2017-05-17

Respite....

Yesterday we received three new Carni queens to replace those that died in the cold and rain while I was off convelescing.  To recap, we had three 5 frame nucs ordered and recieved April 30th.  Due to circumstances beyond our control, those bees did not get into their hives right away and the nucs sat in the cold and rain for three days.

When I checked, the queens in the queen cages had of course died along with probably a third of the worker population.  I transfered those which were left alive to the new hives and then was away for a week.  When I got back to check, all three hives showed lots of activity including drawing comb, bringing in pollen and nectar.

That of course was encouraging.

We decided to order new queens as a result.  The little buggers are not cheap: $30.00 each, but stacked up against the original investment and encourging signs of hive health, it seemed worth it.  I installed the new queens yesterday.  The queens came in three hole cages and I put each cage in its new hive, pulling the cork on the candy stuffed side so that it would take tme for the new queens to get out of the cages and into the hive.  This hopefully allows the existing worker bees to become familiar with the new queen through pheromone familiarization, and to then become a single working colony.  It is said that if this time is not allowed, the existing bees will see the queen as an interloper and kill her.  Not sure of that, but figure it makes some sense.

It is supposed to rain today again, so probably won't check until tomorrow to see how everybody is adjusting in each hive.  Should be interesting...

On a separate note, the Italian walk-away split seems to be going ok.  The source hive is active.  The target hive is less so at the entrance, but there is plenty of population working the frames inside, which means they all didn't just get up and go back to the source hive.  It indicates to me that they are setting up house and hopefully recogniing that they don't have a queen and will start making one from the brood that was transferred.  Will know by the middle of next month.  If there is evidence of new eggs and brood, that will mean they successfully generted a new queen that subsequently went out and mated, came back and started her job.

I am hopeful for this split.  The Italians are very agressive producers of honey based on last years production.  I hope we can build up more colonies of Italians with this walk-away method as it is much less expensive as compared to purchasing package bees.  Our bees also have no evidence of diseases or infestations thus far, and not bringing in bees from outside the farm will hopefully help maintain that trend.  Our apiary is quite secluded and the closest other apiary is a good five miles away.  That means our bees are somewhat quaranteened.  There will be expsure to the wild bee population of course, but I think that will be mostly healthy.

I note here also that our bees are a quarter of a mile from the nearest tilled field. That is intended to keep them away from pesticides and herbicides which are so prolific on such fields.  The bees have both running and standing water sources within 100 meters of the hives as well.  Their food sources are pretty much all native plants such as the various trees and wild flowers that one finds in woods and pastures throughout Wisconsin.  Right now, the food sources look really good.  Dandilions are thick, and the trees are now at the middle stage of full blossom.  Black berries, wild plumb, oak, maple, basswood, walnut and hickory as well as wild apple and grape are all full blossom right now too.  So the bees have plenty of source for pollen and nectar.  Should be a good year from that perspective.

We shall see......