We have a neighbor just west of our place who has allowed us to keep bees in his pasture/timber lot for the past twenty years. These days we do not use the area for honey production--now it is a queen yard.
Here are some of the 5-frame nucs I've set up to raise the 2010 queens for sale:
I think I started the queen project back in 2004--experimenting with a few dozen cells to figure out grafting, cell-building, development of the queens, and the art of picking queens off the frames to mark them on the thorax with my handy paint markers. After more than twenty years around bees, I had never picked up a queen until I started producing them. I usually take them by the wings--sometimes by the thorax. The next step was getting used to catching workers to place as attendants into the queen cages!
I use the full-sized frame equipment for a few reasons. The queen nucs pull a lot of deep foundation for us, people are welcome to purchase nucs through the summer, I can use a queen nuc to requeen our own hives, and I get a number of new hives to overwinter when I collapse everything together in late August/September. But it is true that I generally cut them back to 1-2 frames of bees between queen cycles though--hunting for queens in lots of bees takes minutes rather than seconds. I've already given the postal employee some free honey for staying late waiting for me to show up with the queen shipments!
Altogether it has been very educational and usually a lot of fun. (Two-week runs of bad weather that annihilate all hope of successful matings are what takes the fun out of it.)
Next year I need to greatly increase production to provide you with the queens in demand--but thanks for the orders to date and I'll continue to produce as many as capacity permits in the next couple of months!
Back in late May we put out our 6 5/8 honey boxes and started to await the first honey flow. We often get some kind of surplus going into the overwintered hives somewhere between mid-May and the beginning of June.
Here's an image of a yard setup for supering: Most of the hives are getting two honey supers, and a few of the splits are ready for a box of deep foundation along with a 2-gallon bucket of syrup.
This year the early flow was exceptional--probably the best I've ever seen. Some of our strongest hives put away 80-120 pounds of honey before the wettest June in Iowa history got underway. Now we've had about a week of sunshine that has given us hope for a crop off of the 2010 splits as well.
The good news is that we have already extracted some honey and put the first boxes back out to be filled a second time. Our last bumper crops were 2005 and 2006--It would be wonderful to break the 100lb/colony mark again. Unfortunately there is another 1-3 inches of rain in the forecast for the next couple of days which might kill the flow again. Hopefully we can dodge the heavy precipitation and stay on track for an impressive July.
This is just rude....and wrong. Spring seems to be here early this year. This is good. Varro Mites, bad. While making splits in the spring we keep an eye out for signs of Varroa Mites. Usually this means checking any drone brood that breaks between the upper and lower hivebody. If we see mites just riding on top of a bee or two it is a cause for concern and investigation. Varroa Mites prefer to stay hidden, so if they are visible while looking at a frame of brood, this can indicate a higher level of mite load than we want to start with in spring.
This however was a first. I have seen mites hitching a ride on the back of workers before, but never on the Queen. This mite was promptly removed, and the hive was given a mite treatment.
On a brighter note, this is a picture of the first 12 splits of the year. This is how we make up for our winter losses. Each split is made up of three frames of brood that were set over a Queen excluder on top of the parent colony. The bees are originally shaken from the brood frame into the parent colony. The worker(nurse) bees crawl through the excluder and cover the brood. Usually the next day enough bees have crawled into the split to take it away to another yard and give them a new Queen.
It's nice to be finding good brood frames in mid April. Even if you only get a couple of weeks of an early start, that is still 2/3 of a brood cycle to build that population up for the summer. A summer we hope all those bees will have a lot of nectar to gather.
What do people do when the weather forecast is for a severe snow storm? Run to the grocery store and buy a month's worth of food.
What do honeybees do when the last day in March reaches 79 degrees? They try to haul home a month's worth of pollen of course!
Even the upper entrance is busy beyond capacity.
This honeybee is storing the pollen away for later use. There will be a lot of mouths to feed. The Queen is laying eggs everyday.
Hello hello--an update from overseas!!! I'm presently over in Scotland doing some research in Edinburgh and preparing for a conference in Glasgow. A visit to Scotland has been on my radar for the past couple of years, so I'm extra glad to be over here at last. My previous plans always got axed because the visit kept getting cut down to the point that I would just continue doing work in England or Ireland rather than shooting up to Scotland. At last! Here are some pictures from Edinburgh. I leave for Glasgow tomorrow morning/afternoon.
Here is the National Library of Scotland where I've spent a lot of hours during the past week
I'm pleased to find that the library is actually in the middle of the sights and restaurants rather than tucked off in some corner of town--it makes it much easier to escape for a couple of hours of tourism without losing an entire day or something like that. So here is the view from Edinburgh castle hill:
And here is the National Portrait Gallery--I walk past it every morning on the way to the library. I would not have guessed that they would have a very respectable collection of Dutch and Italian Renaissance paintings!
Mostly I've been working with treatises written in the 1600s and 1700s here in the Moir Collection--but there were a few items published in the 1800s that were pretty great too. Hopefully it all works out well in the book!