THE BEEYARD REPORT
About a week after I wrote in my last column
that I wasn’t having a Varroa problem, one of my yards crashed.
It was a yard that we didn’t get the last of the honey off
until October. I didn’t think they looked very good at the
time. We leave all the lids and inner covers off until we are
finished. Usually, the bees are boiling up around the top bars
by the time we get to the end of the yard. While there appeared
to be a good number of bees, they certainly weren’t getting
up on the top bars. I didn’t get back until two weeks later.
By then, there were only grapefruit sized clusters.
Brood rearing in most of our yards stopped in
the middle of September. There was no fall flow at all. In fact,
there hasn’t been anything coming in to the hives since
the third week of July. While we had a monster crop from the early
flow, we are now seeing the back side of that. We are going into
winter with smaller clusters and fewer young bees. This gives
me some anxiety about what our winter losses are going to be.
The bees look good when you take the lids off but the bees are
all along the top bars. There aren’t very many down on the
combs. Many of them will only make a three or four frame cluster.
That’s not enough if we get a cold winter.
Most of our colonies have taken six gallons of
syrup. The average weight is somewhere around 115#. The cost of
the syrup is going to average $8 or $9 per colony. That doesn’t
take into account the time and labor required. Still, it’s
cheaper than buying bees. Even with a 25% death loss we don’t
have any trouble making our death loss back. We have wintered
well the last three years but I still worry about the prospects
of a 40 or 50% death loss.
I wound up treating four yards for Varroa mites.
They were running over 20 mites on ether rolls of 300 bees. The
yard that crashed was beyond treatment. They actually tested low
but all the bees with mites had flown away and didn’t come
back. The phony foulbrood look told me that it was mite damage
We still have over 500 colonies to take into
winter. Probably 400 of them look pretty decent. From the pile
of equipment that is accumulating in front of my building, I thought
it was a lot less. We used to leave all the lids and bottoms in
the yards. Now, we bring it home so we can get an accurate count
and repair as needed. It never seemed to be in the yards where
we needed it anyway.
The Japanese tested my honey for tetracycline
(TM residue) and chloroamphenicol. It passed inspection so it
continues to sell in Japan. Too bad it’s not a bigger account.
The farmers are starting to talk about 1977.
1932, ‘34, ‘77 and ‘88 were the dry years. The
fall of ’76 was like the fall of ‘05. We have a yard
in the Skunk River flood plain north of Pella. It’s flooded
twice and I swore I would never put bees there again. Nonetheless,
we wound up with a few colonies there this year. There are drainage
ditches and pumps all over the bottom. This fall is the first
time I have ever seen the ditches dry. There are a few puddles
left but that’s it. Normally, they have two or three feet
of water. I hope winter precipitation is in our future.
Submitted by Phil Ebert
2006 Beekeeping Classes
Several beekeeping classes are being offered
through area community colleges. Contact one of the numbers below
for more information on a beekeeping course near you.
Contact numbers for 2006 beekeeping classes:
Iowa Valley Community College, Marshalltown—class
starting in early February
Jean Brownlie 641-752-4645
Des Moines Area Community College, Ankeny—class
starting mid January
Lois Kiester 515-964-6685 Imkiester@dmacc.edu
North Iowa Community College, Mason City—class
starting in Feb or March
Director of Continuing Education 641-422-4222 or Pat Ennis 641-444-4767
Kirkwood Community College—class
location is in Washington—class starting in Feb
Ron Wehr 319-698-7542
The class fee will be $25 or $30 depending on
location. This includes the cost of the book and an opportunity
to join the Iowa Honey Producers at a reduced rate. The length
of the class will vary with location. Most will be one night a
week for four to six weeks plus a field day in a beeyard. Mason
City will probably be a weekend course.