I have never had to move a beeyard out due to hail before, but today the area got hit hard by a tremendous storm cloud. Two of our farm’s fields laid in its path which literally got pounded by hail stones. Areas within the cloud’s path were absolutely wiped out as the hail shredded the crop. Snow banks of ice covered fields and an eerie fog lifted as the storm left and the ice melted. I have one bee yard located in an area north of Miami shredded so bad that there is now no crop or living flowering plant to forage on, so I will have to move it out to flowering fields. Just to be clear most of our farm missed this damage, though 250 acres of it may need to be written off.
Nectar is nicely coming in as the bees cover the blooming clover and canola fields. My brother was out scouting our canola fields yesterday and he said the field sounded as if he were standing beside a bee yard with all the activity on the flowers. These rains have started a good flow and I am seeing it in the frames as we shake down the queens. I fell short staffed as Grad and Dauphin Country Fest pull away most of my work staff for the week 🙂 The advancement of the crop meant the queen excluders had to be put in this week, so I pulled my assistant out of the brood nest and while dodging terrific weather storms we have been setting 6-7 yards per day. Three more yards and the hives are ready for the flow. Boxes continue to go out Monday and we will not stop until they are all out over the next couple of weeks.
With only working half the day yesterday because of rain and dodging nasty rain clouds today we have been able to shake down 10 yards of bees…another 23 to go. This job works pretty quick with a bunch of guys taking us roughly one hour per yard. There are many different variations on how beekeepers get that queen down into the bottom box. You could find her, smoke her down, fume her down or shake her down. I have settled on shaking her down because its easier on the queen and its a job that can be quickly done with a crew. I built shaker tubs which makes shaking effortless and directs all the bees down into the center of the nest. The bees do not boil over the top bars or run out the front entrance when shaking through this set up regardless the size of hive or temperature outside. Four shaker tubs, four guys, in and out within an hour, hives set up for the flow and the queen nicely placed into the bottom box to carry out the rest of the season.
We started shaking the bees today. The hives are starting to store away nectar as the early crop starts its bloom. The hives look in good shape and thirds are scheduled to be sent out next week, though about 20% of the hives so far are getting that box this round. On the first yard this morning I opened up a hive and demonstrated the task for the crew to follow. First hive, 1200ish to follow… 🙂
I sent my assistant the other direction today caging queens, queen checking and making nucs. Each week fifteen queens are collected and used to requeen, used to queen nucs or are sold to neighbours for $25. I can say it is extremely handy to have fresh queens on hand each week. Left over queen cells are being used up in making nucs. As the yards are queen checked all the bottom end hives are cut down into nucs. This provides me with a large reserve of nucs which provides me with a large reserve of fresh queens on hand to doctor up my production hives at anytime through out the season.
55 out of 60 took this last graft. Who knows what I am going to do with so many cells. Practice is the point this year and getting familiar with the process is key to perfecting it. Yesterday we set up a mating yard in one of the many perfect spots along the Miami escarpment. The only problem we encounter when setting nucs out on the ground is ant infestation. Each spot gets a slight dusting with ant poison before the nuc is set down. Otherwise the ants will devour these small colonies. Mature cells were put in yesterday, three weeks from now we will check on the mating success. The viable hives will be moved to a nuc yard and the unsuccessful nucs will be shaken out.
Today we worked through the apiary pulling out flagged hives and shaking them down into nucs. We were able to find enough bees to use up all the reared queens in the queen bank. As every week passes 15-20 queens are ready to collect and to use them up we work through the apiary pulling the bottom end hives out. This keeps the top end making honey and yields more production value from the bottom end. Next week I’m sending out 1200 excluders to prepare the apiary for the honey flow. This is more than I have ever put into production and it will keep us busy. The newly emerged scattered bloom across the country side has my yards roaring with activity. Thirds will be going on last week of June and I plan on full production to start Mid July.
On my ongoing quest to ‘figure out what the heck is going on’, this spring I tested my nosema levels a couple weeks after the bees were set out of the winter shed. My counts came back in the range of 3.2m spore count. From that test I decided to treat my apiary with fumagillin to bring those counts down but I also decided to run a control yard to help understand my treatment results better. One month after my final treatment I took samples from my apiary and today I got back my results. From my initial spring 3.2m spore count the treated hive’s spore counts fell down to 1.95m. Interestingly though my control yard spore counts fell to 0.7m. Not only that but the control yard is observed to be my best yard within my apiary. I have always been lead to believe that Nosema Ceranae did not follow the same seasonal infestation levels as Nosema Apis did, where as Ceranae was claimed not to shed through the spring which retained perpetually high spore counts. My tests show differently and reinforces some of the studies I have been reading through out last winter. I plan to continue monitoring my nosema levels through summer and into fall. I have also decided to discontinue any further nosema treatments except one test group to see how all this plays out to next spring.
Beekeepers Law: when things go from a state of order to a state of disorder and disarray. The law applies to this honey farm on a regular basis… Its like I am carrying 900 bags of money, and decide to pick up 1400 bags of money because they are there…then drop 100, and another 100… how many can I hold onto without it all slipping from my fingers… 😉
The queen check round is nearly complete and I have found a problem with roughly 15% of the introduced queens which is 10% higher than I expect. What the problem is, I don’t know. I cannot correlate any trends of any kind to point out exactly what happened. This week we will be redirecting these problem hives into nucs. How this all settles out I don’t know, but what I do know is that I am doing way too much hive work for June. But for now, and as per usual, I will pull out the problems, fill the empty spots and forge ahead!!
4-H fair day is coming up quick. I am extremely impressed with the amount of work the kids are putting into their steers. Not only have the steers come a long way but also my kids! As this farm grows and the scale of our work increases I am aware of the decreased involvement my kids have with most aspects of the farm. I feel it is important to maintain their farm involvement and 4-H is the perfect way to force me to stop work and bring them in. Today Sandy and I pulled the kids from school to find buyers for their steers. We hit up businesses which our farm deals directly with and not only connected with potential buyers but also gathered a generous amount of cash for the kids 4-H prize winnings. The tradition of 4-H continues for all the right reasons.