2016-06-28

CRP Frist Mowing and An Evening Bee Check

Mowing....

One of the things that is not made particularly clear when one moves their land into the Conservation Reserve Program(CRP) is that the first 2-3 year are 'establishment' years.  What that means is that until the native grasses and various other perennials that get planted are 'established', one is expected to go out and mow down the cover crop (oats in this case) and weeds that may get ahead of the new planting.

I am a bit late on getting this done for a number of reasons, some contractual, some weather related, some equipment related...you know... farming stuff. As a result, we have very mature oats that has to be knocked down now!  With 153 acres to take care of and rather geriatric machinery to work with, this takes time.  I am using an IH 1066 110 horsepower turbo-charged diesel tractor along with an 18 foot wide bat-wing mower to get this done.  Because of the age of the mower, I have to go slow.  I run the at about 4.5 mph and 1800 rpm.  I want to cut the oats down, but not end up with a lot of debris laying on top of the intended planting.

The oats, the tractor, and the mower...
Taking a break to check the bees... thought a shot of me with the 1066 was kind of fun....


It was a bit of a challenging day.  First of all, I am tripping on dexamethazone, a cortico-steroid which is part of my ongoing treatment.  I take it Sunday nights and am buzzing until Wednesday morning....like drinking 15 pots of coffee in pill form.  At any rate, that means that 2 hrs of sleep on Monday night made for a slow start on Tuesday morning.  I got myself motivated by 09:30, ran up town to get a new hydraulic hose made up for the mower, got a tank of gas and then headed back to the farm to get the mower put back together and do the preventative maintenance on the tractor and mower.  By the time all that was done it was 12:30.  So I started mowing at that point, took a short break to eat at 17:00 and then back to mowing until 21:45.  However....

Bees...
I stopped back by the three bee hives on the far North side of the Farm around 19:30 to see how the girls were doing.  I did a reasonable examination of the each hive, though I did not go into the bottom deep.  At this point I really don't want to do to much disturbing of the first year establishment process.  That being said, it is also important to me to watch and understand the process the bees undertake when establishing themselves in a new home.  So I don't hesitate to take off the upper super, the queen excluder and pull a few frames from the second deep.

Layout similar to our hives.  We are using shallow supers on top.  They are just a little less tall...


All three hives look damn good!  The weakest hive (East-most) has new brood in the second deep, though only on three frames at this point.  There is good population growth, though not outstanding at this point.  The bees look healthy and are active.  There is some capped honey as well on the the three frames which is a good sign.

The center hive is strong.  There is both brood and capped honey as well as quite a few drone cells in the second deep.  The center five frames are about 40% filled at this point, and the population is great!  Bees were all over the second brood chamber(deep).  They are all very active.  An encouraging hive to say the least!

The Eastern most hive is an Italian hive.  The bees are a little bit darker in color and, while not aggressive, much more easily disturbed.  I finally got a sting when I made a large movement a bit to fast for their comfort.  No big deal, but the top knuckle on my ring finger is darn sore right now!  :-)  That aside, this is most certainly the strongest hive!  Both deeps are heavily populated and the second brood deep is already 70% in use.  Brood and honey galore...

I noticed that both the center and East hive had sign of animals having visited recently.  No damage that I can tell, but the gravel in front of the hive has been pushed around and the under-lying landscape cloth exposed a bit.  Will have to keep an eye on that.

Note the various stages of larvae development that you can see at the bottom of some of the uncapped cells.   This a shot taken with my cell phone camera at close range.  The worker bees are busy caring for and the brood as well as working on drawing and capping the comb on this frame.  Note too the coloration difference, with some of the bees lighter in color than others.  I believe the lighter colored ones are younger.  (not certain about that , but the two at the bottom of the phone are clearly smaller and less developed I think.


There is no real work going on in the supers yet.  Younger worker bees seem to hang out there, perhaps as a sort of guard duty to ensure other insects don't move in?  The do apply propolis to the interior of the hive, sealing up any cracks, so maybe it is just the advance crew making sure the house is in order.  At any rate, none of the three hives have any real work being done in the supers yet, which is fine with me.  I would rather have them working on building population and ensuring they have food stores for this winter.  It is not all that important that they be producing honey that can be harvested right now.

Winding down....

At the end of the day, a lot got done. I am damn sore from being jounced around in the tractor for 8.5 hours.  But the bee check at the end of the day was like a boost for tomorrow.  ...mowed 61 acres today, only 75 more acres to go. If I can get a couple of hours of sleep tonight, maybe I can get most of it done tomorrow while I come off the dexamethazone high.  That would give me a bit of time on Thursday to get a few other things done that need doing - and maybe time for another visit to the hives....

Work near the top of the frame.  The bees don't bother one much. They land on various expose body parts and clothing, check things out, then lose interest and go back to work. They are amazingly tolerant assuming one does not move fast. I have to pretend that I am working in low gravity, like on the moon or something similar.  Dong so seems to work to avoid provoking a defense on their part, and prevent stings on my part...