Monday April 17th, 2000
It snowed this morning, but by afternoon. it was nice enough that the guys got out to unwrap and feed 5 yards for a total of 172 hives. We had a combined count of 34 dead and weak, for the expected 20% attrition. Some yards only had one or two dead out of 40, but on had 13 out of 34 dead. They could discover no good reason for the difference there.
They decided to work 10 hour days this week, to get some time off on Easter weekend and to make up for the lost time due to snowy weather. Our evenings are now bright and warm until 8PM or so.
I, myself checked 25 of the packages last night at 7:30 and found it quite a good time to work. The bees were cross and stung my wrists quite a bit. I had hoped to avoid using smoke, but paid the price.
The picture at left is a typical patch of brood. The package hives have anywhere from 2 to four sides of frames with these 4" by 6" patches. The 4 lb - 2 queen Australian packages were installed April 4th, 2000. Half of each package went into each of two hives.
The picture is interesting because, of all the various wax and plastic frames, in the box, the queen chose this sheet of Permadent. As you can see it was previously partly (mostly) drawn, but with a little burr comb that someone did not scrape. It has been used for brood before, but not a lot.
Ellen went up to Adony's yard and, sure enough, we had lost a few foundation hives and the rest of the ones on foundation looked pretty sad. She said that, if anything, the Pierco ones looked a little poorer at this point than the Permadent. It was cool, so she only did what was necessary to minimize losses.
She noted that the slits in the fondant bags sometimes did not admit the bees, and that we need to cut two converging slits and pull off the strip of plastic or cut X shaped slits. Why not just set the fondant on the frames without bags? I'm told the fondant dries out and is ignored if that is done. The ones on comb were looking quite good, but, surprisingly, a few of the hives on foundation were drawing comb nicely and coming along well.
After my comments that installing packages on foundation is a good way to kill bees, a man in Georgia wrote and took exception, saying it worked down there. After a note or two was exchanged, he commented thus:
Well, installing on comb, we get around 100% -- if the packages are good. They are sometimes not, so we figure on 90%, and usually do better. I stand by my comments that installing packages on foundation is hard on them, will set them back in most cases -- and kill them in others. This may be more true here in the north, but IMO there is no place that they can be expected to do as well on foundation as comb.
Anyone, anywhere, installing using foundation-only can expect some deaths and slower colony development. I believe that It's a bad way to treat an investment, unless done for a very good reason. We do have good reason in the case of our experiments -- science.
I hope, actually to be proven wrong, because it would be lovely to be able to start with packages on new comb foundation and get a good crop and good wintering. I started off with that idea many, many years ago, and was warned about it by old-timers. I had to try it, and paid for the lesson at that time. Now, I'm thinking that maybe there are some tricks that can make it work, but I'm not counting on it.
The weather looks good for the foreseeable future, now, so we need to get out and get the feeding done. Unwrapping is unlikely to be too hard on them now, so we can go full out.
Drat, I wrecked another keyboard tonight. Seems that our mead is acidic enough that on contact with traces on the keyboard circuit board, it eats off the silver or whatever it is that carries the signal I've cleaned a lot of keyboards in my day, but it seems that once these newer style keyboards get the tiniest bit of mead, they are history.
It's funny how after years of sitting at the keyboard, I wrecked two within days.
Tuesday April 18th, 2000
Things get pretty busy at this time of year, and I've missed a day of entries. It's amazing how quickly memories fade. It's taking me a few moments to recall what we did.
Tuesday was a day of paperwork again for me, and I finally made some breakthroughs to the point where I had all the entries corrected and was ready to print the ledger for the accountant. That's when I discovered that I was having another round of QuickBooks Pro problems.
I had upgraded to QB Pro in February in hopes that Intuit would have improved some of the many little things that have annoyed me about it in the past. Well, there were some improvements, but also a whole raft of new issues. One was that installing and using it resulted in yet another file format change, and that my accountant would not be able to load my files without buying a new copy.
With the new Intuit security measures incorporated in this latest version, he could not just load a copy of my software for a day or so. As a result, I had to print him a number of reports for him to use. In retrospect, that is a good idea: he does not need to have to deal with my files. With a printout of the entire G/L, a P&L and a balance sheet -- plus the files -- he has all he needs.
