Monthly Archives: January 2015

Jan 30 2015

queen rearing calander

Simple Queen rearing Calander from Glenn Apiaries

I found this queen rearing calendar on Glenn Apiaries webpage.  It is exactly what I am looking for. I like it because it clearly shows how simple the process actually is.  From this I was able to draw out a two week grafting rotation, where as Grafting is done every second Sunday and Queen harvesting is done every second week in between.  It is a good way to spread out the work load and a great way to keep those mating nucs in action.  As you can see, I’m planning on a good start this spring… I used a dry erase marker…
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It shows 5 grafts in May through into June, the fifth graft leading into July. That will equate about 100 mated queens by the end of June, plus however long I extend the project out for. My intention is to set up a program to expand onto in future years. 

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Hauling out our February contract

Jan 28 2015

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I took advantage of the mild weather today to start the maintenance project on the Ezyloader. Soon I will find a corner in one of my neighbor’s heated shops to fully recondition the arm.

I swept another wheel barrel of bees off the winter room floor.  This brings my total sweepings to 2 1/2.  The winter room sat all day at 6 degrees C, it must of been the increased humidity in the air today because most all the hives were gathering on the hives front steps.  This was the prefect opportunity to gather my mid winter Nosema sample that I was planning. IMG_3134 With very little disturbance I was able to gather about 100-150 bees from 50 or so randomly selected hives. With this sample I should be able to tell if  nosema levels bounced back after my fall treatment.  The sample will be sent to the  National Bee Diagnostic Centre .

 

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Dumping dead bee sweepings outside

My Dead pile

Jan 27 2015 – Verified Beef Production Program

VBP logocow-calf-pic-960x600The farm has started the process to become registered under the Verified Beef Production program.  This program is a natural fit for our farm as the programs objective and the proceses followed to meet that objective is what this farm believes and its the process we follow during our normal production practices anyway.  We like to support programs like these because better production practices holds meaning in what we do on this farm and providing direction in the cattle industry is part of what we are about.  Further reading of this project can be found here; Verified Beef Production program.  The farm is not registered yet but I will be chatting about the process as the farm works through the program over the next few months.

Rounding up cattle early morning

Rounding up cattle early morning

Jan 24 2015

Saturday morning on the ski hill with the La Riviere ski club.

Saturday morning on the ski hill with the La Riviere ski club.  Our youngest (4 years old) has finished introductory club classes and now is skiing with the rest of the club.  That is all five on the hill now.  What a great way to spend wintertime Saturdays, the family together on the hill, the kids skiing with professional instruction (and mom and dad eves dropping on instruction too!! lol ).  These lessons really improved our mountain skiing experience!

 

 

project planningNow that I have finished all the maintenance and construction projects around the farm I can focus my attention back to the bee farm.  My list of projects for the up coming season is growing and I need to be able to put everything together in a way I can execute it all.  As long as I don’t get distracted by general farm work too often, I should be able to get these projects in place by spring.  By the sounds of it, last year’s crew all want to work this season.  Boy am I going to keep them busy!

With my patty supplement plan now in hand, I have been pestering Mike Gordon, manager of BeeMaid’s bee supply store with inquires on bee supplies and hammering him to get me some of this stuff in at better pricing.  pollenOne of those items I have been pestering him about is irradiated pollen which I needed priced affordable to include into my spring patty supplement.  Mike has found a supplier of irradiated pollen and is selling it for $6.95/lb.  That price out of Winnipeg is hard to beat.

