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Cleaning wax off excluders

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Friday May 31st, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Paulo and Kenton put in another 90 or so queens.  Dennis and Tim continued cleaning out the trucks and organizing the straps and ropes, etc. and other odd jobs.  I did some background tasks and went to Red Deer mid-afternoon to pick up queens. 

The Olds was still acting up badly, and I took it to Canadian Tire and paid to have it put on the scope.  The scope didn't say much, except that the ignition harness could stand replacement, which I had already figured out, and that one cylinder seemed a bit lower than I expected, but still OK, but the mechanic said the MAS was shot.  I asked how he knew, and he told me that the car misbehaved when he tapped it.  I knew that, but had been talked out of replacing the MAS a month ago by a parts man at NAPA.  Anyhow, he said they had one and could put it in. 

I said, "What is the charge".

He said, "$95 for the sensor and 36 to put it in". 

I asked, "Isn't installation just a matter of undoing two hose clamps and a plug, installing the part and doing the clamps back up?". 

He said ,"Yes". 

I said, "Any objection to my doing it myself?"

He said, "No".

I bought the part and installed it in less than five minutes in the parking lot, using a dime as a screwdriver.  That is about $480/hour, I reckon.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 20 km/h shifting to north this afternoon. High 18.
Tonight..Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers. Wind north 20 diminishing. Low 7.
Normals for the period..Low 6. High 19.

Thursday May 30th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

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It's thirteen C this morning and promising to be a nice day.  Hopefully the wind will stay below to the thirty KPH predicted.  High winds make queen work difficult.  Queens can be blown off frames, pillows and plastic sheets are hard to keep in place, and the wind is just plain annoying.  Sheriff veils don't protect well when they are blown against the face.  Dennis got a good sting on the lip yesterday when the wind caught his veil and now he looks like Donald Duck.

I've written before about the tool chest hive that sits outside my south door.  I brought it home a year ago and have done nothing with it, except watch it.   I did not medicate, I did not wrap, I did not treat for mites.  I took no honey from it.  I just watched it.

The hive survived the winter, and I look for phoretic mites from time to time and never see any.  It is not huge in numbers of bees -- yet, but everything considered, it has done well.


The day went quickly.  Paulo and Kenton put in 100 queens without any help from me.  I think that is our record so far this year.  They did, however have the advantage of taking with them precut plastic and queens with marshmallow already in place from home. 

On previous trips, we were doing that work in the field in addition to checking splits and inserting queens.  Each of those preparation jobs represents a man-hour or more of work.  They also did local yards and had less driving than other days.  Nonetheless, they are doing very well, and also reported finding much better-looking splits than yesterday.  For some reason I cannot fathom, the Carbon loop (done yesterday) has not proven to be as good as the west loops.   Although it is nearby, for a quarter century we instinctively avoided the area  -- until several years ago,  when we decided to give it a try. 

Dennis and Tim worked here at home, cleaning out four of our trucks and baling the wraps that are in storage.  Over time, things accumulate in our trucks, and other things that belong there get taken out -- things like booster cables, sockets for wheel nuts, flares, fire extinguishers...  The floors get muddy and the dash and gauges get covered with dust and dirt.  We have to go through each unit periodically to set everything right.  This was the day, and the task took hours. 

All that work is worth it, though.  Driving a clean and well organized truck generates pride and also increases efficiency.  Given a chance, many guys will let the truck degenerate into a disgusting mess which is repulsive to look at, and in which it impossible to locate essential items.  We have lots of storage box space on each truck, and that tends to encourage the trait in those predisposed to randomness and make-do.  It is easy to find ourselves hauling around 500 pounds of things we do not need -- and none of what we require to do the job of the day. When trucks get dirty and messy, people lose respect for them and tend to treat them badly.  It pays to shine them up a bit.

I did pay cheques in the afternoon and figured out a new system for deductions.  I refuse (so far) to pay Intuit the $350 they want for a software upgrade and tax tables.  Some people tell me that the $350 is a bargain, but I enjoyed the challenge of setting up a spreadsheet and using WinTOD.  We'll see.

WinTOD is a brain-dead piece of tax table software provided free by our government.  It is very basic and IMO, they government should provide us with better tools if they want us to collect their taxes for them, rather than giving us this substandard software.  It would not take much for our government to produce a decent tool that calculates tax and other deductions, prints cheques and does the various reports they require.  Instead they leave the private businessperson in the clutches of vultures like Intuit that take the free tables and repackage them at exorbitant and unjustifiable prices.

All the guys were gone by 5:30, when I got back from the bank.

Meijers came for supper.

Our pond is low and the water has proven to be unfit for fish for the past year or two. I've been thinking of draining and starting afresh, but we have two pairs of ducks on it lately, and I hear frogs tonight.

Today..Sunny. Wind increasing to northwest 30 km/h. High 23.
Tonight..Clear. Wind north 20. Low 6.
Normals for the period..Low 6. High 19.

Wednesday May 29th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

12.8 Degrees C.  276 queens left to go in this batch and we have another 100 on order for this weekend.  Haven't decided whether to keep them or decline.   That make 500 so far, 600 if we take the100.  We have sold about 50 to other beekeepers.

A queen shipping box with a syrup feeder on top.

How do you keep your Queens alive till you place them into the hives?????

It seems like it takes a while for you to use them all up? 

Let me know!!!

See the May 24th entry from last year,  thisthis, and this

I rushed around all morning co-coordinating and planning.  Paulo and Kenton had the 4X4 overnight and went straight to Freres' S to work there.  They unwrapped and checked for queens.  Meantime, we loaded trucks, cut plastic sheets, and got ready to head up there.  They returned here at noon, got more queens, got more plastic and headed out again. 

520024.jpg (78126 bytes)Dennis and I each drove a truck up to Freres' and I put in queens where indicated.  Dennis baled wraps.  By 6, I had enough of the wind, which was gusting to 60 from the southwest and had been building all day and headed home.  Dennis was happy and wanted to finished there, so he stayed.  When I looked in the mirror at home, I was covered with dust and looked haggard.  I felt haggard.  It was one of those afternoons that make a person feel like crying for no good reason.

During the day, Ellen put marshmallows into queen cages in advance to save time in the field, and found that it takes about 50 minutes to do 50 cages, including the time to find things, etc.  Anything that saves time in the field is a good idea, since we are lucky to actually work on hives for six hours in an eight hour day, due to time lost to travel, etc.  Often the actual hive time is less.  An hour putting in marshmallows is better spent at home.

Today..Sunny. Wind increasing to west 40 km/h with gusts to 60 this afternoon. High 21.
Tonight..Clear. Wind west 40 km/h with gusts to 60 diminishing to light. Low 6.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Tuesday May 28th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Another nice day (11 degrees C. now, at 6:30AM) -- and another day of installing queens into splits.  I have to head out early, since I have to pick up Paulo and Kenton in Three Hills.


I left as planned and picked up Paulo and Kenton at about 8:20.  We worked through the Elnora yards and introduced about 90 queens by the end of the day.  I was home by 6:45.

We decided today to unwrap the hives after we did the first yard and got to the second, since the hives looked pretty warm and we could see that the wraps might be a problem later.  I'm also wondering if swarming will be a problem.  So far, I am not seeing queen cells, but the bees are to the point where we will have to put on supers very soon.  We didn't remove entrance reducers, but perhaps we should have.

This queen introduction gives us a chance to look for brood diseases as we pull brood frames and look for eggs.  This is the only major brood inspection of the year and so far we have seen chalkbrood and sacbrood, but no AFB or obvious EFB.  We have patties on though, so would not expect to see any.  We also check our dead-outs for AFB, and have found none.  These checks should turn up disease if we have any significant amount.  Since we began using extender patties in the spring, we have seen almost no disease: a few cells last year, and a comb or two several years back.

I haven't decided whether to reverse or not.  Reversing does not seem to affect our crop much, but it is a chance to clean the floors and to move pallets off ant hills.  It also means lifting every box and I think this is its major value.  Lifting and looking will reveal light hives and those not occupying both brood chambers.  It is, however a lot of hot, heavy work.

Today..Increasing cloud this morning. Wind increasing to south 30 km/h. High 21.
Tonight..Clearing this evening. Wind west 30. Low 8.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

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Monday May 27th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

This morning is warm and everything outside is green.  At six-thirty, the thermometer on the east wall, shaded by an overhang against the sun which is rising in the north these late spring days, reads 10.8 Celsius.

I have the assignments ready -- I did them last night after getting home -- and our goal is to introduce 100 queens today, 100 tomorrow, and 100 the next day, etc. until all 433 are in hives.  The weather looks good for the week, and three of us will be working on getting the queens in.  We'll be in the north country today.  Dennis and Tim will continue to feed, clean up and introduce excluders into the remaining hives around here.

We have all the dead-outs picked up now and are thinking of pulling off the wraps, as we go, and where convenient.  We have not decided yet whether to unwrap or leave some hives wrapped for the summer.  I need to get some bees into the Swienty Styrofoam hive again.  We had packages in it, but moved them out when we sold the package bee hives.


7:30 PM: Kenton was sent to put in excluders where the splits are ready (we hope).  Paulo and I started the day by going north to Hustons' to start putting queens into the splits there, however we found that a lot of them were not far enough along and we had to take the excluders out of some to allow the queen to get up, and leave them for another week. 

We found the same at Butlers E & W, and soon realized that we were not getting much done.  At that point we decided to lift a frame of brood and bees from below if necessary, since we have a lot of queens that need homes.  We did not want to do that, since it means looking for queens or shaking bees, and then waiting for them to come back up through and excluder.  We had hoped just to pick up boxes, give a quick glance for eggs, intro a queen, and go to the next hive.

When installing queens, we find the candy can be very hard in the cages and if we just punch a nail hole, sometimes queens can take two weeks to get out.  That's 'way too long.  Mike M taught us to  instead push a miniature marshmallows in the cork end, and we have been doing that ever since.  It gives a more uniform and predictable release. 

We roll the marshmallow lightly between the fingers until it is the correct caliber to fit the hole and slightly tapered, then push it in. We smear a bit of the part sticking out onto the wood, so the plug cannot fall out.

While we are installing queens, we allow the bees on the cages to fly freely; they seldom go far.  We don't lose many of the attendants, and it is good for them to be free.  As we use up queens, we need fewer attendants, so it all works out.

The brood frame at right is about what we are looking for in the splits.  It is usually easy to see where the queen is -- top or bottom -- by examining the brood.  In whichever section she is located, the brood is continuous from sealed brood to eggs in an even gradation.  Where she has been excluded, there are empty cells next to larvae, or sealed brood, if enough time has elapsed. It is obvious when exactly she went missing by the age of the oldest larvae.

Our protein patties are mostly gone now.  We fed four or five per hive due to the cool spring.  In spite of the heavy protein feeding, we still see small bees in some hives.  At Wilsons' this afternoon, though, we saw some very large yellow bees.  Those yellow bees had a temper, too. I assume they are Italians from Australia or their descendants; they have the chalkbrood to attest to that origin, since we have found Australian bees to be very CB susceptible..  Most of the time the bees were easy to get along with, but I did wear my veil (but no gloves) most of the day today, since there were some temperamental hives here and there.

Once we find the queen, we separate the hive with a sheet of plastic (shown).  If the wind is a problem, we lay a hive tool or two on until the top box is lowered into place, then pull the tool out.

We wound up removing wraps today, since they were getting in the way.  We had thought we might leave them on for the summer, and may in fact do so with some hives, but the large ones need manipulation and the wraps must go.  All the planning in the world has to be compromised when we get to the bee yard.  There we get our final orders from the bees themselves, and we cannot argue.

We tallied up our work at the end of the day and the two of us managed to install only 51 queens, half of what I had hoped.  The cool weather of the last week, and some errors in judgment by inexperienced workers (management takes the blame, tho') led to some problems with splits not being as expected.  Nonetheless, it went well.  We accomplished a lot in terms of swarm control, and also increase for next year.   I am sure we will do more tomorrow, now that we have zeroed in on the task.  It's easy to underestimate the work involved in running 2,500 hives.

As we go along, we are looking at the excluders we cleaned recently, now that they have spent a week in the hives.  Many are just as waxed up as before we washed them.  I am thinking now that it is a waste of time to take the wax off them, although I am now wondering if a pressure washer would be fast and easy for that job.  Even cold water should work.  If the job is easy and quick enough, it is probably worth doing, just to get the wax, if for no other reason.

Ants were poisoned last week, but they are back in force.  Although that is bad news, it is also good news, since when the ants prosper, that means conditions are good for the bees too.  We did not have ant poison along, since my helper had figured that we ahd poisoned the ants once in the worst yards and that would be enough to control them.  No so!

We left the one-ton at Winthers' and rode together in the 4X4 to Three Hills, where the guys had left their car on the way up, and I continued home.  I'll' pick them up there tomorrow morning.

I got home at 6:34.

The dandelions are now starting to grow more noticable.

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to northwest 30 km/h gusting 50. High 23.
Tonight..Clear. Wind northwest 30 diminishing. Low 7.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Sunday May 26th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

We spent the day with Jean & Chris.  In the afternoon, Jean and Ellen were working on Jean's garden, so  Chris and I went to Red Deer.  Chris had been considering PDAs, and, after some consideration, bought a Handspring Visor.  We went down to the Bower Ponds for a walk along the river, then returned to Ponoka for supper. 

It was a nice warm day, and we noticed that the leaves are now appearing on the poplars.  There are still few dandelions, and those there are are small.  The grass is growing so fast I can see a difference in a day,

After supper El & I returned home.  Along the way, we saw farmers finishing up their spring seeding.  In normal years they are completely done by May 8th.  This confirms our belief that we are a somewhere between two and three weeks behind in our weather this year.  Global warming isn't happening here.

Today..Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h. High 19.
Tonight..Clearing this evening. Wind west 20 km/h. Low 5.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Saturday May 25th, 2002
Only 7 more months until Christmas
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

I rolled over and looked at the clock: fifteen seconds to six.   I had decided last night to awake at six, since we are working this morning.  I don't know how this works, but I can wake up at any exact time I like. 

How well this works depends on a number of factors including whether I have any mixed feelings about waking up at a specific time, but if I want to do so, I can.  If I'm under pressure, like catching a flight with a non-refundable ticket, I tend to wake up early and often, so I set an alarm.  Last night though, I slept right through until I rolled over to look at the clock.  When I must be certain to get up, I set two clocks to be sure, so I can sleep. Otherwise, I never use an alarm clock, and haven't for years.  I never wear a watch either.

I got up and looked out the window: there is some blue sky.  I looked at the thermometer and it said 6.8 Celsius, the highest wake-up temperature in a while.  I stepped on the scale and it said 230.5: the lowest weight I've seen in a while. 

