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Checking splits for queens

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Sunday June 9th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

We awoke to the sound of a downpour on the roof -- and the sound of the microwave heating baby formula.  Jon and Sarah are still feeding the baby several times a night and early in the early morning as well, it seems.  She is 7-1/2 months old now. 

It looks as if we will have another rainy day, and that is a Good Thing.  We have been very dry and, although we have had some rain, more will build up the reserves in the soil.

I'm feeling a lot better now, and thinking I might move some more bees.  It's nice to be able to move during the day and these cool, rainy days are ideal as long as the ground does not get too muddy.  We have company, though, and more coming by.  Company or no company, I get bored sitting around and will be looking to do something by afternoon.


Well, I didn't move bees.  Karl and Gaby came for lunch and we visited until four.  After that we had burgers, and watched some movies.

That was it for the day.  The weather stayed calm and overcast with periods of rain.  More rain is forecast for tonight and tomorrow.

Today..Rain. Wind becoming north 30 gusting 50 km/h. High 11.
Tonight..Cloudy with occasional showers. Wind northeast 20 km/h. Low 5.
Normals for the period..Low 7. High 20.

Saturday June 8th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

It's cool, dull and breezy this morning.  Paulo was going to be making up brood chamber this afternoon, but we do that outdoors so I called and cancelled.  We need to be able to work comfortably and with good light. 

When working through dead-outs, we prefer to work outdoors to keep the air quality up.  Working with dead-outs can liberate dusts that can be unhealthy due to the presence of spores and pollens, so we minimize that by working in the open air where natural air circulation removes the dusts from the work area.

At 8, I decided that I feel well enough to move some bees, so I called Dennis.  He said that he was available 24/7, but all I got was an answering machine.  Maybe I'll go myself.  Frank is coming at nine for some queens, so maybe I should stick around.  Jonathan and Sarah are coming this morning too, so if I don't leave soon, I won't go.


Frank came and went.  I finally got Dennis on the phone, and I guess he was sleeping in.  He has a few things to do, but might come over later.

I headed towards Freres S and on the way got a new location in an area I have been eying for some time now, then detoured over to Three Hills to get some cold medicine.  Peter recommended an expectorant, and I took the pills. They seemed to help a bit, but I still knew I had a bad cold. The medicine did not entirely clear up my nose and sinus congestion.

At Freres, Dennis came by for a minute to see if I needed help, but was really not eager to work, so I let him carry on.  I moved a load of 40 doubles to the new location -- Long's --  and then another similar load to Boese West.  Ellen phoned to say that Jonathan and Sarah were on their way from Ponoka, but I decided to go back and get a third load.  By then the number of doubles that were four per pallet had dwindled, and the remaining hives were either on pallets that lacked a hive or two, or three high. 

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0601022.jpg (78097 bytes)

I decided to check the splits to make up some more suitable pallets and got a shock.  The first one I opened had a queen cage and not much more.  The queen was gone and there were few bees in the box.  I checked a few more and found that most of the splits were adequate, but that some were pretty poor.  I realized that we had gone without queens for a week and that, as a result, these splits had been on top long enough that the young brood had all been sealed.  Sealed brood does not hold bees well, and when the split was separated by the plastic sheet, the flying bees had gone below to be with the open brood and laying queen.

When I got home, I unloaded the hives for the time being, and went in to greet the visitors.  Jean had come along too, so we visited a bit, then Jon and I went to Three Hills to do some grocery shopping.  Before we left, I remembered that I had some nasal spray and tried it on the congestion.  Otrivin cleared up the congestion in moments, and I felt much better.

I do the shopping in our family since I enjoy grocery shopping and Ellen hates it.  I consider it a sport to buy well and love to prospect through the aisles looking for bargains and good buys.  I am always amazed by cornucopia of produce that is brought in from all over the world, even to the little IGA in Three Hills.

Today..Mainly cloudy with showers. Wind increasing to northeast 40 gusting 60 km/h. High 13.
Tonight..Periods of rain. Wind diminishing to northeast 30. Low 7.
Normals for the period..Low 7. High 20.

Friday June 7th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

I slept very poorly, and don't know if it was being plugged up with the cold or the spicy sausage at Vic & Annette's Restaurant last night. Whatever the cause, I awoke every half-hour or hour until 5, then got up and went moving bees.  Until now, I haven't experienced any insomnia at all since I quit drinking several months ago.

One day I just simply decided that the pleasant effects of spirits and wine were not worth the collateral bad effects -- weight gain, time wasted, insomnia, expense, and serious exacerbation of my allergy problems -- and have not bothered to have a drink since.  It has been an interesting experiment.  I hadn't planned to quit for ever, I just intended to try it out, but I think I may just become a teetotaler.

