Monthly Archives: February 2017

February 28 2017

Up top is a quick video of our farm’s tech department putting together the bull videos for our bull sale, Sunday March 12, 1:00 DST (Daylight Savings Time). Link to the videos over on our Cattle Webpage and check out the Bull Sale Catalog online. The link below will take you to our Steppler Farms 6th Annual Bull Sale March 12th YouTube playlist.

Feb 27 2017

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Both Sandy and I slipped away Friday and Saturday to attend the annual MBA beekeepers convention. It’s been years since we both have been able to attend, now with our gaggle of kids in school and with willing Grandparents, time away has become a bit easier. The convention was great, our late evening Dinner at the Keg was fantastic and our hotel room was quiet!
I met many new beekeepers and touched base with even more familiar faces between the lectures. I don’t know what I enjoy more, the lectures or the conversation around the lectures. We are all after perspective.  I like the approach the MBA has taken in providing a wealth of discussion for the commercial beekeeper but also providing discussion which welcomes the new beekeepers into the industry.

My focus as of late has been to further develop my queen rearing program and schedule.  Guest speaker Michael Palmer spoke exactly to that, and I found his approach enlightening.  I basically follow all the same queen rearing basics except Micheal’s approach really focuses on maintaining a maximum bee population in his builders by continually adding brood.  Five plus brood frames per builder every ten days.  It’s a point I will be addressing, not complete adoption.  I spoke to many beekeepers about their queen rearing programs, some simple and some so elaborate I was lost in the conversation but they all re-enforced my own management plans.

Saskatraz.  Albert Robertson knocked the ball out of the park with his lecture relating to his breeding efforts and work surrounding it.  Now that I am starting to pay more attention towards queen breeding and selecting for specific traits I found his focus and approach interesting.  I realize this picture of a graph may mean very little trying to read it but the discussion he provided around it was extremely fascinating, and to be honest, skipped way over my head with all the phospho peptides and Kinome stress indicators.  He is a project worth supporting.  I plan on buying in some of Alberts Saskatraz genetics and run them in one of my separate selection yards to choose breeding stock from.  That yard along side another selection yard of 100 hives from my own stock selected from last year.  I want to run a simple trait selection within my own stock to breed from.  Looking for characteristics of gentleness, productiveness, size (bigger to keep my queens below the excluder) and that elusive mite suppression.  I’m new to this, I’m not experienced in trait selection, I don’t know anything about selecting for mite suppression, but I am going to start setting up a program and look seriously into it.  My breeding program starts now.

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February 24 2019

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Looks like I’ll be able to slip away from the farm to submerse into everything bees these next two days.

The agenda looks great, with a couple well known Beesource members lecturing; Michael Palmer and Jean-Marc.
I hope all you Beesource Manitoba beekeepers make it out today and especially tomorrow. Saturday’s workshop is on Successful Wintering and Colony Nuc Production

MBA Convention Agenda

February 19 2017

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I opened the shed door tonight to cool off my hives. It would be nice to tuck some of these beards back in a bit. The shed has been holding steady at 11 degreesC and I’m seeing more drop than I’d like.  I’m going to set my alarm to ring before sunrise…so I don’t forget about the open doors! Lol

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February 18 2017

I’ve been asked lately how I manage my queen rearing program. First I have to admit I am fresh into this process with only one year under my belt and learnt from the school of hard knocks. I’ve been developing my queen rearing program around the input from local cell producers and the generous input from cell producers throughout the USA on www.beesource.com, and that I’m am very grateful, as I pass my wealth of knowledge forward.

Two years ago when I started pulling this queen rearing process together I was completely overwhelmed.  The order, precision, and commitment I observed from these cell producers took me off guard, set me back and I ordered queens again for that spring.  My advice to anyone interested in following through on setting up a queen rearing program is to start small, tap into a schedule that suits your operation needs, keep to and understand the basics, and then build off that.  I’m going to send you through a process I set up to suit a 7 day graft schedule.  Hope it makes sense, it works amazingly well for me.

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(figure #1) Days after graft down side, days after egg laid across top, slide ruler is three consecutive months

I’m a visual guy.  Above is my queen rearing slide ruler (figure #1).  Below is my dry erase wall calender’s (figure #2). I also have a full wall dedicated to white boards to help record and track my apiary work.  These visual tools help me map out my work and also help me execute it as planned.

