California Round 1 - 2021
We are winding up our survey of the Ebert bees out in northern California. The image above shows Alex in a set of 150 hives that graded out well and survived well. We sent two other semi loads this year. Overall it looks like we have enough good ones to keep the wheels turning, especially if the weather is decent in the lead up to the almond bloom. We had beautiful weather in the 60s and 70s F for this January, and it wasn't too muddy either. The ground was fairly soft on arrival before drying out during our stay, but we didn't have any close calls getting stuck. Now it is moist but firm, and it's going to rain a few inches after we leave. That will be good for the trees, and we'll hope it dries up again to allow us to do our next round of work.
It felt like we had a bad omen to start the trip when we lost our first workday to truck tire issues and feed pump problems. I was getting things prepared on the first morning and noticed the outer dual on the flatbed was flat. A borrowed air compressor got me to a tire shop to repair that tire. Then we discovered that the wall of the inner dual was almost fully punctured as well, so that tire ended up totally replaced. It took extra time to get this solved since the truck was a rental and we had bureaucratic hoops with Enterprise, but it did all get resolved on their account rather than ours.
After the tire adventure, we found out that my newly replumbed pump didn't want to pull syrup. That turned out just to be an issue of the heater accidentally getting turned off the night before rather than a suction problem. It's now setup to draw from totes or from the 100 gallon tank mounted on the pallet. That let's me switch between a low weight/capacity system and higher weight/capacity system depending on the work and location. The syrup return is setup to flow into the smaller tank, and that allows us to transfer out of the tote and keep feeding at the same time. It's probably not a great system for much larger beekeepers, but it is a good fit for how we have things setup in California.
My main disappointment this year was that our cellared load of bees had the highest death loss of any bees we sent. I was expecting them to be our best. Last year we saw a similar death rate between indoor/outdoor wintering but the clusters averaged more bees coming out of the cellar. This year the clusters were about the same but the cellar bees did not survive as well. At least there are enough bees to work with for building our 2021 population. We will be back one or two more times as the bee year progresses!