Thinking I was on a roll, I looked at the forecast, and I see they have changed it to

"Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 14"

from what they had promised yesterday for today:

"A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20. High 15".

Other years, Environment Canada has been usually pretty much correct four days out, and we could count on planning several days ahead.  This year, the forecast changes hourly almost, and a forecast looking four days ahead is almost worthless.  I maybe should start considering looking at the other forecasts, since the various weather services have quite different forecasts for the same region.


I was hoping for sunshine to help me see eggs and lavae, since my plan is to put in queens today.  Overcast conditions make the job harder.  I need reading glasses for the job unless the light is good.

This was to be a training run for the critical operations coming up. Many beekeeping operations can be delegated to partially skilled labour, as they are routine and repetitive and require only average knowledge and judgment. The potential for major screw-ups by unsupervised help is normally limited and predictable on such jobs.

This phase is different. We are about to begin the introduction of many thousands of dollars worth of queens into hundreds of splits, and we have queens, hives -- and the crop itself -- at risk if anything goes wrong. There are many things remember and to teach -- and re-teach. As a result, the Old Man (me) has to be on-site until he is sure that the young guys have everything understood.

I donít get out with the crew as often as I would like to, but this trip is essential. Beekeeping is very technical and also has a large element of Art in it. Queen introduction and appraisal of splits is about as tricky as anything beekeepers do, and there are many more ways to do things wrong or badly than there are to do them correctly. 

What the correct course is on a given day, in a given yard, on a given hive must be determined in every case by a quick and expert appraisal. For an old beekeeper, the bees tell a story, but to the inexperienced, a hive is just a box full of bugs. My crew is somewhere in between expert and tyro, and eager to learn.

I like to start each new phase of the season on schedule and introduce each change of tasks with a slow, relaxed walk-through. I try to schedule a short trip for the first trial, rather than a full day, so that the lessons are comfortable and sink in. Too long a session on the first day can overload and overtire the Ďstudentsí, and ruin the experience.

Paulo, Kenton got the trucks sorted out in the morning, and we were all ready to go to a few yards to start putting queens into the splits by about noon. We took D4 and arrived at Brianís at half past.

I began by checking the weak hives. Hive condition is marked by the way the brick is placed on each hive lid. Several of the weaker hives had decent looking patterns and were just slow -- unlucky at wintering, I guess. One had finally died out, and another was good enough that we placed its top box with the bees and queen as a third over an excluder on a stronger hive to take advantage of the additional heat and to borrow some bees.

Mostly, the yard was a waste of time as far as using up the queens was concerned. It had been Dennisís first yard at the beginning of the last round, and he had misunderstood his instructions (which are shown elsewhere on this page). He had put excluders on all the new thirds he put on that day, and not just the ones from a week or more previous. Bees and some brood already occupied the latter. The former were just empty boxes with bees cleaning out the honey or loitering, but no queen activity and no chance of any because of the premature addition of the excluder.

We spent most of our time undoing the error by pulling the specious excluders, rather than putting in queens, which was our prime objective, but the job had to be done. The job of lifting the thirds takes longer than it might, since all our hives are still wrapped and the sleeves must be pulled down in order to do the job, then back up when finished.

The sleeves are helpful at this stage, since there is often a gap between the third and the hive below due to protein patties on top of the lower hive. These lift the excluder and upper box a bit. The wrap seals the gapí and everything is cozy.
We used no queens at Brianís, and continued to Deer run. At Deer Run, we found lots of good splits that required queens, but also were slowed down again by the same remedial work.

In the hives where the thirds were ready to make into good splits, we simply checked for a queen in the top (third) box and also for sufficient bees and brood. We then lifted that box up, removed the excluder, quickly checked the bottom box, and then placed a sheet of strong white plastic on top of the second brood chamber -- to act as a complete bee barrier -- and replaced the top box.

We then pulled the wrap back up and put the pillow and lid back on. That way the third is isolated from the rest of the hive and the new queen -- which we placed in the top or bottom as appropriate -- will be accepted. The top box also tends to gather bees when isolated, but left on top, since returning foragers like to use the top hole on three-high hives, and will thus boost the split a bit.

Later we will remove the thirds and either place them in the same yard or move them to another, depending on the weather and our needs. If we have spell of hot weather, the bees will drift back if lifted down during that time, but if we get a rainy spell, we can just place the splits anywhere in the yard, since the bees quickly Ďforgetí their hive location if there is no flow or they are confined for a day or two. Itís easy to test: just move a hive and see if the flying bees stay with it or immediately return to their former stand.


Following Deer Run, we went to Halsteads and repeated the exercise. We were done and returned home promptly at five. I still had 33 queens in the battery box. I worked all day with neither veil nor gloves and was seldom stung. The bees were pretty docile for the most part. I got a few, mostly accidental, nicks, but the bees were not into stinging hard.

At the end of the day, Ellen & I got into the camper for a shakeout run to Ponoka to see Jean & Chris. Along the way, we stopped at Genertsí greenhouse. While El shopped for plants, I drove down the driveway to look at the hives I had moved there from Piscosí a week before. I lifted one lid a bit, and within a minute was driven from the yard. I got a good sting on the chin; it was driven in so hard that the wound from the stinger still was obvious the next day.

Today..Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 14.
Tonight..Clearing. Wind northwest 20 km/h. Low 3.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Friday May 24th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

It's 3.4 degrees F, there's a heavy dew on the ground, the sun is shining and there's a promise from the weatherman of 13 degrees.  All in all, it looks like a decent day shaping up.   There is also a breeze predicted, but nothing like we have seen on a daily basis lately, or the tornado force winds of the 14th (75+ MPH) that took grain bins away and stripped roofing and siding off buildings.


Paulo worked through the dead-outs we brought back.  Dennis and Tim went out and continued feeding, adding thirds, and slipping in excluders.  Kenton made quick yard visits in the 4X4 to slip in excluders in some of the bigger yards without doing any other work while there. 

We are eager to get as many splits as we can separated from the parent hive with excluders, since we have a large supply of queens on hand and want to get them into their new homes ASAP.  Since we learned two years ago how to store queens very successfully in the shipping boxes, using feeder jars, we have less pressure to install them, but no one thinks that by holding queens in cages, using any method known, that the queens are improved.  I take the boxes outside daily and open them for a while to allow the attendants a few minutes of flight.  By the looks the brown spots on any white box lid left nearby, they do need the chance to fly.  The bees return after their flights and are all easily closed up again after fifteen minutes with only a very few bees, if any left outside.


Late in the day, I went out and checked some splits for queens.  The first two were not much good at all.  They had no brood, and I just left them, but the next four were fine.  These latter splits have two or more frames with a decent patch of sealed brood and bees on three or four frames. 


We make these small splits for increase by putting a third brood chamber on strong double hives that are ahead of the rest.  It gives them room at a time when we cannot add supers because of medication being applied.  The best hives get a few frames of brood started in the thirds, and we can slip in an excluder and remove them after a while. 

When we separate them, we check for a queen and if the queen is up top, fine.  We then add the new queen below.  Otherwise, we just add a queen to the split.  We often leave these thirds on top of the parent hive for a while because

  • It takes time to remove them.  When we are putting in queens, we don't need the distraction of moving hives around
  • Drifting could be problematic some days.  This way we can choose our moving days.
  • Being on top of a strong hive keeps the split warm,
  • With auger holes in every brood box, forager bees tend to migrate up and boost the split.

I slipped in a sheet of plastic under each decent split, above the excluder, and added queens to the three that obviously were without queens, but the fourth was a tough call.  There are eggs, but they are mostly on an incline, meaning they are not fresh, but some eggs were upright, meaning they could be -- implying possible presence of a laying queen above the excluder. 

According the books, eggs normally hatch in three days, but the range is forty-eight to one hundred and forty-four hours (six days)!  It was overcast, so I really could not tell what to think, so I left the fourth split with only its excluder for later. 

We normally wait four days after slipping in the excluder before we go looking.  Usually after four days above an excluder, the presence or absence of the queen in the split is easy to determine, but there are always a few hives where there are eggs that look fresh after four days, but there really is no queen up there.

Waiting the four+ days the way we do, using an excluder and leaving the splits on the parent hive, the splits are not entirely queenless, have a supply of new bees and communication with the hive below, and can benefit from its heat for those additional days.  We do like to take them off while there is still open brood in the split to get balanced populations and to hold the bees better when they are removed from the parent hive, but we have a lot of latitude in when we take them away.  Actually, we don't have to take them away at all.  We could use the thirds for double-queening or  requeening

I saw my first tiny dandelions today.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind increasing to northwest 30 km/h. High 13.
Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind northwest 20. Low plus 1 with risk of frost.
Saturday..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20. High 15.
Sunday..Mainly sunny. Low 1. High 17.
Monday..Mainly sunny. Low 4. High 20.
Tuesday..Mainly sunny. Low 5. High 22.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Thursday May 23rd, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Finally!  A nice day.  Everyone is ready to go. Paulo drove a truck home yesterday, so he and Kenton headed north this morning at 7:30.  Dennis and Tim left here at 8:15.

We got a bit of moisture over the past few days and the grass is growing now; everything is turning green.  We are running very late on the season, but from now on things will speed up.  I hope.


8:07 PM  Everyone is done for the day and lots got done.  Maybe tomorrow I can start putting in queens.  The weather was cool and breezy today, but not too bad, all things considered.

Paulo and Kenton stayed in three Hills.  No sense driving the truck here then driving home again.  They'll come in  and reload in the morning.

I'm doing the notes and planning for tomorrow.

Just for fun -- I am learning OOo -- I converted a PowerPoint presentation giving a tour of our operation from two years ago to a web slide show using OOo' presentation software module.  The presentation is a little slow first time through on a dial-up connection, but should be quick on a cable modem or on second viewing, once the images are cached.  The presentation is a good example of one of the talks I have given to associations in Alberta.  I am usually available to speak and give slides at beekeepers' meetings anywhere.

 Allen's

Links of 

the Day

x9000.net - devoted to tweaking your system

Saltmeadow Privacy Package

OpenOffice.org  A free Office Suite.  Pretty much as good as MS Office and fully compatible with MS Office files

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming south 20. High 9.
Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind south 20 km/h. Low 2 with risk of frost.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Wednesday May 22nd, 2002
Year 2000 on this date       Year 2000 on this date

I'm glad our bees are still wrapped.  It is 2 degrees and windy.  Snow is in the forecast.  We decided to tell everyone to stay home, but by the time we phoned, they were already on their way here, so we'll see what they want to do.


Everyone worked to get the trucks ready, then quit for the day.  We'll make the time up on the weekend.  It is just too miserable to work outside today.

Dennis and Paulo noticed another rib on the quonset has flexed loose.  The high winds have been flexing the building constantly and several tack welds broke.  I did some patching, but need to come up with a retrofit to ensure that this is not a continuing problem.

I went for the blood tests this morning.  Now the Buick is acting up, just like the Olds.  I'm thinking it must be the gasoline.

I drove to Calgary for the afternoon.  It was just one of those days, and I figured I was not going to get much done, so I might as well go to the city and get some supplies.  I looked at new computers and there is a good selection out there for low prices compared to what I used to have to pay.

Today..Snow heavy at times. Wind north 40 gusting 60 km/h. High plus 2.
Tonight..Snow ending this evening then clearing. Total accumulations near 15 cm. Wind north 30 diminishing. Low minus 2.
Thursday..Sunny. Becoming cloudy in the afternoon. Wind becoming south 20. High plus 9.
Friday..Mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers. Low 2. High 16.
Saturday..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 3. High 15.
Sunday..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 2. High 16.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Tuesday May 21st, 2002
Year 2000 on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Looking out the window, I'm sorry that we took the weekend off.  I try to be a nice guy since I know the crew likes to be with family and friends on a long weekend, but then we pay by having to work in wind, rain and possibly snow.  Moreover, we have $7,200 worth of queens sitting here waiting to go in, so we can't delay any longer.  We have to work outside regardless of the forecast.

Although I had been told that the trucks were ready to go, there were some minor changes to make and it was 10 before we all met at our scale yard to do a demo of the new tasks.  That went fairly well, considering that it was pouring rain.  We have a very positive group.

After that, Paulo went north, and Dennis went south.  It was windy down here, but apparently quite nice up north.  I worked at my desk all day, but the day just flew by. 

We're looking a heavy snowfall warning for the Calgary area for tonight and tomorrow, with highs now said to be around two degrees.  I doubt if the snow will make it this far east, but who knows?

Here's the job assignment converted to HTML in OpenOffice.org, a free office suite I am converting to from MS Office 2002.  I'm afraid I'm a ABM type of guy, given a chance.

May 21st, 2002

Separating Splits with Excluders

  • Scrape floors. Do a good job, but do not scape into wood. Clean reducer groove and make sure there is a reducer there in place for each gap.

  • Put down the same number of lids, pillows and bricks as there are thirds in yard now

  • Count gaps. Leave or take Swan pallets accordingly. In some yards we may need to use GPs, so clean floors where appropriate.

  • When opening bags, try not to ruin them. Use twist ties when closing bags.

  • Check to see if Apistan is due to be removed (Red under Apistan column). If so, remove all Apistan in this yard only. (Apistan stays in 42 days).

Adding Excluders

  • Carefully pull wrap down over bottom boxes of triples

  • Without removing the lid, tip third box back

  • Smoke lightly between the boxes

  • Feed second box with syrup. Fill, but do not overfill

  • Place excluder on second box

  • Lower third box and straighten so that excluder will not damage wrap.

  • Pull wrap back up

  • Mark these excluded thirds with a second brick

Other Hives

  • Feed and place a protein patty on hives in yard that are still two boxes high

  • Add a third if required. No excluder.

  • All hives should now have one good pillow

  • Move occasional singleton hives onto occupied swan pallets

Weak Hives

  • Lift weak hives off their bottom box and place the top box over an excluder on top of a strong colony. (If it is heavy, make sure the new larger hive is not plugged with feed)

  • Mark with three bricks so we know there is a queen in both top and bottom.

 

  • Look for ants and use ant poison if indicated. Ants may not be out on cool days.

  • Put ant poison where a bees will not get into it or where the rain will ruin it.

 

  • Tidy yard and pick up extra pallets, junk, etc

  • Ensure there is sufficient good straw or grass in each drum that has syrup.
    Invert MT drums.

Today..Mainly cloudy with a 60 percent chance of showers. Wind north 40 gusting 60 km/h. High 18.
Tonight..Periods of rain changing to snow overnight. Wind north 40 gusting 60. Low zero.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Monday May 20th, 2002
Year 2000 on this date       Year 2000 on this date

We stayed home today and I did some desk work.  The guys are still on a long weekend.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. Wind becoming southeast 30 km/h. High 24.
Tonight..Cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Risk of an evening thunderstorms. Wind becoming north 20. Low 9.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Friday May 31st, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Paulo and Kenton put in another 90 or so queens.  Dennis and Tim continued cleaning out the trucks and organizing the straps and ropes, etc. and other odd jobs.  I did some background tasks and went to Red Deer mid-afternoon to pick up queens. 

The Olds was still acting up badly, and I took it to Canadian Tire and paid to have it put on the scope.  The scope didn't say much, except that the ignition harness could stand replacement, which I had already figured out, and that one cylinder seemed a bit lower than I expected, but still OK, but the mechanic said the MAS was shot.  I asked how he knew, and he told me that the car misbehaved when he tapped it.  I knew that, but had been talked out of replacing the MAS a month ago by a parts man at NAPA.  Anyhow, he said they had one and could put it in. 

I said, "What is the charge".

He said, "$95 for the sensor and 36 to put it in". 

I asked, "Isn't installation just a matter of undoing two hose clamps and a plug, installing the part and doing the clamps back up?". 

He said ,"Yes". 

I said, "Any objection to my doing it myself?"

He said, "No".

I bought the part and installed it in less than five minutes in the parking lot, using a dime as a screwdriver.  That is about $480/hour, I reckon.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 20 km/h shifting to north this afternoon. High 18.
Tonight..Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers. Wind north 20 diminishing. Low 7.
Normals for the period..Low 6. High 19.

Thursday May 30th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

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It's thirteen C this morning and promising to be a nice day.  Hopefully the wind will stay below to the thirty KPH predicted.  High winds make queen work difficult.  Queens can be blown off frames, pillows and plastic sheets are hard to keep in place, and the wind is just plain annoying.  Sheriff veils don't protect well when they are blown against the face.  Dennis got a good sting on the lip yesterday when the wind caught his veil and now he looks like Donald Duck.

I've written before about the tool chest hive that sits outside my south door.  I brought it home a year ago and have done nothing with it, except watch it.   I did not medicate, I did not wrap, I did not treat for mites.  I took no honey from it.  I just watched it.

The hive survived the winter, and I look for phoretic mites from time to time and never see any.  It is not huge in numbers of bees -- yet, but everything considered, it has done well.


The day went quickly.  Paulo and Kenton put in 100 queens without any help from me.  I think that is our record so far this year.  They did, however have the advantage of taking with them precut plastic and queens with marshmallow already in place from home. 

On previous trips, we were doing that work in the field in addition to checking splits and inserting queens.  Each of those preparation jobs represents a man-hour or more of work.  They also did local yards and had less driving than other days.  Nonetheless, they are doing very well, and also reported finding much better-looking splits than yesterday.  For some reason I cannot fathom, the Carbon loop (done yesterday) has not proven to be as good as the west loops.   Although it is nearby, for a quarter century we instinctively avoided the area  -- until several years ago,  when we decided to give it a try. 

Dennis and Tim worked here at home, cleaning out four of our trucks and baling the wraps that are in storage.  Over time, things accumulate in our trucks, and other things that belong there get taken out -- things like booster cables, sockets for wheel nuts, flares, fire extinguishers...  The floors get muddy and the dash and gauges get covered with dust and dirt.  We have to go through each unit periodically to set everything right.  This was the day, and the task took hours. 

All that work is worth it, though.  Driving a clean and well organized truck generates pride and also increases efficiency.  Given a chance, many guys will let the truck degenerate into a disgusting mess which is repulsive to look at, and in which it impossible to locate essential items.  We have lots of storage box space on each truck, and that tends to encourage the trait in those predisposed to randomness and make-do.  It is easy to find ourselves hauling around 500 pounds of things we do not need -- and none of what we require to do the job of the day. When trucks get dirty and messy, people lose respect for them and tend to treat them badly.  It pays to shine them up a bit.

I did pay cheques in the afternoon and figured out a new system for deductions.  I refuse (so far) to pay Intuit the $350 they want for a software upgrade and tax tables.  Some people tell me that the $350 is a bargain, but I enjoyed the challenge of setting up a spreadsheet and using WinTOD.  We'll see.

WinTOD is a brain-dead piece of tax table software provided free by our government.  It is very basic and IMO, they government should provide us with better tools if they want us to collect their taxes for them, rather than giving us this substandard software.  It would not take much for our government to produce a decent tool that calculates tax and other deductions, prints cheques and does the various reports they require.  Instead they leave the private businessperson in the clutches of vultures like Intuit that take the free tables and repackage them at exorbitant and unjustifiable prices.

All the guys were gone by 5:30, when I got back from the bank.

Meijers came for supper.

Our pond is low and the water has proven to be unfit for fish for the past year or two. I've been thinking of draining and starting afresh, but we have two pairs of ducks on it lately, and I hear frogs tonight.

Today..Sunny. Wind increasing to northwest 30 km/h. High 23.
Tonight..Clear. Wind north 20. Low 6.
Normals for the period..Low 6. High 19.

Wednesday May 29th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

12.8 Degrees C.  276 queens left to go in this batch and we have another 100 on order for this weekend.  Haven't decided whether to keep them or decline.   That make 500 so far, 600 if we take the100.  We have sold about 50 to other beekeepers.

A queen shipping box with a syrup feeder on top.

How do you keep your Queens alive till you place them into the hives?????

It seems like it takes a while for you to use them all up? 

Let me know!!!

See the May 24th entry from last year,  thisthis, and this

I rushed around all morning co-coordinating and planning.  Paulo and Kenton had the 4X4 overnight and went straight to Freres' S to work there.  They unwrapped and checked for queens.  Meantime, we loaded trucks, cut plastic sheets, and got ready to head up there.  They returned here at noon, got more queens, got more plastic and headed out again. 

520024.jpg (78126 bytes)Dennis and I each drove a truck up to Freres' and I put in queens where indicated.  Dennis baled wraps.  By 6, I had enough of the wind, which was gusting to 60 from the southwest and had been building all day and headed home.  Dennis was happy and wanted to finished there, so he stayed.  When I looked in the mirror at home, I was covered with dust and looked haggard.  I felt haggard.  It was one of those afternoons that make a person feel like crying for no good reason.

During the day, Ellen put marshmallows into queen cages in advance to save time in the field, and found that it takes about 50 minutes to do 50 cages, including the time to find things, etc.  Anything that saves time in the field is a good idea, since we are lucky to actually work on hives for six hours in an eight hour day, due to time lost to travel, etc.  Often the actual hive time is less.  An hour putting in marshmallows is better spent at home.

Today..Sunny. Wind increasing to west 40 km/h with gusts to 60 this afternoon. High 21.
Tonight..Clear. Wind west 40 km/h with gusts to 60 diminishing to light. Low 6.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Tuesday May 28th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Another nice day (11 degrees C. now, at 6:30AM) -- and another day of installing queens into splits.  I have to head out early, since I have to pick up Paulo and Kenton in Three Hills.


I left as planned and picked up Paulo and Kenton at about 8:20.  We worked through the Elnora yards and introduced about 90 queens by the end of the day.  I was home by 6:45.

We decided today to unwrap the hives after we did the first yard and got to the second, since the hives looked pretty warm and we could see that the wraps might be a problem later.  I'm also wondering if swarming will be a problem.  So far, I am not seeing queen cells, but the bees are to the point where we will have to put on supers very soon.  We didn't remove entrance reducers, but perhaps we should have.