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(Figure #2) 7 day graft schedule, 10 days after graft transfer, harvest cells 18 days after hatch

thebeeyard.org is useful website I used to map out my queen rearing timeline.  Its the same thing as my slide ruler but in spreadsheet form.

Queen Rearing Calendar

I count my queen rearing work on days after graft, just the way I do it because the grafting day is my anchor day.  On my slide ruler down the side counts days after graft, along the top counts days after the egg laid.  Simply put the important days to schedule around are;

  • Graft day 0,
  • cells transfer to mating nucs day 10 after graft
  • cage day 30 after graft

This works out nicely into a weekly work rotation where as Sunday graft, Wednesday Transfer, Tuesday caging.  This schedule runs consecutively week after week which keeps the mini nucs in a three week cycle.  The minis which the queens are caged on the Tuesday will receive Transferred cells that next day on the Wednesday.  That might sound confusing, but if you work it out on a calendar (see figure #2) you will see order to all that apparent disorder.  18 days after the cells hatch should have the minis full of brood which help sustain their population maintenance.

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I set my breeder hives within the cell building yard to help keep everything close. We set in an empty frame 4 days before graft to ensure we have perfectly aged eggs easy to find for the graft. 1 or 2 days before the graft we set up our Cell Starter.  Simply put, the top half is queen rite, solid division board between the boxes, the bottom half is queenless and is where the graft is started.  I like using the bottom half to start my cells because its easier to keep that box stocked full of surplus bees and the unit is flush with fresh pollen with their daily load.

To set up our Cell Starter, first we find the queen.  She goes up top along with most all the open brood frames.  The bottom unit is set up with all the capped brood frames, honey, pollen frames and as much shook bees as you feel those open brood frames up top can spare.  Each frame must be checked for queen cells (very important) and killed off.  I want capped brood frames in the bottom box with the graft frame because we want as many young nurse bees as possible to feed the larvae graft frame.  Open brood frames up top with the queen remove the need to feed extra mouths during the starting period.  We place the prepared graft frames into the starter as we make up the unit to polish the cells.  The Cell Starter frame arrangement as such; honey, pollen, graft, pollen, graft, honey, foundation, feeder.  A solid division board is placed over the Cell Starter (bottom box), the top box is placed over the solid division board with entrance to the back.  Make sure there is enough bees to keep the brood up top alive.

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Graft frames are pulled the day of graft.  We prime each cup with a drop of 50:50 early queen cell developed royal jelly and distilled water.   The larvae is grafted (which I will not elaborate on other than look it up on youtube and practice), and then placed back into the Cell Stater in it’s exact spots.  On day number 2 after graft, without any disturbance to the cell builder gently replace the solid division board with a queen excluder to switch the Queenless Cell Builder into a Queen Rite Cell Finisher.  Top up the frame feeder with syrup if needed.  I find queen rite units build beautiful cells.   5 days after the graft the queen cells are capped.  I’m a believer in Zero disturbance during the start and finish of the queen cells.  But I always check the graft while we switch over to the finisher…because I cant help myself…lol

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10 days after the Graft is when we transfer the mature cells into mating units.  The queen cells  will hatch on day 12.  I have incorporated an incubator into my queen rearing program.  We will pull cells on day 9 to store in the incubator through until day 11 (at the latest) before transfer.  The reason for the incubator is to allow us to manage the weather better.  This will help time our work so that we do not have to pick cells out of the finisher during rainy windy days… The incubator is held exactly at 92 degreesF and humid.  The day the cells are removed, the cell builder colony is completely inspected for emergency cells and organized back into a Cell Starter later that week when needed.

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We transfer the cells with a queen cell incubator carry case. This unit plugs into the truck and keeps the cells warm at exactly 92 degreesF during transfer. Its very important not to chill the cells at anytime during transfer.

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We transfer the cells into both mini mating nucs, full sized splits and nucs. These little mini nucs are a neat way to raise queens while using very little bee resource from the apiary.

