Each spring I get ready to start the new bee season and while I always believe things are going to go well that doesn't always happen. I have learned the hard way that beekeeping is not for the faint of heart so many things can and do go wrong through the summer months but getting bees to overwinter is the hardest thing of all. These last few years have been as they say a learning experience for me and it never fails to amaze me what bees can put up with. One thing that does not change is that every spring is the start of a new bee season when all things are possible and nothing bad is ever going to happen. I look forward to the coming months and new beginning, so until I see you in the bee yard take care of yourselves.
I spend too much time on my face book page which in it's self is not a lot time just ask my family who when they post something I hear months later. The spring of 2016 is turning out to be cold and wet on PEI but hot and dry in Alberta. In the spring you want your bee's to fill up their home with a whole bunch of baby bee's but you need the right weather or they will not do what you want them to do. To this point last winter was the best winter weather that we have had for some time very warm but when you wrap hives and you get really warm weather what happens is the bee's are active, too active and they burned through there food and die of starvation which is what a lot of bee's did. With the help of insurance I can start over but every year the losses are so great it feels like your starting over every spring which makes it hard to stay in business. I have been toying with the idea of crowd funding or something like that but I usually chicken out, I just need to get my bee population past the harsh winter months with a good population somehow I just need to find my way. This will be another year to grow my farm starting with 20 hives wish me luck.... See you in the bee yard.
Well spring is here at last and it's time to check into the bee yard down at Ken's Honey Bee Farm. Well as you 'll recall the winter of 2014 was the coldest in 50 years and hit my bee yard and a lot of other yards real hard the difference from last year to this is interesting.
The winter of 2015 seen the Island get between 17 and 25 feet of snow depending on what part of the Island you live in and buried hives completely right up until the first week in May leaving some beekeeper to open their hives just last week.
My yard seen half survive and half die so 2015 starts off a lot better than last year. There is a law called Murphy's Law and as Murphy would have it this spring has been cold and wet and continues to be so, it should surprise no one that as I type this update it's raining again.
My wife heard an old fellow speaking about his life as a beekeeper as he tell's the story he is 93 years old and started into beekeeping at the age of 20 years. This gentle man says that the last two years have been the hardest he has ever seen for keeping bee's alive.
I and my fellow beekeepers will second that thought as we struggle to keep our bee's alive again this year, the only thing worst then having all your bee's dead at the end of winter is to watch as they slowly die in the cold wet spring weather of 2015.
Beekeepers are forced by the bee's into planning for the worst but hoping for the best and I'm sure this spring will come sooner or later and summer after that and with that another bee season so until we meet in the bee yard bee happy.
January is a time for making plans, like any self respecting beekeeper I've already begun. It's hard to make plans where bee's are concerned because no matter what you think is going to happen the bee's might have other ideas. Last years big plans were put on hold because of the major die off that took place in my bee yard (the coldest winter in 50 years).
My bee's like all bees are hard workers and ideas of expansion fit there ideas of "grow and swarm" grow and swarm" to a tee. I'm hoping January, February, March of 2015 will be a lot better than January,February,March of 2014 and that come spring there will be life in my bee yards.
What happened last winter put me behind one full year, and a debate I've been having with myself is as follows First; " I should try to make better use of the bees I have and grow a little slower".
Second; "Do everything possible to grow the bee yard" not necessarily a bad thing either because I need to get my yards to where they are in my opinion self sustaining (200 hive) and so this is the other option, but this plan is not possible for me to do in one year.
I love working with bee's but they have to start paying their own way and become a real business with profits and losses the whole nine yards. The plans I make and successfully carryout this spring will go along way towards telling me if the bee's will be a business or just a hobby.
We had very cold weather in December,January,February and now it's March and guess what we are having really cold weather again. I was in to put pollen patties in my hives, temp was plus 8 so I took a chance and while I was there I seen what I believe was eight dead hives. I'll know more later in March when it warms up if they are in fact dead. Some times bees can look dead and are not so we'll see by the end of march or maybe first of april if in fact they are dead. Not an ideal way to start the new season but start we will so nothing to do now but wait.
