The building (almost) begins.....

by Jorge

We had hoped that the building expansion for our honey house would get underway in February or March, but last week the weather cooperated enough to allow some dirt work.

When the addition is complete, we will have twice the space to work with. One section of the new building will house the extracting line, meaning we won't have to bottle and extract in the same room. That will free a lot of space and permit for larger equipment for bottling or extracting if we ever go that route.

Otherwise, the rain is back. Cool wet spring keeps hanging around--not great for bees to say the least.

Where have the queens gone?

by Jorge

After a slow, slow start to the beekeeping season, we have managed to run out of queens. There were an excess of them on order, but we distributed so many that we have run short ourselves. Enough to finish splitting should arrive on Friday.

I did not have much luck with the lot of queens that came from Mark Sundberg. I think that about thirty percent of them failed. The majority of the failures had no evidence of a queen two weeks after introduction, but in several cases the yellow queen was just walking around the comb not doing anything---not even drone eggs. In the end it seems lucky that the MN queens arrived second, otherwise I would have lost a lot of time on my splits with even more failed queen introductions. I will probably look elsewhere for MN Hygienics for next year. Perhaps he will have some explanation. Our Koehnen queens give us an acceptance rate that is normally over ninety percent.

Tomorrow I graft the first homegrown queens of the month behind the typical schedule.

Bees looking up

by Jorge

The weather has turned in our favor over the last several days. The bees are gathering fresh nectar and loads of pollen. It's a long road to full-strength colonies, but things are finally headed in the right direction. Some of the parent colonies that declined after I split them have turned the corner toward recovery. I also had a pleasant surprise when Alex and I visited ten of our two-pound packages that I installed four weeks ago. Most of those packages are now 6-8 frames of bees. Much better than I anticipated from my package observations in another location a week ago. Lastly, the splits I made on the first round have expanded sufficiently to warrant a second hive body. Hopefully things keep moving in a positive direction.

On the downside, here are a couple of photos from the latest American Foulbrood incident:

In the first you see the ropy brown goo of a recent infection, and in the other photo a few scales are visible in the base of some cells.

Extreme Wintering 2008

by Jorge

BiggestMeow's comment in the last entry mentioned our yard that sits at the bottom of a river levy....Well, that yard no longer holds any bees. Now to divulge the circumstances of vacating that yard ;) On two occasions, we fished the bees out of a few feet of water, but this year the story had a different spin.

Things about this winter were different to begin with....I'd never hauled corn syrup to the bees on a sled before. Basically the entire first round of feeding went over snow and into hive. Nothing like trudging through a couple of feet of snow to save your bees from starvation:

But things went even stranger when our usual flooding problems at the levy on the South Skunk River took a new twist. Instead of splashing through muck and water to get the bees to dry ground, we busted them out of the ice. The whole operation took place in a sloppy mess of snow, ice, and frigid water. The lesson here? Keep the bees off the floodplains!!

Here you can see Phil attempting to liberate the hives without slipping into the arctic pool:

And here is the image just before we started hauling them away. Those hives are still sitting next to the east side of the house. At least this miserable winter gave me some exceptional photo opportunities :))

A Pollination Adventure

by Jorge

Hinegardner Orchard in Montour requested that we take bees for apple pollination in short order, so Alex and I loaded the 4x4 and headed north. With the flatbed out of commission, the job is considerably more laborious. Ideally we used the Swinger to load several 4-way pallets, and then Dave Hinegardner unloads them with his tractor forks. Due to our unfortunate circumstances, we stacked two layers of 10 colonies into a standard bed and unloaded by hand......the unloading took place in a raging thunderstorm. My whole purpose in transporting them last night was to avoid the bad weather in the forecast, but the sky turned ugly as we headed north.

When we pulled into the dark orchard around 9.00 p.m., Dave waited for us with headlights shining and proceeded to lead us to the various drop locations. Somehow we managed to unload everything without falling into the mud or slipping on the truck bed....hopefully things go as smoothly when we pull them out next week--but I don't mind if we skip the rain this time around!

No weather worries as we finished loading the colonies destined for apple blossoms.....

In the end there was a very wet Jorge driving home in the dark.

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