At any rate, it turned out that my computer did not want to preview the printing of the General Ledger, and I was totally unsure how big it would be, and how it would format. I was not about to print a possible 250 pages -- or more -- if I could not be sure that it was complete, properly formatted, etc.. I decided that the problem was my Windows ® swap file. Huge reports consume huge amounts of memory, and the computer puts what does not go into the 128 megs of RAM, onto hard disk temporarily
Windows requires a contiguous chunk of disk for this function. Although I had 2 gigs free, I concluded that it must be fragmented. I had defragged only a week before, but had upgraded MSIE and also installed BeOS. After numerous attempts to run defrag only to find it restarting repeatedly, I finally went to safe mode and ran it several times. With reboots, etc, this occupied the better part of a day.
Anyhow, the day was not without its bright spots. Adony called, and came out to look at the hives and arrived in time for lunch. He took the 4X4 and was busy with his research until about seven, then joined us for supper.
Apparently the hives were not nearly as bad as I had feared, and although we did lose three or so out of the forty-odd (more on this another time), most were okay and he got them all labelled and checked. Two require more feed, and one requires a queen
The guys unwrapped and fed another 232 hives with22 dead and 20 rated weak. That is 91% alive and 82% good. That is not bad at all. They are all putting in 10 hour days and holding up well. They should have gotten much more done, but Steve got one of the trucks stuck driving where he knew better.
Gareth has been working here finishing the wiring on the trailers and getting ready to paint them, as well as making sure that everything is ready for loading the trucks for the next day and miscellaneous chores.
Wednesday April 19th, 2000
I got the books to the accountant today. I thought he would be buried in work so close to tax time, but he had lots of time to see me. Its a huge relief to get that done. Now only a couple more of these paper tasks remain: bank reporting, and inventory lists for insurance. On the way home, I popped into Adony's yard and replaced the missing queen and also fed two hives.
The crew unwrapped and fed 312 hives today -- that 's a lot more like it. Of that 312, 71 were dead and 26 weak, for 69% good and 77% alive. That's okay, but not really good.
Gareth finished painting the trailers today, and began the package queen checks in the home yard. We have 300 of the packages here and another 100 in out yards. 50 of the latter have been checked already) At 1 minute each, he will be busy for about 6 hours non-stop. If he spends 2 minutes each, he will be 12 hours.
Queen checks are a simple process: open the hive, smoke lightly, separate the frames (Remember we left one out at the side to make that easier). Glance, and put everything back together.
Since we have patties on the hives, we know where the brood will be: it will be where the protein patty has been nibbled away. We cut the patties with a knife, rather than moving them, and you can see some stuck to the top of the frame in one of the pictures. Apparently he found few problems. We still have some of the percentage queens left.
The picture at left is typical of the brood we are finding, except that there is quite a bit of chalk brood showing on this frame. That is a bit surprising since we irradiated all the pollen in our patties. I guess the combs can be a reservoir too, and we know that the Australian bees we get are quite susceptible.
In the picture at right, Gareth discovered two nice looking queen cells on a comb of decent looking brood with a laying queen present. Obviously supercedure, is being planned. I guess the bees know something we don't. I'm leaving both the queen and the cells to see what happens. it's a little early to be raising good queens, but -- who knows?
It hit 20 degrees today, beating the forecast by 6 degrees Celsius and was it downright hot in the house. The weather looks good for the next few days and that is good news. When we get extended spells of warm weather, the bees are able to establish larger areas of brood, and the brood, if it makes it to pupa stage, generates additional body heat to help maintain the colony.
Thursday April 20th, 2000
This was another day of unwrapping. I spent quite a bit of time on organising the notes and assignment sheets so that we know where where are going and where we have been, as well as what we have done and what we need to do -- and where to find things.
The guys are really getting going now, and got lots done. Steve's cousin who is hoping to work here for the summer when school lets out is available for the Easter week, so he is coming in tomorrow to try out for the job. If he works out, that will mean that Gareth will be free to finish the trailers, and that we will finish the unwrapping in a few more days and be ready to work through them in preparation for splitting starting about the tenth of May.
After tomorrow, the guys will be taking a few well-deserved days off now, and getting back to work Tuesday.
Two months from today we begin moving bees into pollination
Friday April 21st, 2000
The unwrapping and feeding continues.
