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Protein Patty Time Coming up in Mid-March

Grant's bees are ready a month earlier than ours, since they are in the BC interior area.

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Saturday 1 March 2003
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I realized last night that my sale pages are out of date -- we've sold lots and prices have also changed --and updated them a bit. 

March is here and we'll be moving bees soon for several customers.  We'll also be putting strips into and placing patties on the rest starting about mid-month.

The kitchen drain blocked up and we were out of movies, so I decided to go to town to get lye, and also something to watch.  I made it halfway out my driveway before getting stuck.  A half-hour later, all I had managed to do -- with the help of Ellen, a recovery strap and the 4X4 -- was get deeper and bend the back bumper of the car a bit. 

Until now, we could get through without problem; even though the snow was fairly deep, it was soft.  In the last two days the snow has drifted hard and deep and set up hard enough to make problems, but not hard enough to drive on.  I hate to plow the lane, because the snow banks then cause more snow to drift into the traveled portion.  I usually try to pack it down, but this stuff is now rutted and crusty.  The 4X4 now has trouble getting thru.

I took the 4X4 to the neighbours and borrowed some lye, but the drain stayed plugged.  I may have to pull the pipes apart.

 of the Day

Today :   30 percent chance of flurries then a mix of sun and cloud. Wind southeast 20 km/h. High minus 3.   Tonight :   Partly cloudy. Wind southeast 20 shifting to west this evening. Low minus 9 this evening then temperature rising.   Normals for the period :   Low minus 10. High plus 1.

Sunday 2 March 2003
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The drain is still plugged.

I did some work on the site yesterday.  Specifically, I searched out all the bad references (due file name problems that showed up after switching to the Linux server from MS Windows), and changed them.  Something must have worked because I was amazed to see the server error log entirely empty this morning!

Dear Allen,

last week, writing about the many countries, you may have missed that at least one person is reading your diary from switzerland (we are not only a cheese making outfit, on a big map you may find us, with a looking glass). with great pleasure, at least ones a week. mostly on sunday morning. just before sitting in church. it somehow gets the mind drifting toward nature, God's second book.

thanks a lot for your time and effort

You're right, and actually, I think that -- in North America -- Switzerland is well known and respected historically for watches, stable gold-backed currency, and neutrality (as well as Heidi, cheese and mercenaries).  I have several Swiss friends, including a beekeeper friend I bought out a number of years ago!  In these days, we know Switzerland for the great web pages on mites and other topics -- and skiing.  ...And, I did miss Switzerland in my list.  It occurs to me that readers might be interested, so, on the left, here's the log I see when I take a look  Click, as always, to enlarge.

After a brief initial flurry of activity, I see that the HoneyBeeWorld Forum has faded into inactivity.  That's the problem.  If no one posts, no one visits it and it dies.  We'll see what happens, I guess...

I worked on the website, continuing the transfer to my new server and in mid-afternoon we went out to extricate the car from the drifts in the drive.  It was warm and the wind had died.  I was too hot in my snowsuit.  I located the chains that Paulo was to have found the previous week, chained up the front wheels on the 4x4, and pulled out the car.

Note: The previous day, without much thought, I had doubled up the recovery strap, an elastic 3" nylon woven band about twenty feet long, hooking one end around a bumper support under the car and both ends onto the hooks on the 4X4.  Today, I changed so that one end was on the truck and one on the car.  That doubled the length and doubled the load on the strap.  As a result, the stretching force doubled and since the length was double, the stretch quadrupled, and the car came along without protest. 

Stretch is what makes recovery straps much more powerful than rigid pulling devices like a chain.  With a chain, care must be taken when tightening up the line or damage will be done to the car.  With the recovery strap, the idea is to take a run at it.  When the strap tightens, it stretches, stores energy, and pulls smoothly, rather than hammering.  Thus, the pulling vehicle can maintain some momentum, and vastly multiplied energy is applied smoothly to the car.  The power is amazing, and vehicles that will not budge with a chain come right along with a strap. 

