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Thursday January 18th, 2001

Aaron was intent on returning to Tijuana to buy some of the beautiful and inexpensive stained glass that we saw there.  I had had enough by then and wanted some time alone to just wander the city, so we split up for the day and I headed back to the beach.

The Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park at Mission Beach in San DiegoThis is the Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park at Mission Beach in San Diego.  It is one of the original wooden roller coasters and I try to make sure I ride it whenever I am in San Diego.  (Hint: take the 24 bus from downtown).  I also like to walk the beaches and watch the surfers.

San Diego transit is excellent. We each bought a four-day Day-Tripper pass for $12 and were able to travel freely from Tijuana to La Yolla on the trolley and on any bus that passed.

Later in the day I returned downtown and was thinking of going to Balboa Park, but the 901 bus came first, and I was off to Coronado.  I had no plans, but decided to get off at the Hotel del Coronado for a while, then rode the 901 on down to Chulla Vista and took the trolley back to Little Italy to meet Aaron for chips and beer at an English pub near our motel.

Today: Mainly cloudy. Clearing this afternoon. High plus 2.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Wind increasing to west 20 km/h overnight. Low minus 5.

Friday January 19th, 2001

Aaron and the green door.  Sign says "Quarantine Area.  Non-human Primates. Authorised Personnel Only"We had set Friday, our last day, aside for a zoo trip.  We bought tickets at the motel for $22 each and caught the motel shuttle over to the zoo.  we had the bus tour included in our admission as well as the sky tram, however the sky tram was closed for cable replacement, so we had the bus tour, then walked.

The San Diego Zoo is reportedly one of the world's best zoos, and I have no doubt this is true.  All the exhibits looked clean and well-planned and the animals looked well cared for, even if they did not all seem delighted to be there.

Orang-utans in the San Diego ZooMy favourite exhibit was a family of Orang-utans.  They were pleasant to watch and seemed to enjoy the visitors. The old male in the group carried a piece of burlap sack with him and would pull it over his head from time-to-time.  Youngsters would then put their heads in too and play peek-a-boo.

Today: Increasing cloud. 30 percent chance of late afternoon rain or snow shower. Wind increasing to west 30 km/h. High plus 6.
Tonight: Mainly cloudy with 40 percent chance of rain or snow in the evening then partly cloudy overnight. Wind northwest 20. Low minus 7.

Saturday January 20th, 2001

Aaron left early and I caught my plane at 11 AM, returning to Calgary via Seattle and arriving around dark.

Today: Mainly sunny. Wind southwest 20. High plus 3
Tonight: Increasing cloud. Wind increasing to west 30 km/h overnight. Low minus 6.

Sunday January 21st, 2001

The ten days in San Diego are now over.  I returned home last night about 7 PM.  Ellen met me at the airport.

I'm catching up on my diary today. My cold is almost better.  There are few symptoms now, except I did notice that my ears were hard to clear on the return flight.  My ankle is almost 100% and only bothers me a little.

As I have mentioned before, Ellen, Matt and I are all pretty burned out after the long hard season and looking forward to some complete rest.  Complete rest is not in the cards though, since the entire pollination project is up in the air and we are having to decide whether we want to do both honey production and pollination -- or cash out. We're thinking that maybe we should reduce the operation to a smaller size with less hired labour, since managing hired labour seems to be the major source of stress.

Today: Mainly cloudy. High plus 5.
Tonight: Clearing this evening. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h. Low minus 7.

Normals for the period: Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Monday January 22nd, 2001

A yard of wintering beesA good hive of bees I slept in today and then caught up on some desk work.  After lunch, Ellen & I decided to check a few hives and went to Metzgers' to look.  We opened 15 and all were fine.  We had the lids to complete Winthers' on the truck and headed up that way. 

In the 28 hives we opened and on which we changed lids , we found 2 dead and several that were less than strong.  Of course, it is still too early to judge from the top, since some hives are now just up to the lid, while others are already spread out under the lid.

Mouse nest in centreWe found an interesting example of a  mouse nest, made from the formic pads dead centre in one hive.  We did not disturb the brood chamber, and will see if the bees can deal with it.

