I decided to post a couple of pictures that show exactly how industrious the bees have been able to be in the past couple of weeks. The very first pollen of the year in Iowa tends to be kind of grayish, but as you can see, the yellow pollen is flowing in large quantities. Sometimes we are praying to see this kind of activity in the middle of April. It has already been underway for over two weeks.
A good number of dandelions are starting to pop out, (which means orange pollen and nectar), but I'll be feeding a few yards because the weather is uncertain this week. I really want to have a few more pounds of feed inside the hive before the weather turns rainier.
I am beginning to wonder when the black locusts are going to bloom. It's usually in May, but I won't be surprised by an April bloom this year.
The winter of 2011-2012 was pretty much nonexistent. We had a couple of weeks of colder weather here and there, but the bees were able to fly on multiple days during every winter month. It has been in the seventies and eighties lately--the kind of weather we often don't see until later May or June. A few years ago, the cold kept the bees inside during the entire stretch from November through March.
The consequence of the good weather (and timely varroa treatments last fall) is a large number of strong overwintered hives. Here is an image from a yard down by Lynnville that was taken this week:
In other words, splitting season is going to come early and require a lot of queens. Our winter loss was also extremely low, so we have more surviving hives than we've ever dealt with in past years as well. Now the priority will be getting around to them quick enough to keep them from swarming in April and May. Hives this strong will need split twice to keep them at home.
For everyone else out there with lots of bees to split, I also wanted to let you now that I will not have queens for distribution until the first week of May. Splitting and life at Mount Mercy Univ will keep me too busy to do any queen shipments in April.
I hope all my readers have a similar situation with lots of bees and very few deadouts to clean! It makes for a much happier spring than some of the rougher experiences with winter loss in some of the past years
It's package bee season once more at Ebert Honey Co., so I've copied a note from Phil. Call him at 641-527-2639 to make a package order (he returns all messages, so don't worry if the machine picks up). Remember that we DO NOT ship package bees; they must be picked up in Lynnville within 48 hours after their arrival.
Here are the 2012 package prices. We seem to be on a never ending price
spiral. The prices of bees, transportation and cages have all gone up.
The only thing I can suggest is that you get together with friends and
make a group order. Here's hoping for a successful year for everyone.
Prices for 1-9 packages (For price breaks on larger quantities, click the link above)
4-pound(1 Q) $103
4-pound(2 Q) $119
YOU MAY MIX AND MATCH FOR QUANTITY DISCOUNTS. YOU HAVE YOUR CHOICE OF
ITALIAN OR CARNIOLAN QUEENS.
THERE IS A $6 DEPOSIT ON EACH CAGE IN ADDITION TO THE CHARGE FOR THE
APPROXIMATE PICKUP DATES ARE APRIL 6th AND APRIL
13 20th 27th. REMEMBER THAT THESE DATES MAY CHANGE.
IF YOU ARE RETURNING CAGES, THEY MUST BE UNDAMAGED, AND I WANT THEM BACK
WITHOUT THE SYRUP CAN AND WITHOUT THE LITTLE QUEEN CAGE.
Thanks to everyone across the US who ordered queens this year! I hope they keep your hives happy through the winter and provide lots of workers in 2012. I will bring in some Carniolans and Italians for splitting season next spring, and my Iowa-raised queens will be available in late May/early June as usual. I'll try to get an online ordering system put together to make the process simpler for everyone next year.
Mentioning splitting season reminds me of an episode from earlier this year. I had just brought in about 20 new hives and had nowhere to put them at the moment, so I dropped them in the driveway for a couple of weeks. I split them right there and hauled them to other locations for the honey season. Here are those hives with excluders and 3rd story splits ready to head for their new homes and new queens.
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: