Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sedona Seven

Congrats to our newest mother, Sedona! She gave birth to seven healthy puppies on April 21. Every puppy arrived squirming and ready to take on the world, even the littlest one, nicknamed "Cottonwood".

Of course, being Sedona we had to give this litter an Arizona theme. So names include Copper, Cottonwood, Tucson, Schnebley, and even Cedar. Well, cedar may not seem Arizonan but Nadia insisted on the name, and almost every puppy has a reddish coat like mother Sedona, so even red Cedar fits!

Schnebley? The town of Sedona was named for Tom Schnebley's wife so we had to have a Schnebley (there's a landmark in Sedona named Schnebley Hill). Besides, it's a great dog name, don't you think?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ten Days to Puppyhood!

Hard to believe another litter is on the way. Our Sedona (reddish yellow lab) will experience birthing for the first time. The stress meter goes up a bit with a first litter and we're a bit anxious about how she'll do. Thankfully, she's a strong, healthy mom-to-be and has been an observer of several litters born to her mom (Bromley) and aunt (Mingus) so we're confident she'll do well. Stasia, on the other hand, pegs the stress meter. Each of the newborn pups are her 'babies' too!

The sire of this litter is Legacy's Willcare Nicholas, who's father is Am Ch BISS Willcare's Prestige. Both Sedona and Nicholas have excellent pedigrees with a substantial number of AKC champions in their lines. Sedona is a granddaughter of Legacy Labrador's Broad Reach Ruff Stuff, a.k.a. "Colby". He's a Best in Show and Multiple Best in Specialty Show American and Canadian Champion. Colby was #1 Labrador Retriever in the country for 2002 (All Breed) and 2003 (Breed & All Breed). And was the PEDIGREE AWARD WINNER for Labradors in 2003. While we take pride in our breeding program our main interest is providing individuals and families with the best quality puppies. We do this through extensive hands-on socialization so that when they are placed in their new homes they will become a welcome, well-adjusted addition to your family.

If you're new to our blog we invite you to browse through our archived posts to learn more about our litters and our philosophy for raising labrador retriever puppies.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Someone Please Tell Mother Nature It's Spring!

Enough with the cold weather already! Here it is the second week of April and the bees have been able to get out for a meal only once! This has been a tough winter-into-spring for the bees. By mid-March the weather has usually begun bringing on 50 degree days--the minimum most bees need to get out for foraging. Since they haven't had that opportunity their winter stores are exhausted and some hives are facing starvation. I've tried to get some sugar syrup onto the hives when it's warmed up a bit but they need the warmer weather to even move to where the syrup is, and they haven't had that opportunity.

As a result of the long cold spring, and perhaps because of the up-and-down temps all winter, we lost about half our hives this winter. I recently spoke with another eastern Connnecticut beekeeper who's experienced similar losses. I attribute most of the loss to the difficult weather and the fact that most of the dead hives were populated last Spring with new bees from the South. Oftentimes, these bees don't have the genetic makeup to survive New England winters. Compounding the problem was the extended drought of last August and September, when the bees began consuming rather than collecting honey. Despite our efforts to feed the bees in the Fall some went into the winter short on supplies. One other factor could be the possible existence of Nosema, a disease growing more common. The only registered treatment for nosema in North America is fumagillin, a natural extract from the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus.. Randy Oliver, a California beekeeper, has some excellent articles on nosema and some treatment options. Ideally, I should have our hives tested to determine if nosema is a problem.

Fortunately, we have ordered some replacement hives, known as packages, and some will be arriving today. Packages are made by shaking into a box about 3 lbs. of bees from an existing hive. With the addition of a caged new queen one has the ingredients for establishing a new hive. Once the package arrives the queen in her cage is installed in an empty hive filled with honeycomb frames and the bees are gently shaken into the hive box. The remaining bees in the screened package will pick up the queen's scent and will make their way into their new home. The lid is replaced, a small amount of sugar syrup is installed in a feeder jar and then one waits. A few days later, a check on the hive will reveal the queen has been released by the workers from her cage--they'll have chewed out the candy plug that separates (and protects her) from the colony until they've accepted her as their new leader. From there she will begin laying eggs and the new hive will begin its life here in the Essex area.

This process will continue over the next few weeks as we get additional packages. Until this year, we've had to drive to a supplier in Greenwich, NY, to obtain our packages. Fortunately, I've discovered a new source for packages right here in Connecticut. That's where we're getting our first shipment of packages from. The remainder were ordered in late January from the New York supplier. Given the high rate of hive failure experienced by beekeepers nationwide in recent years, one has to get orders in early in the season in order to be assured of new bees. Many suppliers run out quickly as beekeepers discover in Spring the extent of losses exceed their expectations.

Ideally, I'd like to get in the position of developing our own additional hives. That thought will be covered in a future posting.