Friday, May 3, 2013

Package Bee Day, Round 2

  I made my annual trip to Palo Cedro, California this week to pick up our second load of package bees. Alan Pomeroy, a good bee friend, had volunteered to make the trip with me.  I enjoy the trip but I really do need help with the driving. Besides, I really really need to travel with someone who knows how to back up a trailer. That and not being able to whistle ( I guess my penny whistle is kind of a prosthesis) are two serious deficiencies in my skill set.   Alan was good company, pointing out every different variety of sheep and cattle we passed. He has raised some kind of animal since childhood to include various breeds of milk goats and Jacob's sheep.  He is a serious herdsman at heart. We discussed everything from religion and life's tragedies to cattle, sheep, and of course beekeeping. Alan has been into honeybees since he was a teenager. The trip down was somewhat leisurely and we were able to stop and eat in restaurants. The trip back was quite different as we could only stop for gas and nature calls and were limited to whatever fast food was adjacent to the gas stations.
Alan did me a huge favor helping transport the bees then thanked me profusely for letting him come.

A pallet of packages waiting to be loading into the bee trailer

The loading crew

    Every time I'm picking up the bees it seems I get to see something I haven't seen before. One year I got to watch them make up packages and last year I watched them graft queens.  This year I got to watch several of Steve Park's employees removing queen cells from the incubator. They pulled out quite a number of wooden bars from the incubator. Each bar had about 15 queen cells attached to it. One guy checked the queen cells to make sure they were all good. He held them up against a light to make sure each cell had a queen that was vertical in the cell. If the queen was curled up in the bottom of the cell it meant that she had died.  I watched him do quite a few cells and I only saw him cull two queen cells.  After this quality check he would use a hot knife to detach the entire line of queen cells loose from the wooden bar. Then he would use the same hot knife to separate each individual queen cell. The separated queen cells were then put into an insulated basket for transport to a mating yard. At the mating yard each queen cell will placed into a different mating nut, a minature beehive. The queen will emerge from her cell in the mating nuc and a week or so later will take one or more mating flights.

Wooden chicken incubator used to incubate queens

Candling the queen cells for quality control

Detaching the queen cells

Separating the individual queen cells

A basket full of queen cells ready to be transferred to mating nuts

    We did things a little differently this year, loading up early in the morning in Palo Cedro, California. We left with the bees at about 7:45 am.  I enjoyed the trip much more traveling in the daytime. We arrived back in Snohomish at 8:30 p.m.  Quentin had lined up the usual suspects (the missionaries) to help unload the trailer. It went very quickly. We had the bees unloaded, the trailer deposited at Quentin's house, and the rental truck returned by about 11:00 p.m . It was very nice to get a good night's sleep before package bee day.

A nice looking package with minimal dead bees on the bottom of the cage

A member of the "Bee Team" stacking packages

Alan Pomeroy moves a package while one of the Elders vacuums off the hitchhikers.


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