Queen Cell Reuse and and Nasty Mites

by Jorge

A couple of weeks ago we pulled apart a hive that had a number of cells in it. One of the cells was cleverly built on an old plastic queen cup that was still embedded in the comb. Way to reuse your resources bees! The supply of royal jelly for the larva looked healthy, so we distributed it in a nuc in the outyard where we found it:

On a less happy note, Alex sent me an image attesting to mite buildup in a Central Iowa hive. Mites love drones, so a quick observation/assessment is just to peek into any drone cells that are accidentally broken apart when the hive bodies are separated. This number of mites is pretty terrifying at this point in the year:

The good news is that we've been able to get in a fair number of treatments, and the splitting process dilutes the mite concentration on a per hive basis. Obviously we'll have to be extra alert and punctual with mite management this year.

Black Locust and Nucs Galore 2017

by Jorge

We are quickly moving away from splitting season and into the honey season (we hope). About a week ago the black locust trees started blooming--about a week earlier than usual. There was a monster honey flow for a few days, and then it started raining in much cooler conditions. That is just as well for me since I am just winding down at Mount Mercy University for the academic year, so there aren't many honey boxes out yet. Without boxes on to collect potential surplus, it is always possible that they will plug up their brood space and lose holes for eggs that should mature by the time the main honey flow arrives. Swarming probability skyrockets in those conditions too. I'm also slowed down a bit because I am slipping in a Hopguard treatment this spring too. I just saw too many mites to wait until the fall knockdown. There are still a couple of yards to split.

I'm still distributing and setting up nucs for folks who want to start beekeeping this year. Here are some of them that sat in front of my little farm stand building for a couple of days. It was a beautiful day with lots of flight during the afternoon. These EZ nucs are great for folks who are buying a fair number of bees and don't want to travel with all of their equipment needed for a direct transfer into the permanent hive. I suppose I should note that I do not ship nucs; it's pick-up only in Mount Vernon or Lynnville.

With locust following on the heels of dandelions and fruit tree blossoms, hopefully there won't be much need for supplementary feeding. Here is the pump and tank that Alex remounted on a new treated frame for this spring. Behind the pump there are 15 splits positioned on moving boards that will bear them to a pallet somewhere in Central Iowa for the rest of the year.

Queens and Splitting Season 2017

by Jorge

The ordering options at www.ebertqueens.com are live for 2017. I pretty much always authorize ordering in the first week of May, but it seems like the same week feels later every year. Anyway, we're off to the races again!

I've been through a good portion of the bees in eastern Iowa. The +80% that survived are mostly quite strong. I've seen very little sign of European foulbrood this year--sometimes it tries to rear its head in the spring more seriously. Mites on the other hand look worse than usual. Exceptional late fall and early spring brood rearing have given the parasites a head start on the bee population. Sad but unsurprising.

Here is one of the excellent hives that yielded multiple splits. I got three or four splits off of this one. I had given this one a 3rd story in February for feeding purposes, and all three boxes were full of bees by the third week of April:

And in other milestones of 2017, Andrew had his first smore while properly perched on the stump of a massive tree:

After three years of looking at the rotten beast, I finally got it on the ground without dying. The trunk was about three feet in diameter with just a few inches of real wood still intact around the outside. It was over one hundred years old. There was old woven wire deep inside it, and a strand of barbed wire about two inches inside the bark, so I suppose it was born in a fence row and then absorbed another one as it aged:

The weather is beautiful for May-time beekeeping!

The Langstroth Cottage and Miami University

by Jorge

I had the stimulating experience of heading to Miami University at Oxford, Ohio for the past few days. Professor Peggy Shaffer and her husband Ben Jacks are working to develop an Institute for Food as an interdisciplinary unit that engages the university, community, and broader region in the culture of food production and consumption across time and practice--obviously with a big-picture goal of teaching and encouraging healthful and sustainable food systems for the future.

The video does a good job of describing the local history and projects at the Austin-Magie Farm where the mission is underway. To further develop the vision and potential of the site, Peggy and Ben are busily building the path forward by securing grant funding. One of their successful submissions resulted in the weekend symposium/workshop that assembled about a dozen scholars from various disciplines and viewpoints to collaborate on the cultural heritage and public value of the Austin-Magie Farm at Miami University. Dozens of others from the university and community attended as well.

My part naturally involved apicultural possibilities, particularly in connection with the story of L. L. Langstroth ("inventor" of the movable-frame hive). Langstroth lived in an Oxford cottage for about thirty years, arriving soon after patenting his hive earlier in the 1850s. It would be great for them to share the Langstroth story, technological significance of the hive, and build the whole story into the actual practice of beekeeping at the farm (there aren't any hives at the site yet). I actually had not visited the cottage previously, so it was a perk to have a reason to mark that achievement from my list of obligatory pilgrimages in the name of bee history. Here is the cottage and commemorative posting:

Ultimately the plan is to develop a digital map of the site that will permit its perusal and interpretation online--at least as a first step in the cultural build-out around the farm. There is massive potential, and I hope everything falls in place to help them make the most of the opportunity! I will try to remember to post again when there is more to see as a result of this "Agricultural Legacies/Rural Opportunities in Southwest Ohio" symposium.

The timing of the event was helpful--it was probably the last weekend I could be absent as the bee season has arrived. Two months of haste now commence.

Baby Bees 2017? Pollen Returns

by Jorge

I got my annual thrill of spotting truly significant pollen returning to the hives a couple of Saturdays ago. While it's not terribly uncommon to see bees scrounging something up in March, hitting the lottery in February is much less common in Iowa. Here is a video and an image from one of my recent journeys down to the Muscatine area where I pollinate some melon fields. They did pretty well down there in terms of honey, and the landowners are really happy with the bees' performance in the past couple of years too.

Today and tomorrow are supposed to be around 60F, so there is hope that the video below is essentially on replay for the next two days!

The video showed a corrugated cardboard carton that is probably going to be bonfire material after this winter, but here is another site down in Muscatine County where I still have the bees on traditional bottom boards and wearing colony quilt for the winter. I think most of our quilts are twenty years old at this point, so while we've massively shifted over to plastic cartons for labor savings and 4-way pallets, I have to say that the quilts hold up wonderfully for the most part.

Of course this annual pollen watch would be somewhat less exciting or pivotal if we shipped our bees around the country to warmer climes and almond pollination, but that's not a route we've taken to date. I am developing a suspicion that if Andrew develops a professional interest in the bees he may take them on the road just to drive forklifts as much as possible :) He actually tried to ride one of his eight-inch toy loaders when he was about a year old. He loves pretty much anything with forks on it--here is a happy moment in one of his favorite construction supply stores.

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