This queen introduction gives us a chance to look for brood diseases as we pull brood frames and look for eggs.  This is the only major brood inspection of the year and so far we have seen chalkbrood and sacbrood, but no AFB or obvious EFB.  We have patties on though, so would not expect to see any.  We also check our dead-outs for AFB, and have found none.  These checks should turn up disease if we have any significant amount.  Since we began using extender patties in the spring, we have seen almost no disease: a few cells last year, and a comb or two several years back.

I haven't decided whether to reverse or not.  Reversing does not seem to affect our crop much, but it is a chance to clean the floors and to move pallets off ant hills.  It also means lifting every box and I think this is its major value.  Lifting and looking will reveal light hives and those not occupying both brood chambers.  It is, however a lot of hot, heavy work.

Today..Increasing cloud this morning. Wind increasing to south 30 km/h. High 21.
Tonight..Clearing this evening. Wind west 30. Low 8.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

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0520026.jpg (25004 bytes)

Monday May 27th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

This morning is warm and everything outside is green.  At six-thirty, the thermometer on the east wall, shaded by an overhang against the sun which is rising in the north these late spring days, reads 10.8 Celsius.

I have the assignments ready -- I did them last night after getting home -- and our goal is to introduce 100 queens today, 100 tomorrow, and 100 the next day, etc. until all 433 are in hives.  The weather looks good for the week, and three of us will be working on getting the queens in.  We'll be in the north country today.  Dennis and Tim will continue to feed, clean up and introduce excluders into the remaining hives around here.

We have all the dead-outs picked up now and are thinking of pulling off the wraps, as we go, and where convenient.  We have not decided yet whether to unwrap or leave some hives wrapped for the summer.  I need to get some bees into the Swienty Styrofoam hive again.  We had packages in it, but moved them out when we sold the package bee hives.


7:30 PM: Kenton was sent to put in excluders where the splits are ready (we hope).  Paulo and I started the day by going north to Hustons' to start putting queens into the splits there, however we found that a lot of them were not far enough along and we had to take the excluders out of some to allow the queen to get up, and leave them for another week. 

We found the same at Butlers E & W, and soon realized that we were not getting much done.  At that point we decided to lift a frame of brood and bees from below if necessary, since we have a lot of queens that need homes.  We did not want to do that, since it means looking for queens or shaking bees, and then waiting for them to come back up through and excluder.  We had hoped just to pick up boxes, give a quick glance for eggs, intro a queen, and go to the next hive.

When installing queens, we find the candy can be very hard in the cages and if we just punch a nail hole, sometimes queens can take two weeks to get out.  That's 'way too long.  Mike M taught us to  instead push a miniature marshmallows in the cork end, and we have been doing that ever since.  It gives a more uniform and predictable release. 

We roll the marshmallow lightly between the fingers until it is the correct caliber to fit the hole and slightly tapered, then push it in. We smear a bit of the part sticking out onto the wood, so the plug cannot fall out.

While we are installing queens, we allow the bees on the cages to fly freely; they seldom go far.  We don't lose many of the attendants, and it is good for them to be free.  As we use up queens, we need fewer attendants, so it all works out.

The brood frame at right is about what we are looking for in the splits.  It is usually easy to see where the queen is -- top or bottom -- by examining the brood.  In whichever section she is located, the brood is continuous from sealed brood to eggs in an even gradation.  Where she has been excluded, there are empty cells next to larvae, or sealed brood, if enough time has elapsed. It is obvious when exactly she went missing by the age of the oldest larvae.

Our protein patties are mostly gone now.  We fed four or five per hive due to the cool spring.  In spite of the heavy protein feeding, we still see small bees in some hives.  At Wilsons' this afternoon, though, we saw some very large yellow bees.  Those yellow bees had a temper, too. I assume they are Italians from Australia or their descendants; they have the chalkbrood to attest to that origin, since we have found Australian bees to be very CB susceptible..  Most of the time the bees were easy to get along with, but I did wear my veil (but no gloves) most of the day today, since there were some temperamental hives here and there.

Once we find the queen, we separate the hive with a sheet of plastic (shown).  If the wind is a problem, we lay a hive tool or two on until the top box is lowered into place, then pull the tool out.

We wound up removing wraps today, since they were getting in the way.  We had thought we might leave them on for the summer, and may in fact do so with some hives, but the large ones need manipulation and the wraps must go.  All the planning in the world has to be compromised when we get to the bee yard.  There we get our final orders from the bees themselves, and we cannot argue.

We tallied up our work at the end of the day and the two of us managed to install only 51 queens, half of what I had hoped.  The cool weather of the last week, and some errors in judgment by inexperienced workers (management takes the blame, tho') led to some problems with splits not being as expected.  Nonetheless, it went well.  We accomplished a lot in terms of swarm control, and also increase for next year.   I am sure we will do more tomorrow, now that we have zeroed in on the task.  It's easy to underestimate the work involved in running 2,500 hives.

As we go along, we are looking at the excluders we cleaned recently, now that they have spent a week in the hives.  Many are just as waxed up as before we washed them.  I am thinking now that it is a waste of time to take the wax off them, although I am now wondering if a pressure washer would be fast and easy for that job.  Even cold water should work.  If the job is easy and quick enough, it is probably worth doing, just to get the wax, if for no other reason.

Ants were poisoned last week, but they are back in force.  Although that is bad news, it is also good news, since when the ants prosper, that means conditions are good for the bees too.  We did not have ant poison along, since my helper had figured that we ahd poisoned the ants once in the worst yards and that would be enough to control them.  No so!

We left the one-ton at Winthers' and rode together in the 4X4 to Three Hills, where the guys had left their car on the way up, and I continued home.  I'll' pick them up there tomorrow morning.

I got home at 6:34.

The dandelions are now starting to grow more noticable.

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to northwest 30 km/h gusting 50. High 23.
Tonight..Clear. Wind northwest 30 diminishing. Low 7.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Sunday May 26th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

We spent the day with Jean & Chris.  In the afternoon, Jean and Ellen were working on Jean's garden, so  Chris and I went to Red Deer.  Chris had been considering PDAs, and, after some consideration, bought a Handspring Visor.  We went down to the Bower Ponds for a walk along the river, then returned to Ponoka for supper. 

It was a nice warm day, and we noticed that the leaves are now appearing on the poplars.  There are still few dandelions, and those there are are small.  The grass is growing so fast I can see a difference in a day,

After supper El & I returned home.  Along the way, we saw farmers finishing up their spring seeding.  In normal years they are completely done by May 8th.  This confirms our belief that we are a somewhere between two and three weeks behind in our weather this year.  Global warming isn't happening here.

Today..Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h. High 19.
Tonight..Clearing this evening. Wind west 20 km/h. Low 5.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Saturday May 25th, 2002
Only 7 more months until Christmas
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

I rolled over and looked at the clock: fifteen seconds to six.   I had decided last night to awake at six, since we are working this morning.  I don't know how this works, but I can wake up at any exact time I like. 

How well this works depends on a number of factors including whether I have any mixed feelings about waking up at a specific time, but if I want to do so, I can.  If I'm under pressure, like catching a flight with a non-refundable ticket, I tend to wake up early and often, so I set an alarm.  Last night though, I slept right through until I rolled over to look at the clock.  When I must be certain to get up, I set two clocks to be sure, so I can sleep. Otherwise, I never use an alarm clock, and haven't for years.  I never wear a watch either.

I got up and looked out the window: there is some blue sky.  I looked at the thermometer and it said 6.8 Celsius, the highest wake-up temperature in a while.  I stepped on the scale and it said 230.5: the lowest weight I've seen in a while. 

Thinking I was on a roll, I looked at the forecast, and I see they have changed it to

"Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 14"

from what they had promised yesterday for today:

"A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20. High 15".