There is one caveat, though.  If a strap breaks, it can kill.  Care must be taken to use the correct strap and to make sure that it is not overstressed. Getting some stretch is the secret, but too much could result in breakage.  If a strap or attachment breaks, all that energy has to go somewhere, and no one should be anywhere near the front or back ends.  Steel hooks on the ends of nylon straps are not a good idea, because of their weight and hardness.  There are tales of the remaining portion of steel hooks going clear though tailgates on pickup trucks after a hook has broken!

Then Ellen saw the highway snowplow go by and ran out to see if he felt like taking a pass around our driveway. He was bored going up and down the (bare) highway and said, "Sure".

Sanding trucks, complete with plow, patrol all day and all night whenever snow is in the forecast.  They do this even if there is actually no snowfall, because they cover a 60 or 100 mile stretch and never know what the local conditions might be along the way.  An isolated squall might make a stretch of the highway dangerous while conditions continue clear elsewhere, so they drive endlessly up and down the road, looking for a chance to do some plowing, until the alert is over.

He made fairly short work of the drifts, but did mange to get stuck for a few minutes until we dug his (live tandem) rear wheels free so he could move a bit. Although this snow is packed solid, it is very slippery.  It's dry and grainy and must be like zillions of miniscule ball bearings.

Later, El and I were invited to the Mill for supper and accepted.  It was so nice out when we left that I almost wore my light jacket, but I thought better and took the heavier one. This is Alberta and the weather can change in a few minutes. We drove to the Mill and had a pleasant supper.  They have two schoolgirls from Holland visiting for work experience.  I'm always amazed at how well Europeans from almost everywhere speak and understand English.  

Around 8:30, someone noticed the wind beginning to howl and we left a bit early, in near white-out conditions, and I was glad to have the extra clothing along.  Nonetheless, we arrived home without incident to find our lane had drifted in, again.

 of the Day

Allergy Advisor Newsletter

Today :   Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High plus 1. Tonight :   Occasional snow. Wind north 30 diminishing to light overnight. Low minus 17. Wind chill near minus 25.  Normals for the period :   Low minus 10. High plus 1.

Monday 3 March 2003
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I notice that Nakiska got 25 cms of fresh snow last night.  It's tempting, but I have had some joint pains for the past several days and think it wise to wait until that passes.  When I think of continuing beekeeping as I did in the past, one thing I tend to forget is that I am truly getting too old to lift heavy boxes all day.  I did experience some aftereffects from my summer activities, and although I like to think that the problem was partially due to working when I had a virus, age is creeping up and cutting back is a wise decision.

I apologize. Just after I reported that I was no longer seeing errors in the error log of this web, I thought of several changes that needed making. For one thing, I remembered that there were still a number of internal links to  I n t e r n o d e  and I changed them. I also found about fifty other minor housekeeping changes and did them, too. None of these are things that the user would notice, but they are all part of changing servers. Of course it makes me regret I did not design the site to be more portable. Www.honeybeeworld.com now has 868 HTML pages, and countless other supporting files.

Anyhow, to get to the point, I changed about 75 pages. The changes were minor, but the activity triggered an odd characteristic in the Apache server, one that I always have to work around: the server screws up the 'includes' and you'll see double images at the top of a page sometimes, until I fix it. That's bad enough, but that screws up the links on the page, and that's why you get the 404s or redirects. Sorry. Hopefully that will go away soon.

Also, interestingly enough, the Google spider was here last night and took a good look around, so hopefully that will mean that honeybeeworld will be replacing  I n t e r n o d e  in its search results more and more.  If you have a website with links to this one, you could help me by changing them to point to honeybeeworld.com instead of the old (and soon to be eliminated) i n t e r n o d e  site.

I have not commented about the outdoor temperatures lately.  I felt I was getting repetitive, but nonetheless, we are seeing a lot of minus ten weather and days of wind from north and south and every direction but west, the direction that brings us 'normal' weather.

