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Lifting Down Splits and Supering Hives

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Wednesday June 19th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

We continued to super the hives and lift down splits.  It looks now as if we will be finished by the end of the week.  After that, there is nothing pressing, so the guys will get a 3 day weekend, followed by another next week.  During the week we need to get the rest of the supers on.  It may be early, but the season is coming on fast and we never know for sure when the flow will hit.  One thing is for sure, the bees can't fill supers if they are in the storage shed.

I called Les and found a cheap flight to Ontario for Thursday (tomorrow) morning.  I'll go east and take a few days off to finish a series of articles I am writing and to see family.  They don't need me here.  I won't get much done, and just be in the way.  My job is the planning and expediting.  When that is done, I can get away for a while.

Today..Sunny. A mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 19.
Tonight..Mainly clear. Wind increasing to northwest 30. Low 4.
Tuesday June 18th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

I was up early this morning and off to Frere's S, where I lifted down splits and loaded the truck with hives to move out.  There are still too many in the yard. I went west and looked for new locations around an area where we had bees years ago.  There is lots of alfalfa there and also bound to be canola as well.  I found a spot and got permission.  I was about to unload, but my cell rang and it was Dennis.  He couldn't start the truck and needed a tug.  He was about ten miles away.  I didn't care much for the yard I had found anyhow, and headed over to assist him.  The starter in D1 acted up yesterday at the end of the day and Dennis had told me that he had it fixed.  I hadn't looked at it.  Maybe I should have.

I found him at Page's North and I gave him a push with the Swinger.  Then I rearranged the hives in the yard with the forklift since it was raining and I could move pallets around without risk of serious drifting.  Pallets rot into the ground over time and ants start to live under them unless they are moved a bit from time to time, and besides, I didn't care much for the yard layout as it was.

I followed Dennis to Pages' West and added 16 hives to that yard, then went to Olhausens' and built it up too.  In each case, I rearranged the pallets for better efficiency, and to get them out of low spots.  From there I went to where we had previously had a yard at Swansons' and set up a new location closer to the road, but with good wind protection from the north.   I was short of hives by then, and since it continued to drizzle, I was able to go to Cyril's to get the balance of the hives I had to move from there.  I delivered them to Swansons' and Dennis and Tim supered them.

I headed back to Freres to get another load -- it was about 1 by then -- and got as far as where the Linden highway meets up with the Three Hills/Allingham road.  There I was stopped by the highway patrol for an inspection.  One of my turn signals on the trailer was out, buy a wiggle on the connector fixed that.  We go off-road a lot and the wiring suffers.  All our wiring is internal, but the plugs are subject to weather and need constant watching.

As I was about to leave, Dennis called again to say he had stalled and could not start, so I drove back 15 miles to tug him again.  It was just as well, since I discovered that two yards there had snow fence up still and needed to have the hives spaced wider apart.  Since it was raining and I had the forklift, the timing was ideal.  I spaced out the hives and decided that my shift was over.  By then it was 3 PM and I headed home.

As soon as I got home, Dennis called again.  This time he had forgotten and turned off the truck.  I ran out in the 4X4 and gave him one last tug and told him to go home to get another truck.  He was done for the day anyhow.

Meijers came for supper and brought along some 4.9 wax foundation.

Today..Rain developing this morning. Wind north 20 km/h. High 8.
Tonight..Rain tapering off overnight. Total amounts 20 to 30 mm. Wind northwest 20. Low 6.
Normals for the period..Low 8. High 21.

Monday June 17th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

The 4.9 plastic foundation Dee promised me arrived this morning and I took a look. Pretty interesting.

It isn't quite flat, and not nearly as rigid as the other plastic foundations. It resembles wax more than other commercial plastic foundation and I am tempted to use wires and embed it, but I think that should not be necessary. It also lacks the blank strip along the top and bottom where the foundation fits into a groove of the frame that is used on the other brands. Is this a problem? I doubt it.

I'll be popping it into some frames this morning and then go in search of some bees that look as if they would enjoy working on it some time during the next few days. Joe has some Dadant 4.9 wax foundation, and if they come over and remember to bring some along, I may use some of it alongside the plastic to compare.

I noticed the vanilla scent and also detected a faint chemical smell, reminiscent of a pesticide on some sheets. I imagine I will brush the plastic with wax, but will leave some un-waxed too.

Today..Sunny with increasing afternoon cloud. Wind becoming northwest 30 km/h. High 25.
Tonight..Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers. Wind northwest 30. Low 8.
Normals for the period..Low 8. High 21.

Sunday June 16th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

At 5:30 we heard a door slam and saw that those in the house were awake, so I got up to say goodbye.  Jean and Chris drove Jon, Sarah and Katrina to Edmonton International in the Buick, which Jon and Sarah had been using during their stay, while El and I had coffee.