We completed the yard, and then went to Red Deer to have supper with Jean and Chris.

Today: Mainly sunny. High plus 8.
Tonight: Clear. Low minus 11.

Normals for the period: Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Tuesday January 23rd, 2001

It's been another bookwork day.  I am always amazed at how much time I spend doing books and paying bills.  I wonder if everyone has this burden, or if I am just too fussy.   I reconcile everything and keep careful track of things.  I sometimes wonder if it would not be cost effective to just not do some of this work.

We continue to have weather that is quite a bit warmer than the averages.  With the exception of the 10 days or so in December when the temperature was 10 degrees below the norm, we have had very mild weather.

Jerry and Leroy Poelman dropped by this afternoon and we went out to open a few hives in nearby yards. 

We opened about 20 hives at The Carraganas and all looked okay.  We then proceeded to Zieglers where we found the hives had been nudged by cattle and we straightened the wraps on several four-packs.  Matt had been there for the same reason a few days earlier, but either he did not do a very good job or the cattle had returned.  The warps there are mostly square wraps, and they don't look too good compared to our other wraps, since they don't cover as well and they also are aging fast due to the substandard material Inland used in making them.

We did not set out to open the hives at Zieglers', but in the process of re-arranging things, we did get to look into a few and they were all okay. There was a raw southeast wind, and although it was sunny and the temperature was around freezing, we found it cold without hats and headed back home.

The individual wraps tend to have more moisture on the top pillow than the hives with the wraps designed to include all the hives on the pallet.  Whether that is bad or good is hard to say, since bees need some water to liquefy the granulated honey. 

Time will tell which wraps have the best success.  We hope to have a researcher tabulate the success, both in terms of hive survival and in terms of hive vitality and splitting potential this coming spring.

I am noticing quite a difference between individual hives.  Some, especially the yellow bees in the all-inclusive wraps are spread out under the pillow.  Others are just getting up to the top of the hive and are up only at one end of the box, usually the front. Some clusters are smaller than others, but our own experience and outside reports indicate that one cannot predict which ones will be good in May by looking at them now.

Today: Sunny. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h this afternoon. High 6.
Tonight: Clear. Low minus 4.

Wednesday January 24th, 2001

It's another bookwork day again.  Cleaning up the accounts from the past year in preparation for the year end and planning for next year is a big job.

El & I were invited to Brian and Cheryl's for supper.  We drove up around six and had a pleasant evening.  This was the first time we have been to their place.

Today: Sunny. High 5.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Low minus 7.

Normals for the period: Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Thursday January 25th, 2001

Eleven more months until Christmas.

Another (beautiful warm, sunny) day of accounting entries, sitting indoors at a computer :(~

I went for a bike ride to get some exercise and break the boredom, and met up with a neighbour who has done some odd jobs for us.  He expressed some interest in doing some box repairs for us soon.  We have 2,000 empty supers sitting around in need of minor repairs, and enough foundation in frames to fill 1,000 of them, so we are anxious to get the job done.  I just don't want to wind up involved all the time or paying too much.  I want to get it done on a agreed-upon-in-advance price per each unique batch or by piecework.  I don't want to pay someone to tinker around.

Today: Mainly cloudy this morning then clearing. Wind northerly 20 km/h. High plus 3.
Tonight: Clear. Low minus 11.

Friday January 26th, 2001

More bookwork, and a trip to Three Hills for groceries this afternoon.

Today: Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to northwest 20 km/h. High plus 3.
Tonight: Mainly clear. Wind northwest 20. Low minus 8.

Normals for the period: Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Saturday January 27th, 2001

Sunrise:8:19 am / Sunset:5:18 pm
The Moon is Waxing Crescent (4% of Full)

Days are now noticeably much longer.  They are now seem longer than they were in San Diego last week.  Currently San Diego sunrise is 6:46 AM  & sunset is at 5:16 PM, so I guess they still get an hour and a half more daylight in the morning.  I didn't notice, since I usually was not up that early when I was there.

With the warm temperatures, things are very pleasant here at home these days.

Ellen had her art group over for a workshop today.  I spent the afternoon helping neighbours install and configure a new hard drive.

