Friday June 30th, 2000
This morning I walked by some hives that Matt brought home on the forklift truck at the end of an evening, and which are yarded here waiting to go south. I was impressed by the fact that several bees took after me as I walked by and also the amount of chalkbrood that was being cleaned out. I am certain this aggressiveness and chalkbrood susceptibility is a characteristic of the Australian bees we are using. They are an Italian strain and are very vigorous. Even with the chalkbrood, they outperform other strains.
I was also impressed to see how much junk they have cleaned out in the last few days since they came into our yard. Many were splits made by separating the two brood chambers in a good double wintered hive and placing each on a brood box from a winter deadout. Many went down into the bottom box right away and set up shop, but due to the cool weather some are just cleaning down there now.
One had removed so much chalkbrood that the little hole in the entrance reducer was blocked and I had to clean it out. The picture (click to enlarge) also shows a little scrap of paper from patties we had on earlier.
We bought some land recently. The piece adjoins our place and has access via our property. It adjoins and controls a railway siding, so we wanted to acquire it to control the kind of activities that might take place there. It also has has working truck scale and offers some promise as a building site.
We don't have the kind of honey house most beekeepers of our size have. We just have our old schoolhouse and the temporary structure that can be seen in the pictures of our operation pages plus the old fertilizer shed we bought a while back.
Anyhow, we just bought this piece of land for the sake of buying it. I could probably have bought a nice 30 foot sail boat on blue water for the money. The point here is that we walked it today and it is just humming with bees. There must be one every six inches, and there are many varieties of bumble bees too. It has been abandoned for a while and gone over to yellow clover, alfalfa, canola and vetch.
Flo and Maurice came for burgers and left at about 8:30 to go to work.
We awoke to thunder and heavy rain. By nine it had cleared off and turned sunny. We need the rain, so we're set again for a while. So far it looks like a good year, even if the bees are not as strong as they are some years at this time.
I remember one year in particular when our friend Ted had really awful looking bees going into July, but got a 300 pound crop in August. It's always hard to guess when the main flow will be or if there will several good flows.
We reserved three canoes for a trip from Buffalo Jump to the TL Bar for tomorrow afternoon. Fen and Bill and Flo and Maurice have signed up. The trip is a bit of a drifter. The current is strong and little paddling is normally needed. They are predicting a SW wind at 30 km/hr, so we may have to paddle a bit.
Well, Bill & Fen had to opt out at the last minute. Their son returned from Europe and they had to meet him at the plane.
Moreover, Maurice decided that his fear of water would prevail. Flo and their son, David came over. We were about to leave, but after a last minute phone call, Flo realized that David had to catch a ride to camp that afternoon, not evening as understood, so -- as it happened -- there was just Ellen, Flo and me in one canoe.
Tim drove us up to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Park where we put the canoe into the water around 1 PM. With a little paddling we made the distance back to the TL Bar in about four hours, including a little stop for swimming, beachcombing and sunbathing.
The this stretch of the Red Deer River is very pristine, and there are few signs of civilization for the whole distance we travelled, but we did see a lot of other canoeists. The whole trip and canoe rental, including delivering us to the the Park came to $25 -- total. Not bad for a beautiful, peaceful afternoon of canoeing and swimming.
Along the way driving up to the TL Bar ranch, we saw the fields turning yellow with canola just coming into bloom. I called Rob and he said that so far, Wednesday as the next delivery day still should be fine. That is his opinion from home on Sunday in Lethbridge. We'll see what he says when he gets up to Lomond tomorrow.
We stopped at the Arboretum on the way back. Ellen & Flo are nuts about plants and the Arboretum at Trochu is a pleasant place to spend an hour or two. We looked dutifully at all the trees and shrubs and flowers which were labelled, and noticed that they now have carp in their pond.
I got bored after a while and decided to lie down on a roomy bench and doze a bit while the ladies carried on their quest for the ultimate flower. The place is never very crowded, nor is Trochu particularly formal, and as I reclined, I imagined myself adding some big city atmosphere to a town that seldom has white bearded men lying prone on benches in a public park.
As I looked up, I discovered that there were insects that looked like small bees circling under a tree above me. They were endlessly making random circles of about four feet diameter within an eight foot area 10 or twelve feet off the ground. Every so often something would fly through the space and the the group would converge on it and follow. The action was amazingly fast -- too fast for my eye to follow. I never did see a comet, or any insects falling, but I supposed that I was seeing a drone congregation area for leafcutters or one of the mostly unnoticed thousands of bee species that abound at this time of year.
We had a drone congregation area in our back yard one year, the year we raised all the mated queens. One day I recall, we were amused to watch drones chasing the swallows whenever they ascended to 20 feet or so, and the swallows' consequent annoyance with our cats. I assume that -- to swallows --cats are responsible for everything bad that happens in the world, and they must be punished. Our cats had to hide under vehicles to escape the wrath of the swallows those days. A more complete description is probably available in the BEE-L archives.
