Here are three progress reports that we wrote to clients this last year Spring 2020.  It serves as an example of how we keep our clients informed of changing situations as well as our procedural change on distribution in regards to Covid-19.   It can also serve as an example of just some of the challenges that we can face during the spring.  

March 5th 2020:

Package bee progress report

Good Evening Beekeepers,

Fairly short letter this time...  Things are going well in California.  The almond bloom has progressed very well and has been in the stages of moving from bloom into the phase of what they call petal fall.  In looking at the charts there are very few blossoms yet to open.  Weather has been great and bee activity has on average 6 to 8 hours each day which is much more than in past years. 

One very positive note is that conditions have been dry and fungal activity in the orchards is extremely low.  Lack of rain in the forecast indicates that petal fall will happen in dry conditions and the bloom will finish up without the almond growers applying anti fungal agents to the trees.  As many of you remember from last year's progress reports, it was wet and cold.  Many growers used sprays to protect their crop and contaminated pollen sources gathered by the bees.  This in turn impacted brood development in many hives throughout California.  This is not the case this year.  Our bee supplier reports that the hives are doing well and have healthy populations.

Queen production has started earlier this year and they are already grafting and raising queens.  This too is a little earlier than the start of queen raising last year.  Weather looks good for this month's queen breeding.

As always, there are things that could impact bee delivery dates but this year weather and queen mating are not among them.  Those other factors are much less significant and we will let you know in the unlikely event that something comes up. 

Most importantly we wanted you to know to expect that we will be on schedule with our bee delivery dates this year.

Steve and Donna 



March 16th 2020:

2020 Package Bee Update #2

Good Evening,

The weather still holds in California and the bees are continuing to develop nicely for our packages.  The bees and queens are right on schedule... In fact they are actually a bit ahead of schedule.  That is great news.  We see very little that impacts our predicted shipment dates from leaving California on schedule.
With the COVID 19 virus making life difficult for the world, we thought that we would put out an email letting you know that there will be differences in the delivery system for the bees this year.  Both Donna and I are concerned about potential challenges to the transportation aspect of the shipment.  Although nothing specific has come up, it is the uncertainty and the potential changing conditions that has us a bit worried.  As we follow the news we see various businesses shutting the doors and canceling events.  Thoughts that run through our minds include such things as "What if the plane doesn't fly with our bees?"  --- "What if there are transportation restrictions in the big cities?"   ---  "What if there are too many sick or quarantined pilots and there is a backlog of freight?"   ---  "What if we have to re route the bees?"  The list is long....
As you know Donna and I are planners and try to have contingency plans in place to cover as many what ifs as we can think of.  This year there are so many unpredictables in the mix that we will have to depart from our usual plan of distribution and set up something new.  This may not seem too apparent to you when we distribute the bees at our regular locations - that is our goal.  We think that it is important for you to know some of what is going on behind the scenes so that if there are disruptions to our planned process that at least you will be aware that we may be reacting to some unexpected events. 
We have identified enough hazards in the Lower 48 between the time that the packages are filled and put together and the time that the bees take off on a jet for Anchorage to mandate that a knowledgeable beekeeper be there to manage any situation that could come up.  Because of this Steve will stay in the States and not accompany the bees on the distribution routes here in Alaska.  Steve will return to Alaska after our last load on the 25th.  He will be leaving for California on the 3rd of April-- one week before the first shipment.
We will stop taking orders for bees at the end of the month so that by the 3rd of April we may have the list sorted and turned in to the supplier for ALL of the shipments.  After that point in time we will not be able to alter the day, pickup point, queen type, or quantity of the orders.
For those who ordered supplies to be delivered with their bees, we will be making a bee equipment delivery run to Wasilla, Palmer and Anchorage prior to Steve's departure so that we don't have equipment to deliver with the bees on the 11th, 18th, and 25th.
Please take a moment in the next week or so to review your equipment needs so that you can let us know prior to the end of this month if you need anything.
There will be pollen substitute at all pickup locations.
Please check our home recorder on bee delivery day to find out when the bees have arrived at the pickup spot.  For the sake of the other beekeepers as well as our bee host, avoid coming early and hanging out waiting for the bees to arrive unless you are healthy and keep that social distancing.  It may be good to wait in your car if you are early.
For those who have volunteered to help load and unload bees - Your help is greatly appreciated, particularly as Donna will be by herself.  If you plan to help in any capacity, please cancel if you are not feeling well.  We do not wish to expose anyone to hazard.
You will soon receive a confirmation of your bee order details to ensure that we have all of the data correctly recorded in our spreadsheet.   This will happen in the next few days.