From a regular and well-informed contributor in the USA:


Seems a good many bees coming out of California almonds are in poor shape or dead.  Beekeepers in Texas who have good bees are selling frames of brood for $8.00 with frame exchange.  Many are all sold out & the phone I am told just keeps ringing.  Seems a good many of the Dakota bees that did not make a honey crop are part of the problem or mites.  But the same bees sent to Texas are in much better shape.   Some operators are unsure as to what to do with all the empty equipment from dead outs.  Many operators bees that are still alive are in such poor shape that they can not be split to fill this equipment back up.  Yet deep supers --  if you can find them -- are selling for upwards of $US18.00.

Queen producers seem to be sold out also at this point.  Queen cups & cage sales are very strong compared to last year at this time, per JZBZ.  Had one of my long time queen suppliers call & check if & when I needed queens that he was about sold out & wanted to give me a courtesy call. 

I also have been told that a good many of the people who migrate north for honey flows will more than likely moving bees in to the tallow this spring if they can find locations due to the lack of moisture in the Midwest.  Many parts of the tallow flow regions have had over 30" of rainfall since last November.  This is probably a safe bet as the lack of moisture & diesel fuel prices would tend to scare anyone. 

Honey prices seem to be holding in the $1.55 range.  Seems the public is very much aware of the China honey deal as very few consumers have a problem paying the increased price for quality honey.  I had one packer call looking for white bottling honey & $1.60 was not a problem. 

He also told me that sales were very strong.  He did notice that -- to him -- it seemed that any of the brands that listed having imported honey on there label were not selling very well in spite of the lower price.

Print parts or all of this if you want Allen.  Tried to call you 2 times this weekend & you must have been on the bum or making a snowman ??????????????

From Catch the Buzz:

Honey Prices Record High

Honey prices increased to a record high during 2002 to 128.6 cents, up 83 percent from 70.4 cents in 2001. Prices are based on retail sales by producers and sales to private processors and cooperatives.

For an archive of Catch the Buzz postings, visit: http://bee.airoot.com/beeculture/buzz/index.html

I did more work on the New vs. Used Bee Equipment page and it is improved now.

 Adony sent me the results of our honey samples, submitted last fall in the Beaverlodge AFB survey.  Here's what they said:

enlargeAll the honey samples you sent to our lab were incubated under special conditions so that Paenibacillus larvae larvae (the organism that causes AFB) would grow. We determined how many spores were in each sample of honey using laboratory techniques. The graph above describes how many of the samples from the cooperating beekeepers had AFB in them. On the graph you are labeled as beekeeping operation E.

You submitted 33 samples and we were able to detect AFB in 1 sample. The identity of the positive sample was #30. The percentage of samples with P. l. larvae in 2002 was, consequently, 3%, a decrease from last year when it was 25%.

Most beekeepers had very few positive samples this year, averaging only 11% of each beekeeper’s total samples. The low number of positive samples is an improvement from last year when 34% of the average beekeeper’s samples were positive.

The number of spores found in your positive sample was estimated to be 63 spores per gram of honey. The highest number of spores detected in a sample (not ours) this year was 8,100 spores per gram.

We are unsure of how the number of spores per sample relates to the future risk of an AFB outbreak, however we believe that the proportion of samples with AFB may related to outbreak risk. For example, last year we observed that beekeeper’s with a greater incidence of AFB had larger percentages of positive samples. This year, only 3 beekeepers reported seeing AFB, beekeeper’s L, M, I, and not surprisingly, the first two beekeepers (L and M) had the highest proportion of positive samples.

How does the incidence of positive samples and/or number of spores in a sample translate to the number of AFB infected colonies? At present these relationships are poorly understood. To develop a better understanding we plan to compare the colony inspection and survey data you have provided to the sample results. Please keep in mind that your accurate inspection reports are critical to developing honey sampling as an AFB detection tool. Make sure your staff can recognize AFB and keep records of every diagnosed case of diseased colonies.

Testing of the samples for oxytetracycline-resistant AFB in underway and we hope to provide you with information about the distribution of resistance among the samples shortly.

