As the 2018 beekeeping season begins to transition into planning for 2019, I’m excited to be a small part of the successful 2nd year training yard project. Hive count this past spring was at four, two strong, one reasonable and one weak. Not bad considering this was the first overwinter event. The current hive count stands at nine. Most are in five frame nucs with the balance in eight frame hives. The current management endeavor is to monitor queen and brood health in preparation for winter. To support this, the hives have been alcohol wash tested for mite loads. The counts were a bit higher than desirable (between 1% and 2 %, so a late summer mite treatment is under way.
One of the smaller five frame hives is still a bit weaker than desired so it will be combined into a smaller hive. The queen at last check was productive so she will be caged and given to one of the training yard participants that has a queen-less hive. It just may work! That is what the training yard is used for; in this case, many of the participants have never seen a queen caged. We do a lot of on the edge beekeeping so that learning new technique are maximized and overcoming various beekeeping apprehension is minimized.
For 2019, the plan under discussion is to produce “build your own nucs”. There are a lot of details to work out but the basic premise is to use training yard resources and purchased queens to teach participants the process of creating a nuc. If it works, the option to purchase the nuc will be available. We plan to stress proper record keeping, swarm control and how nucs can be a successful way to replace lost hives and/or grow the hive count. There was a practice run mid-summer when a good number of nucs were created. These nucs are destine for over wintering, so far things are looking positive.
The training yard concept has sparked interest from a neighboring bee club and discussions are started around an exchange of ideas. Some of these ideas are very ambitious. Planning big will be a theme for 2019.