Two nucs under an excluder supered up. Next week after we get around with a box over all the nucs we will immediately follow up with a second. Fourths are going out as fast as we can build frames and sort the boxes. The country side is yellow and the bees are flying in all directions. My crew is getting swamped with work.
Just as we nicely finish up the last of the herbicide spraying we head right into fungicide. One day caught up, the next day 3000 acres behind! We bought first cut alfalfa acres from a neighbour not wanting to take the first cut during this unsettled weather. We swathed the quarter Monday to chop Thursday…to have the weather force us to chop Tuesday! The crew brough the feed in, packed and tarped before the next pounding rain came through. I can not imagine trying to put 2500 hay bales up during weather like this. Instead of cursing the rain we are nicely using it. The advantage of silage at it’s finest.
You are probably getting tired of seeing pics of brood patterns and queens but a major queen check is happening right now and our success rate has me extremely pleased (and it’s my blog so expect more ha ha) As of yesterday Carrie had gone through 100 of the 450 nucs set out with queen cells. We are running a 95% success rate. These nucs are being taken out immediately to a production yard and supered up to handle the immenent population explosion. The failed units are simply reinforced if needed and either requeened with our collected mated queens or requeened with another queen cell. I am hoping this success rate continues. I’m glad we built these units with two frames of foundation as both are almost fully worked out.
I know colouring is not suppose to be a selection criteria when choosing breeding stock…but im partial to these queens. An Beekeeper told me he calls the his “root beer” queens lol
Miami Fair 4-H market steer class. Steppler Farms represented by the white Charolais
First mating yard queen checked. 45 out of 46 are sporting nests like this
These nucs were made up with two with two frames of brood, one honey, two foundation and a queen cell a few weeks ago. These nucs have worked out and filled their foundation with fresh honey and brood. Honey supers asap. 10 more truckloads to check and collect.
A nice humble little start. Supers on asap to push the honey uptop
Earlier this week we were scheduled to start queen checks on the first cells put out. With the push to get all the excluders out and to set thirds on we will have to push queen checks til next week. During our spring work through the apiary if we found a poorly performing queen we simply dropped a cell into the hive. This week as we shake down the yards we are checking these hives for acceptance. So far so good, these queens look awesome. I chat with a few Beekeepers for feedback, lately I’d call it pestering. Like one guy told me “when it all works, it’s a beautiful thing”.
My apiarist collected the next round of queens yesterday evening. She’s pretty happy with her collection. We are looking at 75% good queens from this catch. These queens will be used to shore up failures in the nuc yards. Carrie had attended the queen rearing clinic held last weekend at Kemnay Apiaries and came back boiling with ideas and information. For much the same reason you all read this blog, we crave perspective and that clinic certainly provided that.
As I shift my beekeeping operation away from importing queens the farm has allowed my import queen budget to work towards setting up a queen rearing facility. One of those expenditures was the investment into a Carricell queen cell carry case. It is an expensive but very useful unit. Keeping the queen cells to temp (90 degreesF) is extremely important. This spring we ran into roage virgin distruction problems in two of our builders so I bought cells from a beekeeper a couple hours away to help keep to our schedule. The last cells transfered into the nucs were at least 4-5 hours after pick up. We had no worries about chilled cells. The case plugs into the trucks electrical system which keeps the unit heated to exactly the temp require to incubate the cells. The individual cell holders relieve early hatch concerns.
Another problem I have on the honey farm is record keeping, scheduling, and channeling staff feedback. I have adopted the white board strategy and I am impressed with how effective it has been at conveying information between the crew. A list of yards, important dates and accomplishments are simply displayed for everyone to see and add to as the work proceeds. This way I can receive immediate feedback on the work day without having to track everyone down. I also have multiple copies of my apiary yard maps which I can list jobs and daily duties on and pass along to the crews before they begin the day. Nobody gets lost, yards are not forgotten, and more importantly all the details I give on the job do not get forgotten. It’s a lot to expect anyone to remember the chattering amount of daily instruction I give in the first 15 min of morning. Lists and check lists are key. The maps are left on my desk so I can double check and update my white board. Sometimes the simplest things make scheduling and delegating so much easier.
This is my spring queen rearing chart, one I referred to on a daily basis. As they say, as long as the one using the chart understands what’s going on, is all that matters. My queen rearing scheduling is a work in progress. We are currently developing a schedule that everyone can understand.
That strong smell of alfalfa clover and canola flowers have gotten my hives into a working frenzy. Fresh nectar is being shaken from the frames and we are starting to lift heavy boxes. During this round we continue to equalize by simply shifting brood from uptop to throttle back some of those boomers. This will be the third time we have gone through and managed strength, now we will let go of the reigns and watch the hives flourish. I have a crew supering up with thirds after we shake, next week fourths. The pound patties we put on last week are gone which brings my protein feeding program to an end. This spring I’ve rationed their supplement to 5-6 pounds per hive. I rationed it because we did not make up enough and did not find anytime to make more. Through this weeks “shake” we bring the spring season to an end and step into summer production. My summer staff arrive in a couple weeks just as more work hits the farm.
We modified the mini three frame mating nuc into a five frame. The extra space is nice.
With the rapid emergence of field flowers we started inserting excluders yesterday. Seconds were added a month ago to provide the space needed for spring time growth, now that the flow has started we want to push the queen down and confine her to the single. Three weeks from now the brood nest in the second will hatch, backfill and harvest can begin. There are many different ways of moving the queen down. Some smoke the bees down, some use fumes, my preferred method is to manually shake the bees down. With a crew of guys a yard can be shaken down quickly and without driving the hive out the front. I built these shaker boxes which funnel the bees into the centre of the hive and provides a nice large opening so no bees are missed while shaking. Shake Shake Shake, excluder on, second back into place and ready for supering. Half the time we find the queen a few frames into the box.
Over the last few weeks I have kept my crew scrambling feeding these growing hungry hives. My strategy is to feed hand to mouth which leaves very little in reserve but enough to create a feed ring around the brood, protein in hand, night time temps in the mid teens, and the unrestricted abundance of space provides the recipe to stimulate that queen to pack the hive with eggs. It’s tough as weather can hamper the work schedule which leaves the hives on the brink of starvation but that continuous splash of syrup and protein at hand excites those hives into growth mode unlike anything else. I rest my spring time investment on those gallon pails. We have been feeding half a gallon each week, topped up to a full gallon if the yard is hungry.
This up coming week we insert excluders. Yesterday I saw the first shake of nectar…the pressure is on…
My daughter gave me a hand in the split yards yesterday. We were switching out unworked foundation with surplus brood comb. A bit of house cleaning before the flow begins.