Large-scale field experiments often require data from multiple years to draw conclusions from and for this reason we expect to continue with our AFB research this year. I hope we can count on your continued participation. I will be contacting you this spring to discuss our research plans for 2003. If you wish to talk about your results sooner, please let us know.


Apiculture Group, Beaverlodge Research Farm
Don Nelson (780 354-5122)
Steve Pernal (780 354-5135)
Adony Melathopoulos, Amy Misko (780 354-5130)

My comments:

We're naturally glad to see the background spore levels going down towards zero.  I take this to be a vindication of my -- often expressed, and often hotly contested -- belief that -- suppressing outbreaks of active AFB, which we have done now for four years with oxytetracycline (OTC) extender patties -- results in lowered background spore levels and reduced risk over time.  Over the past five years, we have reduced the levels and duration of OTC medication to 1/3 of what we first used when going over to extender patties without seeing any active AFB.  Initially we used patties spring and fall.  Lately, we have reduced the patty size, and only use them in spring.  Before using extender patties, we invariably found AFB outbreaks -- in spite of using multiple OTC dustings both spring and fall, plus OTC treated syrup spring and fall.

Inasmuch as there was only one 2002 sample (above) that showed any spores, if we had a record of which yard provided sample #30, we would be able to zoom in on that yard and find the offending hive(s).  We don't have that info, but in coming years, such record keeping may become standard procedure for HACCP reasons, and the resulting HACCP-like records could dovetail with the AFB survey to save countless hours of searching for AFB where no AFB is likely to be found.

The Saskatchewan newsletter came in the mail today, and see that they have been reconsidering several issues that had caused me concern.  As I have said before, I rate those guys in Saskatchewan very highly, and am delighted to see that they have responded positively  I glad to to see that they are considering options that should provide a better operating environment for all beekeepers and fairer trade -- consistent with an appropriate concern for potential pitfalls.

Today :   Mainly cloudy with a few morning flurries. Wind north 20 km/h. High minus 10. Tonight :   Cloudy. 60 percent chance of flurries this evening. Clearing overnight. Wind light. Low minus 19. Normals for the period :   Low minus 10. High plus 1.

Tuesday 4 March 2003
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It's minus twenty this morning and more snow is on the way it seems.

I worked at my desk and made a few phone calls, including one to AHPC to encourage them to put some pressure on our queen supplier to document the efforts and any tests to prove AFB and tracheal mite resistance.   Seeing as it is looking more likely that US mainland queens will be brought into Alberta (only) under strict protocols, I wondered if the AHPC would be involved, seeing as they have the expertise, facilities and staff to manage the task if asked.  They have done an excellent job in handling the shipments of Hawaiian queens over the years, so I think this is something they could handle well.

As for the mainland queen importation debate, reason is beginning to predominate over fear and self-dealing in the discussions.  The emotional, knee-jerk responses are being replaced by consideration of what-if scenarios and of ways to accommodate everyone's requirements and concerns.  Some irrational arguments remain, and, strangely, some people in regions totally unaffected by the project, are still meddling in the process.  Obviously, they should simply abstain, but, hopefully, common sense will prevail.

It is only necessary to look at a map of North America to see that California is closer to Alberta than Ontario and areas east.  Moreover, regions of the USA with tracheal and (possibly miticide resistant) varroa mites, resistant AFB and SHB -- and possibly AHB --  are much closer to any part Southern Ontario and the eastern provinces than Alberta is.  Alberta is no threat whatsoever to the East, especially when viewed in  that context.

For some reason, repeated arguments are made that CFIA is national, and that any arrangements must thus be national.  This is obvious poppycock.  The U.S. border was closed to bee imports in two stages, and some areas of Canada have existing restrictions and even bans on bee movement.  I'm amazed that representatives of the beekeeping organizations believe whatever a CFIA employee tells them.  IMO, some of the pronouncements made by CFIA have been made without much study or thought.

