Monthly Archives: July 2013

Neighbours appreciating the benefit of bees

Just had a neighbour go completely out of their way not to clear land so that my bees have a place to flourish.  They have done EXTENSIVE work to clean up and level a section and a half of land and decided to leave about 5 acres of an old bush yard alone.  They had told me they wanted to leave that piece of land set aside so that I can keep bees there as long as I needed to.  A small gesture like that mean the world me.  Not very often that happens anymore! Cheers!

Small swarm found hanging nearby

We got through about half of the yards today mowing and prepping the hives for the pull.  During this round I tighten up the space in the hives that will be pulled within the next week and add more space to the hives that will be pulled in two weeks time.  By the looks of the hives today everything is right on schedule with the first grouping of yards ready for extraction Friday.

honeybee swarm in air

Bees filling the air in the yard, swarming onto a nearby tree

Small swarm found within reaching distance hanging in one of my bee yards

Small swarm found hanging nearby in one of my bee yards, which we successfully hived



The extraction facility is now clean

This last week we have spent our time working on the yard and cleaning up the honey house.  The extraction facility is now clean and everything is ready for the honey pull.  Construction has tore up my yard and has forced me to take a few extra steps to get our work done but now we have things in better working condition for the pull.  Tomorrow we are making our final bee yard mowing round100_1308 for the year and will be prepping the hives for the honey pull to start Aug 1st.  Canola bloom is advancing with early fields ending its bloom while late seeded crops have just started.  This last week has been a bit cooler, shortening the bee working days but with that coolness came quite a bit of precipitation which will be more than enough to finish off our crop now.  We are hoping for a bit more heat in the weeks ahead.

For anyone reading this, please excuse this little rant

For anyone reading this, please excuse this little rant I’m about to make.  OUR environment is changing.  I’m not referring to “climate change” as everyone is so focused on and wasting time and money on.  I’m referring to our natural area and environment we currently live in.  Things are changing, our environment is in a transformation where every aspect of it through out the growing season is being manipulated to the point where everything natural about it is being lost.  It’s the clearing of arable land, and the clearing of non arable land, clearing and drainage of swamps and leveling out of ravines to allow machinery to travel over. Massive water drainage projects where we

Muskeg being cleared and drained, once land unable to farm until we found the ability to tile drain.  Tile drain is why our all our most prime natural habitat is being lost

Muskeg being cleared and drained, once land unable to farm until we found the ability to tile drain. Tile drain is why our all our most prime natural habitat is being lost

run off the surface water as fast as we can, drain the sub surface water year round into ditches and pump deep water reserves to irrigate our crops.  It’s the blanket use of insecticides not once but up to five times a season to protect the crop from pests, the use of fungicides to everything that is growing and the use of highly efficient herbicides leaving nothing else growing within the fields but the crop its self.  It’s this expansion of our fields and intensively managed mono culture that is in a way creating a living desert in areas which should flourish with life and diversity.  We are/have set up an ecosystem that is so fragile that anything natural within it is always on the brink of survival.   And when we experience harsh weather as we did this last spring nobody notices the actual devastating effect it had on the living environment around them.

We are managing honeybees to take the place of natural pollinators to pollinate our cropping requirements.  Here in again we bring in a manageable solution to solve our manged problems.  But things are getting so far out of hand that we infact are even having trouble managing our managed pollinators.  Why???  Because everything we do as beekeepers is directly influenced by the environment around us.  That environment around us is being destroyed, and because of that my bees are struggling.  If we don’t change the way we perceive and respect the natural environment, our managed environment will collapse and with that all of us around it.  This focus on climate change has blinded the public to the actual environmental threats at home, tangible actions that we could be focusing our attention on which would actually go a long way in preserving our lands and creating a sustainable working environment for all of us to live in.

We manage land, lots of land, I appreciate everything that is done to make a living off the land and the hardships that are involved in managing the land.  I understand the reason why we use production practices to improve our bottom dollar and understand the reason why we must realize short sightedness sometimes is the only managing stratagy which allows us to keep in business.  BUT we also appreciate our natural environment and try our best to preserve the land in a sustainable fashion.  On our farm we have 500 acres left as natural ravine, not pastured or pushed, leveled, drained and cropped!  On our farm we have ten quarters of muskeg wet land bush, managed as pasture but grazed in a fashion which does not destroy its wet land ecosystem.  On our farm we manage 3000 acres of crop land, on land which will carry equipment and anything else is hayed.  We zero till or minimal till the land to protect the soil structure and everything living in it.  Wet land “pot holes” are left as they are, hill side springs and field runs are hayed to eliminate erosion and low lands are left as grass, using the available water resource and cut later in the year as hay.

There has to be a place for agriculture on the lands or we will all starve, but agriculture has to manage itself in a diverse fashion using the lands as it presents itself to allow all living things to flourish.  I feel very fortunate as a beekeeper to be able to shelter my operation around our farm, as it reinforces diversity and provides that for my bees to live on.  EVERYWHERE else on the countryside I am seeing a complete wipe down of anything natural.

