The end of splitting

by Jorge

We ended up having a good splitting season. Winter loss was considerable, but the surviving bees came through strong enough to start a lot more hives. We will be safely north fo six hundred colonies this year.

In the images below, I am shaking the bees off three frames of brood and putting them in a third deep box--then we set the third box over an excluder to allow the bees to come up but keep the queen down. Then we can take that third box, give it a new queen and end up with a new hive for the season. This hive had a lot of bees.

This picture is from a hive that I split into four different colonies--it had 12 frames of brood and a ton of bees!

And for the fun picture of the spring--Alex discovered an old plastic queen cup that got turned horizontal, and the bees used it to raise a drone! I like this picture :)

I hope your splitting went well also!

May and apple pollination pictures

by Jorge

It has been a busy month since we dealt with package bee orders. I'll try to put up a few entries in short order to cover everything that has been going on. At the moment we are in the very last stages of splitting the overwintered colonies to make new hives, but most of them are building up for the much awaited honey flow. I've seen quite a bit of nectar coming into the broodnests right now, and black locust is having a strong bloom this year.

But for today I want to look back at some apple pollination pictures. We delivered bees to two orchards on the first Sunday in May. Alex and I did one load in the morning, relaxed for a few hours in the afternoon and then delivered another load at twilight. It made for a long day but everything went smoothly. All the bees came out of the orchards looking much stronger than when they were set in the trees.

Pulling orchard bees

Bees in the orchard

A bee at work in the apples

Here I'm hauling the hives out of a Pella orchard.

Lifting them up onto the truck

And away we go!

Package bees in Lynnville

by Jorge

We are now finished with the annual package bee deliveries. The larger load arrived at our place at 200 a.m., so there was not much sleep that night!

Alex, Dad, and I carried the packages from the back of the truck into the garage. By the end of it, we had more packages than ever to distribute. They were stacked too high to get good pictures at first, but after some of them were taken away, the other pallets became visible.

It always seems like a mountain of bees to distribute, but within 48 hours they are gone. We've had to get our paperwork better organized as more customers go on the package list every year--we also sell buckets of syrup, honey, and some feeders at the same time, so the three of us keep busy on package days.

Good luck with your bees!

Spring Bees

by Jorge

Our threat of snow last night passed us over. Windy and a bit chilly today, but no really bad weather to delay spring too much. I have not been out to see the bees as I've been working consistently on finishing my dissertation--it's always possible to make time when necessary but Dad has kept on top of checking the bees and picking up the dead ones. The live ones evidently have not required a lot of syrup. It has helped me keep focused on getting this phd finished.

The prospect of a strong splitting season looks encouraging. Here we have some of the good colonies--a number of them have a few frames of brood in progress. Sometimes the brood-rearing doesn't really get going until late April, so we hope to use a lot of queens in starting new colonies this year.

The hive below has barely survived the last three winters, but this year the population looks quite strong--hopefully that means most of the other colonies will follow suit in gaining strength as the coming weeks unfold.

The Lonely Hive, Survivor of many winters:

Strong overwintered colonies:

2009 Package Bees

by Jorge

It's that time of year again. We're still in the middle of winter but it's time to start thinking about how many packages will be needed for expansion or to replace winter losses. The phone is already starting to ring with inquires and people who want on the list for this spring.

We do not have the 2009 prices finalized yet, but current indications suggest they are shaping up to be comparable with last year. If anyone wants to pick up packages that come through our place in Lynnville, February is the best time to reserve but we normally have space on the truck through March as well. We require a 50% deposit to finalize orders. We plan to offer 2 pound and 3 pound packages with a Carniolan or Italian queen again. 4# packages with 2 queens are gaining popularity also--you shake half the bees into separate boxes and give each one of them a queen. A syrup sprayer is your best friend when you're gauging when you've shaken half of the bees out. It's much easier to estimate when the bees are clumped together rather than flying around. The stickiness also keeps them out of the air as they fill their bellies and clean the syrup out of their new home.

It will probably be one more month before we get into the colonies. With any luck, we will have a break of warmer weather sometime after the middle of February. Late February and early March is the time when we really need to check on feed in some of the colonies. Last February that break in the weather didn't really materialize, but I still got around with a sled in temperatures in the upper twenties and thirties.

As for now, it is eight degrees above zero with a fresh blanket of overnight snow.

Here I have a picture of a native Estonian beekeeper selling her wares in the Christmas Market in the capital city of Tallinn. She was very friendly and gave me a beekeeping price-list in Estonian language "just in case." :)

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