Monday, May 14, 2012

Flowering Kale

One of the girls enjoying the flowering Kale
     It is a beautiful, warm, (20 celsius/ 68 fahrenheit) sunny, May day and the bees are actively collecting pollen.  It was a very difficult winter for our bees as the predicted "el nino" effect reduced temperatures from February to May by approximately 5 degrees celsius (9 fahrenheit).  This is important where we live because it puts the temperature below the acceptable flying limit.  I have found that my bees will take cleansing flights (bathroom breaks) at 7 celsius and collect a little pollen but really won't get active until the temperature reaches 10 celsuis (50 fahrenheit).  Brood production was down in one hive and noticeable, excessive excretion indicated a possible nosema outbreak which is not uncommon in a cold, wet spring.  I treated with fumagillin.
     For the first time we bought two early packages of bees in February which I will not due again because of the unpredictability of the weather in our local.  With the wind chill we had below freezing temperatures for about a month after we purchased our southern hemisphere bees from New Zealand (where it was 25 celcuis).  The shock to the bees from excessive weather change, extensive travel and  utilizing a southern hemisphere queen who thinks it's fall is not in my opinion the right way to acquire bees in spring.  Over 20 years ago Canada placed a ban on bee imports from the U.S. to prevent the invasion of the Varroa Mite.  Surprise, it didn't work.  Geographical border exclusions don't work for bees.  They don't declare themselves at the border (illegal immigrants).  Many people think the restrictions still exist because of a trade agreement with Australia which obviously does not want American competition.  My belief is that the long term solution lies in local bee breeding of survivor stock which presently does not exist in the Vancouver area.  There are good bee breeders on Vancouver Island and the interior (small scale) but not in the greater Vancouver area.  This probably has something to do with the high real estate prices which prohibits the profitability of bee breeding in our area.  At any rate both of the queens died in our early packages.  I raised one queen by introducing a frame of uncapped eggs from another hive and Dan bought a queen for his hive which arrived this week from Australia.  The bees from his hive are now actively collecting pollen for the first time which is an indication that the queen has taken control.

This flower is a Bluet.  A friendly invasive.
     We are fortunate to keep our bees at a 4 acre community garden which has 120 individual garden plots, approximately 40 fruit trees, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, kiwis, grapes, nut, mulberry and black locust trees. The plum and cherry blossoms have finished and the present pollen of choice appears to be apple and kale.  Strangely enough many of the gardeners, because of their love of bees have let their kale go to blossom which is absolutely loved by the bees (both honey and native).  I have identified native blue orchard bees, bumble bees and an assortment of smaller native bees in our garden. The June pollen favourite for our bees is raspberries and July is the Black Locust trees but as you can imagine there are literally hundreds of plant pollens available for our girls.
     I believe strongly that the future of healthy beekeeping lies in the regression to small cell (4.9 mm) natural beekeeping.  Over 100 years ago beekeepers increased the size of foundation cells to increase honey production.  This unnatural increased cell size allows for excessive mite production and a myriad of ailments that do not effect natural cell sized bees.  Over the next year I hope to complete the transition of my bees to the natural cell size.  Stay tuned.

P.S.  Best Wishes go out to Steve at East Van Bees.




  

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