Other years, Environment Canada has been usually pretty much correct four days out, and we could count on planning several days ahead.  This year, the forecast changes hourly almost, and a forecast looking four days ahead is almost worthless.  I maybe should start considering looking at the other forecasts, since the various weather services have quite different forecasts for the same region.


I was hoping for sunshine to help me see eggs and lavae, since my plan is to put in queens today.  Overcast conditions make the job harder.  I need reading glasses for the job unless the light is good.

This was to be a training run for the critical operations coming up. Many beekeeping operations can be delegated to partially skilled labour, as they are routine and repetitive and require only average knowledge and judgment. The potential for major screw-ups by unsupervised help is normally limited and predictable on such jobs.

This phase is different. We are about to begin the introduction of many thousands of dollars worth of queens into hundreds of splits, and we have queens, hives -- and the crop itself -- at risk if anything goes wrong. There are many things remember and to teach -- and re-teach. As a result, the Old Man (me) has to be on-site until he is sure that the young guys have everything understood.

I donít get out with the crew as often as I would like to, but this trip is essential. Beekeeping is very technical and also has a large element of Art in it. Queen introduction and appraisal of splits is about as tricky as anything beekeepers do, and there are many more ways to do things wrong or badly than there are to do them correctly. 

What the correct course is on a given day, in a given yard, on a given hive must be determined in every case by a quick and expert appraisal. For an old beekeeper, the bees tell a story, but to the inexperienced, a hive is just a box full of bugs. My crew is somewhere in between expert and tyro, and eager to learn.

I like to start each new phase of the season on schedule and introduce each change of tasks with a slow, relaxed walk-through. I try to schedule a short trip for the first trial, rather than a full day, so that the lessons are comfortable and sink in. Too long a session on the first day can overload and overtire the Ďstudentsí, and ruin the experience.

Paulo, Kenton got the trucks sorted out in the morning, and we were all ready to go to a few yards to start putting queens into the splits by about noon. We took D4 and arrived at Brianís at half past.

I began by checking the weak hives. Hive condition is marked by the way the brick is placed on each hive lid. Several of the weaker hives had decent looking patterns and were just slow -- unlucky at wintering, I guess. One had finally died out, and another was good enough that we placed its top box with the bees and queen as a third over an excluder on a stronger hive to take advantage of the additional heat and to borrow some bees.

Mostly, the yard was a waste of time as far as using up the queens was concerned. It had been Dennisís first yard at the beginning of the last round, and he had misunderstood his instructions (which are shown elsewhere on this page). He had put excluders on all the new thirds he put on that day, and not just the ones from a week or more previous. Bees and some brood already occupied the latter. The former were just empty boxes with bees cleaning out the honey or loitering, but no queen activity and no chance of any because of the premature addition of the excluder.

We spent most of our time undoing the error by pulling the specious excluders, rather than putting in queens, which was our prime objective, but the job had to be done. The job of lifting the thirds takes longer than it might, since all our hives are still wrapped and the sleeves must be pulled down in order to do the job, then back up when finished.

The sleeves are helpful at this stage, since there is often a gap between the third and the hive below due to protein patties on top of the lower hive. These lift the excluder and upper box a bit. The wrap seals the gapí and everything is cozy.
We used no queens at Brianís, and continued to Deer run. At Deer Run, we found lots of good splits that required queens, but also were slowed down again by the same remedial work.

In the hives where the thirds were ready to make into good splits, we simply checked for a queen in the top (third) box and also for sufficient bees and brood. We then lifted that box up, removed the excluder, quickly checked the bottom box, and then placed a sheet of strong white plastic on top of the second brood chamber -- to act as a complete bee barrier -- and replaced the top box.

We then pulled the wrap back up and put the pillow and lid back on. That way the third is isolated from the rest of the hive and the new queen -- which we placed in the top or bottom as appropriate -- will be accepted. The top box also tends to gather bees when isolated, but left on top, since returning foragers like to use the top hole on three-high hives, and will thus boost the split a bit.

Later we will remove the thirds and either place them in the same yard or move them to another, depending on the weather and our needs. If we have spell of hot weather, the bees will drift back if lifted down during that time, but if we get a rainy spell, we can just place the splits anywhere in the yard, since the bees quickly Ďforgetí their hive location if there is no flow or they are confined for a day or two. Itís easy to test: just move a hive and see if the flying bees stay with it or immediately return to their former stand.


Following Deer Run, we went to Halsteads and repeated the exercise. We were done and returned home promptly at five. I still had 33 queens in the battery box. I worked all day with neither veil nor gloves and was seldom stung. The bees were pretty docile for the most part. I got a few, mostly accidental, nicks, but the bees were not into stinging hard.

At the end of the day, Ellen & I got into the camper for a shakeout run to Ponoka to see Jean & Chris. Along the way, we stopped at Genertsí greenhouse. While El shopped for plants, I drove down the driveway to look at the hives I had moved there from Piscosí a week before. I lifted one lid a bit, and within a minute was driven from the yard. I got a good sting on the chin; it was driven in so hard that the wound from the stinger still was obvious the next day.

Today..Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 14.
Tonight..Clearing. Wind northwest 20 km/h. Low 3.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Friday May 24th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

It's 3.4 degrees F, there's a heavy dew on the ground, the sun is shining and there's a promise from the weatherman of 13 degrees.  All in all, it looks like a decent day shaping up.   There is also a breeze predicted, but nothing like we have seen on a daily basis lately, or the tornado force winds of the 14th (75+ MPH) that took grain bins away and stripped roofing and siding off buildings.


Paulo worked through the dead-outs we brought back.  Dennis and Tim went out and continued feeding, adding thirds, and slipping in excluders.  Kenton made quick yard visits in the 4X4 to slip in excluders in some of the bigger yards without doing any other work while there. 

We are eager to get as many splits as we can separated from the parent hive with excluders, since we have a large supply of queens on hand and want to get them into their new homes ASAP.  Since we learned two years ago how to store queens very successfully in the shipping boxes, using feeder jars, we have less pressure to install them, but no one thinks that by holding queens in cages, using any method known, that the queens are improved.  I take the boxes outside daily and open them for a while to allow the attendants a few minutes of flight.  By the looks the brown spots on any white box lid left nearby, they do need the chance to fly.  The bees return after their flights and are all easily closed up again after fifteen minutes with only a very few bees, if any left outside.


Late in the day, I went out and checked some splits for queens.  The first two were not much good at all.  They had no brood, and I just left them, but the next four were fine.  These latter splits have two or more frames with a decent patch of sealed brood and bees on three or four frames. 


We make these small splits for increase by putting a third brood chamber on strong double hives that are ahead of the rest.  It gives them room at a time when we cannot add supers because of medication being applied.  The best hives get a few frames of brood started in the thirds, and we can slip in an excluder and remove them after a while. 

When we separate them, we check for a queen and if the queen is up top, fine.  We then add the new queen below.  Otherwise, we just add a queen to the split.  We often leave these thirds on top of the parent hive for a while because

  • It takes time to remove them.  When we are putting in queens, we don't need the distraction of moving hives around
  • Drifting could be problematic some days.  This way we can choose our moving days.
  • Being on top of a strong hive keeps the split warm,
  • With auger holes in every brood box, forager bees tend to migrate up and boost the split.

I slipped in a sheet of plastic under each decent split, above the excluder, and added queens to the three that obviously were without queens, but the fourth was a tough call.  There are eggs, but they are mostly on an incline, meaning they are not fresh, but some eggs were upright, meaning they could be -- implying possible presence of a laying queen above the excluder. 