The Moon is Waxing Crescent (3% of
It's foggy this morning (8 AM). This is good bee moving weather, and we are not moving today. I notice that the forecasts for our area and also for the Lomond area have changed to predict cloudy and showery conditions. Yesterday, sunny weather was indicated for the rest of the week.
Cloud makes for better moving since the bees don't fly as early in the day, but showers can make things very muddy and require that we have tractors waiting to pull us an and out of fields when we arrive. Showers also slow down the spraying that must be done days before we can move in.
When we start hauling again Wednesday, we will have to haul three loads a day most days until we are done in order to keep up with the bloom, since the crops are now coming on fast. Hopefully we will not get huge amounts of rain. When it rains heavily, sometimes the back roads in the Lomond area get so greasy that -- even at crawling speed -- a truck tends to want to slide sideways off the road.
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This was just another one of those days that won't be remembered for long. We met this morning, El & I, for a couple of hours, planning the next month. We have pollination deliveries to finish and then splits to make. We have to set up to extract, and our students start work tomorrow, so we will have to arrange supervision for them all day, every day, from now on.
Ellen went to the garden centre to get some more plants to feed her gardening habit. I spent a couple of wasted hours trying to make sense of Dee Lusby's contention that people in the past didn't know how to calculate the area of a rhombus and that therefore all our ideas of the natural cell size for honey bees are wrong. It's sorta like Immanuel Velikovsky's theory that about 600 years are missing out of Egyptian history, only less credible IMO.
I talked to Rob again, and we are right on time with a Wednesday delivery. I talked to the grower whose delivery is scheduled for Wed, and he hasn't sprayed yet, so we may bypass him and go to the next grower in line.
El came back and we had supper of leftovers. I tried to watch 'Footloose' on TV, and decided the pond is more exciting.
I think the carp are all alive. I see holes in the weeds where they like to sit and I sometimes I spook them when I walk by. All I see is a sudden motion and the water surface churns a bit. Moreover, bits of weeds are floating around the surface, and I am told by the EID expert that this is a sign of the carp alive and working. Although I recovered many dead trout after The Kill, I never saw one dead carp.
I sprayed some more copper sulphate on the second half of the pond today, seeing as the wind has shifted. The trout guys tell me that it can be used safely in measured doses to knock back the algae and plant growth.
Ellen says she sees a new little rabbit in the yard, so the one that has been around must have had babies. We also see quite a few little skunks. This is not a rabies area, and they are good mousers, so we usually don't bother them. Some beekeepers have trouble with skunks eating bees at the hive entrances, and we have at times, but it is mostly when hives are crowded or not ventilated sufficiently. Occasionally a particular skunk gets to be a real pest, though.
Bees hanging out is a strong temptation to mother skunks, who are always hungry, to go for live bees instead of the dead ones they have previously found when scrounging in front of hives. Eating bees is a hard living, tho'. If you have ever watched a skunk eat bees, you'll doubt it is much fun. The skunk scratches to get the bees, eats a bunch, then rolls on the ground in agony to get the bees off its face, then returns for more.
Normals for the period: Low 9. High 23.
Calgary Sunrise: 5:28 am Sunset: 9:53 pm
Today we start work again. Ryan, Ryan, and Dustin start at 10 AM, Matt and Gareth come in at 1 PM, since they will be loading tonight. Steven, Ryan and Ken come in at 4:30 tomorrow morning to drive. We're going a half hour earlier to allow a little more time for unloading, since the days are getting hotter.
We have a new student coming this morning. We find we have to hire students for the whole summer, or the good ones are all employed and we have the dregs to choose from by August when we really need help extracting.
We'll get the tail end of the mechanical jobs done this week, I hope, since we begin dividing next week.
We've decided to use the hive loader to lift the doubles by the second box, and then with a hive tool, gently separate the bottom box. The bottom brood box then drops a half inch to the floor and is examined. Those which have a good amount of brood will be placed on a division board above the supers.
Thus the hives will remain the same height. This is important when it comes time to move, and that could be any time on pollination if a pest is discovered that requires immediate spraying. After dividing, the appearance of the yard is unaltered, no bees have been removed from the yard, and we have several options after the queens are accepted or emerged and mated. (We plan to use both cells and mated queens in different parts of the operation).
Hives that don't have brood in the bottom box will be marked to get a queen cell. Singles will not be disturbed. Then, a few days later, the top boxes will be checked and a queen or cell added to the top or bottom, depending on where we find the old queen.
