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Monday January 29th, 2001

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

It's 6 AM and I'm off to drop off a few drums of honey at the co-op, pick up my wax drums in Edmonton, visit a few beekeepers and return.  It's still black as pitch outside.

Here's the question of the day:

... I am planning to build frame feeders shortly out of masonite. I remember seeing the ones that you use off your internet site. I was wondering though if you used 1/4" or 1/8", tempered or none tempered masonite and if tempered was the hard smooth side towards the inside of the feeder or the outside? Another question as well, you have a feeder in the top brood chamber as well as the lower. Is this necessary or do you use two to reduce the amount of time returning to the yard.
Thank you for your time and look forward to your response...

Click here to visit my illustrated page about syrup feeding.

EnlargeWe have built a few feeders in the past, but find it hard to compete with the cost and the quality of the ones we can buy ready-made at the Alberta Honey Producers Co-op.  We buy hundreds at a time and always pay less than the singles price.  If we are in a rush, and no masonite ones are available, we just buy the black  plastic ones.  They are much improved in recent years and have a rough inner surface for the bees to climb.  They are perfectly okay and work very well.

Having said that, if you have the time and want to build, we tried both tempered and untempered 1/8" masonite.  The tempered does not work.  It is too brittle to nail or staple.  The untempered material works fine.  The rough side must go in to provide traction for swimming bees to climb. 

Bees like masonite better than plastic and often empty masonite feeders in half the time.  Moreover, we seldom find masonite feeders full of wet gunk like the plastic ones occasionally are if water wicks through the hive wall at a crack and runs down into the feeder or condensation runs down hive walls in winter. 

The decomposition of syrup, honey, wax, bees, etc that can take place in feedersor on floors without adequate drainage can produce butyric acid -- among other things.  Butyric acid is the active ingredient in Bee-Go and the smell can demoralize bees or cause them top drift out.  The new plastic feeders from Mann Lake and others have little plastic standoff tabs to prevent the trapping of water off hive walls, but masonite is still a bit better.   Buy a few masonite feeders as samples to copy, or better yet use one you have had for a few years -- and like.

I understand that the glue that works best is a PL-300 type construction glue.  Make sure it is waterproof, since I am not sure of the exact specs.  Use a sufficient quantity that it can be seen squishing out all around.  Economizing is a waste, since leaking feeders cannot really be permanently sealed after they are assembled, no matter what anyone says. I notice the ones we buy have some liquid wax swished around inside in the manufacturing process. That probably protects the masonite from moisture in the syrup. 

A perfect leak-proof seal at time of assembly is essential.  Syrup is too expensive to have leaking onto the ground, and leaks can cause robbing and expensive colony loss.  We burned hundreds of feeders someone had made that were just not well glued and which came with an outfit we bought.  That was after we tried everything people recommended to fix them.

We use feeders in both broods because carrying feeders around and putting them in and out damages them, wastes time and aggravates bees.  Sometimes we fill both, but often just the top one. If we reverse or split, we don't have to hunt for a feeder.  We don't worry about comb built in the feeders unless it gets so bad that it severely reduces the capacity.  When filling, though, remember the queen could be in there, especially if there is comb and the hive is wall-to-wall or you have been smoking a lot.

Today: Mainly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of light snow. Wind increasing to west 20 gusting 40 km/h in the afternoon. High plus 4.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Wind west 30 gusting 50. Low minus 8.

Tuesday January 30th, 2001

I returned from Edmonton last night about 8 PM, after dropping off a few drums of honey at the co-op, picking up some empty wax drums and visiting Barry T.  I was very impressed at his bees.  They are up and spread out quite a bit compared to ours -- I think we fed a bit more heavily and his wraps are very warm.  They have a black un-insulated south face and on a sunny day like today, the bees get warmed up quite well.  He generally gets good results wintering.  He has a good system.

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 30 gusting 50. High near zero.

Wednesday January 31st, 2001

Ellen & I flew to Vancouver today to make another attempt to pick up the car and to visit Eric and Marnie Abell who have retired to Victoria. 

Along the way, we visited my brother and family and had an enjoyable time, but the focus of the trip was really to visit the Abells and discuss their experience selling their beekeeping operation the previous year. 

We found ourselves waiting around most of today to get the car out of the pound, since it seems the licence had expired and it had been towed.  In the meantime, we visited, worked on our laptop computer drafting letters, etc. and took an evening stroll at Jericho Beach.