According the books, eggs normally hatch in three days, but the range is forty-eight to one hundred and forty-four hours (six days)!  It was overcast, so I really could not tell what to think, so I left the fourth split with only its excluder for later. 

We normally wait four days after slipping in the excluder before we go looking.  Usually after four days above an excluder, the presence or absence of the queen in the split is easy to determine, but there are always a few hives where there are eggs that look fresh after four days, but there really is no queen up there.

Waiting the four+ days the way we do, using an excluder and leaving the splits on the parent hive, the splits are not entirely queenless, have a supply of new bees and communication with the hive below, and can benefit from its heat for those additional days.  We do like to take them off while there is still open brood in the split to get balanced populations and to hold the bees better when they are removed from the parent hive, but we have a lot of latitude in when we take them away.  Actually, we don't have to take them away at all.  We could use the thirds for double-queening or  requeening

I saw my first tiny dandelions today.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind increasing to northwest 30 km/h. High 13.
Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind northwest 20. Low plus 1 with risk of frost.
Saturday..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20. High 15.
Sunday..Mainly sunny. Low 1. High 17.
Monday..Mainly sunny. Low 4. High 20.
Tuesday..Mainly sunny. Low 5. High 22.
Normals for the period..Low 5. High 19.

Thursday May 23rd, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Finally!  A nice day.  Everyone is ready to go. Paulo drove a truck home yesterday, so he and Kenton headed north this morning at 7:30.  Dennis and Tim left here at 8:15.

We got a bit of moisture over the past few days and the grass is growing now; everything is turning green.  We are running very late on the season, but from now on things will speed up.  I hope.


8:07 PM  Everyone is done for the day and lots got done.  Maybe tomorrow I can start putting in queens.  The weather was cool and breezy today, but not too bad, all things considered.

Paulo and Kenton stayed in three Hills.  No sense driving the truck here then driving home again.  They'll come in  and reload in the morning.

I'm doing the notes and planning for tomorrow.

Just for fun -- I am learning OOo -- I converted a PowerPoint presentation giving a tour of our operation from two years ago to a web slide show using OOo' presentation software module.  The presentation is a little slow first time through on a dial-up connection, but should be quick on a cable modem or on second viewing, once the images are cached.  The presentation is a good example of one of the talks I have given to associations in Alberta.  I am usually available to speak and give slides at beekeepers' meetings anywhere.

 Allen's

Links of 

the Day

x9000.net - devoted to tweaking your system

Saltmeadow Privacy Package

OpenOffice.org  A free Office Suite.  Pretty much as good as MS Office and fully compatible with MS Office files

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming south 20. High 9.
Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind south 20 km/h. Low 2 with risk of frost.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Wednesday May 22nd, 2002
Year 2000 on this date       Year 2000 on this date

I'm glad our bees are still wrapped.  It is 2 degrees and windy.  Snow is in the forecast.  We decided to tell everyone to stay home, but by the time we phoned, they were already on their way here, so we'll see what they want to do.


Everyone worked to get the trucks ready, then quit for the day.  We'll make the time up on the weekend.  It is just too miserable to work outside today.

Dennis and Paulo noticed another rib on the quonset has flexed loose.  The high winds have been flexing the building constantly and several tack welds broke.  I did some patching, but need to come up with a retrofit to ensure that this is not a continuing problem.

I went for the blood tests this morning.  Now the Buick is acting up, just like the Olds.  I'm thinking it must be the gasoline.

I drove to Calgary for the afternoon.  It was just one of those days, and I figured I was not going to get much done, so I might as well go to the city and get some supplies.  I looked at new computers and there is a good selection out there for low prices compared to what I used to have to pay.

Today..Snow heavy at times. Wind north 40 gusting 60 km/h. High plus 2.
Tonight..Snow ending this evening then clearing. Total accumulations near 15 cm. Wind north 30 diminishing. Low minus 2.
Thursday..Sunny. Becoming cloudy in the afternoon. Wind becoming south 20. High plus 9.
Friday..Mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers. Low 2. High 16.
Saturday..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 3. High 15.
Sunday..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 2. High 16.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Tuesday May 21st, 2002
Year 2000 on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Looking out the window, I'm sorry that we took the weekend off.  I try to be a nice guy since I know the crew likes to be with family and friends on a long weekend, but then we pay by having to work in wind, rain and possibly snow.  Moreover, we have $7,200 worth of queens sitting here waiting to go in, so we can't delay any longer.  We have to work outside regardless of the forecast.

Although I had been told that the trucks were ready to go, there were some minor changes to make and it was 10 before we all met at our scale yard to do a demo of the new tasks.  That went fairly well, considering that it was pouring rain.  We have a very positive group.

After that, Paulo went north, and Dennis went south.  It was windy down here, but apparently quite nice up north.  I worked at my desk all day, but the day just flew by. 

We're looking a heavy snowfall warning for the Calgary area for tonight and tomorrow, with highs now said to be around two degrees.  I doubt if the snow will make it this far east, but who knows?

Here's the job assignment converted to HTML in OpenOffice.org, a free office suite I am converting to from MS Office 2002.  I'm afraid I'm a ABM type of guy, given a chance.

May 21st, 2002

Separating Splits with Excluders

  • Scrape floors. Do a good job, but do not scape into wood. Clean reducer groove and make sure there is a reducer there in place for each gap.

  • Put down the same number of lids, pillows and bricks as there are thirds in yard now

  • Count gaps. Leave or take Swan pallets accordingly. In some yards we may need to use GPs, so clean floors where appropriate.

  • When opening bags, try not to ruin them. Use twist ties when closing bags.

  • Check to see if Apistan is due to be removed (Red under Apistan column). If so, remove all Apistan in this yard only. (Apistan stays in 42 days).

Adding Excluders

  • Carefully pull wrap down over bottom boxes of triples

  • Without removing the lid, tip third box back

  • Smoke lightly between the boxes

  • Feed second box with syrup. Fill, but do not overfill

  • Place excluder on second box

  • Lower third box and straighten so that excluder will not damage wrap.

  • Pull wrap back up

  • Mark these excluded thirds with a second brick

Other Hives

  • Feed and place a protein patty on hives in yard that are still two boxes high

  • Add a third if required. No excluder.

  • All hives should now have one good pillow

  • Move occasional singleton hives onto occupied swan pallets

Weak Hives

  • Lift weak hives off their bottom box and place the top box over an excluder on top of a strong colony. (If it is heavy, make sure the new larger hive is not plugged with feed)

  • Mark with three bricks so we know there is a queen in both top and bottom.

 

  • Look for ants and use ant poison if indicated. Ants may not be out on cool days.

  • Put ant poison where a bees will not get into it or where the rain will ruin it.

 

  • Tidy yard and pick up extra pallets, junk, etc

  • Ensure there is sufficient good straw or grass in each drum that has syrup.
    Invert MT drums.

Today..Mainly cloudy with a 60 percent chance of showers. Wind north 40 gusting 60 km/h. High 18.
Tonight..Periods of rain changing to snow overnight. Wind north 40 gusting 60. Low zero.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Monday May 20th, 2002
Year 2000 on this date       Year 2000 on this date

We stayed home today and I did some desk work.  The guys are still on a long weekend.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. Wind becoming southeast 30 km/h. High 24.
Tonight..Cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Risk of an evening thunderstorms. Wind becoming north 20. Low 9.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

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