Late March is looking a lot like February. The temperatures are not as chilly as February, but certainly not many flying days have come along, nor the green grass that accompanies warmer March experiences. I think I started mowing the yard in late March last year.
Lots of activities are about to burst onto the scene as winter closes. Hives are about to brood up, queens will soon be shipped, cut comb frames need foundation, and equipment needs assembled. Packages will start arriving in early April, and splitting season will be upon us in a flash. Our next chance to take a deep breath will probably be early June.
For the moment, March is clinging to winter rather fiercely. There's not quite this much snow on the ground right now, but here's an image of the CR place after the last big snowfall a couple of weeks ago. My shoveling skills are much improved in contrast with the last two mild winters!
It was sunny and in the 30s today, so I headed out and checked a few hives today. I always check on them sometime in February or early March, and a few still hadn't received any attention in 2013. There is snow on the ground again, so a fair amount of walking occurred before I got to discover their general condition. Here is the current condition of a nicely protected yard near Swisher (the lonely hive is a swarm I caught last APRIL; it is still alive):
The bees look quite good at this location. All of them were alive. It is a yard where I used Apiguard--the treatment that has successfully managed varroa in our system for the past few years. Here is one of the strong hives I encountered:
Things got better when I revisited a yard that I knew had run short on feed. This spot is very exposed but had hives with giant winter clusters. They burned feed with reckless abandon (despite their Carniolan genetics). I gave them another box of food to get them through the next month.
All told, I have a good number of excellent hives, and a sad number of devastated hives. Apiguard worked well and Hopguard didn't work well in Varroa control. This is why we experiment. I'm going to work on an article for the next Buzz newsletter to reflect on my methods and outcomes with these two medications going into the winter of 2012-13.
In other news, our package trucks are just about sold out. Contact us soon if you're looking for replacement hives now that the temperature is rising and people are inspecting their winter survival rates. Good luck as spring approaches!!!!
I will give a presentation on the history of hive innovation and humane beekeeping at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 23. The title is “Humane Beekeeping: How Hive Innovation Saved Honeybees,” and it will take place at the History Center in downtown Cedar Rapids. I know most people have never heard of "humane beekeeping," but that's the point. Years ago, particularly in Europe and Britain, beekeepers often used a straw hive that looked like this:
Beekeepers, especially in the British Isles, generally killed their bees in order to harvest safely from such straw hives. That practice persisted for centuries. The presentation will discuss how, and why, bees were massacred for so many years. Then we will review how hive innovation helped to stop that practice from being conventional any longer.
Drop by if you are interested in beekeeping history, and there will absolutely be an opportunity to ask questions!
And of course, Happy Valentine's Day!!!
Last night, I spoke for the Back-to-Basics bee club. They have a thriving group of beekeepers that meet in the Iowa State Agricultural Extension building in Oskaloosa. It's a great facility for them, and it was a pretty full house. My topic for the evening was queen-related hive management. We went over some fundamentals of queen biology, how to successfully requeen laying workers, and some characteristics of the various races of bees that are important to know about when making queen purchases. The group had some great questions throughout.
Afterwards, one of the club's officers brought out a binder that looked like this:
Evidently, someone printed off the entire blog last year, and then placed it in the bee club's library. It was great to see that someone found these posts worth keeping around.
If anyone is looking for a bee club to join in Iowa, here is a link with contact information for several. Depending on where you live, there are often a couple within driving distance. Click here for Iowa bee clubs. Beekeepers are quite good at learning from each other, so it's a great for beekeepers new and old to convene at these clubs if it fits in their schedules. I wish I could make it to the East Central Iowa Beekeepers more often, but I drop in whenever possible.
This seems like an appropriate image for a chilly start to February. I mostly have telescoping lids on my hives in eastern Iowa, but this one has a carton on it with a migratory cover. This hive was alive when I checked it on a warm day couple of weeks ago. It's my pet hive in the yard.