Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Season End Summary

Bees have been very busy on these warm mid-October days.
I know I haven't posted for some time.  Mostly, the year was spent building hives back up to strength.  After coming out of the winter with only one strong hive, I did two splits.  Both took off very well, better in fact than the "mother" hive, which by August was looking less robust than its offspring.  The hive had filled out about 70% of one super, but waiting until mid-September did not produce any more honey than that.
The two new hives were able to fill out enough stores for winter but no excess.
In all, we only got a scant gallon and a quart.  Sadly, we had an open cock on our 5 gallon pail so when I poured honey from the extractor into the filters on the pail, we lost about a pint of precious honey before Kathy discovered our error and notified me with an ear-splitting shriek.
Upon examination of the main hive, I discovered the reason for the lack of energy we had noted was due to the absence of a queen.  She either departed mid-summer or died, and they failed to make a new queen.  Double eggs in cells, eggs planted on the sides of the cells, and no worker brood indicated some laying workers.  So, what to do in September when you discover you have no queen, yet the other two hives are bursting at the seams and this hive also has many bees.  I contacted a member of our local club, Dave, and he was able to provide me with a healthy, vigorous nuc.  I did a newspaper combine and the bees seem to have taken to the new queen.  A few weeks later, and the hive looks healthy and happy again.  I probably will not go into the hive to confirm the queen is present and accepted, unless we get a really nice warm spell.  Even then, things from the outside look much better and from somewhere the bees are busy bringing in some bright orange pollen, a good sign.
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After honey collection, I built this small windbreak fence on the north side of the hives.  I also treated with MAQS for the mites and treated with syrup for nosema as well.  All entrance reducers are in to the small size and I'll wrap in November.  We're still enjoying a very pleasant autumn weather which should continue for another week at least.  Hopefully, with all these precautions, we can come into spring with three strong hives.  If that happens, we could have our best honey harvest yet.
This was one very persistent wasp.  She would fly down onto the landing pad of a hive, get into a real tumble with one or two bees, fly back up, then go down onto the landing pad of the adjacent hive and fight all over again.  I watched her do this several times before I had to quit.  Wonder how that battle came out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Bounty

Summer in Iowa has fully arrived, and with it lots of things blooming and growing.  It's a busy time, with many fruits and vegetables coming on and needing picking.
First for the bees, though.  We had quite a blow come through last night with a strong cold front bringing 70 mile per hour winds and heavy rain.  Needless to say, I was quite happy to see the hives still standing erect after the storm. Bees early this morning were not very active, but at least one hardy worker was busy gathering pollen from the spiderwort.

Other prairie plants are blooming as well.  We did not do a burn of the prairie segments this year, and with the late arrival of spring it has taken awhile for the new plants to break through the dead growth but now they are looking lush.  The butterfly milkweed is certainly doing its job.

Blueberries are now ripening, about two weeks later than normal for the early varieties.  Winter damage has taken its toll and we will probably only see about half our normal crop.  Red raspberries are beginning to ripen, helped along by the honeybees which really enjoyed the blooms.  Black raspberries are ripe and we will be picking about every other day for a week or so.

Kathy's vegetable garden is looking great.  We have enjoyed some very good early lettuce, onions, radishes, cabbage and peas among other things.  She's disappointed we won't have ripe tomatoes for the fourth of July, but we will eventually have a great crop. 
The vineyard likewise is doing well.  With all the rain, some are completely splitting open.  Otherwise, we should have a fairly decent harvest.  It's a fun time of year, with changes in the yard taking place every day.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Honey Flow

The honey flow is definitely on.  I wondered today if I will ever have a season where all the hives come through winter with a queen and each fills out honey supers.  What a harvest that would be.  This year, I'll likely have to settle for honey from one strong hive, which we are probably fortunate to have.
Bees are clearly all over the red raspberries.  They love it.  Unfortunately, this first part of the raspberry season is almost finished as far as blooms are concerned.  Another week and all will be forming fruit.  So far, bees are not on the clover in the grass much, nor are they on the volunteer buckwheat which has grown in the area we planted last year.  Hopefully the flow will continue and last well into July, which should bring us at least one full super if not two.