This method of splitting & re-queening has the advantage of not removing bees from the pollinating hives: the flying bees at time of division all return to the main entrance. After the new queen is accepted by the remaining young bees, the remaining workers will mature and forage from the top. In addition to this system causing little disruption to the bees, there is an additional advantage in that very little equipment is used: only a division board is required.
Later, after the queens are settled we can introduce an excluder and two-queen them if we like, or later, when the hives are returned to our home area, we can set them aside as splits or recombine them with the parent hive as we desire.
This is all assuming we don't have to pull honey down there. As far as I know so far, there should not be much honey yet. If there is any problem with honey then we will have to remove honey at the same time, requiring two crews in Lomond at once.
The students worked happily all day on brood chambers and stripping the old roofing off a shed. Looks like a good crew with common sense.
Matt and Gareth headed out to load bees a bit earlier than usual tonight, since there were rain showers around, but about ten minutes after they left, I got a call to bring them some transmission fluid. Apparently the newly completed diesel (D3) had not had its transmission checked and it had been driven 8 miles at 100 km/hr with a trailer, but only an ounce or two of oil. Someone had drained it while it was dry-docked and no one had checked it -- in spite of my having mentioned checking fluids several times lately and sending a man under that very truck to check everything this very afternoon.
So I ran out in the 3/4 ton with some fluid, and we filled it up, but the tranny still did not sound very good. We did not want to take a chance of further damage to the transmission, or of the truck breaking down with bees on it, so they went to a nearby yard to load and I ran home for a replacement truck
Replacement trucks are getting scarce. D1 has a injection line broken. The hive loader truck is up on blocks waiting for a nut for the rear axle housing. I suppose I could have taken the Blue Gas, but I wasn't sure if it had had its oil and tires checked lately and its tanks filled. Besides it has had an intermittent power surge problem and I am not sure it has been cleared. The White Gas is in Lomond for use as a spare and runabout, so I wound up dropping a trailer borrowing a truck from the highway fleet.
I met Matt and Gareth at Cyrils, then returned home in the wounded truck. The tranny worked okay and got me home fine at highway speed. All gears work and the synchros too, but the transmission now makes noises that it probably should not.
Hopefully there will be three units lined up to go with 240 hives loaded for Steve, Ken and Ryan and ready to roll by 4:30 tomorrow morning when they arrive. I have every reason to think that there will. I called Matt at 10:40 and he was half done and Gareth just dropped a full unit here at 10:45 and headed out with another to load. They should be done easily by 12.
I was wrong about the time required. Matt and Gareth checked out at 1:55 AM. The second truck returned at 1:04 and the rest of the time was spent hooking up the trailer and loading a third trailer from the cache of hives we have here in the yard.
That means it took about two hours to go 12 miles west and load at two separate sites (Jahns and Witstock's) and return. considering that the yards are both a bit of a challenge with a trailer, they did well. They also did Meglis and Cyrils and Taylors.
Rob met Steve and the guys at Mel's corner around 7 and they were almost done unloading at 9 AM.
We dropped the tranny today and will take it for inspection tomorrow. It may cost as much as $2600 -- or as little as $500.
At about 8:30 Matt and Gareth left to pick up bees at Falks, Pauls, and the two Kievers yards, followed by Willows and Georgies. The yards were again selected so that there are catch hives left for the first load or two, then the balance are all 40 hives and nothing is left. Any odd pallets of bees come home for yarding here to make a later load.
I helped out by driving trucks back and forth while they loaded. I first met them at Pauls. They had loaded at Falks and now were just beginning to load the trailer. It took only about fifteen minutes from start to finish. The tarps keep the bees settled in the hives, and with the use of a bit of smoke and smooth loading by Matt on the Swinger, I think there were only about a hundred bees left behind when we finished and pulled out at 9:20. I drove the loaded truck and trailer home, fuelled and parked it, then returned immediately with an empty truck and trailer.
Gareth was just just coming onto the highway with the second loaded unit when I got back there, about 45 minutes to an hour later. We swapped trucks and I returned home again with his loaded unit. I was back here and had the second truck topped up with fuel and parked by eleven.
Sorry, I forgot my camera. Maybe tomorrow.
The job is easy and pleasant now. I remember the first years before we got things figured out, and all the people we had to take along to adjust hives and to tie down. Sorting all the straps and ropes and tarps and straps and nets was a major job. Now it is a simple easy job for two men. The forklift driver loads, and the second man adjust bricks on the lids, picks up any junk, rolls down the tarp, and puts a few tarp straps on to tension the tarps. That's it.
I'm done for the night. Gareth and Matt are loading the third and last truck/trailer combination and should be back here with it and some odd lots on Matt's truck by around twelve. The morning crew starts at 4:30.
All they have to do is walk around the units to check, get in, and drive away.
"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)
© allen dick 2000. Permission granted to copy with attribution and in context