Our representatives lose sight of the fact that CFIA is the servant of the public and of the industry.  CFIA will do -- or try to do -- whatever they are asked as long as it is reasonable, and not illegal, immoral, dangerous, or obviously oppressive.  That's their job.

 In my calls, I also heard that the price of honey is on its way up again and is expected to reach $2 US soon.  Canadian buyers are currently offering $2.35 CAD ($1.57 US). 

Meijers were in Three Hills in the afternoon, and came over for supper.

Today :   Flurries tapering off this morning then a mix of sun and cloud. Wind increasing to south 20 km/h. High minus 10. Tonight :   Mainly cloudy. Wind southwest 20 km/h. Low minus 12.

Wednesday 5 March 2003
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Another cold morning.  By mid-morning, the wind picked up and we had white-out conditions for an hour or so.

Hi Allen,

What kind of microscope are you using for your tracheal mite test? I tried it with a slide microscope and that doesn't work. I know they have something called a dissecting microscope. I don't mind buying something but I want to be sure I get one that will work.

My bees look pretty good so far.  There are about 175 colonies that I have been able to get to. I'm running 15% dead with another 10% weak. The temp has been in the mid 30's when I have been looking at them but the good ones are spread clear across the top bars.

There seems to be plenty of packages in California. I've got around 300 sold and the guy that's hauling them for me is building his second load of 1200.

I use a cheap binocular dissecting 'scope.  About 25X, if I recall.  It's at Paulo's place right now, since he does the actual tests at home.  It does not take much: a loupe or a magnifier -- one of those ones with a light bulb -- will work if your eyes are good, but the better the 'scope, the easier the job.  A good ring illuminator is nice if you are doing many.  I think that some of the things that you can buy for kids to hook up to a computer could work too.

Thanks for the report on winter survival and package supplies.

Today :   Cloudy with occasional snow developing this morning. Wind increasing to north 40 gusting 60 km/h this morning giving reduced visibility in blowing snow. Wind diminishing to north 30 this afternoon. High minus 3 this morning then temperature falling to minus 15 this afternoon. Cold wind chill minus 26 this afternoon. Risk of frostbite. Tonight :   Occasional snow. Wind north 20 diminishing. Low minus 23.
Thursday :   Occasional snow. Accumulation 4 to 8 cm. Wind light. High minus 20. Normals for the period :   Low minus 10. High plus 2.

 of the Day

Canadian Honey Regulations

Thursday 6 March 2003
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Another cold morning

Bio-terrorism was mentioned on the news this morning, and that got me thinking -- again...

The risk of sabotage of food or agriculture has always been a possibility, but these days, the potential for major disruption through introduction of animal or human disease disease or by deliberate contamination of food is taken much more seriously than in the past.  In the past, in North America,  we've always trusted the good intentions and competence of those in our food production and delivery system, and backed that up with inspection systems to ensure that proper facilities, personnel, and procedures are in place. Recent terrorism alerts, however, have started us all thinking the unthinkable: there are people out there who would deliberately sabotage our food supply.

Traditionally, most of our food has been produced and processed domestically.  We knew where it came from, and felt comfortable about who was handling it.  However, in recent years, more and more of our food comes from distant, and sometimes totally unknown sources.  Not only are were ignorant of its source, but we do not know anything about the people or the facilities from which it comes.  We import foods from all over the world, and then proceed to combine supplies from many sources into products that are distributed widely and rapidly across our country, and the world.

It is clear that we have no idea, when dealing with foreign honies, from where they came, who has handled them and under what conditions, and what they could contain.  We don't even know if they are even really 100% honey.  We do have ways of tracking the finished products, but we have much less tracking and quality assurance on the inputs.  We become increasingly aware of this fact when we examine recent experience with chloramphenicol contamination of honey from China. In spite of the fact that chloramphenicol was apparently unique to Chinese honey and only honey from some specific localities in China, the drug has had a way of showing up in honey that is represented as coming from countries all over the world. My understanding is that the most recent chloramphenicol finds were in honey that was imported into the USA as being Mexican honey.

