Well, we certainly aren't having a winter quite as balmy as the last one. There have been periodic breaks in the cold, but the more typical winter deep freeze has made a respectable appearance during the last few weeks. In a few days it might get warm enough for the bees to have a cleansing flight. Here's hoping. I'm looking forward to checking the hives for survival and strength when we get a couple of weeks into February.
The 2013 package bee prices have arrived. We are working with Koehnen's as usual. They are close to last year's prices. As always, the packages are only available for pickup at our Lynnville, Iowa location. We do not ship packages to anywhere. We will, however, resume shipping queens later in the spring.
Here is the current pricelist and instructions pertaining to 2013 package bees. All reservations should be made through Lynnville: 641-527-2639. The same information is available on our website. As usual, it's possible to select Italian or Carniolan queens in various package weights.
I have just returned from another winter venture that furthered my research on beekeeping history. This time I visited the Phillips Beekeeping Collection at Mann Library, one of the several fine libraries at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
It's a lovely campus even in January. Here is an iPhone image of the university at dusk, after most of the snow had melted during the two preceding days:
My primary mission on this trip was to consult some of L. L. Langstroth's writings, including the journal that he kept for a number of decades after his invention of the movable-frame hive in 1851. I had read a number of his published works previously, so I had a pretty good idea about what I might find. Still, in terms of research practice, it is important to look at original thoughts and writings in order to more fully comprehend an innovator's identity and achievements. Reading them, however, is a chore. Here is one of the most neatly-written sets of pages in the Langstroth journal:
Many other pages were more like the script that he described as "a scrawl which only [my wife] and I could decipher.” In any case, it was a fruitful visit and the relevant chapter now feels more solidly written and evidenced. Library staff told me that future researchers should be able to view the journal online since it was recently scanned for the benefit of those who cannot make the trip and wish to consult the original. It just needs to be posted. Digitization of archives is exerting an extraordinary influence in modern historical practice--mostly for the better I think. Humanities-oriented projects tend not to have a large amount of funding, so cutting some of the travel expenses is extremely useful for people who need to visit many sites to conduct their work. On the other hand, travel and exploration of archives provide opportunities for valuable discoveries and other surprises in historical research, so there is a significant downside to over-reliance on digital archives.
The present winter has kicked off quite like the last one. November and December have both had temperatures in the forties and fifties (and occasionally up to 70F). More mid-forties are in store for next week too. After missing six weeks of what can sometimes be much more of a deep freeze, we can already begin to hope that the mild weather will help the bees survive at a high percentage again. It at least reduces the odds of a really bad winter loss. While it's true that bees can survive months of very cold temperatures when they are healthy, it's hard to visually know exactly how healthy they are going into the winter, so mild temperatures are a relief that suggest at least a few new bees are probably being raised too.
In preparation for the holiday season, we recently participated in the Old Prague Christmas market at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library. While European Christmas markets are usually outdoor affairs that run for a number of days or weeks, it was definitely prudent to put up a tent and provide some heat for the visitors and vendors. We don't normally signup for activities of this sort, but the event was organized by one of our recent Mount Mercy history graduates, so it was great to see a successful event result from her efforts. Here is Alex in his colorful Ebert Honey jacket as he watches over a vast array of honey at the Old Prague affair:
The NCSML is also celebrating the reopening of their building after the horrendous floods of 2008 that struck Cedar Rapids. Relocation and rebuilding of their original facility occurred through massive community, federal, and international support. Read about the extent of the flood damage, and read about moving the original building onto a safer location on top of a new basement-level parking garage. An impressive feat indeed.
Once again I've returned to my professorial life at Mount Mercy, so I've wound up queen sales for 2012. More queens are going out every summer, and I hope that this year's six-legged ladies are serving everyone well. We were very fortunate that the heat did not complicate delivery efforts to any great extent. Hopefully the logistics go well next year too.
While I do enjoy raising queens, I am pleased that my eyes can have a break from this kind of scene--intensely scanning for tiny eggs and the movements of new queens through the mesh of my beloved veil:
On the honey front, the harvest in this area is very nearly complete, and almost all of the hives have had their full regimen of mite treatments using Hopguard and/or Apiguard. I was just counting up the barrels extracted thus far, and it looks like the Cedar Rapids area bees will average over 140 lbs. That is a pretty exceptional year.
My fingers are crossed that the bees will be alive next spring. It should help that most of them will be living on the honey they're gathering this fall. When I went around doubling the hives I ran as singles through the honey season, I found them to be the heaviest September singles I've ever lifted. A few of them actually swarmed because they had lots of bees and were packing in honey. The goldenrod bloom is pretty stunning in some areas.
With the non-existent winter and extremely hot summer, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that September beekeeping is veering from the usual course as well.
I've had a number of people searching for Woodman Extractors arriving at this blog, so I wanted to point out that I still have the 50-frame machine that I picked up last year in a "buy everything to get what you want" situation. As I wrote in last year's blog, I think it's a pretty wonderful machine that doesn't need a huge amount of work. I'm sure I will use it eventually if it stays at my place, but for now I do have it for sale. Here's a link to the Craigslist ad for anyone who is interested.
And here's the reference to my comments from last fall.
In the meanwhile, I am clearing off my hives and getting mite treatments underway. The goldenrod is just coming into bloom, but with the early brooding this year it seems like the best choice to get all the boxes off and get the mites out of the picture. I hope everyone's harvest is going well!