70-75mm of rain, 10cm of snow and sustained winds of 60-90 km/hr…****!!! A guy can’t be blamed for cursing a wet wind driven snow storm mid May… I have a few exposed bee yards which I slipped out to last night to ensure all the lids were still on. Dusk fell and I just about did not make it back to the farm due to white out conditions. The snow fell as slush and the wind drove it straight sideways. With the dropping temperature last night any North East facing hives were completely iced over. One good thing about that was it kept that 90K wind from blasting into the hive but the problem from that was the risk of asphyxiation as some of my hives are sealed pretty tight. I spent this morning touring around chipping ice off the fronts and checking for blown covers. All is well and frankly, those bees did not know any different inside… Later today when the sun finally made its appearance I peeked inside a couple queen right hives and there she is laying away and larvae ‘swimming’ in jelly. So…on that note… and after we shake the -5 degreeC KILLING frost in the morning, we will begin the apiary split. Sunshine and warmth must prevail as my hive work must carry forward.
Over the last two days my assistant and I have been working through the medium graded hives assessing the hive’s queen performance. Out of the 300 medium grade hives assessed roughly half of them were re-queened. With this assessment we are extremely critical on the queen’s performance. These are the hives that come through the winter small or hives that were down graded from their original assessments. We target the old and/or (predictably) failing queens in this group and use the viable stronger hives in this group to boost the failing hives or make up nucs. This is tough weather to re-queen hives in…sunny weather with a flow going on is typically what I call ideal. Far more hives will accept new queens when they are not cranky from the weather.
Although with this past weeks cold windy cranky weather I would have thought the same from these hives, but through the last two days of work I have been working the hives with out my bee suit on. These bees are fat and happy with pollen and they have ample amounts of honey on hand. Yesterday I noticed freshly stored dandelion honey for the first time this spring. So as I sit here again looking out the window at that cold windy rainy day, I rest easy knowing that my hives are content and I hope that those fat and happy bees accept the 160 queens I just provided for them 🙂
Ten days ago I was commenting on pollen bound brood nests…today I am thinking if the bees are not able to get out soon I will need to start supplemental feeding again. It is simply incredible how conditions change so dramatically. This business is tough and it always seems we are on the reactionary side of the equation. 200 queens arrived on the farm yesterday, we had prepared a place for 50 and now we wait for that weather to give us desperately needed time to make room for the rest. 300 arrive next week with anther 200 to follow. I can get all this work done within days but I need beekeeping working weather to do so. That relentless calender moves forward and the demands of my queen rearing schedule continues. The cells were transferred into the mini mating nucs and I hope the bees in each mini had enough spunk to keep those cells warm through out this cold weather. The extra cells were placed into my old chick incubator and today all the cells hatched out into cages. Beautiful looking virgins queens. They are being banked for a couple days til I can find the weather to make up more mating nucs. Aside from my delayed bee work todays rain was like watching $$$ falling from the sky. Good for the grass, good for the crops and in a round about way good for the bees. Now if we can get a bit of sun back we will be in business!
Just as that spring time IDEAL pollen flow weather had lulled me into thinking about discontinuing any further protein supplemental feeding the weather turns on a dime and sends nearly a week of cold windy weather… And just like that, the last of the patties which the bees had been slowly nibbling on instantly disappeared along with that seemingly ‘pollen bound’ brood nest. These hives are no where close to being protein stressed as the nests still have plenty of pollen stored away and for a few hours today I noticed loads of pollen streaming in. We had a brief chance to work the hives today finishing up some equalization work. No gloves, no smoke, we could of gotten away without a bee suit today as these hives are happy and full of pollen just like kids eating fresh bread…stomachs full and asking for more:) With my brief assessments I did notice the hives leaning towards the lighter side. I’ll need to set out some more feed this week but being on the verge of the dandelion flow I do not want to plug the hives up just before the split. If my timing is right I should be able to split the apiary during mid dandelion bloom, add space, provide supplemental protein and keep the syrup trickling to them til the start of the production season with the clovers. The Apiary is set up ready for the queens. Tomorrow we start pinching and by the looks of the forecast we will be using every day we can get…but to follow with better weather next week for the beginning of the split.
Cold and wet weather for the last few days with frost touching down across the country side. All beehive work has been shifted into the honey house building frames, sorting foundation into honey boxes and cutting patties all in preparation for after the split. Land work has also come to a stand still as we enjoyed the fortune of 25mm of soaking rain. We have sewed all our cereal crops but we have been dragging our feet to put any canola, corn or soybean in the ground…an extremely difficult thing to do when the weather was clear and 25 degreesC. The reason why we held back is exactly for the reason that has fallen on us over these last couple nights… FROST! Emerged canola, corn and soybeans are all susceptible to frost damage. Nobody can predict these things and nobody knows the damage that has occurred to the early sewed crops from these frosts yet but our farm’s ‘risk/reward/stress’ scale tipped towards not proceeding with early seeding of these crops. So many variables, nobody knows the right decision, but we all have to act one way or the other. The right path will be shown in good time 🙂
That relentless calender moves forward and the demands of my queen rearing schedule continues. Last Sunday’s graft of 60 cells was a success with 40-50 of the cells being accepted. I initiated a large first graft to make sure we had enough cells to start the first round of nucs…I need 20 🙂 Today I am preparing my mini’s for the cell transfer on Wednesday and I am setting up the second cell builder for tomorrows graft. I have set the calender up to fit a weekly graft and a three week mating nuc cycle. This year I am preparing 20 at a time but with this schedule I can increase that number exponentially. The queens that are being made will be used to make up mid season nucs and will be used for late season requeening.
It has been a couple years since my hives have been able to take full opportunity of the early spring pollen flows. The weather has been ideal and the trees are nicely staggering their bloom. My wet lands have come to life with pussy willow bloom and every other type of willow tree that I lump under the heading ‘wet land willows’. Each hive is averaging two plus frames of stored surplus pollen which is exciting as this will provide a nice reserve for the up coming dearths. I still have patties on the hives and it is interesting to see the hives slowly nibbling at them even during this heavy pollen flow. This patty recipe is working exactly the way I want it to. Currently the strong hives are nibbling away at their third pound of patty supplement while my medium strength hives are working into their second pound. So at roughly a $1 per lbs, my investment has been low, my time put into making the patties has been high, but the response I am seeing in the brood nest reassures my investment. I have not fed much syrup to my hives this spring so far. Including todays syrup round I will have put out a total of 3000-4000 liters of sucrose. This ideal spring weather has helped me trickle open feed the yards to give them a steady flow of incoming sugars but not enough to plug the hive. This is the same strategy I used last fall before bulking the hives for winter. During this spring’s work we set out roughly 1 liter per hive each week for the last four weeks. Gallon pails were used to bulk up the lighter hives. It such a treat not to be constantly fighting cold weather while trying to grow healthy honey bee hives 🙂