Eric & I corresponded quite a bit in the past few years and we came up with the plastic hive pillows we both prefer under a telescoping lid by collaboration.  He did very well in his last couple of years of beekeeping and got very good crops, then one day he decided he would like to retire and move to Victoria.  Shortly after he did just that and managed to sell his entire outfit and house within about six months.

Today: Increasing cloudiness. High plus 3.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Low minus 8.

Normals for the period: Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Thursday February 1st, 2001

We managed to get the car brought over from the pound and what would have been a simple matter -- testing it was made difficult by the fact that the battery was dead flat.  Ron has a battery charger, but it is a two-amp model and it would take twenty-four hours minimum to charge a good fresh battery, not one that had been sitting flat for several weeks.  He has booster cables, but the good ones were in his trunk.  We managed to do a bit of testing, but only concluded there was fuel pressure and spark, but not enough battery to crank for long.  We gave up and worked on business matters for the rest of the day.

Tonight: Clearing this evening then increasing cloud overnight. Wind west 40 gusting 60 km/h diminishing overnight to southwest 20. Low minus 3.
Friday: Morning cloud otherwise mainly sunny. Wind west 40 gusting to 60 in the afternoon. High plus 10.

Normals for the period: Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Friday February 2nd, 2001

In the morning there was enough battery that we were able to test the car and observed that there was spark and fuel pressure.  We therefore decided that it must be something more subtle, like a timing problem or something.  We called AMA to tow it to a shop -- Ellen had found a shop in the phone book that would appraise the problem for $25, and we thought that would be fine.

BCMA arrived and the driver dutifully repeated all the tests I had done and noted that there was fuel pressure and confirmed what I had observed: the tank showed 1/3 full, and fuel could be smelled at the exhaust when cranking.  He even pulled a spark plug and pronounced the car flooded.  There was not enough battery to crank it dry and he towed it off to Minit Tune.  Minit Tune happened to be on the other side of town, rather close to the pound from which we had had it towed the day before.

We followed in Ron's Tempo and spoke with the mechanic, then headed for Victoria. 

I called a while later.  We were on the ferry as we spoke by cell phone.  I asked how things were going and he announced that there was indeed fuel pressure and spark and that everything checked out OK -- however there was a lot of air coming through with the fuel.

"How that could be?",  I asked .
He said he did not know, but the fuel filter looked old.

"How can air get into the pump if the pump is in the tank?" , I asked. "The air must be coming from the tank.  Have you tried adding fuel?"
"No", He said, "There is 1/3 tank showing on the gauge."
"Well, let's put $5 into the tank and see what happens.", I said. "Call me and let me know".

El & I soon disembarked at Swartz Bay and proceeded to Abell's.  They had been expecting us for some time. I had been phoning them with our progress -- or lack thereof as we went along, but I suspect they were wondering if we would ever arrive.

We had a good visit and went to Brentwood Bay for supper on the wharf.  It was raining, so we ate inside, but the weather was a nice change from Alberta, even if we were experiencing abnormally warm conditions for January.

Today: Becoming sunny near midday. Wind west 20 km/h increasing to west 40 gusting 70 in the afternoon. High plus 10.
Tonight: Mainly clear. Wind diminishing to west 20. Low minus 2.

Saturday February 3rd, 2001

Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway - Victoria B.C.We stayed the night and were on our way in the morning.  we headed downtown to visit my cousin Gillian, but she was working and we strolled around Beacon Hill Park instead.

We had an enjoyable two hours and then realised that we had not heard from the mechanic.  I called him and he said, "No problem".  The car ran fine with gas in the tank. The gauge had been lying.. 

In the willows on the cliffs at Beacon HillBy then I had reserved a return flight because I had doubted the car would work out.  I cancelled it and we decide to immediately head back to get the car before the shop closed for the weekend.  We caught the 3 PM ferry and made it to the shop by closing.  We drove to Ron's by 7 PM, returned the Tempo and headed east.  By ten or so, we were in Merritt and took a motel for the night.
Today: Mainly sunny. Wind west 30 gusting 50 km/h. High plus 6.
Tonight: Mainly clear. Wind becoming light west. Low minus 6.

Sunday February 4th, 2001

We were on the highway by 8 AM and drove all day, arriving home in the evening.  By now we had decided for certain that we could not accept any reduction in the terms of the pollination contract and that we would take the opportunity to retire unless our customer was willing to pay the full amount specified in the contract for such an eventuality.  We expected not, and concluded that the other option was for the customer to buy out our contract and release us from pollination.  There are other factors too; the matter is quite complex for us.  Some of the rationale is further explained at the sale website

It is ironical, since this year, for the first time since we began, we are entirely prepared for the pollinating season and would have had a much easier year than the past few have been.  We split last year and now have more than enough hives, so no package bees or splitting would be required to make our full quota.  We fed well last fall, so we don't really need to open the bees until mid-April, if even then.  There is no disease in our outfit that we can detect, so we don't need to worry too much about that.  And all the trucks and equipment for moving is in great shape and ready to go.  