It was a bright, but nippy morning.  I found that the chosen truck was not ready in spite of allowing plenty of time and assigning the task to one usually reliable person.  Moreover, the window was rolled down and keys were in the ignition -- both these things are taboo.  The inside of the windshield was coated with ice, so I gather we had a killer frost last night.  I found all the necessities and got the trailer hooked up, -- it was supposed to be all ready to go -- loaded the green forklift, weighed the truck, and headed north around 6. 

It's a fifteen minute drive to Freres.  On arrival, I used the orange cart to move a few hives around to fill gaps on the pallets, and discovered that I first had to tidy after the last crew.  They had strewn lids around in front of and between hives and  had to move them, and bricks, to access the hives with the cart or the forklift.  This was a great example of exactly what I have taught them -- or tried to teach them -- not to do: put things where they are in the way! 

Things are getting slack again.  Every crew starts to think they know more than the boss after a while, even if they don't know what is going to happen next week, or why.  I don't know how to prevent this.  We need and want some initiative and pride in our crews, but when people start to get creative and intransigent about following direct orders, we all lose.  We have limited time and are carefully scheduled.  Any time lost re-doing work or working around such obstacles costs us all time and money -- and means working on the weekend sometimes.

When moving bees at five AM, time is of the essence.  One person often goes alone, and has to get the job done before the bees fly.  He should not have to clean up before he can start work.

After about an hour, I had 40 loaded and rolled down the tarp.  I contemplated how we could improve the system a bit.  If I could have raised the beam without much difficulty, I would have loaded 80 instead.

I returned home in time to meet with the staff.  Paulo and Kenton were going out to put queens into the last splits.  Dennis was at work, but limping a bit.  I weighed the truck again and calculated the weights.  Each hive averaged about 100 pounds without the pallet, but counting the lid and an eight-pound brick.  I then ran them out to Elliott's East and set them down. 

I found a half-barrel of syrup still there from last fall, and looked at it.  It was off-colour and when I tasted it, I found it bitter and metallic.  I was spitting for ten minutes after.  I dumped it out and watched $100 worth of fluid seep away, thinking that was a better loss than what would happen to a yard of bees if they decided to consume it, or what it would be like if gathered and stored in supers.  I noticed that the interior of the barrel had lost its paint and that the syrup seemed to be etching the steel.  Sometimes syrup goes bad in a drum.  Many beekeepers use plastic drums for feeders.  Plastic drums are much better because they are warmer and because they don't corrode.

Dennis & I spent an hour or so 'fixing' the toilet, but it still leaked.  The only thing I can think now is that the nylon fitting must be porous.

Tim left early at 3:15, Dennis left shortly after, still limping.  Paulo and Kenton got back around six, having finished the job.  They handed in the extra queens.  It is a good thing I looked in the box.  Two cages had fallen over and the queens in them were blocked from the attendant bees by the channel.  They would have died overnight.  There were elastics in the box, but the guys had not used them.  I don't know how many times I have covered this topic in meetings and person to person.

0601023.jpg (72303 bytes)I sometimes worry when I see such an elementary error.  Maybe this job is just too tough, too technical.  Sometimes it seems that we  can't seem to get simple, but important lessons to stick and, conversely, it seems we can't seem to get bad habits to die once they are established.  When I see something like these fallen over queens, I wonder what else went wrong out there in the yards that I haven't learned about.  We entrust thousands of dollars worth of queens to the guys and we drill them, train them, and send them out.  I trust them -- I must trust them -- but such a blatant error makes me wonder...

After a year on the job, employees and trainees have seen one whole season and almost always think they know more than they do.  Having seen everything happen once, things seem somewhat familiar.  That familiarity is easily confused with knowledge, knowledge that is illusory. 

Having seen the process once from a labour role does not mean that they can understand it, plan it, adjust to circumstances -- or even do it well.   We try to teach when we see willingness to learn and some evidence that previous lessons have stuck.  Some learn and can extrapolate better than others.   As a friend of mine says, "Some people have thirty years experience, and some have one year's experience thirty times".  Commercial beekeeping requires people who are detail-oriented and adaptive, creative, but also prudent and careful to consult.

In spite of occasional frustrations and worries, we do have a very good crew, possibly the best ever.  In any situation that throws people together on a project, there are always minor problems with understanding.  Managing an outfit like ours means constantly teaching and monitoring the results.  Not everyone is able to learn all the time.  Personal problems, illness, pressure, misunderstandings and fatigue can interfere with the learning and communication process.  Sometimes patience is required to ride out a rough spot.  There are times when trying harder just results in a worse failure, and the best thing to do is give up for a while.

Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes expensive ones.  All we can do is try to prevent them, but we know they will occur and the best thing to do when something happens is to remember all the good work, learn from the mistake, and get on with it.

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 15.
Tonight..Increasing cloud. Occasional showers developing overnight. Wind increasing to north 30. Low 6.
Saturday..Mainly cloudy with occasional showers. Wind northeast 30. High 17.
Sunday..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Windy. Low 4. High 13.
Monday..Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of showers. Low 3. High 16.
Tuesday..Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of showers. Low 4. High 20.
Normals for the period..Low 7. High 20.

Thursday June 6th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

We had some rain overnight, so, looking out, I see the boxes we left uncovered got wet.  I really don't know if that matters a lot, but I know if supers or brood chambers are allowed to weather much, it takes a lot of work by the bees to recondition them.  We're expecting slightly cool weather with a strong wind today.

Today, I'm feeling less than 100%.  The other night, we were invited out for supper and Ellen didn't go.  When I got there, I learned that the whole family had a sore throat.  I thought at the time, "Oh-oh!", but there I was.  Now I have had a sore throat.  Hope it passes soon.  I'm also tired, and lacking energy.

I'm hoping to get some supers on soon.  It looks as if we will have the dandelion flow for a week or two now and the bees need room.  Dennis reported bees hanging out in one yard the other day.  We have some loaded and it is a matter of getting out there.

I notice that the toilet in the staff bathroom is leaking a bit and there is water all over the floor

.

Dennis phoned in and had stepped on something and had a sliver in his foot.  He tried digging it our, but the dark object kept breaking off and he had to go to the doctor.  It turned out to be a pencil lead.  At any rate, he missed the whole day of work.

0601021.jpg (48618 bytes)Paulo was assigned the brood chamber work -- looking through the dead-outs -- but accomplished little.  Kenton and Tim put the tarps onto two trailers and loaded them with supers.  The two trailers and one truck sit loaded in the yard with 360 supers each, awaiting the day we go out to super. We hand-bombed them on, since we wanted to ensure each one got at least a cursory inspection to pull out any that are in bad condition.

We have lost one of our radios.  After the initial kick wore off, people are leaving them lying around outside because they beep and squawk when kept in a pocket and buttons are pushed accidentally in the course of normal tasks.

Sid was in Spruce Grove to pick up queens and offered to carry ours and Meijers' to a meeting point near Carstairs.  Joe, Oene, El & I set out cross-country and met up with him around 6:15.  From there, we went to Carstairs and looked around, then went to Linden for supper.

Today..Mainly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of showers this morning. Sunny this afternoon. Wind increasing to west 40 gusting 60 km/h. High 14.
Tonight..Clear. Wind west 40 gusting 60 diminishing. Low 1 with a risk of frost.
Normals for the period..Low 7. High 20.

Wednesday June 5th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Another nice day, but with some wind expected.

We spent the day on the yard for the most part.  Paulo did go out and put in the last 19 queens in the afternoon, though.  We put tarps on vehicles in preparation for supering, cleaned out a water tank, tried using the pressure washer on the excluders (it did not work), and loaded a truck with 360 supers, ready to go.  This was the hard part of the loading, since we had to process a lot of oddball supers that had accumulated.  Some have granulation in them, and some were set aside when we sold some supers, since they were not up to the grade we were offering. Once we get these out of the way, it should be smooth sailing.  We're loading by hand so that every box gets inspected to ensure consistent quality.  We want to get all the granulation dealt with this year.

We ran out of time and dropped everything at the end of the day. I don't like to leave a mess, but we did.  I had to remind the guys to allow time in the future for clean-up at the end of the day.  They set their own quitting time, so it is up to them to allow a half-hour to tidy and get things under cover and tied or weighted down (against possible wind).

The apple trees are now blooming.  They started blooming almost before they finished leafing out.  The carraganas are also in bloom.

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to west 30 gusting 50 km/h this afternoon. High 22.
Tonight..Clear. Wind west 40 gusting 60. Low 6.
Normals for the period..Low 6. High 20

Tuesday June 4th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

8 degrees and sunny.  High of 25 today -- hot!  That'll be good for the bees and get the flowers blooming.  Trees are just leafed out here and the dandelions are still opening.

I have an AHPC meeting tonight. I'm heading to the city to shop on the way.  I worked on the weekend and have some time coming just to wander and look and, of course, buy essentials for the business.


As I left home for a day in Red Deer and Edmonton, I got a message saying that the deadline for a magazine article is due.  I knew it was coming up, but did not know the exact date.  I had to deliver pictures and captions ASAP. 