This summer I had 6 cases of AFB, this happened to my best hives. It kind of sucks but it's something that happens all the time in the bee business. We use the fall to plan for next spring when all things are possible and nothing bad is ever going happen to your bees. I have discovered that the bee business can go bad really quickly and that you need to be on guard at all times but at the same time there is nothing I would rather do. I plan to go from 30 hives up to 70 in the spring of 2014 this coming spring/summer , saying that there are many things that could go wrong this winter. I believe the steps you take right now can make or break the winter loss problem by having healthy hives going into fall.
The first week in june had me looking over my bee hives trying to figure out how many hives would be put into the blue berry fields. Spring had been hard on my bees with massive die off caused by cold wet weather and bees that seemed to be full of disease causing slow growth in my bee yard. However as of June 5th 27 of a possible 33 hives went to the blue berry fields. Some bees seem to do well in blue berries but most suffer, lack of pollen cause bees to shut down and by the time the bees come home the queen has stopped laying the hive can have more disease and is in really bad shape. Bee keepers can keep there bees at home but for some of us bees are a business and the money pollination brings in is important and helps us pay the bills. I spoke to a bee keeper that insists honey can make you every bit as much money as pollination and you end up with healthier bees in the end and you can grow your farm faster with healthy bees. I will be considering all these things over the summer and ponder what to do next spring........See ya in the fall.
April turned out to be a big learning curve kind of month and as it's turning out May has a lot in common with April. You cannot foresee all the mistakes your going to make, you just hope that they don't destroy the future you had in mind when you started your business in the first place. Pollination takes place in June for three weeks sometimes four, the goal of commercially minded beekeepers is to have your hives ready for the blueberry fields but because of the slow start I had this year it's putting an important part of my business in doubt as my bee population is not where it should be for this time of year. Getting into business is not for wimps and I know that, so I should not be supprised when I hit bumps in the road, the only question I still have is do I still have a chance at making a possible income from pollination for 2013. The other problem that has developed this spring has to do with my queens, as packages died because of cold and wet weather some of my queens have also died because the packages did not cover and protect the queens. I guess I now know what can go wrong with bees in spring time, "I will survive this ". I may need a part time job until the numbers improve but it has only made me more determined to do this business even with the bad start this is my future and I will succeed. Maybe I'll try crowd source funding as a potential source of investment.
The night we picked up the bees was cold and wet and I could not imagine a worst night to start my business and to make matters worst I was given advice by my wife I choose to ignore. You see there was a question about my tunnel cover being able to cover all the bee packages that would be put in the back of my truck and she said maybe we should take a tarp just in case. Now a wise man would have said "no problem I'll go get it "but what I said was no" I think the tunnel cover will do the job we don't need a tarp". We arrived in Nova Scotia early so we decided to spend time at Tim Hortons with some other beekeepers exchanging ideas and making plans for the future. At 11:45pm we finally received word from our contact at the airport, the bees had arrived it was time. Once at the airport it quickly became clear to me that the tarp I said we would not be needed was in fact very much needed and because of a very bad choice was going to have a very big impact on my future. We loaded the bees as best we could and with a gap on both sides of my tunnel cover we headed home. We arrived home at 5:45 am on Saturday morning and because of the cold and wet weather I parked the truck with the bees in a barn and went to bed. Because the weather wasn't going to let up I installed the bees Saturday afternoon and waited to see what my choice of not taking a tarp was going to have on my future. Two weeks later I have lost 16 packages of bees that got wet on the way home and died, it took two minutes to make the decision not to take a tarp and two weeks to see the results. The journey continues.
It is February 15/2013 and I'm just now receiving my beehive material that I expected to receive in Jan some times not good...not good at all. We have a snow storm coming our way not at all bee weather but it does give me time to try and catch up. I have one hundred and fifty hive boxes to build and fifteen hundred frames to get ready should be a lot of fun. I can't wait to get started hopefully everything goes well there is a lot to do in short time wish me luck. My bee order has also been placed four pound packages should get me started right their coming in April. Well it's getting late so by for now.