The Beeyard Report
With 50 degree weather in mid January, the bees
have had a chance to get out and dump their load. I could almost
hear the collective sigh of relief. It’s pretty stressful
when you have to hold it for a long time.
The dozen or so colonies that I have around
my house all look good. One of them has the queen and bees that
Tim Laughlin used in his observation hive at the state fair. I
picked up Tim’s displays after the state fair was over.
He had a nice queen in his observation hive so I put her in a
nuc box. When it came time to go to Mt Pleasant, I didn’t
have any mated queens in our nuc boxes. We had been producing
queens all summer but I still ran out. Tim said I could use his,
so she got to spend another week in an observation hive. Then,
later in September, she was in a third observation hive for a
local show we have in Lynnville. I put her back in the nuc box
and didn’t look again until late October. To my surprise,
the box was full of bees. I put them in a hive body, gave them
some pollen supplement and two gallons of syrup. They may die
but they look good right now. If they live, I think I’ll
charge Tim a boarding fee.
I traveled to Houston for the American Honey
Producers meeting. I sold a few buckets of honey to a guy in Dallas.
It wasn’t a big sale but I made gas money and a little extra
so it was worth driving. The meeting is always interesting. The
really big beekeepers live in a world of semis and forklifts.
While I have no desire to live in this world, it’s fascinating
to see how they do it. Richard Adee had a picture of forty semi
loads of bees spread out around a valley. Lyle Johnston described
this as feed lot beekeeping.
One of the practical things I picked up at the
meeting involves queen breeding. I was talking to Bob Cox early
in the meeting and he told me I should introduce some SMR genes
into my gene pool. Bob Danka talked about this later in the meeting.
The idea is to create SMR colonies and then bring them back as
drone mothers. By doing this, the queens impregnated with SMR
semen may produce as many as 50% of the worker bees with SMR traits.
Sounds good doesn’t it. I wonder if the real life outcome
will be as good. We also hope to start testing for hygienic behavior.
I think Adam is going to be busy.
Package bee prices are up considerably from
last year. They are a lot higher at the point of origin and the
fuel to haul them is a lot higher. If you are a hobby beekeeper,
a $50 package isn’t much of a deterrent. For those operating
on a bigger scale, it’s an economic obstacle. Our survival
has been good enough the last few years that we haven’t
had to use any packages ourselves. I think I am going to keep
a few this year and see if I can split them at the end of May.
The first lot usually shows up at the beginning of April. If I
can get them going, that will give them almost two months to develop.
The boxes should be full by then and we should have a few queens
from our own production to put in the splits. I’ll report
later on how this turns out.
I have never regarded beekeeping as a very good
economic engine. For sure, it’s a real scary way to make
a living. My earnings would probably be regarded as sub par but
it’s enough for me and my sons are making a good supplemental
income. As I look at the things we have planned for the upcoming
year, I’m optimistic--even with all the problems we face.
In today’s economy, there are very few chances to be independent
and work with your family at the same time. I feel fortunate.
Submitted by Phil Ebert