I had my laptop, and the pictures are on it, so I sat in McDonalds in Red Deer, writing the article.  It was done by three and I drove to Jean's to email it off.  For whatever reason, I could not get the Internet to take the whole 3.5 megs, even though I tried several accounts and wound up sending  it in chunks.  Even at that, I could not get it all sent and had to leave before I finished sending.  That made me late and I arrived in Spruce Grove on the dot of 7, instead of a half hour early as I intended.  No matter.  The meeting did not start until about half past, so my haste was for naught.

Once we got underway, we learned that our co-op was returning $1.00 per pound, and perhaps a bit more on last year's honey.  That was as good a price as we got on the excess over quota we sent to the local packer after hearing the co-op projection of 95c last fall.  I guess we learned that our new chief tends to low-ball a bit in order to look good when he beats his estimates.  Nonetheless, a lot of what should have been co-op honey went to other packers last winter. 

After the meeting, I had planned to stay in Edmonton, but I decided to head home, and made it by one. I had sent the rest of the files by 1:30 and went to bed.  I need a better internet hook-up for on the road, one that offers dial-up everywhere at reasonable cost.  Either that or a good long distance card so I can call my own from anywhere.

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind southwest 20 km/h this afternoon. High 25.
Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind becoming west 20. Low 9.
Saturday..Periods of rain. Low 4. High 11. Normals for the period..Low 6. High 20.

Monday June 3rd, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

It is rainy and dull and 8.5 degrees C. at 6:30 AM. 

We have a hundred and some queens to install, and unwrapping to do, as well as cleanup.  I could be moving bees out of some winter yards -- Freres S still has 277 there --  but think I will leave that for another day.  I have a lot on my plate, getting ready to go to Spruce Grove tomorrow night.  Yards will be muddy after all this rain.  I'm not sure how much we got, but it looks to be an inch or more.

We could also lift down splits if the new queens are established, since the bees will have lost their orientation to the hive after being confined and the drifting would be minimal.  We'll see.


I spent hours on planning and instructions over the weekend and the meeting went well in the morning.  The guys seemed to understand and play back what I told them, and when they left and I assumed all would go according to plan.

One of the things I said was to call in soon and often, since the procedure was completely changed from what we have been doing.  After three hours, I had to phone them and found they had wandered off course.

Today..Mainly cloudy. Patchy fog this morning. 60 percent chance of showers with a risk of a thunderstorm. Wind becoming north 20 km/h. High 18.
Tonight..Clearing this evening. Wind south 20 km/h. Low 7.
Normals for the period..Low 6. High 20.

may27-2002-_030.jpg (27019 bytes)Sunday June 2nd, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

It's dull and 9.2 degrees C at 8 AM, and raining this morning.  I'm torn between catching up on the books, moving bees and going to Calgary.

Looking out at the driveway, and from the two leaks in  the roof, it seems we got a fair bit of rain.  We get so little rain here -- 12 inches a year including snow --  and it is so dry, that leaks in the roof that would demand immediate action elsewhere are usually of little concern here.


I spent the day at my desk tidying up the books and doing various tasks.  The day slid by quickly, and another unmemorable weekend is gone.

Periods of rain. Wind becoming northeast 20 km/h. High 13.
Tonight..Cloudy with occasional showers this evening. Clearing overnight. Wind northeast 20 km/h. Low 5.
Monday..Sunny. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h. High 20.
Tuesday..Mainly cloudy. Low 4. High 23.
Wednesday..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 6. High 21.
Thursday..Mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers. Low 3. High 19.
Normals for the period..Low 6. High 19.

Saturday June 1st, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

We have a dull day with cooler temperatures.  It's 11 C outside and 19 in the house. 

Frank and Mike came by to get some queens.  We have none to spare, but shared anyhow.

I took all the queen boxes -- ours and Meijers' -- outside and gave the bees a flight while I changed to a box top with a screen for the feed jar, since Meijers won't be here right away to pick them up.  We gave them all a jar of 50/50 syrup with fumigillan in it and they will be fine.   The attendants in this batch don't look as young as they sometimes do.  Maybe these had a tougher trip.  They came by plane, then bus, so a lot can happen along the way.

I spent the day at home.  In the afternoon, I changed the high tension wires on the Olds -- a bit of a job, and checked out the Buick.  The Buick turns out to have a bad MAS too.

Meijers came over to get their queens.  I cooked supper for a change.

Today..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Wind increasing to northeast 20 km/h. High 16.
Tonight..Periods of rain. Wind northeast 20. Low 6.
Normals for the period..Low 6. High 19.

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