I have made another round with boxes

101_1061I have made another round with boxes and notice the bees are slowly continuing their work.  I did not add a lot of boxes to the hives, mostly shifting space around within the yards.  If everything keeps progressing as it currently is, my estimated start to the honey pull will be Aug 1.  This is a very late start for me but everything about this year has been late, so late it is!  Actually, I have set up a separate calender for my bee operation which is ten days behind.  According to my bee calender, today being July 10th, I’m seeing my hives as bringing in a normal honey crop.  I have been speaking with other producers and I’d say a lot are starting their pull this week.  Feed back from producers on the crop condition is varied between a potentially good crop about to come in, others suggesting a small crop.  For the most part the feed101_1064 back I have been getting from producers is frustration with the growth rate of their hives.  I have noticed the same thing.  Poor queens?  Virus?  Nosema? Just small hives going in?  One thing I have noticed in my poorer hives is a lot of chalkbrood.  Rarely do I see chalkbrood as a problem, but this year it seems to be rearing its ugly head.  I am not seeing it wide spread but only showing up in a couple of yards.  I see chalkbrood as a sign of stress and I am thinking its probably expressing itself as a secondary infection.  Varroa has been non existent this year and I give the credit towards two factors, #1 Apivar, #2 any hive with any kind of Varroa mite problem this spring would have been chalked up as losses.  Just speculating, but looking back at the spring we just encountered, any hives with viral or mite loads were probably the hives that dwindled to nothing!

Yesterday I hosted a grad student from New Jersey who was in search of late seeded canola fields to run field trials on.  Interesting fellow and he had an interesting project at hand.  He was looking for native pollinators and studying the interaction between native pollinators and the honeybees.  The problem he was having was trying to find ANY native pollinators in our Manitoba fields.  For the most part he was speculating that agriculture mono culture was to blame as he first started his study on the flats where there is nothing but cultivated fields and very little natural bee habitat, but his thinking immediately changed as he started searching fields in my area “the hills” because of the vast area of natural bush, pasture and hay land for habitat.  I know for a fact that last year the fields were full of natures pollinators because I took notice of them.  We think this last winter and spring in combination decimated any native pollinator population.  Makes sense as my bees barely squeaked through!  When was the last time you saw a bumble bee this year??

applesI had a neighbour call the other day wanting me to move hives into their yard.  Their yard is about three miles from any of my other yards and I am more than happy to accommodate her request as this is a “dead zone” for honeybee populations.  This woman loves her apple and fruit orchards, and she is a woman who appreciates properly pollinated fruit.  As compared to everyone elses fruit in the area (who has adequate pollination by my bees) her fruit looks lousy.  I have been getting many comments in the area about the abundance of awesome looking fruit this year.  I can’t take credit for the production of the fruit, but I will take credit for providing the necessary pollination of the flowers which has provided that awesome looking fruit.  Without managed bees in Manitoba, there would have been very little in regards to pollination of all the fruit and berry trees and the residents would take notice.


Crop protection in full swing


Crop protection in full swing, staging the wheat to protect against head blight.  Notice on the left hand side of the picture, the section of boom not spraying, this is our auto spray , automatically turning off sections of the boom as the GPS detects overlap.  With our irregular raven shaped fields overlap is un avoidable and very costly,  now our GPS guidance system automatically eliminates ALL overlap as we travel through the field.

The trailer is cooled to 20F for a week every month to freeze out the wax moth and allow summer storage of un used brood comb

The trailer is cooled to 20F for a week every month to freeze out the wax moth and allow summer storage of un used brood comb

Over the last few days we have directed our attention towards cleaning up the extra brood boxes and prepareing them for storage. Three hundred brood boxes have been sealed into cold storage to protect the frames from the destructive wax moth. This will preserve the frames until needed a year or two from now.  The cooling unit on our transport trailer has not been used for quite some time, but a little topping up and a slight tune up has it running like new.  I started the cooler today and will run it for about a week at 20 degrees F to get a good freeze.  A freeze treatment once a month should eliminate all threats from the wax moth.  These machines are built to run very efficiently making this the preferred brood comb storage option available.

Moving the package yards out to the western yards.  These hives are full and all hives will be getting two boxes tomorrow

Moving the package yards out to newly blooming crops. Im taking advantage of the drizzly evening and I am able to move them all within the daylight without leaving any bees behind.  These hives are full and will be getting two empty boxes tomorrow!

We scored in the thunderstorm lottery last night

We scored in the thunderstorm lottery last night and got our inch of rain. We drove home from our family farm centennial celebrations last night through an entirely lit sky of lightening. What a show! These lightening storms are said to drop atmospheric Nitrogen and if that is true, our fields will be happy. The rain came down heavy enough that it lodged some of our crop but not bad enough to cause any damage. Every drop of this rain will be counted as this week is forcasted to be sunny and hot.

view of our cattle enjoying the shade

view of our cattle enjoying the shade across the creek from our back deck

view of our cattle enjoying the shade across the creek from our back deck

Thunder showers rolling through the area yesterday, we just missed a significant shot of moisture. We could use an inch of rain as the later sowed crops are showing stress from the heat. Anything well rooted is digging down for it which continues my nectar flow but I noticed today it too is slowing. Inch of rain would be very timely right now. The early canola crops are on their last stage of flowering now as the late sowed crops are just peaking through. Im loving the alfalfa and clover right now as every where I look they are covered in bees!