It’s been a while since I refreshed this page but rest assured I’m still very actively beekeeping and selling honey at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
Similar to many farms in the area, the weather was a challenge for us here at Beanstalk Honey this year. April was very cold and then in May we went straight into a hot summer. Overall, it was an exceedingly hot and dry summer, with less than two inches of precipitation from May to September in my main beeyards and on our alfalfa fields. However, I’ve heard many areas received more moisture and in those areas the bees did quite well this season.
It is interesting having bees: they are a window into the effects of climate on plants. Hot, dry weather prompted the plants to all bloom earlier and intensively this year. Instead of groups of plant species blooming successively throughout the season, thereby providing bees with nectar and pollen all summer, many of the species bloomed together and earlier. This meant the build-up of the bee population coming out of winter was out of sync with the main nectar flow. This year, my bees reached peak population just at the end of the main nectar flow, which ended several weeks earlier than usual. This pattern has resulted in greatly reduced honey yields for the beekeeper (me, unfortunately).
The flip side of early, compressed nectar and pollen flows is we’ve experienced a nectar and pollen dearth for the bees in the last two Augusts, as have many other beekeepers right across Canada. We are learning to adapt our beekeeping management to address the shifting and compression of pollen and nectar flow dates; unfortunately a lot of the adaptation relies on supplementing the bee’s natural diet with human-made pollen and nectar replacements. I have a few ideas to try next year; I’ll let you know how they go!
Thanks for checking in!
I’ll have a stall at Edmonton’s Seedy Sunday on March 18th. I’ll be selling my usual varietal honey and I’ll also have some beeswax. I’m looking forward to getting some seed for my garden this spring! Go to http://www.edmontonseedysunday.org to get the details.
Apparently it’s not spring yet… we woke up this morning to another few inches of snow. This is in addition to last week, when we got around 7 inches. Yes, the date is April 24th! The bees are just waiting to get out there and snag the aspen and willow pollen. I thought I’d post a few rare photos!
April 19th! I’ve never skiied to a beeyard this late in the year before!
There’s a myth bees get disoriented in the snow, mistaking it for the sky and crashing and freezing. Despite the snow, there’s a pretty good pollen and nectar flow going on and on Thursday, April 20, these bees were working hard bringing it in. It’s not often we get warm weather with solid snow cover to test this myth but I hope these photos demonstrate it is a myth. Bees can navigate just fine with snow. They do flip upside down and crash when they’re within an inch of the surface, but then they flip back upright and fly away. If they stay above that height they’re fine.
Close up of a coupe hives flying hard in 8 or 10 degrees C with almost solid snow cover.
A nuc from June 2016 I experimentally “neglected” all summer 2016 and winter 2016-2017: they have a full open entrance on both the front and back bottom of the hive, a crack running along the back between the two brood chambers (seen in photo), and no top entrance. I didn’t take honey off them over the summer, didn’t feed them in the fall, and didn’t medicated them. I watched them pretty closely all winter and was ready to give them help if they needed it, but here they are, bringing in pollen with solid snow cover.
The bees started bringing in pollen this week. I bought a microscope last fall and I’ve been learning how to identify pollen using it. I have confirmed the first fresh pollen of this year is alder pollen. Alder pollen is very distinctive under the microscope: while most pollen is round or oblong, alder pollen is square or pentagonal. I’m glad I’ve finally found a unique and easy pollen to identify! A lot of pollen looks almost the same to this newbie beginner pollen-IDer.
The bees look great again this year. To date I’ve had 5% winter losses, which is the same as what I had last year. I haven’t treated with fumagillin in two years now, with the exception of a small handful of sick hives last spring. I haven’t used apivar in over a year. Combined with the lack of intensive agriculture in my neck of the woods, I’m tempted to apply for organic certification now. I’m not sure if I will but I’ll make sure you hear about it if I do!
I continue to have my honey for sale at the Old Strathcona Market. My stall is still along the west wall. I’ll be back outside at the City Market Downtown in May.
Heads up: Beanstalk Honey is in a new location this month at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market.
We’ll now be on the west wall between Happy Camel and Little Jack Horner Meat Pies. This weekend we’ll have fresh pollen, comb honey, and the last fresh honey of the season. We’ll be at the Downtown Market this weekend and next and then we’ll just be at the Old Strathcona Market. We decided not to go into City Hall this year, although it’s a great market in there.
The title says it all. Fresh honey, on the stalls this weekend. The sweet pea flower bouquets are back this week too. We’re growing some unusual varieties with interesting colours this year and they’ve started blooming two weeks earlier than last year. Just thought I’d let you know, you know.
It was great seeing all your familiar faces at the City Market Downtown yesterday; all of you troopers who came out to greet us on such a wet, chilly day are appreciated. I’m marking this opening day in my memory banks: I didn’t need to give out a single plastic bag! Everyone brought down their own bags or used their pockets. Thanks!
As far as my bees go, they look great. They’re the strongest I’ve ever seen them at this time of year and I have no signs of any brood diseases. Provided I can keep everyone from swarming, the hives should be fine this year. This rain is going to help get some nectar into the flowers, so hopefully we’ll be okay there too.
As far as the markets, I’m working at keeping all my products in stock. I’m at the City Market Downtown every Saturday this summer and I’ve got my fingers crossed for being at Old Strathcona for a while longer too. Because they’re both on the same day, I have a lovely new person behind my stall at Strathcona. Be sure to say hi and welcome her to the company!