Today was a good day. There was a feeling in the air that the season has changed. The Manitoba Maples have joined the poplar, elm and wetland willow bloom. Loads of pollen coming in today as the bees are going nuts dusting up the country side. Today was the first obvious change I have seen in my hives; busting comes to mind… I am seeing the result of the first significant hatch and I am seeing these hives starting to grow for the first time this season. I have been reluctant to double my split hives up too soon as the temperature was quite cold last week and adding seconds under them would of been a tremendous amount of work. Waiting til this week pushes the limits a wee bit but with the obvious growth of these hives and with the forecast of warm nights ahead we are making quick work by adding seconds on top. There is not many queen cups being made yet so time is of the essence. When I tip some of these hives… that brief sense of panic overtakes my nerves and all I can say is ‘geepers’.
The first two pounds of protein patty has been consumed. On average most of the strong hives have finished their two pound patty and the medium strength hives have eaten 3/4 of their one pound patty. By the end of tomorrow we will have given each hive another one pound patty which should hold them well into May as long as the weather cooperates and the pollen flow continues as strong as it has started. I am re assessing the split hives (strong hives) this round using the 80% rule to cull down my split numbers. This past week we have been sorting all the dead out and surplus brood equipment which brings my total amount of boxes for the split short by 85 hives. Some of the ‘smaller’ ‘large’ hives are being pulled from the split yards and will be used to pull brood to boost smaller hives in my apiary. On Monday we start adding seconds which will give the hives space to grow and prepare for the up coming split scheduled Mid May.
I made up a nursery yard beside the honey house with salvageable (shake outs) hives. When I find these small hives I assess the queen’s performance and boost them with other non viable shake outs and bring these ‘nucs’ back to my honey house nursery. Over the last week these hives have made nice progress… but the forecast for -5’s and -9’s over the next few nights will not help them any. So tonight I gathered them up, roughly 20 and I am holding them inside for a few days to keep them out of the cold. This is one example of how grouping yards allows me to address specific conditions.
Our land is working corner to corner as the land springs have dried up weeks ago. Our flat land neigbours have all been kicking up dust over this past week so we decided to join the crowd and poke in a wee bit of wheat. April 18 is one of the earliest start seeding dates on this farm… I know its dangerous to ask for moisture… but the landscape could use some, if not to hold down the soil and hold back these destructive grass fires!! Next week forecast is for lows of -5 and -8 right across the seven day outlook so we are in no hurry to go and put all our expensive seed into the ground. At the very least we have gotten a start and with that early start everything is ready to go.
Over these last couple of weeks we have worked our butts off and my apiary work is completely caught up. Patties, medication, early spring hive work, assessments and equipment modifications are all complete. With the start up of this years STRONG early pollen flow I have been motivated to work late into the evening this week grouping spring yards and moving hives out into summer locations along our sprawling carved up ravine landscape. Poplars have started the year and my hives are dusting up every grain of pollen over this landscape. With this heavy pollen flow I have noticed my patty consumption has decreased down to a slow nibble. This is perfect and exactly what I want. I want the hives to consume the patties when there is forage lacking, but I want the hives to leave the patties when forage is abundant. This way I can feed off natures dime but also have insurance in the hives incase of a turn in weather. Kinda like what is coming all of next week. Like I said earlier in my posts, with these patties in place I have my brood rearing locked in over this next week. Next up on the bee job list is scraping boxes and sorting equipment. I am counting 600 splits this year and it looks like I will be tapping into my large brood box reserve set aside from when I switched from double to single hive management. Soon as nice weather prevails we will be scrambling to get seconds into place on my split hives.
A lot of things are coming together this spring that I am happy with. First off my patty mix seems to be working as I had planned. Also by adding a 7/16 rim around all the hives tops makes for a much easier job inserting patties. The one gallon feeder pails I bought from BeeMaid have got to be one of my favorite additions to my pile of equipment. These gallon feeder pails are a quick effortless way to provide a small amount of sugar resource to the hives without drip or spending a lot of money because of overfilling the large pails. I know this idea is nothing new as there are as many spring feeders types as there are beekeepers, but this gallon pail is my bet.
Its a huge job every spring switching our multi purpose equipment back into seeding mode. Its a lot of work but it allows us to make the most use of the equipment investment we make on the farm. In the spring we pull one of our semi trucks off the trailers and drop a fertilizer and seed tendering unit onto it. This truck runs all day long feeding the air seeder. By running a tender truck we have cut our air seeder refill time down to about half an hour. All our fertilizer is precisely side banded along the seed so we handle a lot of volume through this seeding machine.
Our first round is complete and the tally is in. Very few actual dead out this winter, 3% but I accumulated another 6% losses with small clusters/ drone layers/ queen failures. So I am counting my wintering losses of 2014 at 9%. The rest of the apiary looks fantastic. Through the first round assessment 65% of the hives were marked as strong 6-10 framers and the remainder holding well in the 4-5 frame range. We started the second round today and I have actually been re assessing hives stronger than originally scored at. What a change from the last couple springs!!!! This next round we continue our Nosema treatments and also focus on mite treatments. I am also working through the evenings grouping hives and moving them into yards along our sprawling valley to catch the spring pollen flow. The first trees just opened up on Monday and I have been seeing fresh pollen coming into the hives all day. By the weekend I hope to have all my yards out to catch all that pollen across the country side. That free stuff is mine mine mine mine! The patties that were put in last week are being devoured. We put in 2lbs patties per strong hive and a 1lbs patty in the medium hives. Half the patty is gone in most of the hives. The consumption is perfect and its time to mix up more.