We are well along with the 2011 honey harvest, and treatments for varroa mites are underway. The honey yield is nothing amazing, but not real disappointing either. Honey prospects looked great at the end of May. June, however, proved to be cooler and wetter than honeybees tend to like when it comes to gathering honey in Iowa. July had a few banner weeks, but August has not seen much activity. Now it's time to strip the boxes and deal with the parasite load in order to get our bees through winter. I'll discuss our experience with a couple of the new medications in a future post. For present, Apiguard continues to work, and HopGuard looks promising. We've already witnessed the failure of Apistan and CheckMite as mites developed resistance, so it's good to see Apiguard continuing to be effective.
Luckily, we produced a record number of cut comb sections despite a rather 'fair' harvest that will average under 100 lbs./hive.
Here is an image from just before we pulled out of one of our southern yards with the honey boxes on-board:
The other day Alex and I went up to pickup some bee equipment in northern Iowa. One of the items we loaded up was an old 50-frame Woodman extractor. They were produced in Michigan, and they were built ultra-solidly. Between three guys, we decided it would be much better to tilt the trailer to slide it on rather than attempt to lift it. The plus side of the heavy construction is that it doesn't flex the way modern extractors often will.
While I do like the direct drive boxes that motorize new extractors, I love the simple mechanics that make this one work. It basically comes down to a drive wheel that turns against a friction plate that spins the reel. I don't think it matters too much that Woodman was absorbed long ago because there are still businesses out there that can provide these basic components. Here is the drive system:
To regulate the speed, you just adjust the lever to determine where the drive wheel hits the friction plate. Simple simple.
I did put it up for sale for now, but if there are no takers I think I'll try to use it in the future. We always go to Old Threshers in Mount Pleasant to sell our products, and this extractor has a similar feel to some of the things we see restored there, but fixing this up shouldn't be too hard--and the reel can spin extremely fast
The San Diego adventure concluded last night, and I recalled that one of our first site-seeing stops was also a honeybee moment. It happened on the retired aircraft carrier Midway. It is a floating museum that opened in 2004 and seems to get a huge amount of traffic.
Up on the flight deck, I sat down on a bench and discovered a rather small stowaway:
The wind blew strongly across the deck, and she crawled next to my shoe to take advantage of the windbreak. Then she crawled onto my shoe:
I took her ashore thinking that she might be able to recover enough to fly home if I got her out of the sea breeze. It's funny how often honeybees pop up when your eye is programmed to spot them in any situation
Alex and I are out in San Diego for a few days because he is competing in the State Games of America in track and field. We went to the Olympic training facility outside of town and toured the area for a couple of hours. Here is the visitor center--alas that the souvenir shop was closed!
It turns out that everything blooming at the training site seems to attract honeybees. Everything from tree to ground cover seemed to be humming with our friendly insects. Here are a couple of the more colorful pictures I took today:
We'll be back soon, and I'll resume shipping queens on Monday!
I use the three-deep method of building queen cells. The basis of the system is a queen-right colony that has two deep boxes at the bottom, and then an excluder and a third deep on top. This works well for building because the hive is constantly under the influence of swarm impulse, but it also means that beekeeper has to find the cells that they build IN ADDITION to the cells that were grafted. Normally I find them without any problem by going through the builder every week to remove the cells.
And yes, you have to check every frame, including those honey frames on the outside of the box.
A few weeks ago they built a cell on the side of a frame. It nestled into a depression in the comb. With all the bees, I never saw it. Then I came back and found a massacred rack of cells:
Then I discovered the chewed-out flap of the emerged queen cell, and the killer virgin that caused all the destruction. She came out of her secret cell and proceeded to dispatch all the cells on the rack.
In this case, I had more cells in development but it's always sad to lose any queens this way. Lessons in vigilance and careful timing never seem to stop in the beekeeper's world.