screamingI have been chit chatting on the web with beekeepers mostly focusing on the whole general topic of honeybee nutrition.  These conversations have been overwhelming and not only have I gleaned a huge amount of insight off them, it has also lead to a bit of controversy.  If not openly on the forum in private over e-mail.  The more I look into honeybee nutrition the more questions I come away with… It is quite obvious that we know huge amounts about the honeybee and we can discuss pretty much every aspect of its physical being down to its chemistry, but when putting it all together and trying to question markunderstand how the bee interacts with all the variables outside the hive, we are left with only a generalized sense of what is actually going on.  When we are left with this generalized sense, all the questions “ifs” and “what ifs” are answered with “ifs” ” shoulds” and “we think”.  I am not discounting the research community one bit, their work is ongoing.  All I am saying is, as we try to apply some of these beneficial “applications” to our hives it’s kind of is like leading a blind man in the dark…the one who can see, see’s as much as the one who can’t.   On the ground anecdotal experience has provided direction on how to achieve some of these performance targets.  I think research will not be too far behind.  Until then, my plan is to hang back and watch it all unfold and incorporate some of the “unknown, knowns” which has shown efficacy through beekeeper experiences into my beekeeping management.

Jan 23 2015

Bees sitting contently in the wintering shed. Mild weather this week has increased outdoor temps to 3 degreesC, while my shed maintains a temp of 6 degreesC

Bees are sitting contently in the wintering shed. Mild weather this week has increased outdoor temps to 3 degreesC, while my shed maintains a temp of 6 degreesC.  Here is a pic of this last months very low bee drop which is a good sign.

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I received an email earlier today in regards to our cattle watering facilities. For anyone interested, here is the email conversation. It injects a douse of reality into how I present the farm;

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“I remember that I have seen/read about you freezing your butt off thawing out waterers before.
Is that an annual problem that there is no technological solution for? Is it the same for all Northern Canadian farmers?
I am just curious. I am not a farmer, where I am from in the UK, nothing was ever frozen for more than a day and the ground never froze solid and deep like it does here.
If you want to reply here, or on the blog (in case others are wondering), or not at all I will understand.
I really appreciate the blog, and updates on life up there.
Thanks.”

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“Up there? LOL Looking at my daughters globe, your on the same latitude as Canada, and I would bet your further north than I am!  But I do love living in that Great White North 🙂

Frozen waterers is an on going problem due to old infrastructure. Our frost will drop 5 feet, 8 feet last year!
The stock water system is due for an expensive upgrade.   Usually we spend only a few days per month thawing waterers unlike last year where it seemed as if we were thawing everyday!  But keep in mind, large portions of Winnipeg and rural towns spent the winter last year without water due to frozen underground water lines and many did not get water back til June!   Spending a bit of time thawing waterers throughout the year is only feasible, and in my job discription!  lol  In time we will be forced to upgrade.
Some days in winter, -35 with a wind will freeze everything regardless of our efforts…

Thx for the question
Love the feedback

Ian ”

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Jan 22 2015

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It’s busy on the farm. I counted five different jobs being accomplished today.  Calving is well underway with 175 calves born 2/3 of the herd left to go.  Cattle feeding and bedding pretty much takes all day.  Grain hauling and seed and feed cleaning is steady and soon to finish up as our sales need to be delivered next month.  Adam’s house is progressing quite nicely with the roof on and almost ready to close up.  As the apiarist on the farm, my brothers lay me off for the winter (they would say FIRED) and hire me as the farm maintenance coordinator. lol Yup, looking forward to getting back into the beeyards!!  I have been extremely busy with construction renovation projects around the cattle farm.  The cattle facility is now again in good repair and I am just about to complete the farm “mini” health animal clinic.  I place a huge importance on farm maintenance because a well kept farm gives a good overall impression of our operation.  Next week we have a few farm tours of out of province high profile cattle breeders.  Andre is looking forward to the visit and I expect the farm to look in good repair.

Silage

Silage

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Jan 20 2015 – Feeding and Health

