Friday, March 11, 2016

Steve Victor's Honeybee Shipment Delayed to Interior by 7 Days!

Good Morning Beekeepers,
As part of our bee order we closely track the developing conditions in California and report any new developments that may affect our schedule for bee delivery.
As you know, our goal is to deliver the highest quality package possible.  We know that our delivery time is an exciting event that is often planned by beekeepers well in advance of the actual day.  We have a few beekeepers who schedule the day off from work as well as some who arrange travel schedules around the arrival date that they picked out.  It is for this reason that we monitor the situation in California and report any event that may interrupt our planned schedule.
With the El Nino year there have been a number of challenges that our supplier (and all California bee suppliers) have had to overcome, many of these were discussed at the last beekeepers meeting.  For those who were not at the meeting here is a shortened discussion of some of the factors discussed:

1.     Weather Factors as they pertaining to mating flights of our queens: 
    As you know, there is a 10 day period in which a queen must mate with multiple drones to have the fertility she needs to reliably create worker brood.  This event occurs approximately 2 weeks prior to the filling of our packages.  Several mating flights must be made to accomplish this.  The weather must be warm and dry with little wind.  Normal spring conditions in California give us these.  On an El Nino year weather conditions in the month of March can be quite poor for predictable mating flights.  This is an El Nino year.  Typically the weather improves in the latter half of March.  It is the first batch of queens that have the most difficulty finding good mating weather.
2.     El Nino years also affect the almond bloom:
    It is in the almonds that our hives are placed in early spring.  The incoming pollen flow stimulates the brood rearing of the hives allowing them to grow.  After the almond bloom, hives are moved out of the almonds full of workers and developing brood.   These large hives are where we find our surplus bees.  Removal from the almonds is the start of swarm season for these hives.   Just as swarm season varies for us from year to year because of the arrival of the spring bloom and subsequent growth of the hive, it also does the same in California.  A slow wet spring results in fewer surplus bees in early April.
3.     Wet flowers on the almond trees can affect the hives as well:
    The almond bloom goes through several stages, four of which are mentioned here: Popcorn, bloom, petal fall, and jacket. All of these stages overlap to some degree within an orchard as some trees are slightly ahead and some slightly behind the others.  Naturally, it is understood that bloom is where our bees are working, collecting pollen, and the brood rearing is the greatest.  At the end of the bloom is an event called petal fall.  Ideally, the almonds are pollinated and the flower petals fall off the flower in a gentle dry breeze.  A rainy season of an El Nino year can wet the petals causing them to stick.  As the nut develops into the jacket stage and the wet petals are still on the tree, mold can form on the petals and jackets potentially ruining the almond crop.  Growers often spray fungicide on the trees when these conditions are present.  While the fungicides are approved for spraying orchards in the presence of hives there are negative impacts.  The primary impact is in the nutritional value in the pollen collected after the fungicides are sprayed on the orchards.  This slows the growth of the hive and even though the event happens long before our packages are filled and the bees placed into the packages are not from that generation, the overall hive population is smaller and fewer bees can be removed for our packages.
We have been in contact with our supplier to monitor the developments. We have learned that as of 2 weeks ago bees were in short supply and predicted to be behind schedule.  Two major producers of queens and package bees were canceling orders and delaying delivery of packages. This is both Koehnen as well as Heitkam.
As many of you know I have been closely monitoring the weather patterns in California this spring.  We have yet another wave of poor weather in the Sacramento Valley working its way through the area in the next several days.  This coincides with the grafting raising and mating of our queens.  

There is now enough information for me to predict that our bee shipments are very likely going to be delayed for a week while this latest round of weather works its way out of the Sacramento Valley.  This next week will be critical in determining if we are able to keep our schedule.  If I were a betting man I would say that there was an 80% chance of having the bees delayed and a 20% chance of meeting the original schedule.

The result will be that all weeks will need to be shifted by 7 days.  Delivery scheduled for the 9th will happen on the 16th.  Delivery for the 16th (Fairbanks and Kenai Peninsula day) will be on the 23rd.  Our third shipment scheduled for the 23rd will arrive on the 30th.
This is the first time in many years that we may not be able to meet our original delivery dates.  While almost all of our beekeepers will be able to adapt to the new schedule, we realize that there are some who will not be able to alter their spring schedule.  We apologize for the inconvenience this might cause but it is necessary to provide well mated queens with our packages.  If it does become necessary to shift our delivery schedule we will cancel  orders and refund any of our beekeepers who find that the new schedule does not work for them. 

Within a week I will be sending out another email confirming our schedule and letting you know if a shift in delivery dates is necessary.

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