We were ready for an easy, profitable year pollinating for the first time since we began moving bees south, but it was simply not to be.

The trip provided a chance to work out some of the details and do some planning.  Our letter to the company was already written while we were in Vancouver, but we always like to sit on something like that for a few days and review it after we have slept on it. 

Sunday: Increasing cloud in the morning. Wind west 20. High plus 4.

Normals for the period: Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Monday February 5th, 2001

We were happy to be home.  We faxed off our letter to George in the morning and started listing our assets for sale.  We contacted our accountant and began the long process of arranging things for sale.

Today: Periods of snow tapering off this afternoon. Accumulation 2 to 5 cm. Wind northerly 20 gusting 40 km/h. High minus 6.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Wind northerly 20. Low minus 14.

Tuesday February 6th, 2001

El and I drove to Lethbridge today and attended an Aventis beekeepers meeting in Lethbridge at 12:30 PM.  But, before we went over, the beekeepers held a meeting at Luigi's to try to get a common understanding of what the options are in relation to the pollination cutbacks being proposed. 

No one knows for sure what the number of hives required will actually be, but the company has bought out the contracts of all the BC, Saskatchewan and Northern Alberta beekeepers and intends to keep the southern ones.  Those of us invited to the meeting apparently made the cut.  Nonetheless, everyone has been notified that the company wishes to renegotiate the contracts to get out from under the guaranteed payments they originally had to promise for time like this to get beekeepers to risk the investment of getting involved in pollination.  El & I have evaluated this situation and concluded that it is indeed fortunate that the contract is written the way it is -- and we have given notice to the company that we have no room to renegotiate our contract.  We ahve also told them we would like them to exercise their option to buy us out.  More details later.

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. High minus 7.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. 40 percent chance of light snow. Low minus 18.

Normals for the period: Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Normals for the period: Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Wednesday February 7th, 2001

I've been away and I've been busy.  Hope to catch up soon.  In the meantime here are some pictures. (below)

Today: Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of snow. High minus 9.
Tonight: Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of snow. Low minus 16.

Thursday February 8th, 2001

Today: Morning fog patches otherwise mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of light snow. Wind southeast 20 km/h in the afternoon. High minus 13.
Tonight: Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of snow. Wind southeast 20 diminishing. Low minus 18.

Normals for the period : Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Friday February 9th, 2001

Today
Mainly cloudy with occasional light snow. Morning fog patches. Wind increasing to southeast 20 km/h. High minus 15.
Tonight
Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of light snow. Wind southeast 20. Low minus 20. Windchill near 1700.

Normals for the period: Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Saturday February 10th, 2001

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. 40 percent chance of light snow. High minus 13.
Tonight: Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of light snow. Low minus 21.

Sunday February 11th, 2001

Today is the first day of the Saskatchewan Beekeepers convention and I headed east on a five hour drive to Saskatoon.  I arrived a little after two and things had just begun.

Sunday: Cloudy with occasional light snow. High minus 16.

Monday February 12th, 2001

Monday: Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 22. High minus 14.

The convention continued for the day and the banquet was in the evening.  Although we had a provisional indication from the company that they would buy out our contract, I wanted to make sure that I had definite word.  I phoned George and he made it definite.  I went down and put up posters advertising our bees and equipment for sale.  We are committed.

Tuesday February 13th, 2001

Tuesday: Sunny. Windy. Low minus 25. High minus 12.

The convention ended today and I headed out in the afternoon and  I dropped Jean Marc off at the airport along the way.  The I headed off , in  time to make it home before too late.   I stopped at Meijers for a visit and supper, then we looked at their new building which is very nice and quite massive.  I was home around nine.

Wednesday February 14th, 2001

Valentine's Day

Today: Periods of snow developing this afternoon. Wind increasing to north 40 gusting to 60 km/h giving reduced visibility in blowing snow. Temperature falling this afternoon to minus 10 by evening. Windchill increasing to 1600. Risk of frostbite.
Tonight: Periods of snow. Total snowfall accumulations near 5 cm. Wind north 30 gusting to 50 giving local blowing snow. Low minus 20. Windchill near 1800.

Normals for the period: Low minus 12. High 0.
Sunrise:7:49 am / Sunset:5:50 pm
The Moon is Waning Gibbous (67% of Full)

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