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.
I still have a couple of locations that have winter wraps and entrance blocks. It's only a problem for well-populated hives. I think this one might be a bit steamy (the temp peaked around 78F today):
That hive was the only one bearding up the entrance in a yard of twenty. At least they're not all overcrowded. I'm trying to get all of them unwrapped because it stimulates swarming when they can't keep the interior temperature low enough. The next several days are supposed to be in the 60s, so it's unlikely that I'd have a problem. Nonetheless, I'm being careful because it's just plain disappointing to have your best hives head for the trees.
Both tree pollen and dandelion pollen are coming in right now. Here's an entrance block that shows a colorful array of evidence from lots of workers trying to get through a tight space!
The day ended significantly cooler and rainy, which I suppose is good. The ground has been extremely dry, and I'm happy to see the moisture that will help give the flowers a boost.
I am still up to my old devices when April rolls around--the apple blossoms are swelling, and the bees need to be there when the flowers pop. I always go into Wilson's Orchard near Iowa City with the half-ton truck because there is a narrow bridge that doesn't seem like a good fit for the flatbed dually. Handling hives on the back of a flatbed is several times easier than scooting them around in a conventional pickup bed. Anyway, brave red truck was up to the task and delivered 29 singles today, and some more hives will be going in for the apple blossom bonanza very soon:
Last year's orchard venture looked quite similar, though the truck was a little less loaded down. Now we will hope for decent weather when the flowers actually open!