Our back yard is dry, but the new apple trees are doing well.
The morning is cool and everything looks green again after the rain, but the forecast is for 30 degrees and sunny.
Jean and I went to the Calgary Stampede for the afternoon. We watched the hypnotist at the Coca-Cola Stage and then spent an hour or two at the Indian Village watching the young dancers from Treaty Seven perform. After that, we wandered the grounds. Jean wanted to do the 80 foot freefall drop, so she was hoisted up on the crane and dropped into a net -- for $35.00. She really enjoyed it. We wound our visit by up watching Craz-e-crew, a BMX, rollerblade and skater demo group. They were amazing. We left at about seven.
Today..Sunny. Wind increasing to southeast 30
km/h. High 30.
At eight this morning, I had the camper truck at the dealer's to get the air-conditioning serviced. They spent an hour and decided the front bearing in the pump is shot and that the relay is not relaying. Cost is $150 to fix the pump and $38 for the relay, then $100 to recharge, etc. My wrecker friend has a pump for $50 and maybe the bearing is only a $25 item, so I guess I'll take my time and save the $150.
Well, I quit working on that and did the notes. I had noticed when I returned from the Peace and did summaries of the notes, that we seemed to be short about 2,000 supers. When I compared known inventory to what we apparently had on the hives, and reportedly what was still in the quonset, it seemed that were short. We had fewer supers on than I like to have, yet I was assured and reassured that we have only 900 boxes left -- the 900 we planned to keep back to put on when we are pulling honey.
I hadn't gone to count in the storage shed myself. I trusted the two people who -- separately and individually -- gave me the numbers. One of the guys had kept saying that we are running out of boxes, and we believed him and that belief coloured the vision of both people who counted on separate occasions. We found we have 2,800 boxes in storage. Apparently the second person who counted went and looked, but just saw what had been described by the first and was therefore expected -- rather than what was actually there. I see this happen all the time, and as a result I always try to get several independent reports where possible, then then doubt them all.
We were lucky that we discovered this error in time. The flow has not hit heavily here yet. Nonetheless, I always put all my boxes on in early July, then over the season reduce the number of boxes per hive as we extract and only replace the ones that we think will be needed to hold any remaining flow.
There are three reasons for this: one is prevention of swarming, the second is that boxes get stale if they are not used, and the bees condition them best early in the season, and the third is that the bees produce the best crops when they are given lots of room early.
Today..Mainly sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h.
We are putting on the last supers today and adjusting the supers that are on the hives now. When we first super, we guess how many will be needed. Later we return and take some off the hives that are occupying them less to place them on the hives that are working in the top box. Thus the yards look even at about five high on the first pass, but after the second, some hives are seven high and others are reduced to three or four. Ideally we should either requeen the smaller ones or take them home and nuke them out into splits. We likely won't have time though.
I went out to look at the nearby yards to see how much more we need to do right away. As I was leaving, a call came in about a swarm. I said I'd drop over and look. Seeing as it was on the wall of the Carbon curling rink, I felt it is my civic duty. What no one told me was that the swarm was 30 feet from an outdoor public pool full of kids. The cluster was a biggie and had been there for a while, I realized when I saw wax flakes on the ground under it.
I discovered I had forgotten my veil, but decided to smoke them lightly for safety sake -- I don't normally smoke swarms -- and ask the guards to clear the pool. They did. I realized there was little risk, but these days, who knows who will sue whom over what tiny matter? Better safe than sorry.
I had brought a cardboard box and just scooped the bees into it. They were content to stay without my closing the lids. I didn't get them all, since it was 2 PM, but figured the rest would leave if I got the queen and if I didn't, there was a hobby beekeeper in town who could handle the few I left.
I took the box along and went on my way to adjust supers in a few yards as originally planned. When I was far enough away that they would not just go back, I just dumped the swarm into a weak hive and chased them in with some smoke. They seemed happy to go, but I don't know if they will stay or not.
I worked through the four yards and was satisfied that they had enough supers, but I moved some from hive to hive. What amazes me is that some hives are working well, filling the fifth or even sixth box, while another nearby is struggling in the third. I realize that we have splits and split hives interspersed with hives that were not split, but just the same, That can't account for all the variance.
I notice that leaving our wraps on seems to have little or no effect on the hives. They seem to be doing identically compared to their neighbours that have no wraps.
Today..Sunny. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h.
Another hot, hot day coming up. Dennis and Paulo were out until 9 last night putting on supers and are in again this morning finishing the supering. They had to come in on a Saturday to rectify the error we made, but did so willingly, although I can see Paulo is tired. They have 6 yards to do: 248 hives in total, and 350 supers on the truck. We gave Tim the day off.
We can see that some hives are plugging due to not having been supered enough on the first round. The problem is that the hives that are producers need to have as many boxes as possible early when the bees are deciding how much space they have to fill.
