Starting Over

Last weekend Worth called in the professionals to pound the posts for our new fence.  In less than an hour, Alberta 1 Fencing had 24, 6 foot posts and 3 grounding rods securely set into the rock infested ground.

Dave and John made the work look easy using a custom built post pounder designed to work in a variety of conditions and landscapes.  The price was more than fair considering the Klassen brothers came all the way out from Myrnam.  After our futile attempts to build a suitable fence, we greatly appreciated the job that was done.

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John (pounding) and Dave (holding) had the ground rods installed in minutes.   I was puffed out just watching them!  Our previous experience of drilling into the high clay content soil was painful and tedious… not to mention the injury to egos that was sustained as a result of not completing the job.

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We now have our work cut out for us over the next couple of weekends to get the wire up and hot on all 6 strands.  Adrastus figured out that the bottom wire in the previous fence was just a wire, without electrical current.  Hopefully the surprise of all hot wires will be big enough to keep him, Ananke and Aristaeus out for good.

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We miss our bees… RIP little buddies 😦   #BringBacktheBees

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The Three Bears

Once upon a time there were three bears and in three days, two of eleven hives that survived the brutal Alberta winter were also decimated…

Worth and I headed out to the Ranch on March 16th for the first time in 2019. Right at zero degrees, it was a brilliant day unlike the previous weeks of continuous minus 30 degree weather.

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Seeing the hives buried deep in the snow left us feeling uneasy about the winter survival rate. Still too cold, we resisted the urge to peek and instead, dug out the electric fence to find it in good working order.

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The hive in the far left corner was one of the survivors.

We were instantly elated when we returned again on April 14th to find bees buzzing about. However, the roller coaster we were riding plummeted to dark depths when we found that only two of eleven hives survived the winter. The sugar water that the bees were fed in September was long gone as were the plentiful honey stores that we refrained from stealing in August. Many of the famished bees were buried head first in the brittle wax, others were piled in the bottom of the hives, rotting, and in one, along side an emaciated mouse. We placed sugar patties on top of the frames and treated with Apivar. Veteran beekeepers that we spoke to also found some dead-outs due to lack of food, dampness, nosema or simply just for being a weak hive. I learned that bees tend to winter better with frames that contain older and thicker beeswax.

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Dead-out, RIP little buddies 😦

FROM BAD TO WORSE…
Nothing could prepare us for the chaos and anarchy when we returned to the Ranch on May 4th. Frames were mauled and gently mangled… some seemingly forgotten deep in the bush. The boxes were strewn all about but still intact with only one hive cover munched. Our two live hives were also toppled with not a bee in sight. The electric fence was working but still somehow this security feature had been breached.

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Worth and I reluctantly packed up hives or parts thereof to take back to the farm for cleaning and treatment with glacial acetic acid. The card from the trail cam was removed to discover what had actually transpired at the scene of the multiple murders.

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The Perpetrators of the Crime

It was just as we thought!! The kill was driven by Adrastus’ hunger fueled ingenuity and, the patience and perseverance of Ananke and Aristaeus.


THE TIMELINE:

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April 24th: Adrastus topples first live hive

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April 26th:  Enter Ananke and Aristaeus

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April 26th:  Eating, ummm…  Destroying the Evidence!!

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April 26th:  Breaching the Perimeter

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April 27th:  A Heated Exchange

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April 27th:  All this Licking is Hard Work!

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April 28th:  Back in for Another Go…

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April 29th:  More Work to be Done

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April 29th:  This Electric Fence Doesn’t Hurt At All!

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April 30th:  Not a Single Hive Left Standing

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May 4th:  Moments Before Worth and I Arrive on the Scene

Stay tuned…

Execution and Expansion

Expansion has been full-on this spring and four stings later, we now have 11 hives at the Ranch.  Progress inside the hives has been nothing short of dynamic.  Our aggressive little buddies have been combing out the frames and the queens are laying prolifically.  All thanks to the Bee Whisperer for his careful selection of queens that are mite resistant and, good honey producers (Italian cross Californian bloodlines).

New hive colour scheme…  assembly in process!

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Worth and Craig (the “Bee Whisperer”)

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Transferring Craig’s nucleus splits into purple brood boxes
to be relocated to The Ranch.


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All packed up and ready to head two hours north of Edmonton.

 

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Moving in… so exciting!

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Home sweet home!

Worth was executioner of the queen in the original hive when we noticed a drop in egg production and the appearance of queen cells.  Queens can last up to two years but most commercial beekeepers replace the queen yearly.  Observing the fatigued queen and the response of the hive was a good opportunity to further understand the life-cycle of bees and the role of the queen.  Most importantly, we learned that a new queen should never be released directly into the hive.  Because this queen is unfamiliar to the workers, they will cluster around her to form a tight ball and make it so hot that she will suffocate.  Observe the procedure below…
 

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The new queen will be placed in her cage inside the hive.  

In about three days the workers will eat away at the candy that blocks the entrance to free the new queen.  By this time, she will have released strong pheromones to enslave her new subjects (oh la la).
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Replacing our first New Zealand queen was admittedly disconcerting… we will be forever grateful for her tolerance of our initial inexperience and awkward handling of the hive and, for making it through the harsh Canadian winter to produce a strong flush for spring.