California Round 3 — March 2022

We once again split the almond pollination hives in California in 2022. The image above shows them rolling across a canal bridge and down into a cattle pasture where we could work them quickly. One of the most eye-opening changes about getting into migratory beekeeping was learning about the efficiencies of holding yards. Work that formerly required weeks of loading up truckloads of materials and driving from small yard to small yard can be achieved in a matter of days.

Unloading almond pollination hives into the cattle pasture for splitting season.

The larger beekeeper that places our hives on the California end made a big leap in his own hive count this spring, so we weren’t sure if we could find space to work this March. He very kindly came through with locations for us anyway. It was an intense several days, partly because we drove straight through coming and going from California. I think twelve hours at work was easily our shortest day in the field once we were on site. Splitting is the happiest part of the year for many beekeepers because it’s so stimulating to create new hives while the year is still so full of hope.

The splitting crew (plus the guy behind the camera) that built this sea of singles. There are a lot of hives that aren’t in this picture too.

After the first day getting started, the morning always involved loading up singles to take to another location some distance from where the parent hives sat. This limits drift and keeps the strong hives from preying on any lower population singles. The two guys on single moving duty also gave them queen cells after they were placed in the other pasture. The other three people shook brood to build the splits the rest of the day. It’s fortunate we all love what we do because it was actually fun for us!

This pallet of singles caught a lot of drift bees during orienation. It made quite a sight! The excess populations are shared with weaker hives. The drift isn’t so striking after the hives have oriented to their new site and they become more organized about their flight patterns.

Now we are gearing up for beekeeping in Iowa. The first load of doubles will return tonight. The singles we left behind will need to stay in California for a total of roughly two weeks to get as many queens mated as possible. Here in Iowa the highs are only in the 40s F right now, so no virgin queens have any hope of mating on the Iowa end of the operation in the near future. After another round of splitting in April, it looks like our equipment will be filled up pretty early and ready for collecting a honey crop. We are hopeful for a strong 2022 honey flow that could begin within two months from now!