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It has been a good while since I have posted in the Apiary section. I have been VERY busy in my apiary and just have not had the time to post. In late February I planted about 5 acres of various honey bee friendly wild flowers mixed with Sainfoin & Yellow Sweet Clover. In late March I had a local farmer plant 20 acres of Sainfoin in one of our pastures. Still waiting for the coop to bring the lime trucks as the pasture needs about 3 tons+ to the acre of lime to reach the soil pH of 8.0. I will have to call them again. Last season we reached a high of 51 hives. Going into the Fall we began losing a few hives here and there in spite of treating our hives with oxalic acid vapor. I treated them again last November and again in December yet the hive losses got worse. We lost almost half. In early Spring the hives began building up really nice and had very large populations and then in early March I again treated them with oxalic acid vapor. They continued to do well until about 10 days later I treated them prophylactically with methol for tracheal mites. Almost immediately it seemed like the hives collapsed. I initially thought it was the menthol so I removed it after the second day. The hives did not recover. Long story short we lost EVERY hive with the exception of 1 by the end of this May. In the 3rd week of April I contacted a commercial beekeeper and bought 6 migratory pallets (36 double deep hives) of commercial production double deep bee hives. I immediately split out 2 frames of brood and 2 frames of honey/pollen to build 36 5 frame nucleus colonies to which I added 1 empty frame of drawn out comb or foundation. I ordered queens to queen all of the nucleus colonies and of the 36, 31 made it and I combined the 5 with other nucs. In early May I purchased locally 6 nucleus colonies of "treatment free" bees to add to the genetics in the apiary. In the 3rd week in May, I again grafted 2 frames of brood and 2 frames of honey/pollen to build another 36 nucleus colonies and added queens. Yesterday I went through all of the hives with the exception of the most recent nucs to ensure they had a queen. Talk about a LONG, HOT, SWEATY day!!!!! I had 14 queens left over from the order of 20 so I used these to build 6 two frame "queen castle" hives. Today or tomorrow I will go through the newest 36 nucs to ensure all are queen right and use these queens if needed, otherwise I will put them in the "queen castle" hive which require only 1 frame of brood and 1 frame of honey/pollen. Altogether we are sitting at 125 hives if my count is correct. The wife and I have been working our butts off. She likes to paint so she has been painting hive boxes & related woodware while I am working the hives & keep the grass cut and trimmed in the Apiary. We have 100 more nuc boxes on order to build out and paint to add a 2nd nuc box to each of the nucleus hives. Once they are filled out by the bees, we will split each nuc. If the nectar flow continues to hold out, we plan to split each of the 36 commercial double deep production hives and the 67+ nucleus colonies then I will treat ALL of the hives with Apivar for the next 6 to 10 weeks while they are building up their empty 2nd brood box. Once all of the hives have filled out their 2 story boxes it will be time to transfer the nucs to 10 frame hives and add a 3rd deep box to the now 72 commercial production hives. The 6 nucs of "treatment free" bee hives are already on their second deep and working on the 3rd deep. Every hive that fills out its 3rd deep box will then get honey supers and the Apivar removed. We are managing primarily for bee hive production but expect to get some honey (just not sure how much). Again IF all goes well and the nectar flow holds out we have an optimistic goal 200+ hives. We learned an painful lesson about having too many hives so close together and are spreading out our hives around the farm. In August I will be planting 50 lbs. of Dicon Radish for a late Summer/early Fall foraging treat for the bees. Today the FEDEX truck will be delivering 3,000 frames that will be going in all of the hives once they are transferred to 10 frame hives.
I just finished bottling what we harvested so far from 9 hives which is about 53 gallons. We still have 6 more hives to go and a possible late season golden rod nectar flow. Keeping my fingers crossed for a late season second harvest.