Category: Beekeeping

Not Dead Yet: Halloween 2017 Approaches!

by Jorge

My old companion 7.3L F-350 and the redecked trailer made a journey to South Dakota (and back) recently. It has been years since we put the loyal flatbed through those kind of miles with a load. I don't worry about running equipment to the last mile within the usual beekeeping radius, but you always get a bit more nervous running "well-seasoned" equipment hundreds of miles from home. Happily, it has lost no power over the last few years and made short work of the distance despite almost 300K on the odometer. Here I've returned with about a thousand lids, a few thousand pounds of wax, and a couple of barrels of honey that I decided we'd sample. The victorious return:

It will be kind of sad when I have to move on to the next truck one day. But, as the title said, it's not dead yet!

As the day of the dead approaches, Andrew is at last not a bee for Halloween! He is fond of roaring at certain moments and is making the most of a tiger costume. Is the horse wearing a batman costume to overcome the fear of a predator on its neck?

And if you were wondering what a massive honey house might look like in the early stages, here's the beginning of one that's around 200 feet long and over 100' wide, if I recall correctly. Quite an operation (and definitely not mine if anyone is wondering--it was on the trip).

Laying Worker Vista and Fall Bees

by Jorge

I came across this interesting picture of laying workers on fresh comb from earlier this year. Bees working on foundation sometimes build comb and attempt to raise brood despite the futility of the effort (without some kind of intervention to sustain the hive anyway). I'm very accustomed to the appearance of raised caps on worker cells in the case of infertile eggs deposited into the wrong cells, but the perspective on this shot is pretty cool. I think a customer sent it to me when asking for advice.

Back on the homefront amid winter preparations, the fall bees look pretty good overall. Most of the entrance blocks are in the hives, though we still need to slide on the winter cartons in a couple of weeks. Populations and mite levels are generally encouraging at present. This picture is one of the rare Italian hives in the Lynnville system. They tend toward large winter clusters (and massive food consumption) when healthy. Despite the challenges of wintering Italians in our environment, they are very pretty!

Now we hope they don't burn all of their food stores and show up starved in March/April. Piling on division board feedings back-to-back within several days can help cram their brood cells with food and deprive them of as much brood-rearing opportunity. Slow prolonged feeding often just nurtures unneeded big brood nests deeper into the winter.

Trucking Along

by Jorge

Ever since he was able to walk, Andrew has enjoyed climbing around inside pickups and heavy equipment cabs. Here he is happily dreaming of the day when he gets to drive off into the distance!

Today is not so bright as the day of the picture. The last few days provided a warm window into fall. Today is a wet one, so all of the bees are cuddled up. Hopefully they are reasonably free of these pests at this point. See below for the villainous mites accosting a worker and beetles that showed up in a varroa test:

Beetles are almost never a problem in the live hives out in yards for us--just a honey house issue to manage by making sure that nothing sits long enough to support infestation. That's a privilege of living in a temperate climate. The mites appear to be well managed in most of the hives. The very last ones I harvested this year look more dubious as usual. It's amazing what difference you can see between an August treated hive and a late September treatment in Iowa. There are still a few winterizing steps to look after in the coming weeks, but I'm looking forward to the slowdown as the summer moves into the rearview mirror! (Though I will miss the warmth and green of summer!!!)

Winding Down 2017 Honey Harvest

by Jorge

Several days ago I pulled the last decent load of honey for 2017. It was dark at the conclusion but a welcome moment!

We also had a close call with the clarifying tank. If the wax isn't cleaned out of the extractors with adequate frequency, they drain slowly and can threaten to overflow the system unless someone checks to make sure that all is well after the machines are turned off:

With one or two millimeters to spare, everything wound up draining into a barrel as intended:

Now winter approaches and the next phase is upon us! It all goes so quickly.....

Goldenrod Season and Iowa State Fair Ribbons

by Jorge

We've had a pleasantly warm and much drier September experience this year. That has been a magnificent helper as I work to clear off the hives and treat for mites. Everything goes better with some heat....bees are massively less defensive, they evacuate the boxes more readily, treatments vaporize effectively, they can forage rather than depend on feeding, and extracting is more efficient when the honey isn't cold in the comb and resistant to spinning. I'm sure the typical coolness of autumn is just around the corner, but there is nothing to complain about in recent weeks.

There is not a massive goldenrod flow in all of my locations, but they've certainly put on some weight or maintained themselves respectably as the fall flowers opened. Some locations actually started pulling a little leftover foundation. One of my fall tricks with harvested singles is to choose the ones overflowing with bees and give them a deep box of foundation to hold the bees and stimulate them to pull it at the end of the year. It won't work after the cooler temperatures arrive or the nectar stops, but I've drawn a surprising amount of deep comb with that method in the past several years (though it doesn't always work). This is one of the Lynnville bees at work gathering pollen from goldenrod, so we happily accept any productive outcome! Strong young bees shall result!

As we close down the 2017 harvest year, I'm also reminded that we earned several ribbons at the famed Iowa State Fair this year. Here's the full array of several displays. Our creamed honey in the lower left corner brought home the blue!

The Iowa Honey Producers Association has a long history of running a quality booth in the Agricultural Building, including the always delicious honey lemonade stand on the second floor :)

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