THE BEEYARD REPORT
We have seen all of our yards. There are three
lame ones where we will have a 50% loss but the others are quite
good. We are 7% dead with another 10% rated weak. The weak ones
have less than four frames of bees. The others were rated 45%
excellent and 38% good. It can still go south but things are starting
to look more in my favor.
The syrup in my tank is looking a little grainy.
It will clean up when the sun starts to shine on the tank. Because
it is grainy, I haven’t put out any feeder buckets. Syrup
is no good if it crystallizes in the buckets. We haven’t
had to feed very many colonies. The ones we have fed have gotten
division board feeders so the the syrup is inside where the heat
is. We have found that bees will take feed in the spring when
the outside temp is in the thirties if the syrup is in a division
board feeder. These are big colonies where the cluster is next
to the feeder.
The little colony with Tim Laughlin’s
queen is still alive. That’s as of March 15. There are three
good frames of bees and they emptied their feeder. They are very
active so I think they are healthy.
We have been building pallets. I started out
using ¾ “ floors. Then I talked to Curt Bronnenberg.
He told me most of the ones he had seen had 1/2” floors.
After that, I started to think about the weight. If I ever want
to put these on a semi, I am going to have a lot of extra weight
if I use 3/4” plywood. The next batch is going to have 1/2”
floors. I had planned to use 3/8” openings but then I thought
about all the entrance blocks I had for 3/4” openings. There
are about 500 of them. I decided to go with 3/4” so I could
use my old blocks.
There is now room to walk around in my warehouse
but I’m still sitting on 80 barrels of honey that remain
from our crop of 138 barrels. We’ll bottle about 30 barrels
of what is left. I have commitments for ten barrels of bulk honey.
That leaves me with about 40 barrels that I need to find a home
for. I let a few barrels go for 80 cents but everything else has
brought 95 cents or better.
Time flies. Package bees will be here in two
weeks. The target date for the first load is April 3rd. That will
probably turn into a crazy week. I have to haul 200 packages into
Illinois. Alex will have to handle distribution at home. The first
lot of queens is slated to be here April 12th. We’ll start
pulling brood as soon as they arrive. We’ll go through all
the yards and pull the good ones.We’ll go back two weeks
later and pull the rest of them. If there are any colonies that
aren’t big enough, we will kill the queens and use the bees
to make splits. We will try to graft our first lot of queens at
the end of April. That will put mating time at mid May. There
will be a good drone population by then. I think we will have
enough brood to start our mating nucs with a frame of brood. We
like to get the cells in with a good frame of bees. It gives the
queen a opportunity to lay quite a few eggs right out of the gate.
It gives us an opportunity to evaluate the queen better and the
mating yard also becomes a brood factory. We can continue to build
nucs through the summer if we choose. Let’s hope for a good
Submitted by Phil Ebert
Bee Nuisance Calls
Have you ever wondered how to handle those calls
you get about nuisance bees? The first step is to try to establish
if it is really honeybees. Sometimes, this isn’t easy. If
it stings, people tend to think it has to be a bee. Most of my
bee calls in the fall turn out to be yellow jackets. Yellow jackets
have distinct yellow lines on their heads and bodies. I describe
them as threadlike lines. Foundations of houses seem to be one
of their favorite places. Ask if there is a paper like nest. A
big nest may be hornets. A small paper nest is paper wasps. By
small, I mean something less than the size of a fist. No one has
ever complained to me about mud daubers. Their nests are about
the size of paper wasps but they look like a ball of mud. I always
tell people that wasps are beneficial since they eat two or three
times their body weight in insects every day. Sometimes they want
to kill them anyway. The farm coops in our area sell a dairy aerosol
spray. I think it works better than most of the other sprays.
It sells for about $10 for a very large can. I always recommend
it to people who want a do-it-your-self job. I got a couple of
calls last fall from people who said bees were harassing them
in their raspberry patches. Both of these were close to my yards,
so I went to look. The problem proved to be yellow jackets and
bumblebees. The bumblebees were very small. They appeared to be
about 1/3 the size of a normal bumblebee. The berries must have
been excreting some juice because they were covered with insects.
It was also very dry at the time. There may have been limited
foraging opportunities. Other than offering reassurance that my
bees were not at fault, there was nothing I could do here. I did
pick the raspberries for one of the ladies involved.
The other thing to determine is whether you
can get paid for offering a service. If I get a swarm call that
is close to one of my yards, I go get it with no questions asked.
I like to maintain a good public image. If it’s not close,
I try to determine how big the swarm is—basketball size,
softball size, etc. Then I have to know if it is somewhere I can
catch it. The top of a 40” tree is not a good place. I don’t
like to work off ladders. If it’s a big early season swarm
that I may get some good out of, I may pick it up for free. However,
I emphasize that if the bees are gone when I get there, I need
to get $20 for the trip. After we get into June, I need to get
$20 plus the bees. I may adjust the fee if more distance is involved.
Sometimes you will not be able to determine if it really is a
swarm. If it’s hot, the bees may cluster outside the dwelling
cavity. This may look like a swarm to someone not familiar with
bees. I try to be up front about the fact that, sometimes, I won’t
be able to do anything.
Then we have the calls about bees in dwellings
or old buildings. I usually don’t mess with these. They
take too much time. If it sounds like something I might consider,
the minimum is $100. I also point out that I am not responsible
for putting anything back together. A lot of these calls are from
people that want to preserve the bees. The problem is that they
think the bees should be worth something to me. Usually, the only
thing they represent is a lot of work to remove them. If you can
gain access to the cavity, the slickest way to remove them is
with a bee vacuum. After the bees are cleaned up, it is easy to
cut out the combs.
Calls about stinging incidents are the hardest
for me. People focus on the pain. They have no idea what stung
them or where it came from. Try to determine what they were doing
when they got stung. Sometimes it offers a clue.
There is an established procedure for dealing
with accidents dealing with honeybees that are being transported.
We’ll cover that next month.
Submitted by Phil Ebert