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." :)

Jorge Returns

by Jorge

I've been back in Iowa for a number of days now. In mid-November I headed to the UK to do some work for my graduate degree, and then I had Christmas in Estonia and New Year's in Sweden. Below I have an image from the Irish farm where I looked at some letters in Jim Ryan's collection (he has a ton of information on the Irish Beekeepers' history).

Today there are several inches of snow on the ground. It's hard to believe that in about a month it will be time to open up the hives again and give some of them a shot of syrup. I keep hoping most of them will live through the winter--mites were under control and we had great feeding weather in the fall. More young bees went into this winter than last winter.

The Welcoming Christmas Tree on O'Connell St, Dublin

This is the abandoned gate lodge at Jim Ryan's ancestral farm.

Preparations on the Verge of Winter

by Jorge

The last ten days or so have had a pretty regular rhythm. Feed the bees, block the entrances, and wrap the hives. We actually started blocking the entrances a few weeks ago. Once the nighttime temperatures start dropping into the fifties, the mice start looking for sheltered homes. Beekeeping equipment seems to serve them very nicely. Today we went to southern Iowa and visited a yard where three empty sets of bottoms and lids all had mouse nests recently built in them. Maybe they worked as good traps to keep them out of the actual hives. It's always annoying to put in the blocks and then go back in spring and discover that you trapped a mouse or two inside the hive. They really make a mess of the frames, chewing through the wax and woodware.

Mostly, the bees look strong. I like to see 6-8 frames of bees in the cluster to consider them strong for winter. There are still a few hives with two boxes of bees. On the other hand, there are a few yards that have a number of hives in the 4-5 frame population range. Those are strong enough that they might survive, and the chance is good enough that I don't want to combine them. The weaker ones always make me nervous though.

It was 76 degrees today--November 3. Winter didn't set in very early this year. Evidently a big change is coming in the next couple of days, but the fall has gone pretty well. With any luck this winter won't be as brutal as the last.

Loading up the division board feeders with corn syrup. The syrup in the 2-gallon feeder buckets started to granulate for some reason this year--we've never had that problem before. With warm temperatures, it's safe to dump the cloudy syrup into the division boards.

And then wrapping them up nice and cozy for the winter.

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