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I had found this Pollen protein analysis chart floating on facebook a while back. It was the information I have been searching for; a compiled list of common pollen with their associated AA. This chart is great as it fits all the information into a nice neat easy to read chart. Pollen that has a balanced profile is listed over deGroot’s AA ratio, any pollen lacking AA and expressing deficiency is listed underneath.
deGrootAfter looking at the chart, I decided to actually read the chart and express the AA in the deficient pollen to see where proteins were lacking. What I found was the chart is incomplete not listing Tryptophan values for any of the pollen sources. The reason this is relevant is because tryptophan is deGroot’s reference AA, which he bases all his ratios on, making the information on this chart meaningless…
So why have a chart listing the AA values of different pollen sources, if we can’t actually use those values to determine their relevance? I performed searches to find book tryptophan pollen values with no luck and asked professionals for book values of tryptophan values also with no luck. It turns out tryptophan involves a more involved process to determine it’s valuation and it is costly to perform. The point of that explanation did not make any sense to me as it just takes one researcher to perform one set of studies to come up with a “book value” for that Amino Acid. This is what the feed and food industry have done. I have recently learned that the bee industry does not have motivation to accomplish these kind of expensive tests, so to date they have been left unknown.
I received a response from Randy Oliver on a research and  “think tank” beekeeping forum called Bee-L. His contribution to answering my question was extremely helpful. He said there was no answer, but suggested to determine the information I needed involved looking from a different perspective…
Randy Oliver suggested reworking deGroot’s work using Histidine as the reference instead of Tryptophan, as Histidine is one of the AA that showed less variability. Here is Randy’s deGroot tweaked AA ratio using Histidine as the first limiting instead of tryptophan, which he provided me;
AA Suggested Preportion
Histidine 1
Tryptophan 0.5
Arginine 2
Iso-Leucine 2
Leucine 3
Lysine 2.5
Methinoine plus cysteine 1
Phenylalanine plus tyrosine 2
Threonine 2
Valine 2.5

IMG_1832And there we go… reading the chart using Histidine as the reference shows dandelion lacking in almost all the AA expressed, whereas the chart shows that canola and clover arebalanced right across the board…not considering Tryptophan of course!

Why does this matter to me? Why put so much energy into finding out why the chart listed pollen AA values that couldn’t be read using the included deGroot ratio values?  Why not just take their word for it? Why bother so many people trying to find out where that Tryptophan valuation is and why it’s not expressed? Why? Because now I know, and for all the questions I have asked, and the searches I  haveperformed and the professional people I have spoken to I have such a better grasp on nutrition and how we value it.

So at the end of the day, how am I going to translate this piece of information into my beekeeping management? I am already feeding supplements, that will not change, but with this insight I am going to target my supplement feeding program differently.
dandelionFor example, dandelion appears to be as beneficial as eating rice cakes… one point of information I previously thought completely the opposite. When looking at dandelion values provided from the chart; pretty much every AA listed shows a deficiency with Valine representing 1.8:1, which is 75% off deGroots suggested ratio. Valine being the limiting AA in Dandelion’s profile meaning only 75% of that crude protein is being utilized. aka wasted digestible protein.What probably balances it’s protein profile is the variety of highly nutritious fruit, berry and wetland pollens also coming into the hive at the same time. With more and more tree and wetland acres being converted to arable land, I might have to start thinking of supplementing during that heavy dandelion pollen bloom. Because we all know dandelions will survive all man’s attempts to manage the land! 🙂
sunflowersAlso I did not realize the extremely poor AA profile Buckwheat and Sunflower pollen expressed. My train of thought was to move onto and exploit those late season pollen sources. To make better use of that precious pollen, perhaps supplementing during that time will show some advantage.
It is no wonder my hives come off clover and canola flows bursting with brood! With a balanced AA profile and Crude protein around 25% those pollens are extremely valuable to the growth of my hives. Which has gotten me thinking…( again ! )… I want that high valued prize pollen first thing right out of the shed in my spring time patty supplement. I know there is some left as reserve in the hives from last year, but jolting them with a fresh cake of canola pollen patty throughout the spring should stimulate those hives to brood as if they are sitting on a canola or clover field. I plan on trapping pollen from a yard this summer to see how much I get, how to achieve it without compromising honey production and run a trial in my apiary to see if just that pollen source alone stimulates the hives any differently than with off the shelf irradiated Chinese pollen.