We made a fairly big mistake this year in not emphasizing that all the supers have to go on the hives July 1st. We talked about keeping back 1,000 for using when pulling honey, and somehow 2,800 were left until we discovered the error. When we go out to get honey for extracting, we do in fact need some empties to replace the boxes we pull, especially if we hit yards that are plugged or close to it on the first pass. Otherwise we would be leaving those hives sitting without any supers until we got back with empties, and who knows when that would be? Since we usually have somewhere up to 1,000 supers in transit and in the honey house -- full boxes and fresh empties -- during extracting, 1,000 is a nice round figure.
The problem was that the importance of keeping some back somehow got larger in the people's minds than the primary goal of getting all the boxes possible on hives early -- before the flow --and one crew was skimping on adding boxes. They visited lots of yards, but only left as few as 1.2 supers per hive (the average was actually about 2.1 in that group of yards).
Unfortunately, memory is selective and employees who remember last year, mainly recall the hassle and effort of bringing back empties and partials at the end of the season, and consequently hate to take lots of boxes out. They always lose sight of the fact that the boxes were filled several times before the season tapered off, and that there are always empties and partials at the end, since we can't just assume everything is over until September and must continue to super, at least minimally, on hopes of another flow until then. This reluctance to super hives is worse the summer after a poor year, since in that instance, helpers cannot even imagine that all the supers could plug up in a matter of days if a bumper year materializes. They remember the poor year and expect another the same.
This is where management is so important. I have found that after one year, most employees think they know the job and can make decisions better than we can, and so they try to run things. If we are not very vigilant, they will make decisions -- without asking, or in direct conflict with orders -- that may reduce the immediate labour, but will drastically limit the crop and eventually wind up with things so snarled up that everything grinds to a halt. Timing, foresight and strategy are everything. Oftentimes it is wise to walk past a penny glittering on the ground and save time and energy to harvest the dollars we know are a little farther down the line.
Dennis returned around three and announced they were done. Paulo had been dropped off in Three Hills, where he lives.
I went to town at the end of the day and got some supplies to work on the RO water filter. Ellen was working on the mural downtown, in spite of the heat. I started on the RO filter job. The saddle valve was acting up, and the input filter needed changing, so I changed the valve, and then the filter. The filter looks to be a year old. I thought I had changed it in the spring, but I guess the valve problem had stopped me. At any rate the filter was amazingly gummed up.
Jean had said she was coming out for the night and showed up around seven. She changed into her bathing suit and immediately jumped into the dunk tank I set up yesterday. It's the 400 gallon milk tank that we use for a sump. I simply filled it with cold water and it makes a refreshing dip on these 35+ degree days.
We had burgers and watched a movie, The Crew. It turned out that the RO filter setup was leaking and by the time we got that fixed, it was midnight.
While waiting for the filter to pressure up, I did the notes and found that one yard got missed on both of the supering rounds, and currently sits at 3.2 boxes high (average) including broods. It's not as bad as it sounds, though, since some of them are small splits. Nonetheless, this highlights how people can jump to conclusions, then not verify them, even though the phone is right at hand.
They knew I had moved a yard, and although the notes said there were 37 hives in one spot and 24 in the other, they somehow rationalized that the notes were wrong and did not look for the second yard -- or ask or report the discrepancy! They then changed the number of hives in the notes to agree with their rationalization, and did not even mention the apparent disappearance of 24 hives! One of the reasons we account for every hive and every super is that if we encounter any theft, we have full documentation for the authorities. The guys short-circuited our accounting system by not querying us about where the hives went.
Today..Sunny. Wind light. High 33.
El and I went shopping in Drumheller in the afternoon, then drove to East Coulee, then cross-country to have & supper at Meijers. After supper, we walked their quarter section and enjoyed the variety in terrain in the land they purchased. Sam, a friend from Blue Sky Colony, was driving by and stopped to share some strawberries and chat.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud. 60 percent chance
of showers or thunderstorms. Wind west 20 km/h. High 29.
Fortunately I was not too heavy on the guys about the missed yard Friday. At the morning meeting, we chatted about what happened. It seems that they had tried to phone repeatedly, but only got "Welcome to Telus" messages that puzzled them. Apparently when I had asked Dennis to report the minutes accumulated on his phone the night before, he had somehow hit the sequence of keys that switches NAMs in these bag phones, and he switched the active channel from AT&T on the B side, where we have an account, over to the A side, which is Telus, where we do not.
Anyhow, Paulo went up to do the yard and reported that it had not been an emergency; the hives were far from plugged. Dennis set up the extractors and Tim had a day outside tidying at the quonset. I got word that there is a hole at a magazine and that the editor was in need for an article ASAP, so I began straightening up what I had already. Paulo returned at the end of the day and loaded his truck and drove home.
