By 6 AM these days it is already daylight and the sun is just coming over the horizon to the NE. The forecast is for cloudy all day. That's not what I need for installing queens. I'll have to be sure to take my reading glasses along.
It's now only a bit over a month until we start moving to pollination. The bees have a way to go to get up to strength, but they are coming along nicely and some are already over the required strength.
The day started off warm and calm, but has turned cooler and breezy. It's not the ideal weather for brood inspections and queen intro. We are seeing a few more dandelions, but they are small and stunted yet. The crab apple trees should be blooming by now, but they have barely leafed out.
I gave the package bees a quick check. They have been in for six weeks now -- since April 4th. Normally we figure that we need to add a second box on May 19th. It does not look that way right now -- unless there is a big hatch of brood just about to emerge. I did not check. This is what a typical cluster looks like at 10 AM and 11 degrees C with a breeze.
Matt and Gareth spent the morning getting one of our spare trucks running and over to DaVon to get it shortened. It's a bit off-task when we have all these queens waiting to go in, but the weather was a bit cool and the job had to be done.
By 3:30 Matt was on his way to install queens and Gareth and I headed out in a separate truck with a syrup power feeder and a forklift in tow.
We needed the forklift, since we chose the earliest splits that had been made in good weather and they had been made side-by-side on the ground. We wanted to pick them up and palletize them and move them to a new yard. The hives also had not been fed at time of splitting. As it turned out, we really did not need to feed, and the flight was such that we were able to move them around in the yard as we pleased.
Along the way, we noticed that some fields are starting to be blanketed with dandelions, although the flowers are still small.
Gareth & I installed 17 queens in two yards, Keivers' South and Falks' and tidied up the hives left from side-by-side splits by putting some into gaps left by dead-outs on pallets, and some we took to a second yard. The hives are coming along well, and some of the hives that were split into two and placed on deadout brood chambers were already down on the floor cleaning out and flying from both holes. Some of this can be attributed to the effect that I have often mentioned before: once bees are used to living in X number of boxes, they will return to their place even if the boxes are exchanged for other boxes, as in pulling honey and supering. Once they have learned to go to a certain spot in a hive, excluders are no impediment.
We also put in some foundation at the outside positions of some hives in exchange for full or distorted frames and then returned home around 7 PM. I like to keep some foundation in the brood chambers at all times. It is easy to take in and out when inspecting bees and also gives the bees some place to put the wax that they are always producing during a good flow.
Usually we put it in the outside position, or second from outside, but in a really good hive on a good flow in good weather, I will just put it into the centre of the brood nest. This is a judgement call. Inserted at the right time, the frame will be pretty much fully drawn by the next day and full of eggs, nectar and pollen
Adony had just arrived when we got back and we had a good discussion about some of his results over dinner and a glass of the finest mead (ours). I'll try to write them up and put them on this site soon. The main points, if I understood correctly without looking at the notes was that
Although we don't know if it is significant, we must remember that the dark foundation was bought in 2000, the white in 1999, and the Pierco frames in 1998. All were coated with wax. Was an age effect, or is all the difference attributable to colour? Just in case there is an age effect, we'll have to make sure we use fresh supplies of all foundations next time. I have often noticed people making sweeping statements about wax or plastic foundation. We must always remember that there are many possible sources, and that the history of each sample may be different and have an effect.
Matt was out working at the same time we were and, by himself installed 30 queens in the time we did 17 -- 3-1/2 hours. He did not have to move hives or feed, and I don't know if he put in much foundation, but he is fast, and he is good.
Adony left around eleven. As he was leaving, I showed him the bees in the queen shipping boxes (shown previously). He was amused to see they were all asleep. Having been in a dark room, and it being the middle of night as well, all the bees were parked motionless in clumps in the box, and the lid could be taken off without bees flying up -- or even moving much. The exception was the patrol bees apparent through the end screens. Those bees run up and down abruptly inside, several inches at a time, but they also did not bother to approach us when we lifted the lid and examined the contents over a minute or two. I've sometimes noticed that if we get out to the bee yards too early in the morning when there is no flow, that the bees are asleep when we get there and are slow to rouse.
The forecasts have been revised in our favour and today looks perfect for installing queens. I was planning to go out with Gareth again installing queens, but I noticed that the notes are getting to be in disarray again, and although we can perform quite well as long as we are just splitting an putting in queens, we will need more info for the next stages. Moreover Allan Graham called and said he wants to come and look at bees again for Aventis, so I guess I'm staying home.
Matt and Gareth left to put in queens. I know they will both do a good job and get lots done. Ryan and Steve are continuing with the splitting.
So far we have a bit over 200 large splits on the first round. All were strong enough before splitting that they had bees on six bottom bars in the lower box. We'll have one more round, then we'll make some small splits for increase so that we put at least 3,000 hives into winter.
Allan arrived with his wife and we went out to look at hives. We visited five yards, starting with our worst and working up to the best, then visited another poor one that he had seen before to see if it had progressed. It had, but still wasn't great. Our philosophy is to put most of our effort and resources into hives that have some promise and to only spend time on the poor and unlikely hives when -- and if -- we have time. If they do not manage to shape up, we gather them up and make nucs out of them.
Then we went home and looked at the 36 package hives that are still here. I managed to get them upset and we quit before they killed us. Those Australian bees are great performers, but they do get a lot of chalkbrood and they are cranky.