With all this buzz in my head I have decided to further explore the process of formulating a supplement patty for my hives to feed this coming spring. After conducting a search on this topic and after talking to my neighbours I have settled on one patty recipe I think I will try out;
IMG_146020 lbs Brewers Yeast
20 lbs Soy flour
10 lbs dried egg yoke
10 lbs irradiated pollen
Cup of lemon Juice
Cup of canola oil
25 lbs of Honey
HFCS

(or mixed 100% HFCS without honey)

 

I will work out my sugar ratio after I determine how much HFCS will be needed to mix the patty. The HFCS will cut the water to the patty and help keep the patty soft from drying out. The honey added is salvaged premium honey from my fall time wax melting project.  Its darkened but feeding it through a patty should work perfect.  Some recipes call for 60% sugar where as others call for 50%. I want to keep my sugar ratio high as to increase the palatability of my patties but keeping protein levels in mind aswell.
One thing about formulating a patty recipe is with all the information available I can simply piggy back on other peoples work. A lot of work has gone into formulating bee feed supplements analysing protein content of feed, bringing different feed types together to balance the Amino Acid (AA) profile and ensuring the proper vitamins and minerals are available. It is extremely interesting discussing bee feed supplements as there are many different takes on issues and antidotal experiences vary greatly between producers. We need to look at the variables in each situation to better understand the performance of these supplements.
I am not going to rehash the dietary requirements of a honeybee. There is a load of information on this subject to which I have gained my understanding. An extremely important resource to read on this subject is here; www.scientificbeekeeping.com.
IMG_0500One way to better understand how and why these diets are being formulated is by actually submersing into bee nutrition, understand firsthand the dietary requirements of a honeybee and follow the process of how these supplements are being formulated to target those requirements.
I am not a nutritionist. Our farm hires a nutritionist to help formulate cattle rations to target production targets based on feed samples we provide them. Like many producers we stand on the peripheral of this subject and bring in expertise to execute our production goals. I would equate this to the advice provided by people involved in the bee industry like Randy Oliver or work done by the Ontario Bee Tech team, not to mention the numinous feed suppliers with readymade product currently on the shelf.
IMG_1054My advice to anyone interested in these type of beekeeping related issues is to ask those questions and get those answers no matter what. Dig a bit into professional experience and glean a bit of their knowledge. I know its intimidating bothering people for information “pestering” comes to mind. I hate pestering people but found the way to go about it very effectively. The internet is full of discussion groups and forums related to just about anything under the sun. I have settled on two really good beekeeping discussion forums and I am using these forums ( beesource forum general beekeeping chat , Bee-L academic and industry think tank ) as the medium to tap into everyone’s knowledge. Everyone else there is generally there for the same purpose so pestering completely disappears form the conversation. And in most part the other beekeepers contributing are extremely forthcoming and helpful as that is the reason we are all visiting the site. Take it all at face value… but use it to further explore the answers to your questions.

Jan 9 2015

Old farm boss...new farm boss.  "alright fella's, this is what has to get done"

Old farm boss…new farm boss. “alright fella’s, this is what has to get done”

I have been making a list of projects I want to get done this year. Probably, like most years only part of the list will get executed… but I will have a game plan at hand to accomplish these tasks. Every season I write down “thoughts on the go” and make a list of problems that has happened. Usually more than one page!! But it helps me reflect on the things that went right, things that went wrong and gives me ideas to help make changes to my plans.

From time to time I will talk about supplemental feeding on beesource. Its a topic that draws lots of opinions. There are studdies here…professional opinions there…anecdotal opinions there… its hard to sort through lots of this stuff. Randy Oliver performed an excellent trial to help clear the muddy waters; Randy Oliver’s bee feed test . Its a study that should be taken at face value as most of what is in beekeeping is local. Performance of some of the feed types in his trials did not match the performance of some of these feed types in other trials and he recognized that fact in his discussion. Even Randy’s writings can’t be taken as Gospel.

