done, all my yards are fed, maintained and cleaned up ready for the summer season.  The bees look right on schedule, but they are needing space asap so seconds are going out this next week.

A outter frame packed with pollen

An outer frame packed with pollen

 

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The bees wasting no time finding my set out sugar syrup

The pollen flow over the last two weeks has been incredible!  Not too often have we had the entire country side bloom at the same time.  It made for a great flow and the bees packed the hives full of pollen.  The bloom has now finished and I am noticing a lot of activity around my syrup feeders.  We will be busy feeding the bees over the next few weeks as the next round of blooms still looks slow going.

Flea Beetle Spraying !

Well, a cool, slow, wet spring has translated into bug problems on the canola.  Many farmers have already re sown their canola as the bugs have chewed what ever survived the rain.  We have been watching like a hawk and we have decided to spray one of our canola fields.  Im afraid for the bees this week because it sounds like everyone is spraying for the bugs.  So much so that we are having trouble finding insecticide to spray our field!  Hmmmm, most of my bee yards are sheltered from drift, I just hope farmers spray responsibly so that my hives do not get harmed in the process.

So tiny and quiet, tucked in beside one of my beehives!

So tiny and quiet, tucked in beside one of my beehives!

I finished the split

Construction Underway !

Construction Underway !

I finished the split on Saturday using up the last of my queens nucing out the last yard.  It’s nice to be done and it’s nice to have the operation whipped back into shape.  As I had mentioned earlier in one of my postings, I had adopted an aggressive queen replacement strategy, requeening anything that showed poor performance.  There was a lot of two year old queens that had gotten pinched off, lots of spotty brood patterns and I have not yet been able to find any trend towards a particular queen company or queen shipment, yard or location.  A lot of awesome looking hives though, and I am ONLY keeping queens that were performing at the top of their game.

My bees going crazy on our cherry trees, which is also going crazy with bloom

My bees going crazy on our cherry trees, which is also going crazy with bloom

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My Dad calls this stuff snake oil, funny thing is I’m also calling it snake oil. I will see if it actually is worth the fuss as I test it out

The hives are still in singles as I had slimmed them down quite a bit, but by the way they are growing, they are getting a second box beginning of next week.  The dandelion flow and pretty much every fruit bloom is going strong and the hives are responding incredibly to it.  We have started to set feed out for the hives this week as with the hives’ growth they are needing a bit more than what they are finding out and about.  I have most of my hives set into their summer yards, so that they can take full advantage of the area blooms.  This year during my June feeding I am adding HBH and Amino B supplement to my feed which I am hoping to see some positive results from.  My objective is to try to target the honeybees gut which will promote health and send well nourished foragers into the summer flows. I am expecting an exaggerated June dearth, I could be wrong as I notice the clover and alfalfa starting to elongate but canola generally has not been planted around here until just recently, so I need to make sure I do not run the hives short of feed.  I will not know until I see the flows stagger in, but I will be ready to keep the supplement going if I need to.

Global News interviewing Phil Veldhuis on this years spring time losses

My summer staff is slowly filing in and my work load is slowly catching up.  My crew is working absent a boss as I am laid up after surgery and will be out for two weeks ( one week ).  The major split work is done, so all the remaining queen work, feeding, yard maintenance, and supering will keep my guys going til I get back.  As I type this I am sitting in recovery hopped out on drugs watching the Jays game, hmmm, not soooo bad.

Seeding is progressing ever so slowly.  Thanks to those torrential rains (11 1/2 “) our already late seeding year is now pushing the crop insurance deadlines!  We have a few hundred acres of canola to sow ( great for the bees ), but we are having a terrible time identifying the wet spots in the fields and are continually sinking the machines without warning.  It is making for a lot of down time as the process of pulling the air seeder out of the mud and then freeing it of mud takes nearly half the day!  All we can do is try to avoid them as we can not wait on the land much longer because the crop insurance deadlines near.  Just one of those years. . . at least the cattle are happy knee deep in grassy pastures.  We are currently in the process of assessing the rain damages and making the tough decision on re seeding.  We have a corn field and a canola field just on the line, do we re seed to get our plant population back but loose the growing time, or do we use what we have and hope for the best.  These are not easy decisions.