When they returned, and since we were in that part of the country, we drove west to visit some beekeepers we have been helping out over the past year with equipment, loans and advice.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that they had raised the money they owed us and were ready to go entirely on their own.  They no longer need the forklift that we and the Meijers have lent them at no charge, so although they should have returned it to our farm, we decided to take it home to spare them the effort. 

We were there in the Buick, and we needed a truck to tow the trailer, so I called Dennis to see if he felt like a drive in the country.   He was keen for the trip and came up shortly, bringing along his young daughter for the ride.  We loaded the machine in jig time and were on our way.  We stopped in Sylvan for burgers and to look at the beach and waterslide, and got back here around 8:30.  Tomorrow is another day.

Along the way, we noticed that the fields everywhere are dry.  We had thought that we had enough moisture at home to get us through for a while --  and we are luckier than some -- but I had noticed yesterday afternoon already, when I returned from working on the bees, that we were suddenly looking dry.  I had noticed that the grass in some yards that looks lush from a distance due to the green growing tips is actually dry down below.  Ellen has been watering the new trees almost daily -- and they need it!  We need an inch, and we need it soon.

The dandelions are finishing here, although further north and west, they were still about half done.  Here and everywhere I went on the weekend, the alfalfa looks ready to give some bloom, but sometimes it fools me.  Usually we do see some flowers on alfalfa by the twentieth, but then -- within days --  the local farmers knock it down.  With the large machines that have become popular in recent years, entire fields -- even quarter sections --  can go down in an afternoon.  Not many farmers do it the way they used to.  I liked it when they cut several rows a day, then let it dry, then baled it, and then started over.  There was always some cut, some drying, and some being baled at any time for the whole summer.  That way, there was always a part of the field in bloom.  Now, our best hope is that some patches in a field need to be allowed to grow out to replenish their strength, and are thus left to grow and bloom. 

Leaving alfalfa to bloom without cutting it when it flowers -- as happens in alfalfa that is grown for seed -- does not necessarily guarantee much more of a honey crop than alfalfa cut for hay during bloom, since alfalfa stops blooming once seed is set, and if there are lots of bees, it gets set fast.  Cutting causes re-growth and a second bloom.  The timing is the real factor, since the first cut often takes place under conditions that are ideal for the main honey flow.  Interestingly, some beekeepers have told me that they get the heaviest flow the day after cutting; I wonder if the bees visit the cut flowers, or if they gather sap from the cut stems.

Sunday..Mainly sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h. High 28.
Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. Low 12.
Normals for the period..Low 8. High 21.

Saturday June 15th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

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I was getting  ready to go moving when Dennis showed up at 7.   We raised the tarps to accommodate the higher hives (four high now) and I was off to move the bees accumulated at home to Cyril's.  There I picked up 39 and took them to Witstocks' South. 

I unloaded there and noted the good-looking alfalfa around the site.  I hope it lasts.  The soil is sandy and often dries out by July.  Some years have been awful. This year looks good, so if they don't cut it early, or turn the cattle onto it just when it starts to bloom  -- a favorite trick -- the area might produce well this year.

After that, I went to Gordons, took down the snow fence and rearranged the yard.  I lifted down the splits, checked for queens and then shuffled all the hives around on the assumption that the bees would spread themselves evenly through the hives.  That is always a gamble, and it takes the experienced eye of a good beekeeper to tell what the result will be.  It often works out really well. 

I use the Swinger to carry my pallets, lids, etc around on a pallet, and to shuffle the pallets of hives.  Maybe a $25,000 machine is a bit of overkill for the job, but the Singer makes the job possible  -- and easy.  Without it, the job would take twice the time and effort -- and more helpers.  The Swinger doesn't mind showing up for work at 5 or 6 AM, which is when I prefer to begin -- in the cool of the day.  I figured that the splits would get enough bees and that the hives might wind up uneven, but then, they were uneven when I got there.  Another visit might help.

From there I went to The Carraganas and repeated the exercise, then went home at about 2:30.  On the way, I dropped off twelve splits at Elliotts' Home

0610022.jpg (117467 bytes)The rest of the family -- El, Jon, Sarah, Jean and Katrina had gone to the Three Hills Main Street Swap Meet in the morning, searching for a stroller to use on Jon & Sarah's next visit.  After that, we were planning to drive to Chris and Jean's for supper. Chris had not come down because his car had developed a fuel leak, and since it is a Volkswagen, nobody local could fix it for him on a weekend.

El & I left around four in our camper and got there in good time.  We had a pleasant supper on their porch and I went to bed early in our camper at 8:30.  I was tired from the long day.

Along the way, we looked at Generts yard and noticed that the bees are starting to hang out.  We'll finish supering with thirds in the next several days.  I hope we are on time and that we haven't triggered swarming.

