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January Beekeeping in California, 2020

A few days ago we started our California bee rounds among the almond trees. We are in two different orchards instead of one this year. The Pella load of bees all went to a ranch where we found them staged on the ends of the rows. We got through that entire group in less than two days. Here is what that scene looked like.

Grace, Josi, and Alex are the bee crew laboring away on this group of 16 pallets!

We are making the rounds to assess death rate, grade hive strength, make combinations as needed, provide protein supplement, feed, and administer a mite treatment. There are several priorities, so I love working with two teams of great people out here. It is more fun and goes much more quickly working together.

I did manage to get the flatbed stuck for a moment. I believe I was foiled by the skid control interfering with my effort to drive through some moderate mud in 4-wheel drive. I am not used to such fancy features, and we rented a new flatbed in Cali rather than put 5K miles on one of our old workhorses. Luckily I got it stuck near fairly dry ground, and Alex pulled me out with the 4x4 F150 that we drove out here.

Only moderately stuck---a smaller truck got me free!

Our other orchard is a wet one where they like to get some hives placed whenever it happens to be dry enough to run the forklifts down the rows. That means we go up and down the rows in order to assist a large number of them. Some of them are on flood stands as well. Those circumstances combine to require almost three times as much time per hive, and we have the larger proportion of our hives in that orchard too. The photo at the top of the post shows me and a friend on the first day checking hives along an orchard roadway.

Altogether, it looks like our overwintering losses will be a few percent higher than last year, but it looks like we may have a higher rate of +10 frame populations going into the bloom period. It will be a couple more days before I have those numbers calculated with reasonable certainty.

It rained all morning, so we took today off rather than work in mud and temps slightly below 50F. Tomorrow won't be any warmer, but it should be harder to get stuck. We are progressing well and appear to be ahead of schedule! We sure hope the rest of the bees hold up decently. The numbers will tell soon.

Alex kicks back for a call with his family after a day working in the orchard.

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