Today: Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to west 20 km/h. High plus 5.
Tonight: Mainly clear. Wind west 20. Low minus 3.

Normals for the period: Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Sunday January 28th, 2001

Sunrise: 8:17 am / Sunset: 5:20 pm

We gained another four minutes of daylight today for a little over 9 hours of daytime, and actually this is not the time of fastest change.   That happens around equinox on March 21st.  Nonetheless, if this current rate were constant, in a month, we'd have gained 4 x 30 / 60 = 2 hours! 

I spent essentially my entire day working on the imidacloprid site.  The job is a burden and I find the whole subject depressing, but I think it may be very important.

 When I review all the material there, in spite of my strong tendency to neutrality, I am not favourably impressed with Bayer's efforts to study the effects of imidacloprid on bees.  I get the impression they are doing token studies and are not really willing to see any problems.  I think they could try a lot harder and present the results they have -- if they had incontrovertible evidence to back up their claims of safety -- in a formidable web listing.  Instead, they only seem to have a few tests and are relying on pretty pictures and smooth words to sooth the public.  It is almost as if they know there is a problem and that close scrutiny will reveal it.

In San Diego I heard a talk about the effect of coumaphos on the rearing of queen bees and realised that there are some pretty subtle factors at work in a beehive.  As a result of this and some leaked results I have seen, I'm not convinced that sufficient work has been done to ally reasonable suspicion about imidacloprid.  I understand that money for studies is not limitless, but when the potential huge and subtle losses are considered, the cost of more rigorous studies seems tiny.

Having said that, I understand that imidacloprid has now been in use in Canada for some time and must be around me.  I have asked around, and not been able to pinpoint any use locally, but then again, we have noticed that our bees are not building up the last few years the way they used to.  I really doubt that I can blame that on imidacloprid though.  Weather and wear and tear from pollination are the suspects for now.

I'm asked about checking bees in the winter:

I hate to bother you , when you are so busy. But I noticed you say you get in and check your hives in the winter. Does that bother the bees? Or can it be done? Safely. I feel like their are some hives that need to be checked. But I usually wait until it is warmer. Thanks in advance...

A good hive of beesI really do not know the answer to this question.  I always say that opening a hive and working on it is like open-heart surgery; nonetheless, we always do go and look into some hives each month as the winter progresses, and the hives seem to survive just fine. 

Some winters, bees seem to use twice as much feed as other winters.  We need to know condition and survival well in advance of spring to be aware of -- and able to react to -- any catastrophic losses or shortage of feed.  Hefting hives would tell us something, but the hives are wrapped and a quick glance in the top tells us what we need to know.  The bees are up there by now, and we can see the capped cells of feed nearby -- or not.

One winter, many years back, we opened all our hives several times to feed them syrup in the division board feeders because they were too light to make it otherwise.  Survival that year was lower than usual, but we blame that on the feeding of syrup, not the opening of hives.  Maybe it was both, however one thing I do know for a fact, is that hives that are fed in an emergency -- due to being light -- never nearly equal hives that have had good stores all along, without interruption.

When opening hives, we do not usually remove any frames. We merely glance in.  I am sure that this is a bit of a disturbance and likely does not do any actual good for the bees, but it makes me feel good, and I think it does little, if any, harm.  Occasionally, we do pull a frame or two to see if there is any brood, but if we do, the action is accomplished quickly and on days above freezing. So far, I have not pulled any frames, since there is no need to see what is happening. Come March, though, I will pull a few now and then.

On occasion, however, we find an individual hive is out of feed in our rounds in March.  In such a case,  we do move feed frames around, thinking that even if it is a bit hard on the bees, it is not as hard on them as starving to death.  

Rob Curry, a researcher in Manitoba was doing work on treating mites in hives wintering indoors, and inserted probes into some of the hives at random.  He later noticed that the probe equipped group had  noticeably reduced survival rates come spring.  I am assuming that he had to move frames and generally make a fairly major disturbance to install the probes.  Maybe not.  I'll have to ask him sometime. 

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 km/h becoming southwest 20 km/h. Temperature near 7.
Tonight: Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of snow. Wind southwest 20 km/h. Low minus 5.

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