Robinsons -- the whole gang, including Johnny and Julia and Billy -- came for burgers. Loewens came too and Shirley came over later. We had a pleasant evening outdoors and I spent the last few hours up to midnight writing.
Today..Mainly sunny. 30 percent chance of late
afternoon thunderstorms. Wind becoming south 20 km/h. High 30.
Paulo called at seven-thirty for us to punch him in. He was on his way from home to the yards. Tim and Dennis came in, but Dennis had a bad toothache and left to see a dentist. Tim called and begged off shortly after, saying he had flu or sunstroke. He had put on sunscreen twice yesterday, but the bottle was old, and I guess he didn't know that the sunscreen rating declines fairly quickly over time and old sunscreen is just fancy skin cream. It could be flu, because El and I have both been lacking energy lately. We blamed it on the heat or allergies in my case, but I still have a nagging dry cough and figure I had a virus when I was in Muskoka. Others blame it on the hot hot days and hot nights, and say that this is a record for heat, but I seem to remember that we had more hot weather and less rain at times in the '80s.
I slaved over the article from seven AM until after noon, then sent it in. Just as I finished, Ellen brought in the mail and I finally saw my article about foundation making in July Bee Culture. I liked the layout. It looked very good.
After that, I went to Calgary in the afternoon to drop of the D1 starter and to do some shopping. On the way, I dropped down to Zieglers since the bees are getting into the bird bath and emptying it every day. There's not much I can do. It is just really really dry, and with all this 30+ degree weather the bees are needing water. In Calgary, I bought a Calgary Herald with a front page article heading the drought across Alberta.
Ellen and I have both lacked energy for the past few days. She thinks it's the heat, but I think we have a virus or allergy. I've had a dry cough ever since Ontario.
Today..Mainly sunny. 30 percent chance of a late
afternoon thunderstorm. Wind north 20 km/h. High 29.
I got up at 5 to move bees and was on my way by 6:20. The delay was due to having to unload a truck (again) before I could go. I moved 40 hives out of Willows to LeMays'. I had seen a good looking spot on the way to Calgary yesterday, and since we knew the owner, a simple phone call set things up. As I drove south yesterday, I noticed that the country got quite a bit greener as I approached Beiseker and continued to look better the further south went.
I loaded without incident and had the hives delivered and unloaded by 8:45 or so. While I was gone, Ellen hired a student who applied for work. Another who worked here last year and had another job quit that job today and decided to come back here. That's good; she was our best extractor operator.
I stopped at one of our yards on the way home from Three Hills this afternoon around six and was impressed by the number of grasshoppers that have appeared out of nowhere. there were almost none a few days ago and now they are everywhere. It was windy and hot all day and everything is really dry. The short alfalfa had blooms a day ago, but seems to have dropped them now and is wilted. Everyone is hoping for a break in the heat. So me rain would be nice too. Nonetheless, bees were flying on what appears to be a light flow.
This evening I got a call about the bees I had moved in this morning. Apparently they had been searching the owner's yard for water and she was concerned. I ad been concerned too, since I normally move on rainy days. Then the bees have more time to find water before the kind of day we had today, a day with searing heat and wilted flowers. Normally the bees get water in the nectar, but I have a feeling there was little nectar today.
Today..Sunny. Wind increasing to south 30 km/h.
Paulo and Mark, a new hire, went out to check supers in some of the remaining local yards. Dennis and Tim worked around home, changing oil and getting the basement cleaned out ready for extracting.
Paulo checked the home yard at the end of the day. We have some weak splits here and he also has been bringing back a few of the poorest hives when he comes across one. He replaced a few queens.
I went to town on errands and on up to Trochu to get some white plastic sheeting to cover some walls in the honey house. I priced it, but could not decide what to buy.
Today..Sunny. Wind becoming southwest 30 km/h.
Paulo and Mark went out to check supers and weak hives and to pull honey if they found any. In the first yard, he found 56 boxes full on 40 hives and in the second, he got another sixty. He returned around six and unloaded, quite pleased with his success. He reported that Mark had not been very good today and had tired out easily.
Dennis and Tim cleaned out tanks and put plastic on windows and walls. I had received a call in the morning about bees in the water trough at an acreage. I drove out and visited. We had put drums of water out earlier and they were now dry. I put out four this time and when I returned later in the day, there were only two bees visiting them. I drove across to the acreage and there were as many bees there as 6 hours earlier. we'll see if the bees transfer to the new source.
I got a call in mid-afternoon from the Calgary Sun, wanting to know how the drought affects beekeepers. It'll be interesting to see what they quote.
Later in the afternoon, I got another call about bees in a kids' swimming pool, and it looks as if we may lose a new and good location near home due to the same problem.
Meijers came for supper.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming
south 20 km/h. High 29.