To stock the minis I try to shake in at least a couple cups to get them going. While working the yards I’ll shake off some surplus strength from boomers. I use a planter pot, hole cut on one side. Simply tap tap tap a few frames into the pot then shake the bees out of the planter pot through the hole into the mini. Ill take the minis and place them a few hundred feet spacing along my back mile road for a day or so to help stick them to these units. On the day of transfer we will relocate them to the mating yards and place the cells. From then on all re-enforcments are done by shifting frames within the mating nuc yard.
Very quick and slick

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I like these little mating units except the feeder was simply a pain in the butt. So we cut the feeders out and was able to get 2 more frames in each unit. Two more frames for space made maintenance of these units easier. During cell transfer we can add a foundation frame during flows to help direct resources into usefulness. We lather creamed honey into one of the outside frames during dearth for feed.

We modified the mini three frame mating nuc into a five frame. The extra space is nice.

We modified the mini three frame mating nuc into a five frame. The extra space is nice.

Aside from the raccoons and skunks,I find ants are the biggest problem when running minis. These small colonies can not defend against any kind of ant invasion. Moving the units up on top of a stand allows for ant control. We dust the base, and we spray the pole with ant poison.

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I use hatch boxes like this to finish up the season. Brood hatches out, and I then Prime the frames with syrup to make them ready for next season

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Through May during the apiary split we graft 60 cell per day everyday for a couple weeks to build enough cells to cover our splits and nucs. We graft more than we need continuously to ensure we have what we need and to help plan around weather issues.  It’s easier to pinch off cells then run to the neighbour asking for extra.    Our planning and schedule helps keep our work duties in order. Everything schedules the same, just compounded. Keeps us busy.

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Nucs set out, 2 frames of brood, 1 frame of honey, 3 frames foundation, gallon of syrup, and a queen cell.

My advice before starting down the road of queen rearing is to find a few mentors. I typically tap into 3 people, aside from Beesource. I have three guys at hand so that I’m not constantly bugging one person for feedback.  The spread of differing styles is quite interesting also.  One thing that remains the same are the basics.  Know those basics, use these basics to manipulation and exploit the honeybees behaviour to create masterpieces of natures work.

High time for hive growth.  This queen is on her second round uptop laying in those cells right after the brood emerges

High time for hive growth. This queen is on her second round uptop laying in those cells right after the brood emerges

 

February 17 2017

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I’ve been refocusing my attention lately off farm projects and back onto beekeeping projects.
My GQF 1550 Hatcher Incubator unit arrived today. It was shipped out of Savannah Georgia.  A few slight modifications and it will be ready for the fast approaching queen rearing season. I have been asked countless times “whats the need for a queen incubator?”. Its a good question because I don’t need one but incorporating an incubator into my queen rearing schedule will buy us more flexibility on scheduled timing which will allow us to manage the weather more efficiently. Last year we realized how timeline bound we were to THE SCHEDULE, and THE SCHEDULE has to be followed regardless of the weather. Pulling cells from the finisher during cold rain is not ideal…so now we can manage that task between day 9-11.

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The bees were a little bit more restless today sitting in at 11 degree C. That is the drop from the day. I cranked the ceiling fans. Nothing runny, no spots, just beards.

February 15 2017

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Resting easy. Swept the Isle again today, lots of bees on the floor but the hives seem content.   My hive fronts are showing zero spotting so far.  I use to keep track of the dead swept up, I don’t keep track anymore.  It is what it is.  I swept up 3 garbage containers today, seemed like a lot but by looking at the calendar I think it’s probably typical. My next post will be on the breeding and queen rearing program I have recently adopted.  I’ve had a flood of inquiries about what I do and how, not sure why all of a sudden all the attention but I’m thinking it has much to do with Randy Oliver’s ABJ published articles on breeding for resistance.  It’s caught my attention aswell.

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February 9 2017

I fired up the ProVap110 today. I burnt up a few shots inside the honey house because it is cold outside so I made sure to wear a full face Carbon filter respirator and had my facility ventilation fan suck the fumes immediately from the building. The unit took one minute to heat up to its preset 230 operating temp. I wanted to give the element a good test so I dropped 2, 4g douses into the bowl to test the element rebound capacity. During operation the temp ranged from 240-195 degrees. Oxalic sublimation took 20-30 seconds. It worked good. The true test will be a few thousand treatments…

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A set of twins today brought our count to 400 calves. Another 50 cows to calves.