What’s Been Going On So Far
As of this first week of March, we’re still waiting for a decent stretch of warmer weather to really get ourselves going. Even with periodic snow showers, hurricane force winds, and a roller coaster of temperatures we’ve been able to get out and assess most clients hives by now and can report a high survival rate with our client’s hives!
Its still too early to predict exactly when we’ll be able to start delivering new hives to clients but we’re hoping for the latter half of April. A few warm days do not a spring make. And with climate change getting worse and worse it is getting harder and harder to predict when we’ll be out of the woods in regards to winter. A few days of 80 degrees followed by several more in the 30’s really wreaks havoc on the environment and the bees.
We sustained some losses to our breeding program this winter mostly due to the extreme cold we had right after New Years. Six degree weather is one reason honeybees are not native to this continent. Our breeding hives are often not as well protected as our client hives because we winter our hives over in much smaller hive boxes and the colonies tend to be smaller. We were also hit with a newer strain of varroa that weakened some of our hives. We’ve tracked this mostly to older frames and comb in our own resident hives. While client hives weren’t so much effected, we have some rebuilding to do here on our end.
For Hives Three Years Or Older
So partly because of this one of the big things we’re working on is to replace the interiors of all our client’s hives that have been with us for three seasons or more. We’re doing this to lessen the chances of a build up of toxins and spores in the hives that stand a chance of creating a bit more of an unhealthy environment for the bees. When we replace frames in hives this season, we’ll be moving over to foundation using smaller cells. We’ve been hearing about the successful research in regards to smaller cells bees and it coincides with what we’ve noticed ourselves. Smaller cell bees take less time to gestate meaning there is less time where they might be exposed to mites in the larval stage. Additionally, smaller bees consume less and more and fit into a smaller space! We’re expecting most of our Queens to adjust to this change and to have much hardier bees as a result. We’re still working out a price on interior replacement. Since it is still quite a new thing, the smaller cell foundation costs about 50% more than the older foundation. And, as usual, one price does not fit all since everyone’s hives are different, some larger, some smaller, and some with newer comb already in them. As always, we will try to make this as painless as possible.
Other Cool Things That We’re Doing!
Since we’ll be bringing home so many older frames from hives, Tom, our behind the scenes breeding wizard, has constructed a solar wax melter to purify and sterilize (using the sun’s heat and UV’s) all this older wax so we can reuse it and then produce our own foundation. Doing this will require the purchase of an embosser (about $2000) to imprint the small cell size pattern into the wax. We’ll also be sterilizing the older frames by bleaching so we can recycle them as well. And some of this purified, melted wax will be used to coat the interiors of our older hive boxes to seal and sterilize them. You can imagine that all of this is a pretty big commitment. But we’re that serious about being on the cutting edge and giving our bees the best chance we possibly can.
Our Spring Process
As with most seasons, our first task is to assess all our client hives as well as our own breeding program. Secondly, we will be working hard to control the growth of client hives to prevent early season swarms. In many cases, we’ll be expanding client hives along with pulling honey frames for extraction so we can create the extra space needed to contain each hive’s spring expansion. Each hive is different along with the environments they are in. With some client’s hives, we’ll expand. Some we’ll be forced to pull brood. Some we’ll have to do both. And, in some cases, we’ll be forced to remove the existing Queen and let the hive re-queen itself. Usually this will only happen when we feel that the chances for a successful fertilization of a new Queen is high. Brood pulled from hives will be reintroduced back into our breeding program to either create new hives or to strengthen existing ones. These are the hives that we will be delivering to new clients hopefully in April.
While waiting to kick things off, we’re frantically building hive equipment. Suffice it to say, our home is overflowing with finished boxes and frames and foundation waiting to be assembled! As always, we’re here if you need us though things are going to get busy really soon. As always, we expect to go from zero to 100 m.p.h. very quickly.