King Bee Apiaries Status Report:
It’s been a good year. Lots of ups and a few downs. Built out the side room into my bee lab and grafting room. About time. I have a mobile set-up to graft at Norge in the Subaru if necessary again, otherwise my optic set-up in Toano is ideal. The 5″ LED (5000K lighting) is kinder for covering the majority of a deep frame at 3x. I find that range makes it easier for me to get into a groove with the grafting tool (cheap Chinese bamboo variety). I did kill off half a medium frame of grafts getting started. I am sorry. Don’t get discouraged. Let the tool slide down and under till you feel it start to flex along the bottom, then carefully scoop out your sample and royal jelly. Practice does make perfect. I moisten the bamboo scoop before using the tool. You can practice that without going live if it helps. Improved grafting skills and produced almost 60 queens. 3rd round of grafting saw a better than 80% acceptance rate. Gave away some of the virgins and young queens to the folks who helped me out over the last few years. Made a bunch of nucs and overfilled my 5 queen castles as well. Can I say how cool queen castles are! Way better than the mini mating nucs I rarely (never anymore) use. Close to 30 full colonies for awhile this year plus nucs. Late Summer SHB took over where the late Spring – early Summer wax moths left off. I really HATE SHB & Wax Moths! Lost a big bunch of nucs and 12 colonies while back in Germany for a month. Arrrgh. My own fault for leaving them to the swamp pests.
Other notable events were taking a Queen Rearing course at the U of MN with Dr Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter. Picked up some great practical ideas and plans for next queen rearing season. Also had a nice short Queen Rearing class with Andy and Pete from the Colonial Beekeepers early this year. Attended the Eastern Apiculture Society’s Annual Conference in Hampton Roads. Got to hear and meet Mike Palmer, Celia Davis, and several other beek heroes. Productive.
Going into Winter with 22 colonies. Everyone of them has at least 60-80# of honey stores (minimum). Mite loads are low, and SHB numbers are down to low too. Almost time to consolidate and cover.
Let me not forget the other positive beekeeping benefit of having a much more reliable supply of lovely local honey for mead production. This year I made 5 meads, with a total volume of about 18 gallons. I tried to keep it as much about the classic still mead style and nuances of various yeast strains. They range from 8%-14% ABV and have been finishing pleasantly dry. These should go nicely with the Bock and Schwarz Biers as well as English ESB getting kegged for the holidaze. It’s going to be an interesting holiday season indeed!
So so much going on between…
So after another painful Polar Vortex last year, and the death of more bees in Chicago…I have decided to concentrate on a warmer climate with much better potential nectar and pollen resources. The easy choice was to focus in Virginia on our own land. This allows for more control of all aspects from: cover crop, wildflower and orchard placement to what sort of pest management strategy would be enacted, and how it would need to evolve with the land (and our wish to keep things organic).
After an active Spring splitting, a couple more Carniolan Queens, and a couple more packages, we are now at 12 hives. The Toano apiary has 7 hives of straight up Italians from Virginia and George lineage (mutts). The Norge apiary has 5 Carniolan hives. They will remain segregated apiaries for purposes of learning and breeding. The Norge and Toano apiaries are located 2.3 miles apart. Perfect distance for moving nucs and hives back and forth when necessary.
Around the apiaries we have planted approximately 2 acres of cover crop (4 kinds of Clover, Mustard, Tansy, and other wildflowers). Add to that 27 apple trees (85% for cider), 4 blueberry bushes, and a Russian pomegranate tree. Woohoo!
Yeah. Let’s see how the Summer dearth goes…
These are the first two apiaries I did my part to tend in Williamsburg and Chicago.
In Chicago my girls are living in the Planet Tim beeyard. It’s an evolving space with lots of native plants, chickens, and a great vibe. The Virginia bees are in a large partially fenced beeyard surrounded by a variety of new and old nectar sources and a small creek out back.
Planet Tim Hives and Beeyard (below)
BIG THANKS to Tim for sharing his beeyard space and knowledge with me.
King Bee’s Sweet Home Chicago Hive (Four squares below).
|Toano, Virginia – King Bee’s Apiary|
Ah Chicago in the Summer…
The forage was weak and ants do seem to like Tim’s yard. Still an excellent undertaking. Like I need another hobby. Got my package and hived relatively easily. Good to hang with Tim.