This has been an excellent year for bees in apple pollination in this area. The temperatures climbed into the seventies and eighties for a number of days, and the colonies are jammed with apple pollen. They are also packed with lots of new brood and a fair amount of honey. I split the strong colonies before going into pollination, and they will need split again as they come out two weeks later. Here is an image of some really nice single colonies that were helping set this year's fruit (I gave them a second hive body two or three days ago):
There are another twenty hives to the right of the pallet in the image, and they all look very strong. Hopefully the buildup will translate into lots of apples in the orchard and lots of bees to make honey later in the year.
I've linked a current article about the US bee population from a local paper and pasted it below. It has been a rough winter moving into 2013. The Ebert bees made it in decent shape but things don't sound good overall. The California almond growers were beyond desperate this year. There is consequently another surge in bee-related press after many losses in the US and around the world. Click the link above to visit the Des Moines Register and the original article.
"Beekeeping continues to get more complex US bee population drop result of multiple factors: government"
11:21 AM, May 2, 2013 | by Christopher Doering | Comments Categories: Green Fields: Agriculture and Alternative Energy
The U.S. government said on Thursday there are multiple factors contributing to the decline in honey bee colonies across the United States.
The report, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the honey bee decline is the result of parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.
“The decline in honey bee health is a complex problem caused by a combination of stressors,” said Bob Perciasepe, EPA’s acting administrator. “As the report makes clear, we’ve made significant progress, but there is still much work to be done to protect the honey bee population.”
The government said an estimated one-third of all food and beverages are made possible by pollination, mainly by honey bees. In the United States, pollination contributes to crop production worth$20-30 billion in agricultural production annually.
“The Agriculture Department/Environmental Protection Agency report issued today concludes what farmers and scientists have known for some time—that there isn’t just one cause to the decline in honey bee numbers,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “The good health of the honey bee is extremely
important to American agriculture. Many farmers and ranchers require honey bees
and other pollinators to produce a healthy, bountiful crop."
Tags: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, usda
The more complete report from the USDA is found here: http://www.usda.gov/documents/ReportHoneyBeeHealth.pdf
A few days ago, I took a bit of video in a bee yard where they finally had an opportunity to go out and get some pollen. We dodged a couple of days of rain before I took this footage, but then it proceeded to rain 3"-5" across the state for the next few days. This video from 4.14.2013 isn't extremely exciting--I was just in need of a brief break from weekend exam grading, so I went to see what was going on at a nearby bee location. The pollen gatherers really need to fly in order to keep the broodrearing well-stimulated. I am surprised how good most of the bees look considering the slow spring and abundance of moisture.
The splits sitting on excluders as 3rd stories are now at an orchard a few miles away. They will have an embarrassment of riches on their hands if the weather is good a couple of weeks from now. I'll aim to get some images of their apple pollination activities this year.
For the splits, we generally shake the bees off of three frames of older brood (to get the queen off quickly without spending time to really look), and then we put those brood frames above an excluder so the house bees can come up onto the frames. Then we can just pick them up, put them on a bottom, and haul them away. It's pretty convenient. Click here to see an older post where I show the transportation system. There is one 4-story colony in the video. It had so many bees and large quantities of brood that I split it twice, so there are two splits over the excluder instead of one.
The singles and two-story hives in the video weren't strong enough to split yet.
It has been a long winter for our six-legged friends. At last, they are starting to have an opportunity to bring in larger amounts of fresh pollen and raise new bees to sustain their colonies in 2013. Today I noticed that even the smaller clusters are sending out foragers to bring home the maple pollen that provides a lot of the nourishment for bees in the early spring in this area. Pretty much every year we end up taking pictures celebrating the new season of activity that begins with these light-yellow loads of tree pollen. Most of the pollen-carriers are walking on the right side of the entrance block:
I also checked the flight coming out of some hives with package bees that I shook yesterday, but they are not foraging yet since they're still in housecleaning mode. I provided them with plenty of food for the first few weeks, so there's no rush for them to get into the field (except that they vastly prefer fresh food over long-stored food). The syrup cans that they travel with were totally empty this year--that happens sometimes due to the pressure changes as they're hauled through the mountains out of California.
Thanks to everyone who picked up packages in Lynnville. I hear that it went really smoothly. We have another load coming in April, but it is already sold out. Good luck as splitting season begins!
I just spotted this article about the Iowa Food Coop, and I noticed that our honey is on the shelves getting sorted for orders There are a few honey containers visible in the image. We hoped for their success when this initiative launched, and it seems to have gone quite well. Here's the article in the Des Moines Register.
(General manager Gary Huber sorts dry goods for Iowa Food Cooperative members at the IFC storefront near Merle Hay Mall. / Andrea Melendez/The Register)
I've never been to their main location in Des Moines since I don't do honey deliveries in Central Iowa (Alex and Phil keep busy supplying the area), but it has been great to see and hear about this online effort gaining traction. It essentially provides a convenient way to purchase local foods at low prices without having to live near a brick-and-mortar coop/grocery. Check out the Iowa Food Coop.
The coop is a result of initiative growing from the Practical Farmers of Iowa, which is another great organization I'll have to do a blog about. For now, here is the PFI website. They have developed regional expertise and provide a lot of guidance for people interested in starting to produce food, even if that person lacks any background in agriculture.