Well Friday was interesting. I threw pollen patties on a couple yards in the morning. It was too cold for the bees to fly, but it was nice and dry. By the 3rd yard it had warmed up just enough that the bees started bringing in about 3 types of pollen, the loads weren't heavy but there was a lot. On my drive home I drove through some heavy rain but it stopped about 5 km away from home. Once I was home and started unloading the truck it started hailing to the point of being a bit painful. Then of course it stopped about the time I went in the house to do some office work. Then around 4:30 the sun came out!
On Saturday I saw some pollen on a bees leg in Tappen. The morning was cool, but it turned into a beautiful day. I think there was a couple days previous that the bees where able to forage, but this was the day I saw it with my own 2 eyes. I made a short video looking at our winter wraps for our youtube channel, and took a couple pictures. The one on the left is looking south at mt. Tappen. The one on the right looking out to the Skimikin Valley. Both are taken from one of my Tappen bee yards.
Well Sunday morning I delivered a powerpoint presentation in Kamloops entitled 'Winter and Spring Management'. I was happy with how it went. There was good questions from the floor and I think it well received. There was around 65-75 people in attendance. The powerpoint (also turned it into a pdf) I put onto a memory stick off our Mac,. It wouldn't work through their PC. Luckily before I left my wife encouraged me to mail it to myself through my gmail account! I could easily open the pdf with gmail. So when we discovered it wouldn't open in Kamloops we just opened up my gmail and voila! My wife is so smart.
I have my facebook page kinda working. I tried today to embed it into our site the same way we did our youtube but it wouldn't work. I suppose tomorrow evening I may try to just put a facebook icon onto it. Tomorrow I am out to the bees!
Another exciting day of industry politics!
Actually the meeting I thought went quite well. I always enjoy numbers and thought I'd share some.
BC Producers make up for close to 40 000 colonies of honeybees.
almost 20 000 nucleus colonies were produced in 2011
almost 30 000 queens " " " "
bees in the province earned upward of $6 000 000 of pollination income.
One thing I have known to be true is the fact that BC could produce 5 times the amount of stock mentioned above and still sell it without much effort. The demand within our country is huge and I'd love to see our industry grow in this area. It has had the opportunity for this growth for the last 25 years and to date not much has happened. The Q was raised how do we change that knowing the last 25 years hasn't made much difference in our production figures. How do we grow in the next 25? I am not sure if the Q was really answered.
I think a lot of it falls into education. Beekeepers need to be given the management skills to increase their outfits and step up to the plate and work together to meet the demand for stock in our country. Maybe this is oversimplified. I have dealt with some large losses over the last 10 years and my heart aches for those going through dead hive after dead hive in the spring. The losses this past winter have been the lowest in several years. Could it possibly be that the beekeepers are doing a better job? Or will next year will we again lose 30%? I know dead bees don't make the beekeeper any money.
Tomorrow I have a presentation on 'Winter and Spring Management' at the education day. I will be following Geoff Wilson, Saskatchewan's Provincial Apiculturalist. It'll be fun. I always get very nervous speaking in front of that many people. I do actually very much enjoy it and tell myself that being nervous is par for the course!
Well I have made it around to all my yards and I really do like what I have seen. 2 of my yards losses where high bringing down my percentage. But taking those 2 yards into account I had over 80% success, ignoring those 2 it was over 90%. Around here I think it was as good of a winter as we could get in the Shuswap. It was nice and mild and we really didn't get a real cold snap until January which was lows of -20 C for 7-10 days. Another bonus regarding this winter is that I believe that at least 1 day every month there was a good opportunity for a cleansing flight.
I think the 2 things that I need to learn regarding this winter is a. take your losses in the fall, b.know the numbers game. Both of these I already know in my head, but they have to be reflected more in my practice.
The 2 yards that I had my biggest losses I had concerns about last fall. There was a poor honeyflow for the bees to work and I the hive hives where lacking vigor. It's hard to explain that in detail, but when I was looking at them last fall I didn't walk away feeling good about them. Also the population of some of the hives where full but not bursting. I believe what I should have done with them was simply amalgamate anything that was not bursting and let the Q's figure it out. Also I could have fed 3 or 4 pollen patties to them after the honey was pulled just to keep the Q's laying hard for a few more weeks giving the winter bees lot's of protein and helping their numbers.
The numbers game is fun! Let's say I want 150 healthy colonies for next spring. I have to consider winter loss and also fall issues like the paragraph above, or hives swarming, or Q's failing (heaven forbid they get rolled, or blown out by the bee blower!). So if I want 150 colonies in the spring let's work backwards through my season. 20% winter loss, so I need 180 into the winter. 10% flunkies, swarms, various Q issues that will be dealt with before you go into winter. So if I want to have 150 healthy strong colonies in 2013 I need to reach 180+10%=198 colonies for the summer of 2012.
That is one reason why I always encourage beginners to start with at least a couple hives and always make a few nuc's for themselves to have handy. I think we need to remember that in a feral environment bees are forever swarming, superceding mating, swarming, swarming, mating. I used to know the average life of a feral colony, I can't remember now but it's measured in months
Finally, my first sting of the year! I wonder if it a chemical addiction of sorts or just an official mental beginning to the season. I know by the time February hits I look forward and desire that first sting. Maybe that's why they call beekeeping a disease. It always hurts and I have heard many experienced beekeepers use some interesting vernacular to describe it, but boy do I need it!
I've been to half of my yards feeding patties and am happy with what I see. 2 yards last fall had some issues and those yards had my biggest losses. So I hope that the second half that I will see in the next couple days will be as good as the first half....hang on, I hope they are better! Maybe I'll remove the 'sold out' sign and sell an extra 20 nuc's.
For the last 4 years we have slowly been increasing our colony numbers. And every year we don't meet demand. It is a tricky balance trying to grow at a manageable rate. Strictly on paper it would make sense to grow faster, but I have witnessed and experienced growing too fast in this industry. Nature can be a cruel teacher. Beekeeping is a forum of husbandry and bees are considered livestock. Absolute care must be taken to ensure your bees stay healthy. Dead bees don't make much money!
Having said that we have sold out of our nucs for this season. I have made certain that I will have some available for those who take our Beeginners Bee Course in April. We will still have a few hundred mated Queens from the end of May onward.
I want to thank everybody who ordered nucs this year and I will be my best to ensure you get a top quality product. We are a couple days from launching our Youtube site, please keep an eye out for that. The fun for this year is just beginning!