Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Its all in your planning and time management!!

Winter is very short.

As this season is now finished its time to be planning ahead.  The days of rushing around until late at night, queen rearing, harvesting honey, putting on supers and hive inspections are now only a distant memory but take no rest, winter is very short!!
I have learnt in the last couple of years that you must never take for granted the aparant lack of urgency in things because there is a list, well should I say a scroll, that unwinds around the workshop, of jobs to be done.
Here is a list of just a few for when I get back to France.
Cleaning old frames, scraping them and rewaxing. (over 1500 to do!)
Mini plus frames, clean scrape and rewax (1500 to do!)
cleaning queen excluders,
cleaning wooden feeders hive top feeders with scraper and blow torch.
cleaning nucs, mating nucs
stock take of what materials we have left to use.
Ordering materials.

The list goes on and on. If you don't make lists and decide what your going to do for this next year, you going to fall at the first hurdle ending up doing winter work in the summer. A complete nightmare.

Waxing in new foundation to our Mini-Plus frames in a huge job but it must be done while we have time. timely winter work pays off in the long term always! it takes us about 10 days to get through enough for the season, so its a big labour burner, but its essential to have frames ready for the spring growth.

So where do you start?

Be honest and realistic with yourself  and also never underestimate how long things take. The labour involved in many aspects of beekeeping is huge, but we do it because we love our job, occupation or hobby (whatever you call it) it is a labour of love, that with beekeeping you have to forget making money and just enjoy your bees. If at the end of that you have found yourself with some money that pays the bills, then the experience is real and sustainable.
There is a joke that goes something like this:

Q: How do you become a millionaire beekeeper
A: Start off as  billionaire­čśé.

The truth is, no one makes millions keeping bees but its an occupation and hugely rewarding thing to do everything yourself,  put in your heart and soul and end up with good bees in your hives, (not in the trees) and honey in the barrel to sustain you throughout the long winter.  You are certainly a farmer and the rewards are enormous.
I have to say I've found being a professional beekeeper strangely more rewarding than I felt as an amateur beekeeper. Probably because when you become a professional your putting most of your eggs in one basket but at the same time your completely in control of what you do and when you do it! when you get the rewards its so uplifting!!
Having that second job to rely on when things potentially may get tough is purely psychological support. In reality, once you get 200 hives, there is really no reason that with hard work you won't make enough on selling Nucs, queens and honey. If you don't, then really,  your doing something wrong.

In my mind, two jobs actually becomes a thorn in your side.

Your trying desperately to keep up with your swarm controls in mid spring but your other job means your not free on the two good days of that week in  that a typical early May period when you should have been in your apiaries.! You turn up at your apiary 5 days later than you scheduled to be (because of one thing and another) and you find 40% of your colonies have swarmed or are about too. Your then immediately in to cutting out queen cells, trying to stop the others from swarming,  as well as  trying to get the swarmed colony "queen right" as soon as possible. Basically you have  lost valuable time, money and precious  resources that if managed correctly, would have been much more use to you!

Swarms are completely normal  but in most cases completely avoidable.

Once you've been down  the road of post swarm management,  you soon realise that the second job has to go, or you need to change it in a way that permits you to have the time you need!  This is where reality bites.
I experienced this problem this year. May is a busy month. If you survive it with the majority of your bees in your hives and not hanging in the trees you've done well!
To watch your carefully overwintered stock just fly away is heartbreaking and downright demoralising.

There then comes the labour decisions!!
How much time should you spend on managing one colony. How much time do you want to spend on each Apiary.
I learnt this and learnt that its a variable  but there is obviously patterns and seasons that give us leaders in to what we should expect during hive inspections.

Swarm Catching

How long should you spend catching a swarm in your apiary­čśĄ believe it or not, this sound like a simple question. I used to always catch swarms  but in May and June you just don't have time.
Firstly, those genetics are the ones you don't want. The propensity to swarm is a very undesirable trait to most beekeepers. I certainly don't want swarmy bees and by collecting that swarm and allowing that queen to survive and produce drones for next year! that's one reason,. The second reason is in reality collecting a swarm can take a long time, 30. minutes lost when you could have checked another 5 hives  is a complete waste of time.
If the swarm is low enough , ok, have a box on the truck, shake it in and move on. Reality bites again.
I learnt the hard way and lost lots of time in Apiaries, thanks to my colleague and mentor, i have changed my ways! but it's s a dilemma.

The dilemma of catching swarms in your apiary.

Time management is crucial to a successful operation. Plan your time, Plan your week. Stick to the schedule wherever possible.  It will pay you dividends on the future.

Right now I  am back out in sunny Hawaii for nearly a month, I am enjoying some fantastic scenery, Beekeeping with Alicia and helping out with the chores on her busy Apiary.  Were cleaning up some hives and frames, making up all boxes so there ready for use with new frames etc.
I never dreamt in my life I would ever be fortunate enough to visit Hawaii

The stunning morning view of Mauna Kea in the background is always breathtaking!

             Look what bees did for me!

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