The bees are exceptionally strong this year. Almost all of them lived, and then the weather cooperated for early buildup. As I rush around to get more boxes on all of the hives, I'm finding that a few are heading for the trees.
Luckily, I was armed with a good number of nuc boxes yesterday. This swarm was a giant five pounder, so it is going to be quite cramped and require immediate transfer into a full box. I will wait about a week to let the queen get the hive established with new brood, and then they will move into their full-time home. It's still early enough that a swarm this size might produce some honey in July or with a fortuitous August flow. Here they are settled into their temporary housing:
Here are the words of a happy customer that got his shipment and delivery in the best possible manner:
"Just wanted say that the 2 queens arrived here Winona Texas yesterday. They arrived at post office over 20 miles away. The postal delivery driver had already left on her route. The Postmaster drove the bees over in her own car, 43 mile round trip. This meant they arrived a day early. Many thanks to you and USPS for fantastic service."
That is a story connected to the USPS' "Express" service. They generally do very well with that category of mail.
Then again, I very occasionally have someone open their package and find a dead queen. This buyer ordered four queens, but found that only three cages held a healthy marked queen. Here is the casualty:
While sad, this customer did exactly the right thing by emailing a picture of the dead queen immediately. I will replace her for free without question.
I am once again winding down the academic year at Mount Mercy, so that means 2015 queen sales are about to get underway in earnest. It's usually possible to get them from my place north of Mount Vernon on Hwy 1 too, but it's important to call/email me first to make certain that I have them available on a particular day and to confirm that I am around to hand them out. I update inventory at www.ebertqueens.com on a week-to-week basis, but I generally have them available until sometime in August.
Over the past several years I've figured out an affordable shipping system through USPS. It's key to have good people at the originating post office, or else things can go quite badly. For the past few years, very few queens have gotten misdirected or cooked in mailboxes (though there have been some casualties, they have been less than 1% in most years).
The folks at the Mount Vernon office have designed some friendly looking signs to to help everyone recognize that there are perishable critters en route to their new homes:
We will hope that this year's ladies find their way safely as well!
Well, the truth is that the bees aren't in a grain bin (as the title of the post would suggest.) Instead, they are sitting on the pad that hosted a grain bin until quite recently. This is a new spot near Mount Vernon that is convenient for me to visit, so I happily accepted the opportunity to set a few hives on the property. Here is the grain bin circle of bees!
It is also a location with all the charms of a longtime farmstead! It is indeed one of my regrets that I have no old barns on my current property.
I also setup a lovely new location in a grove of trees next to a pond today. Unfortunately, it was almost dark when I got done queening the nucs, so the photo light was not opportune. Perhaps next time!
In further good news, the landowner where I placed the grain bin bees was kind enough to give me a few paw-paw, hickory, black locust, and chestnut seedlings--now I just need to find the right spots!
We had a couple of days of rain and overcast skies, but today was a relief from the gloominess. Indeed, this was the day that the apple orchards started to open much more substantially. That means lots of yellow pollen will be coming in for the next couple of weeks, and the weather looks quite favorable too. Here is one of the good ladies at work in a sea of flowers:
With the dandelions and trees both stimulating brood production in several locations, I'm starting to see more frames of brood that are very impressive. We've never seen so much early brood--my splitting percentage is pretty fantastic so far, but I'm not going to announce a number until I'm further along. Lots of bees come out of frames like these:
The downside, of course, is that massive brood production also helps varroa mites reproduce. I'm pretty sure I need to do a spring treatment to keep my hives from crashing this year. I stimulated lots of brood production in the fall, and spring brood-rearing has only compounded the situation. I'm seeing mites in some colonies already, and the hive involved in the picture below has an extremely unnerving number of them in the drone brood. I believe I see traces of sixteen of the reddish-brown devils in this picture. The race continues.