Yesterday I brought my oldest daughter (14) out to collect a few yards of honey. An introduction to my livelihood and hard work. My work crew had the weekend off so I pulled Lori in to give her “old man” a hand!
I hire six kids to help on the honey farm. Through the honey pull I split my staff into two crews, honey extraction crew and honey collection crew. I strike out the pace and my guys work their butts off for me. (I pay well) Today I have 1200 hives pulled and supered, the hot room is full and 80 barrels extracted. This next week we will tackle the last 500 units of splits and nucs. I find it very important to allow weekends off after a hard week of work. It keeps every week fresh and I actually get more work done in that shorter time as compared to continuously strung out. BUT it takes planning. Unlike the grain harvest, I can protect my production from the weather within the hive. With an adequate number of boxes, a good facility and a very specific method of honey collection, I developed a schedule which plans the honey pull out to the day. On the weekend I’ll work at the edges to keep on track, but otherwise I allow some down time for myself to rest and recoup. One of the secrets of getting more work done in a shorter period of time is >>work smarter and slowing down<<
Hot work days requires a few trick to keep my work staff safe from heat exhaustion. When it gets hot I start pushing my heat rule:
work slower, carry less, drink water
Just a few things I do to address heat exhaustion are as follows: My honey house fridge is stocked with refreshments and power aid is available in the cupboards. This helps avoid getting water logged. A jar of candy sits on the coffee room table. The candy is a snack which help keep sugars and salts up. I do not allow air conditioning during the work day in our vehicles. Air conditioning is nothing but trouble to a hard working crew. The honey house ventilation system is designed to pull air through the coffee room and through the extraction room which creates a nice cross breeze. It is also important to keep the crew chatting, even just a little bit, which helps provide continuous feedback to assess their physical condition.
…to address the OVER consumption of candy, I stock the jar with expensive skittle candy AND cheaper delicious hard sugar candy. The expensive candy keeps them grabbing for more but the hard cheap sugar candy forces anyone helping themselves to sort what they want in smaller portions lol.
The honey is coming in well under 17% now. Even warm honey that tests 16-17% does not extract very well and the frames leave the extractor wet with thick honey residue. To capture that thick honey residue off those frames I installed a steam generator which blasts a continuous jet of steam into the extractor. It will bump the MC up in the honey by 1/2% – 1% which helps capture more extractable honey and somewhat dry the frames before they exit the extractor. I hate carrying heavy wet supers back onto the hives or into storage. At $800 plus installation I’m sure it has paid itself back a few times already. It has also eliminated honey drip onto the floor after extraction as we stack and store the empty boxes on storage pallets.
The canola flow has pretty much ended everywhere now, yet I still shook fresh nectar from freshly placed frames. Clover and alfalfa must be digging deep to provide the bees with enough abundance to keep their attention away from any type of robbing behaviour. But it’s almost August, it’s time to start preparing for that dreaded robbing behaviour. First, I need to move the Bee yard which sits a mile away from my honey house. Second, I need to change our work habits so no honey boxes get left outside on truck or around the honey house…ever. Third I need to do a walk around and make sure all doors and vents are sealed tight. Fourth, I need to start an evening bee sweep from the honey house catch hives to cut the resident bee population within the home yard. Fifth, I need to install the bee truck tarp.
First pull is so much easier and pleasant.
Text from Adam tonight:
“Bee Polite, Spray at night”
The Diamondback moth is double the threshold at 20 larvae per square foot in ONE of our blooming canola fields…
We are using a product called Voliam,
A Matador Coragen mix. The Matador kills the larvae on contact with little residue as it burns up in the sun. The Coragen holds residue and kills every stage of the hatching insect through to adult stages of development. This product is easy on bees and beneficials.
We spray at night while the bees are back home and while the diamondback larvae come out to feed.
It’s everything we can do to protect our crop and preserve our bee health.
Day three of extraction, 45 barrels. The second set of escape are now in place and my main 1200 production hives all now have fresh boxes. This second set will be brought in on Thursday Friday which will keep the extraction crew going for a while. It’s nice to have a large hot room and a large inventory of boxes. Next week my nucs and split hives will be pulled. The honey is starting to test real dry. Tonight I installed a steam generator into the extractor to help pull out that thick dry honey residue as the frames extract.
Rain came through the area last night, 22mm. During our crop checks today we could see an interesting characteristic within the corn crop. The corn plant has wide long “v” shaped leaves which reaches in every direction. These leaves catch the rain and direct it down towards the stem and then down towards the base to its roots. It’s as if the rain last night fell in strips.
5 ‘o’clock rush hour traffic in this bee yard. The bees get lost while I briefly park the truck in amongst the bee yard to work, especially the last yard of the day. Incoming foragers on their way back to end off the day get confused when my bee truck blocks their flight path. This pic was taken just after I moved the truck. The swarm back into their hive was so heavy that the grass laid thick with bees as they pushed their way back into their hive. Watching the bees navigate simply amazes me. Their flight plan is so very specific…to the point they become instantly lost when an obstacle moves out in front of their path. Move the obstacle and they instantly resume their flight plan. It’s this precise navigation which allows me to row many hives in a tight bee yard.
Today we collected honey boxes. We picked 7 yards today, and with any luck another seven tomorrow (if the rain holds off). Tomorrow I split the crew to run the extractor. I’ll have two crews going from now on chasing each others work load. The yard crew needs to keep the extractor going while the extraction crew needs to free up boxes for the yard crew. My truck’s bumper drags across approaches when running back with a full load of honey boxes. Bees are busy, flow is still strong.
These stacks are quite impressive but quite deceiving.
For those who asked how I plan my honey collection schedule:
This week we will set and collect 500 hives. I kept these hives tight on 3 supers for our first set and today instantly gave them 3 empties in return. Next week we will set and collect another 500 hives which are supered up and filling 4 supers. The following week we finish up on the 500 splits and nucs which are filling 2-3 supers.
Soon as boxes hit the hot room the extracting crew runs everyday.
After the last nuc is pulled we start the second pull (August long weekend off for the crews).
We were reminded what beeyard hot is today…honey pulling weather! The honey flow is strong and my boxes are filling nicely. Yesterday’s MC tests showed 19-22% uptop and 17-18% down below, not as much capped as I expected but the sample mixed dry so it’s a go. Today we casually worked through 250 hives setting escapes. We lifted the three full supers overtop of three empties using escapes. The bees were non the wiser except for the sudden disappearance of their honey stores…! We will collect those boxes starting Thursday and we will start the extractor on Friday.
Friday at the Carman Country Fair 4-H Steer sale Load Line Manufacturing, Winkler MB, bought our Grand Champion Market Steer and a second of our Market steers,
SJ Agronomy Services, Miami MB, bought our Reserve Grand Champion Market Steer.
Thank you for your generous support of the Miami Beef Club.
The Steer also comes with a complementary box of honey.