2018 Nucs and Singles!

by Jorge

Spring is just around the corner! That is easy to say for me since the temperatures are climbing into the upper forties and fifties this week. Let the sun shine and the bees fly! It has put me in the mood to update www.ebertqueens.com and list nucs and singles for May 2018 pick-up. I'm hearing a lot of reports of bad winter loss in our area, so I suspect bees will be in demand. Queen ordering won't list on the website until very late April.

This year we're going to offer Complete Single Hive units. Packages and nucs got extremely expensive over the past several years, so we figured we might as well maximize our combination of bees and equipment to offer a solution that offers a little more bang for the buck--at least for folks that want more equipment rather than only to reoccupy their existing equipment. Nucs are listed as usual too. Folks who want to be in on the package party in mid-April, on the other hand, should contact Ebert Honey at the Lynnville branch to place your order.

In the meanwhile, I'm going around assessing the wintering results. We're not out of the woods yet, but the warm-up lets me see our current status and probability of the survivors making it through the next couple of months. The deep freeze temperatures a few weeks ago wiped out a number of smaller clusters for certain. Today and tomorrow I'll figure out more about how it all turned out on balance. Here is one that proved very resilient that I visited just before dusk yesterday:

The melted snow also revealed one of my beloved hive tools that apparently dropped out of my pocket when climbing into the truck last fall. Look at the lower left corner--it's hard to see but that's the point....I started buying stainless steel tools several years ago because I see them on the ground (as long as they're not covered in propolis). The economy tools work just as well for their actual job, but they get very dark and hard to see when dropped:

A Few Highlights From the 2018 AHPA Bee Conference

by Jorge

I was thinking back to the meeting in San Diego and the moments that caused some type of reaction in my mind. One of them related to a couple of new studies suggesting that mite loads in September are the strongest predictor of overwintering success going into the next spring. Basically the odds of survival for a hive with low mite loads in September were about 80% vs. 40% if they remained above critical threshold in that month. It has been nearly twenty years since I reached essentially that conclusion due to observation in our operation, but I suppose it is valuable to see that type of data appear in other settings rather than isolated in our own system. Anyway, that seemed to be an area where scientific modeling was rather slow to identify a fairly obvious pattern in commercial beekeeping since varroa became endemic in North American bee populations.

I enjoyed hearing Gus Rouse talk about building Kona Queen Hawaii, Inc over the past few decades in Hawaii (before selling out some months ago). Here he is with a rather significant stack of queen shipping boxes--they literally produce hundreds of thousands of queens per year:

It was one of the first queen rearing outfits I remember knowing by name when I was around ten years old. Today, people just think of Hawaii as a perfect weather oasis that would obviously be great for raising queens. Gus talked about struggles to get the business going in challenging landscapes and the trouble he had with German black bees in the drone pool before they basically annihilated those genes with their own drone production. He was very thankful for a scientist coming out to teach him about instrumental insemination when it became crucial to increase the precision and quality of their queen production system. It was an adventure in practical science with a whole lot of labor to make it work--he said he appreciated growing up in a farm family because "who would work eight hours a day for somebody else when you can work sixteen hours a day for yourself?" I hope retirement goes well :)

Lastly, I especially enjoyed an industry discussion of seed coatings (this is how most neonics get called into action and why dust drift during the planting season is so scary for nearby bee yards). I am always amazed how compelling the scientists on each side of the equation sound when either justifying or critiquing the use of chemical applications in commercial agriculture. There is a lot of brainpower backing a continuum of positions on these topics. Ironically, the speaker from Pioneer/Dupont grew up with our bees on her family's farm when she was a girl. Keri Carstens now holds a PhD in toxicology from Iowa State. I'd encourage others to invite her to speak, though I don't know if she plans to make a habit of these presentations among the bee community. Here is a public video where she talks about the seed coatings of interest in recent years. The video embed is misbehaving, so click here if it doesn't autoplay when clicked below:

Farewell San Diego: AHPA 2018

by Jorge

The American Honey Producers closed out another annual meeting this morning. I appreciate that most of the sessions are only thirty minutes at this meeting. Most of my academic conferences require much more time commitment on any given topic--something like ninety minutes to two hours most of the time. It's good to encourage concise delivery and to keep the brain from overloading on any particular topic. Here is the outdoor gallery where we held most of the sessions. It was a synthetic hoop-type building in the Doubletree's patio area--an interesting solution that I had not encountered at a conference hotel previously.

One of the opportunities at the national level conferences is chatting with some of the major vendors that we buy materials from throughout the year, and those that we might do business with in the future. I'd probably need to put up another building before I would have space for the air ram extracting line that Cowen Manufacturing had on display. Perhaps one day! Here is the nifty nameplate they put on the system for this conference:

We went the budget route by getting a multi-purpose skid steer for our near term needs, but here is the real beekeeper's forklift rolling into the vendor show. They are pretty awesome for the migratory bee world handling many semi loads of bees. A & O Forklifts up in Michigan is the outfit occupying this niche market:

On the plane ride home I'll think about the main topics of interest and make a few comments soon. For now, Phil is fulfilling his lifelong love of reading a local paper before leaving town:

The boarding call is issued! We now wish ourselves a safe journey home!

The 2018 Bee Life Commences--In (Usually) Sunny San Diego!

by Jorge

One of the first missions of the 2018 apicultural life was running over to Chicago with several barrels of honey for a good customer, so we dropped by another place to get some used cement form plywood. It can be useful for building pallets and lids--very strong, weather resistant, and affordable when acquired used. It also weighs tons, so a hefty truck is needed for this task. The weakest tire on our backend got replaced in the big city before we came back to home-sweet-Iowa home.

Phil and I are also gearing up for the latest information at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Honey Producers Association in San Diego. The temperature is far more springlike than our chilly departure from Cedar Rapids. It is actually raining and overcast for our first few hours in town!--I am very fond of green plant life, so it will be great to have a nice boost for the flora during our week in the land of sunshine. My next post will probably share a bit about our experience.

It's always sad to leave the little man for consecutive days, but at least he and mommy have a handy little tractor to harrow the arena as entertainment in the meanwhile :)

Cuddle Up for New Year's Eve Bee Friends!

by Jorge

It is an exceptionally chilly day leading into New Year's Eve! The sun rose around -5F, and tonight we're looking at -16F for the low. At least there is not a fierce wind to go with the bone chilling raw temperatures. Several inches of snow began to accumulate on Christmas Eve, and it doesn't appear likely to disappear anytime soon.

In the most excellent of news, the bee mailbox is still grinning through it all:

I don't believe the diesels will be going anywhere for a couple of days. They are comfortable absorbing whatever kind rays of sunlight land in their direction:

I hope the bees are healthy and well-clustered on top of a good food supply. There will not be much lateral movement within the hive to other grocery stocks for a few more days as they sequester every bit of warmth. These temperatures don't spell the end for bees that are in good shape, but any weaker small clusters are prone to having a tougher time. Fingers crossed that they still look strong when I check on their status in several weeks!

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