Today..Sunny this morning. Increasing cloud this afternoon with 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Wind becoming southeast 30 km/h. High 24.
Tonight..60 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms this evening then clearing. Wind south 20 km/h. Low 11.
Normals for the period..Low 8. High 21.

Friday June 14th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

We continued to lift down splits and put on supers.  In spite of some troubleshooting with D & T, they still only managed to put on 360 supers, and are behind.  They'll have to come in tomorrow.  The bees cannot wait.

P-Ss and Meijers came for supper.  Jon and Sarah and Jean are all still here too.  We had the first barbeque of the year in the back yard. 

Tonight..Mainly clear. Wind light. Low 6.
Friday..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind northeast 20 km/h. High 23.
Normals for the period..Low 7. High 21.

Thursday June 13th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

I awoke at four, and by five I was out moving bees. 

First, I had to lift down splits on some of the hives in the yard that I had brought in the other day, then I loaded the hives from the Quonset and the Scale.  By six, I was on the road to Kadars West to move the yard since the owner had decided to build a fish pond right beside where the bees are located.  I was driving  D4, one of our identical 1991 Ford F350 7.3 diesels with an 18 foot deck, heavy springs and custom  roll-down vinyl tarps.  Behind the Ford was the green Kubota-powered Swinger on its instant-loading trailer.  I can pull into a yard and be on the Swinger lifting hives within one minute.  Rolling up or down the tarp takes a minute or two per side and no tying is required for most loads..

I first stopped at Kadars East.  When I arrived there were 13 hives left from the year before.  I lifted down the 7 splits there onto pallets to take along, and set down some of the hives from my load.   KE  has proven to be a cold, awful wintering and spring yard, but a decent summer location.  When I left, there were 37 hives on the site.  Two were three-high, twenty-three were two-high, and twelve were singles.

I continued to Kadars West.  I arrived a few minutes later, at about seven-thirty, and  found that bees were already flying there.    I had been fooled by the cool climate at Kadars East.  At KE, the bees were not flying and I felt a bit cool.   At KW, it was warm and I took off my shirt.  It is amazing how a mile or two and a few feet of altitude can make a huge difference in bee activity. 

I set down 24 hives from my load (including 8 single splits) over a hill away from the pond, and then returned to the pond site and lifted the splits down from the hives I was about to move.  The number of splits matched the number of gaps on pallets in the yard fairly well, and I had a few splits left over, which I put onto pallets.  The whole yard fit nicely onto the truck, along with the hives I still had from home.  I left with about 44 hives, including splits.  I had to smoke the bees into the hives periodically as I worked, plus leave a catch hive when I left.

From there, I went to Winthers -- a large yard -- and dropped off  7 splits into gaps left by dead-outs, and picked up eight more.  Since the bees are flying these days, we like to move the splits to a new yard so they won't drift back to their parent hive when we lift them down..   I suppose we could stuff the entrances with grass, or use drywall tape to force them to spend a day or two liberating themselves, but there are a few problems with that approach, since it keeps bees out of the hive as well as keeping them in.  Nonetheless, it is less work than toting he splits around. 

Eight splits was all that I had room for, and the bees were starting to fly off the truck a bit, in spite of the tarp, so I headed south to Elliotts' Ranch.  There I unloaded 32 double hives -- 16 over-wintered, and 16 splits.  I chose a location higher up the hill than the location we used previously.  We had found this location to be too cool for wintering.  I figured it would be okay for summer. From there, I went to Merashs', another abandoned yard, and dropped off 12 splits in doubles and proceeded to Deer Run.

I had intended to go home by then, but got engrossed and wound up doing the whole yard.  It is a big one -- 47 hives when I left.  The splits there were not very good.  About half were failures.  The guys had gone there by mistake  shortly after we introduced queens and now many were missing.  I then went to Brian's and did that whole yard, leaving 30 hives when I left.

I had about 14 splits with me when I got home and put twelve doubles down  by the Scale, where I had picked up hives this morning.  I dropped a few more in the north pasture and was in the house by 1:30.

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High 25.
Tonight..Clear. Wind north 20 km/h this evening. Low 9.
Normals for the period..Low 7. High 21.

Wednesday June 12th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

I felt better today, but am still not 100%. 

El, Jon, Sarah, and I went to Three Hills at eleven-thirty to see Walt and Doreen at the ice cream shop.  Doreen was buying.  I ran Ellen home, then I had a doctor's appointment at 2.  While I tended to that, and grocery shopping, the Olds was in the shop having the air conditioning checked.  The mechanic recharged the system, then discovered that the pump clutch was not engaging.  I asked if that was not exactly what the initial check should have discovered right off... and how did they charge it up properly if the pump was not working so that they could test?  They said that the coolant was low anyhow.  I wonder.  It was recharged last year and they reported no sign of a leak.  I think Matt disconnected something when he worked on the engine.  If I had just noticed where the connection was off, and plugged it in, I could likely have saved $100.