Steve and Donna


March 21st 2020:

COVID 19 and bee delivery

 Good Evening,

In general, we have as many things lined up for our spring packages as we can think of.  We are still planning on bringing up the bees on schedule and on time.  That being said, we are sure that there could be something that could bring the whole thing to a screeching halt.  A "no flights anywhere" scenario or a total quarantine of our supplier's entire work crew are two examples. 

Remember that the default is always that the bees will arrive on schedule unless you hear otherwise from us.

It appears that the COVID 19 virus is making it more and more challenging to transport and deliver our bees.  We still have plans to go forward as normally as possible.  There are things that have altered our business as usual and the intent of this letter is to inform you about the changes in our system.  Our previous Package Bee Update #2 should have outlined some of those changes.  Here are a few more...

You will find that this letter is broken up into two categories - Supplies, and Bees.  If you do not have supplies on order just skip that information...



Because of the social distancing and concerns about the spread of virus through commonly touched surfaces we have taken the following precautions.  We have assembled your order several days prior to delivery.  We are attempting to deliver supplies separately than the bees.  This coming week we will be making a trip into Anchorage with our trailer and the supplies that have been ordered that were to be delivered with the bees or to the SABA meeting.  We would like to have as many of our beekeepers pick up their supplies from the delivery trailer as possible.  This will make the bee pickup as smooth as possible.  We will call, email or text you about our delivery schedule.

Over the next week, supplies will transition to be only available for pickup out at our Big Lake location.  Supplies will have to be prepaid and ordered on our internet site.  We will fill the order and text you when it is ready for pickup.   Very likely we will continue this method of filling orders through the month of April at the minimum.



Pickup for bees this year will be different than in years' past.  Our goal is to limit the amount of contact as much as possible to maintain the health of our clients as well as the host of the pickup sites.  Please call our home recorder on the morning of your bee delivery day to check to see if we are on schedule.  It is possible that we may have to use a different pickup site than the one we are planning on using in case our host is sick.  Please do not come early to the pick up site unless you plan on staying in your car.   Our pickup sites will be patterned after the plan we have worked out for Anchorage.  Detailed instructions for each location will come in an email a couple of days before the bees arrive. 

As an example, here is how it will work out for Anchorage:  Please check the recorder before heading out to the pickup site.  We will unload the bees into the Barnett's garage from the trailer.  We would like all of the beekeepers who are picking up their bees to access the Barnett's house by following this driving route:   Use East 68th Ave to turn south on Bugle Court.  Follow Bugle Court for 3 blocks until it intersects with Henderson Loop.  Turn Right onto Henderson Loop.  If you follow Henderson Loop it will take you to East 72nd Ave.  Turn Left onto East 72nd Ave.  This will place you on the south side of the street one block from the Barnett's garage.  The object of this driving approach to the Barnett's house is that it will form a line of cars on the same side of the street leading to the Barnett's house.  If you are the first to arrive, please let the Barnetts know who you are and they will move the bees from their garage for you.  Please don't go into their garage unless they invite you.  We want to keep them healthy.  In the open environment setting, everyone should be pretty safe from exposure to virus.   To limit the exposure between beekeepers picking up, please remain in line in your cars until those in front of you have moved off and you can roll forward to in front of their driveway.   We would like to limit the number of people in their yard to 7 or less.  If you need pollen substitute, please have exact change for it and place the money directly into the container provided for that purpose. The pollen should be in a more open location away from the bees like in the driveway or yard.  


Volunteers needed:

I will be in California for the duration of the shipments.  As Donna will be by herself, we would appreciate your help but only if you feel healthy.  At each pickup location we could use 3 people to help move and organize the packages.   If you are available to help please let us know by return email so that we may plan things out.   We hope to have enough volunteers available so that if someone feels unwell they do not feel obligated to come for fear of letting us down.


Mostly, we want all of our beekeeping friends to have a safe and healthy pick up in these challenging times.

Steve and Donna