THE BEEYARD REPORT
The days grow shorter, activity at the bird feeder is slowing down, the horses are putting on hair, extracting is done and the nights are a little chilly. It's time to put the bees to bed for the winter. We are feeding some yards to get them up to weight. September and early October have had some of the best weather of the year. There has been a fall flow. We had to pull our supers early to get our mite treatments in so we didn't catch it. I thought feeding requirements would be down. This hasn't proved to be the case. Some yards were heavy but others had almost nothing. Most of the bees look really good. I'd be optimistic but they looked good last year. We still had a big loss. I know the length of the winter and lack of spring contributed to this but if they can winter bees in Alberta and Saskatchewan, we should be able to do it here. They have an extra month of winter up there.
A lot of what happens inside the hives is invisible. We can't tell if viruses are on the verge of taking off or if there is tainted pollen in the combs. A lot of times, the big good looking colonies that appear to be healthy are the first ones to die. Other times, the little dinks, that appear to have no chance, survive and really take off in the spring. We try for big clusters going into winter. We put colonies together until we have enough bees. There are always a few left over that we don't do anything with. I'm often surprised at which ones survive.
Our mite load seems to be under control. The colonies that had a big load in August look good now. Colonies that were dropping over 100/day are testing 1 or 2 on an ether roll. I was surprised at how well the Apiguard worked. We have found it's a lot more effective at warmer temps. I had my doubts about its efficacy since the bees clear it out so quickly. A big active colony can have it cleared off the application pads within 24 hours. We had 100 MiteAway pads but only used them on one yard. It's a lot more work to install them. You have extricate the pads from the bag and you need a spacer rim. They do work well if your mite load isn't too high and you have daytime temps at least in the 70's.
We had been seeing a few hive beetles but hadn't had any damage until we got down to the last few stacks. They had been in the honey house a little too long. One of the pallets was covered with a mass of writhing larvae. The larvae is pretty tough. I poured some bleach on them just to see how they handled it. It didn't seem to have any immediate effect.
Our no Tylan policy is creating some problems. We have more foulbrood than I like. We brought several foul colonies home this fall. If we stay with it, we are going to have to change some management practices. One thing that makes it difficult is that we move stuff around so much. The yards have to be full for us to be efficient. The death loss is never even. In a yard with a small loss we can fill the holes with bees from that yard and we limit exposure. In others, we haul in bees from multiple yards to get all the slots filled. We used to mark the boxes with the yard and the colony the bees came from. I think we will have to go back to that. We may have to go back to queen excluders to cut down on the pollen in the combs and to keep the queens out of the supers. The pollen is an attraction for the hive beetles. The wax moths like it, too.
We shook some foul colonies onto used combs. In general, I regard this as a poor practice. Putting them on foundation is a lot better. It was right at the end of September. I thought it was too late for the bees to be motivated to draw wax. I did try it with one group. The results are not in yet. I am not optimistic. If they did draw some wax, I don't expect to winter those bees. We will shake them out later.
There was some honey in Northeast Iowa. Doug Child said his good colonies filled two boxes after they came back from the cranberries. I had an e-mail from Ray Zook. He got over 500# of honey from three packages. The fourth didn't do anything. I noted earlier that Dennis Naeve did well. If there is any honey out there, Dennis will get it. Tim Laughlin and Marlyn Duncan had pretty good years, also.
I'm starting to think about winter projects. I hope to build some pallets with screened bottoms. I want to make them so I can close up the bottoms for winter. There is too much heat loss in the early spring. The Swinger needs a lot of work and the flatbed has a come and go lighting system. The new building will enable us to work on equipment inside.
I picked up a new customer in Japan. It was a small order. The post office has an international rate for the flat rate boxes. I can get 15# of honey in the larger one. It still cost $50 to get it to Japan but he was happy with that. Food is extremely expensive over there.
Is anybody sick of Lying Politicians? I'm amazed the country functions at all. They seize on some item and embellish it out of proportion, particularly when someone changes position on something. Positions you hold in high school and college are often irrelevant. I've changed my mind on a lot of things over the years.
I hope to see a lot of you at the annual meeting.
Submitted by Phil Ebert