Purves-Smiths came over for a barbeque and we all had a good time. Usually we have hamburgers and smokies, but this time we splurged and had T-bone steak. Matt came back from the field around 8 and joined us for a steak. Gareth didn't show up until dusk and we were starting to think we might have to go looking for him.
Steve came in at five this morning to move bees.
We still have too many in some of the wintering yards, and some of the
hives are still in rows from the wintering packs. When I got up at seven,
I noticed the sun was already well above the horizon and that we had
a nice rain last night. Everything was wet.
-- whenever the old summary sheet gets too out-of-date -- I compile
a new summary sheet on the computer. Each crew carries a copy
to show them what has been done and what needs doing, as well as what
supplies may be on site or need to be brought in..
Record keeping and planning is is real burden
for me, because this job must ideally be done between the time the crews
return (8 PM?) and when they go out again in the morning ( 9 or 10 AM
), and it often takes up to 4 hours to do properly. Nonetheless,
without good record keeping, planning and communication, large amounts
of time, fuel and effort are inevitable.
In this transportation system, the 108 queens are packaged
alone in each individual queen cage and the attendants wander through
the whole transport box and care for them through the wire. There is
a 3/8" thick cake of fondant sandwiched in a plastic film to keep it
fresh. The bees eat around the edges. We had to replace
one since it was entirely used up, the others were fine. We combined
the three boxes into two.
Gareth spent the day inserting queens and Matt did various repairs -- such as finding the reason the gauge on Diesel #5 showed a hot engine when apparently running at normal temperature and finding a sunken float in the rear fuel gauge. He also started changing the ball joints on the hive loader truck. We'll need it soon.
We had a few thundershowers in the late afternoon, but the guys have good raingear and the weather does not stop them. Gareth got back at 9 again tonight after putting in queens all day for 13 hours. He reported that he noticed we must have missed recording one yard. He says he dropped into Boeses' west yard when passing by and found it had been split -- but was not in the notes. That happens once in a while.
He also said that coming home, he noticed cattle on the road and stopped at the farm nearby to tell them. There were a bunch of guys there and they were all drunk as skunks and insisted he go in to visit. He agreed to go in for a moment to be neighbourly and when he tried to explain that he had some work to do, they made him stay and listen to country music. Finally he decided he had had enough and said had to actually wrestle his way out. That particular bunch is pretty famous for that locally and are mostly harmless, but...
On reviewing the notes at the end of day (10 PM) I see why Boeses' was not recorded: the second team split it today.
We have about 400 hives in ten yards to split before the weekend so that we can introduce queens early next week. They should yield about 50 to 60 splits for a total of about 300 this round. Not bad, really. With two teams off the mark first thing in the morning, they should be done in good time.
I read of two guys doing 100 splits in a day. I don't know how they do it. I don't think we ever have.
We finished the first round of splits today. The guys got over 80 of them. That brings the total to about 330 by my guess. Garth did a short day and got 22 queens in. That's a bit on the short side, but he worked about 7 hours and was working on hives that had been queenless only 3 days. That make things trickier, since the last eggs the queen laid are barely hatched, and some may be slow hatching.
I went to Blue Sky to get the frames they had assembled for us. On the way there, I dropped by the Meijers' place and met their new Mexican workers. They have four now.
Sam was in a hurry for me to load, because he had an appointment after lunch, so I went to the colony and loaded. When I arrived, I realised that I had underestimated the amount of equipment that was there. There were 14 pallets and my truck had room for 10. I also discovered that our custom truck tarps aren't entirely ready for the Big Move. There were some small details missing, like the anchors at the bottom for the chains. I managed to load and left four pallets for later.
Joe came by and we went to one of his yards. I'm only sorry I did not have my camera. Anyhow, we watched while his workers made splits and cleaned up the yard. They are making all their splits by the progressive method above excluders and have about 500 now. In some ways it is quite laborious, but when it comes time to put in queens, the job is simple, and since the splits are smaller and taken away, possibly leaving the older bees, the queens are accepted better. Meijers are also removing the pink patties, concerned about the rumours that resistant AFB is linked to extender patties. I don't believe it, but who knows?
Ryan found a bit more AFB today, so we are not entirely free of symptoms. I wonder if this outbreak is from the AFB colonies we recycled two years ago. I'm hoping hygienic bees become the norm., Then we won't have to worry about AFB.
By the way, Chris did get the job in Lacombe, so they will be living in Red Deer. Jean also phoned today to announce that she has a second job this summer in research. Her studies were in sociology and she has two related jobs, so she is pleased.
In case I did not mention it, Jean and her husband, Chris both graduated this spring. Jonathan, our son, is in the process of getting a permit to live and work in the US. His wife is a US citizen and is employed there. He has work waiting as soon as he gets approval.
Well, this is another long weekend, and here I am at 8:07 PM thinking of work and waiting for Matt and Steve to check back in. I thought seriously about going to Ontario again, but think I ma overdoing that. So, it's a toss-up between staying home and working on the house, going to the Slush Cup at Sunshine Village and doing a little snowboarding in the soft spring snow, and going to the speed trials at Keho. I still have a time 1/3 of the way up the record sheet, even though I haven't been to a meet in four years. I wonder if I can still sail.
I guess that is my first choice, but the Winnebago is steering really badly and I am afraid to drive it. I am even more reluctant to crawl under it to take a look...
Gosh maybe I'll do all three.
"If I make a living off it, that's great--but I come from a culture where you're valued not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away," -- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)
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