Spring Time at the Ranch (almost!)

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The sky was magnificently blue and the air frightfully cold when Worth and I made our second trip to the Ranch on March 31st. We skied in three weeks earlier to see if the electric fence was still intact after the long winter that still, does not seem to end. At least this time our journey to the hive was relatively effortless as the warm temperatures earlier in the week melted the snow creating a hard crust. Another 4 inches of fresh powder allowed us to carve a new path to pass alongside a plethora of wildlife activity as evidenced by the tracks and trails in the snow.

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There even appeared to be a struggle…. an imprint of wings and a few drops of blood left behind in the snow. I am guessing that the prey did not escape the clutches of its predator.

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A close up of the bird’s wing left imprinted in the snow.

On this trip, I had hoped to open the hive to determine if there were any signs of life but because of the frigid temperature, -13 degrees Celsius, I did not remove the cover as this would kill the bees. I also wanted to add a sugar patty from a recipe that I got from Murray Golden, a veteran beekeeper in the Edmonton area. I learned at the last Edmonton and District Beekeepers Association meeting that bees often make the winter only to starve out in spring. Murray’s recipe calls for 1.5 liquid ounces (of water) to a pound of sugar placed face down in the hive after a week of drying.

 

When we return to the Ranch next time, I will gather 30-60 dead bees for microscopic examination to check for nosema which is most prevalent in early spring. Nosema is a microsporidian fungal disease that infects an adult bee’s intestinal tract. If left untreated life expectancy of infected bees is reduced, queens cease egg-laying and die, and nurse bees turn to guard and foraging duties rather than brood rearing (among many other effects).

As the weather improves, I will also be keen to check the varroa mite levels. Rather than using an alcohol wash which kills the bees, I will try a method developed by Meghan Milbrath from Michigan State University Extension (January 2018). To see “VARROA MITE MONITORING USING A SUGAR ROLL TO QUANTIFY INFESTATION OF VARROA DESTRUCTOR IN HONEY BEE COLONIES” click on the link:

https://pollinators.msu.edu/resources/beekeepers/varroa-mite-monitoring1/varroa-mite-monitoring/

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Good news… the electric fence is working!!