We have a field supper every harvest evening which provides a small bit of time for the harvest crew to stop and take a break from the long day. It’s a tradition our family has always done and one I remember as a kid fondly. Our kids love field suppers and the chance they get for a combine ride afterwards. During the field supper hour we manage safety within our field safety program which allows us to bring the family into the harvest field and experience our livelyhood first hand in a way that eliminates the risk of accident. This is a very important time of the year and it’s important for the family to see it first hand just as I did when I was a kid.
My work staff has started to file out as the school year approaches. We are just about finished the honey production season with only a couple days left of extracting 10 barrels of partially filled boxes. The hives have all been lightly fed syrup and they all seem to be sitting in a light alfalfa flow. Not enough to produce surplus hence the partially filled boxes in the extraction room but enough to keep pressure on my queens. I have been working on filling in dead spots within the apiary. My queen losses over the honey production period has been substantial at 20%. These are either shaken out or reinforced with nucs that had been made up earlier. Aside from my summer swarming queen failure losses my hives sit on sheets of brood. In a week we will start bulk feeding the hives in preparation for winter. I have not done any formal disease tests yet but random samples show very low varroa levels. This next week should nicely cap off the honey season and send us into a nice casual fall time mode.
Harvest is in full swing and man power is being pulled in all directions. As the work on the honey farm continues it’s normal pace I have pulled myself away from the bees and into the harvest fields to help beat this weekends weather. Second pull has all been gathered now and open feeding has been provided on about 2/3 of my yards which sit dangerously low on brood nest food. The other 1/3 of the yards which sit on a box of third pull honey will be stripped this coming week to end off the season. I start to loose my crew by the end of next week, and completely by labour day but all extraction will be done by then and we will be well into winter hive prep and bulk feeding. That big extraction facility I build does not seem so big anymore! It has been working at its peak efficiency through out this extraction season and it along with my staff is the reason why I have been able to pull myself away to run combine. Crop yields are high and quality is at its best. Since we started combining we have not stopped handling the grain both dry and tough. Our grain drier and air bins are being well utilized again this year which have allowed us continual un interrupted field work. Running between the extractor and the combine is exhausting, but this is what I live for! 🙂
The story from last week would be described with one word; HOT. Soaring temperatures peaked on Friday at 38 degreesC which not only slowed or completely ended nectar flows but also brought our nicely staggered spring crop planting immediately ready to harvest! Currently two swathers are slowly cutting our big canola crop, while sneaking away long enough to keep ahead of the three combines in the wheat. As the function of the honey farm moves forward I have been able to slip away and fill a seat on a combine to work late into the evenings. This next week the last 10 yards of second pull will be brought in and open feeding rounds will slowly begin. 1/3 of my yards sit on alfalfa which continue to collect honey, enough in some yards to sustain and even more in other yards bringing in surplus which will give a nice little third pull to cap off the production year. This time of year it is extremely important to properly balance work load with the best interests of the hives. Shutting down production too soon or feeding too much too soon even in a dearth will plug the hive limiting its winter brood nest. No protein supplement will be done this fall because of the huge amount of late summer clover, alfalfa, and wild flower pollen flowing into the hives. The brood nests are lush with jelly, my “larvaes’ are a swimmin”. This is a busy time of year. The excitement of bringing in this years bounty has got the farm charged with energy. With that thought in mind we work at bringing in this years harvest safety and slowly.
Swarming has been an issue for me through this honey pull season. Compounding factors of heat, humidity and the strong flow encouraged as much as an estimated 20% of my apiary to swarm off. Its a hard pill to swallow…many of these hives swarmed off so bad that they had only enough bees to maintain the newly established brood nest! It is the same thing that happens every year, lots of honey, lots of swarming… nothing I can do about it!
Six hundred boxes pulled today off 200 hives, another 200 hives to come in tomorrow. Typically we head out by 9 and finish for the day by 4:30. The last couple of days has been wet but we have been able to work through the drizzle without interruption. Earlier in the pull we worked in wet suits due to sweat, this week our suits are wet due to rain… escapes are not as sun dependent as other methods of pulling honey, only I am getting tired of working with wet feet. Today was not a great bee working day but a great honey pulling day, as the over cast dreary day held the bees inside the hives and the rain held off long enough to allow us to bring in the honey. I built a roll up tarp for the bee truck to help keep robbers off the boxes but also to give us courage to pull honey with rain in the forecast.