"Bee Thankful" Pumpkins :)

by Jorge

It's the week of excellent dishes and baked goods boasting honey components--Happy Thanksgiving! There was a lovely array of bee pumpkins to celebrate the season at the conference mentioned in the last post. Feel the holiday season begin with ornamentation from the bee world!

The bees are almost perfectly nestled up for winter. If it blizzards tomorrow, I won't be too distraught. One mini project was beefing up the syrup hose after the old garden hose that I used for several years gave up the ghost. The new one is fancier but also has a lifetime warranty at the hardware store down the road and has better fittings to help it endure. By the time it dies I may forget that it has a lifetime warranty. The female fitting linked to the pump's plumbing is about two inches long:

And away we go! The cord trailing out of the tank is an immersion heater. Colder weather means some heat is needed for the pump to work properly (though not too much heat, or else the syrup will develop toxins that would defeat the purpose of winter feeding).

"Iowa Is About to Blowup in the Bee World" IHPA 2017

by Jorge

It was an interesting experience to hear "Iowa Is About to Blowup in the Bee World" come from the mouth of Dennis vanEngelsdorp (PhD at U Maryland). He is exceptional as a presenter--not a gift that many academics boast among their talents. He particularly spoke on the shifted curve for managing varroa successfully as the viruses they circulate have become ubiquitous. As for Iowa's apicultural potential, he was especially referring to rising talent and quality research shaping up at Iowa State University under Amy Toth and some other researchers of interest for the pollinator-loving public. Iowa was once reasonably prominent in the realm of beekeeping (several decades ago) but has really only rebuilt something of an identity in recent years. We now have a so-called "Bee Team" doing quality work again! They recently earned a $1M grant to study potential roles that prairie strips could play in providing better habitat for bees and other species in agricultural regions (85% of Iowa's landscape is commercially cultivated). Check out more on the STRIPS project at their website.

FYI, the annual meeting of the Iowa Honey Producers Association is rather substantial. Here is one of the pioneers in varroa research, Dr. Marion Ellis, in front of a crowd of almost 400! He was the course leader for the "master beekeeper" certification that I pursued when I was sixteen years old and driving my first car out to Nebraska (it didn't even have license plates yet!)

I also got a bit of a surprise for my presentation in a "breakout session." My experience with breakout sessions involves relatively small groups of several individuals to a couple of dozen people, but I decided it was best to breakout the PowerPoint in my pocket when over one hundred came to hear about queens! One of the great things about beekeeping conferences is that pretentious people are extremely rare, so jeans and hats are A-okay :)

All in all, it was an exceptional conference. The IHPA's vice president of the board of directors wins the job of organizing the details, and Eve Vanden Broek did an outstanding job this year. Moving up to the presidency may feel like a relief after the endless logistics leading to this past weekend's success!

November Bees and Feeding 2017

by Jorge

It's a misty November day. Yesterday was warm and sunny, so we went to several locations to continue winter preparations. I've been happy to see that where bees received feed this fall, there have not been a significant number of division board feeders with dead bees in them. Weak bees can't take the cool syrup and therefore drown at higher rates despite the ridges on the side of the feeder to provide footing for them. Strong bees coming from the warmth of strong clusters, on the other hand, store fall syrup safe-and-sound without falling victim to the wet stickiness. The syrup that goes into these boxes is strictly for winter/early spring consumption in the hive, so there's no risk of it mixing into the surplus boxes that collect our honey during the production season.

Here's one of the locations that did quite well with a honey crop and hasn't needed too much fall supplement. Still, it's good to be sure that they have plenty to make it through until March or April, so we provided a little more sustenance for their brood boxes yesterday. Here is my lady feeding away!

It does seem that a box in the foreground is held together with duct tape? Hmm, a few more months of use, I suppose, before replacement during the splitting season.

The most important conclusion from my perspective is the great satisfaction of strong populations at this point in the year, especially since the fall has proven substantially cooler than the last two autumn seasons.

Hopefully I will open this 4-pack next spring and find them in similarly good condition and not devoid of groceries!

Cartons will go on the hives during the next two weeks, and then it will be time to celebrate the holidays and concentrate on our own warmth!

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.

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