Ellen & I went out to see how things are going and visited 4 yards to try to get a handle on when we will be able to split this year. The spring has been slow lately, but now we are getting some decent weather and the bees are brooding up.
The overwintered hives do look better than the packages, which are now showing some loss. We have about ten dead in total of the 350 package hives we installed on comb. That's rather surprising, and I am not yet sure what the cause is. The likely explanation would be starvation during the cold weather. Some of the brood chambers were pretty dry, and the feed was nearby, but not necessarily reachable. We were reluctant to disturb them during the cold and while they were getting established, but maybe we should have done something.
The overwintered hives we looked at today are just now starting brood, for the most part. They look as if they may have finished a brood cycle not too long ago, but in yards which have not received any supplement until now, there is no sealed brood to speak of.
The brood on left is from the yard where we first unwrapped March 31st. That yard did have more brood than the other two yards we visited and we conclude -- for now -- that the early work has paid off.
For some reason, brood is always spotty like this until real pollen comes in. I think our supplement must be a bit inadequate. It allows brood rearing, but does not give the solid patterns we like to see. Although the supplement may not be perfect for brood rearing, we are reasonably confident that it does help the young bees develop after emergence so that they are ready for the real pollen when it comes.
We will see later if these hives turn out to be ahead or not, since merely raising some brood now does not mean that they will develop faster in the long haul than hives which waited and may burst out ahead when they get going. I have seen hives drained by brood rearing on inadequate protein before.
Here's the gang working on one of our bigger yards. They unwrapped earlier and then returned after the bees settled down and had a chance to orient. The guys are putting in protein patties, feeding sugar syrup, and putting on the telescoping lids.
The new Ryan, Steve's cousin, turned out to like the work and to hold up well, so I guess he has a job. He'll be here for the rest of the Easter week, I think. Since he turned out okay, Matt was able to slip away and change an injection pump on one of the diesels that is a mite hard starting from time to time. I hate to spent the $450 to get a rebuilt, but every time we have changed one, the truck has sounded and run much better. That proved true in this instance too; the formerly quiet machine now rattles quite convincingly, just as a properly functioning diesel should.
Today we after going from four to three and back to four, we decided that four men in a yard unwrapping and feeding is just too many, so we can now keep two of the guys in the repair department, or preparing things for the next activities, which will be splitting and moving.
When Ryan returned, he reported that the truck he was driving had suddenly developed about 3/16 of a turn of slack in the steering wheel, and when Steve hit the ditch the other day (I guess he did not just get stuck), it seems that something was affected in the suspension in that truck. Suddenly we have some repairs to do. It's a good thing we have quite a few trucks and enough men.
Gareth was determined to finish the queen checks on the packages and it took longer than expected, since it turned out that they were ready for another protein patty as well as requiring liquid feed. As a result, the job expanded, and although I pleaded with him to go home at seven-- after being at work for eleven hours -- he insisted on finishing before the long weekend and left a little after nine.
The guys are sure motivated these days. It's a real pleasure to work with such an enthusiastic bunch.
Saturday April 22nd, 2000
Up at 5 and off to YYC to catch a flight to Pearson. Arrived at Malton at 1:20 and drove to Sudbury. Slept well.
Easter Sunday April 23rd, 2000
Visited my sister (left) and mother in the morning, then hiked out to Long Lake overland with my old high school buddies, Bill & Faye Wickenden and some of their friends. My accountant called mid-afternoon with some questions -- he was working! Had Easter supper with Mom, Linda and Sarah. Lindsay had to work.
Monday April 24th, 2000
Mostly rested and visited.
Tuesday April 25th, 2000
Drove back to Toronto international and flew back to Calgary. Drove home.
Adony had been here and working on his experimental apiary. Apparently he is very happy with the packages. I may have to eat my words about installing bees onto foundation.
When he last went to Simon Fraser, Adony went through the library there and has supplied me with some research done by Fries that is quite exciting and indicates that our experiments should be quite meaningful. He also supplied some work by Szabo that gives brood counts on various dates that seems to indicate that I may also have to eat my words about the amount of brood possible in a hive. From what I have read so far, 2000 eggs per day for several whole brood cycles was observed at Beaverlodge as being typical, if the amount of brood is divided by 21. More on this later.