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High 21.
Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low 5.
Normals for the period..Low 7. High 21

Tuesday June 11th, 2002
Last year on this date
       Year 2000 on this date

Kenton and Paulo headed out to lift down the splits and Dennis and Tim went to super yards that have no splits and are now in doubles only.  About one in the afternoon, it turned out that Dennis's crew was taking two hours on average--  including driving time -- to super each 40 hives.  That seems awfully slow in my recollection.  They have a few tasks to do in each yard, but basically, they had only to remove the lid and take out the Apistan, then remove any extender patty that was left, and add an excluder and a third, and replace the lid and brick.  Dennis timed the actual yard part at 30 minutes, so I don't know what happened to the rest of the time.  After Tim left early to go pick up a car that he bought, Dennis went alone to do another yard and returned about two hours later, so I'm wondering: why send two guys, if it makes so little difference in the total time for the job? 

We are only putting on thirds so far because we have some granulated honey in some boxes and want them next to the brood so they are sure to get liquefied.  These supers are all on the truck (360) and one of the trailers (360) now, so once we are rid of these exceptions all the remaining supers will be the same and we will be able to put on two, or even three in one visit.  That should cut the time per super down considerably.

Paulo and Kenton made good progress, got lots done, but had to call me from Halsteads' at the end of the day.  Apparently, the battery was flat, so I went to give them a boost.  A boost made little difference, but a judicious tap on the starter with a one-pound hammer made the starter turn over normally, so I guess the starter brushes are shot.

I'm not too impressed with the splits we are getting.  Many are good, but many are pretty small.  Our plan was to make splits that did not excessively sap the strength of the parent hive, and I suppose that we did not, in most cases, but simply splitting strong doubles into two parts was easier and more consistent in the past -- I think.

It is hard to be sure, since this has been the coldest spring on record since they started recording here in 1948, and by 1.5 degrees C, from what I hear, so judging by this and by what other beekeepers report about their hives, we don't have a good comparison.

Lilacs are now in bloom too and the alfalfa is coming up fast, so maybe we will not see the long flat spot between spring and summer flows that we sometimes have.

Jonathan and Ellen went down and cleaned up his house to get it ready to sell.  Sarah baked some apple pies.  I'm still a bit under the weather although the worst of my cold has passed.  Fortunately no one else seems to have caught it.

Today..Cloudy with 60 percent chance of afternoon showers. Wind north 20 km/h. High 17.
Tonight..Cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers this evening. Clearing overnight. Wind north 20 km/h. Low 6.
Saturday..Sunny. Low 7. High 25. Normals for the period..Low 7. High 20.

Monday June 10th, 2002

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Ellen, sitting in the grass

Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

We're shifting gears again.  The splitting is done and it is just a matter of lifting the splits down and supering the yards, but getting everyone trained and on track will take a day or two.

I had a meeting with the accountant this morning, so Ellen went out with the crew the Willows to get started, and I caught up with them after my meeting.  We went to the Willows because it was a wintering yard and there are still  enough hives (106) and splits (29) there to justify a large crew and to keep everyone busy for a while learning without having to stop and go to another yard.  Paulo stayed home to finish the brood chambers so we will have them tomorrow.


First we place empty brood boxes into the empty spots on the pallets, then we lift the splits onto them.  We fill the feeders as we go.  We mark the splits with an adhesive colored dot to show what kind of queen we installed.  Normally we do not check for the queen and just assume if the bees are there that she is okay.


We decided not to unwrap this yard.  I remember clearly spending well over $2,000 each fall on wrapping labour, plus fuel and management costs.  I'm wondering if we can just leave the sleeves on.  We'll remove them in some yards and leave them on in others.  So far, leaving them on seems to work okay, but the boxes may be subject to more moisture and find the paint peeling or boxes rotting more doing things this way. It also looks a bit strange.

We scrape off any remaining grease patty, pull the Apistan, add an excluder, then put on a super.  We noticed that a few of the hives have plugged on the dandelion flow and realize that we should have supered them a little earlier.  Nonetheless, we know that in a big outfit like this that it is impossible to have exact timing on all hives, and that some are always visited a bit early and some a bit late.


601025.jpg (54262 bytes)We're checking to see if these bees will accept a queen.  The hive has a drone layer that may have just died, judging by the age of the brood. There are lots of young bees

If, after 15 minutes there is no sign of hostility, we feel confident to leave the queen cage in the hive with a marshmallow in the cork hole.


Today..Showers. Wind northeast 20 km/h this afternoon. High 12.
Tonight..Cloudy with occasional showers. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h. Low 6.
Normals for the period..Low 7. High 20.

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