IMG_1607Last spring I did things a bit differently and was able to pack dry feed into the hives through tough spring conditions. I also was able to draw some attention to dry feed in the fall, which I had not been able to achieve before. This is an area I will continue to tweak. Now that I have gotten my feet wet last year with mixing my own patties I’m going to dive right in. I’m planning on mixing a bunch of different batches of feed to see which one works best in my hives. BeePro, Ultra Bee and Brewers Yeast will be mixed up separately and dispersed randomly through out the operation. One thing I notice I do routinely when working hives is that, I go about it “all in or none”. I don’t leave any variables as controls or test other type products at the same time. We beekeepers are keenly observant and we should be using this talent to our advantage. Mixing things up a bit will help us determine if something is working or not.

IMG_1488One disadvantage of spring patty feeding is if conditions are not adequate and I do not get my timing right, I end up needing to work around unconsumed patties while working through the hive. This leads to be extremely distracting. Perhaps a wax paper envelope would help keep the patty contained which would make moving the patty easier if needed.
One tip I have learned while chatting with beekeepers about mixing patties is to cut the water out of the mix and use HFCS. This helps keep the patty from drying out and going hard. Interesting thought.

Here is a patty recipe I am considering for this spring;

10 lbs pollen
20 lbs BEE PRO
20lbs Brewers Yeast
3/4 cup Lemon Juice
1 TBSP Lactobacillus (Probiotic Powder)
Mixed with approximately 38 lbs sugar
2.5 gallons of HOT water (adjust for consistency)
Makes about 110 lbs of patties
NOTE: I found this recipe to be a little on the runny side and needed
to use wax paper on each side of the patty. If not using paper on each
side things get MESSY!

Weights from my kitchen scale:
1 gallon BEE PRO= 5lbs
1 gallon brewers yeast= 4.5 lbs
1 gallon of pollen= 5 lbs
Strong hives were getting 4lbs at a time.

IMG_2007Another operational strategy I am going to adopt this year is not to turn money making opportunities away like I routinely do. I am not going to say no, very often lol. I dabbled with the idea last year with a few small operators and things worked out very well. I have the facility, the bees (if all things stay the same) the work staff and the commitment and people coming to me for answers. My objective is to exploit all this and turn it into ca$h. Custom extraction, custom wintering, custom wax rendering (small scale anyway), excluder cleaning maybe? mated queens available for sale, nucs available for sale, pollination services available. Just recently I have been approached by numerous individuals looking for hive products like pollen, propolis, clean unfiltered wax and royal jelly… Yes I can do that! For a charge of course 😉 One area that I will definitely be tapping into is the used equipment market. I have had floods of inquiries and a waiting list on sale of my used equipment. I plan on capitalizing on

Culled frames.

Culled frames.

this simply by bringing in new equipment (as my box and frame builder smiles) to gradually cull out older equipment. Not only used equipment but I have inquiries on new equipment. Perhaps putting my staff to work during slow times building frames will yield revenue off of rainy days.

All this is doable if I am able to organize my thoughts into a workable plan.

Jan 7 2014

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I received this free trial of Super DFM- honeybee via UPS yesterday. This will provide me with enough product to treat 50 hives; one treatment in the spring, one treatment in the fall.  I have not spent any time developing a trial yet, but the efficacy of this treatment will be determined in the same manner they advertise the product; “may help inhibit chalk brood”, “helps increase bee colony health”.  These are extremely hard results for me to actually measure looking from a beekeepers perspective.  So to help determine this products efficacy, I am setting up trials to answer a number of simple specific questions based on claims made from Strong Microbial.

I want to see if there is any difference with chalk brood infection between treated and non-treated hives; basically counting hives per yard with infection.  I want to see if this product translates into larger wintering hives and will be scoring colony size by counting frames of bees of treated and non-treated hives going into and out of winter.  I also want to see if there is any measurable difference in fall and late winter nosema counts by using this product. I want to conduct a trial to see if I can observe positive bee health signs by using DFM after a fumagillin treatment to see if I can observe an improvement in these treated wintered colonies.

March is an extremely difficult time for my hives as they have been in confinement for nearly five straight months.  A true measure of colony health is quite evident at this period of time.  If this treatment has ANY merit, its efficacy will show true in March.