When we consider that some importing honey packers in North America buy honey -- often from unknown sources -- mostly by colour, flavour and by price, and then blend honey from many sources into large batches in plants that there are some big risks being taken.  When we see that some of those plants are certified under HACCP, we wonder what is the point?   Garbage in, garbage out.  How can there be any assurance of quality output if there is no certification of the origin and the nature of the raw product? There simply cannot be, and we are observing a charade.

Some may say that the packers test honey in labs, and that we are therefore safe. Testing is only good as far as it goes, and it does not go very far. Sampling is time-consuming and expensive, and each of the many possible lab tests only confirms presence or absence of the specific things for which that particular test is designed. There is no general test that finds everything that might conceivably be in honey or other foods. Unless a lab knows what to look for in advance, the chances of finding even some very toxic substances are not that good, particularly if the compound in question is not a common used -- and therefore suspect -- chemical.

Since sampling and analysis for every potential contaminant -- accidentally or deliberately introduced somewhere along the line -- is not practical,  the best line of defense is a well documented history of the input products from the beehive to the factory gate.   Now, I know that most beekeepers will react the way I did when I first heard the idea.  "That's dumb, and besides it will cost money!  Who will pay the cost?"

Well, we are already being paid a premium because our product is not suspect -- at present.  We are getting a premium price because other suppliers got caught with a bad chemical in their product and because they have no way of proving satisfactorily which portion of their crop in drums is safe and which part isn't.  If we are smart, we'll learn from this, and here's what we'll learn:

  • Product that is above suspicion gets a ready market and a high price, while product that is suspect is hard to sell and gets a low price -- if it can be sold at all.
  • It only takes some of the producers in a country to ruin the market for all the producers in that country
  • We are in the clear now, but we must ensure that we maintain our purity, and moreover that we are able to prove that we are  producing a pure product
  • Not only must we trace accurately the origin and progress of our product from yard to drum, and ensure that no contamination takes place anywhere along the way, but we must maintain distinct and separate batches and we must do a good job of tracking each batch.
  • It is well worthwhile to invest some of our recent windfall profits into ensuring that the next time there is a scare, that it is not our product that is implicated. 
  • Money spent on facilities, education and product accounting systems will ensure that we continue to find ready markets and premium prices, and that if something goes wrong or questions are asked, that we can easily and convincingly localize the problem in a small and well-documented portion of the crop and not face total loss of income and reputation.

I did some accounting and some downloading.  I amazed myself by installing Perl and an Apache2 web server on my PC.  The server actually runs, and it is way cool. 

This site as you are viewing it is located on an Apache server at my WPP, and my local server I just set up as a toy, but what a toy!  I'm going to have to learn more about it.  As you have probably discovered, I am having grief with FrontPage extensions on the WPPs Apache, so maybe I'll learn something.  Maybe I'll give up FrontPage and go over to Dreamweaver.  I just discovered that FP2002 may expire.  If so, goodbye M$, hello someone else.  I'll have to look more at open source.  Some of this stuff is good.

That reminds me what happened to another part of my day; I downloaded Analog, a freeware web log analyzer, and played with that for a while.  That was actually the reason I originally D/L'd Perl -- all 40 megs or so of it.  I thought I'd need Perl for another analyzer I was playing with.  I didn't, but when I installed Perl, I found I had Apache and php and more goodies too, so...

 of the Day

Adony sent me the URL for the latest

Thanks!  I appreciate any links that people send. Write me


Here's something for the powderhounds among us.  Castle is a five hour drive from here, and as you have guessed, no, I did not go...

For those of you that choose to do something other than SKI THE CASTLE on Thursday read on.

Castle reported the best conditions of the year yesterday (Wed) with 30 cm powder in places..  Today( Thur) add 43 cm new snow mid-mountain... with WAY MORE up top.  How deep?  Well it was one of those days where every turn seemed effortless as you floated thru the boiling fluff that wrapped up your body over your shoulders and swirled behind you.. Yes, an excellent steep and deep day of powder skiing.  A little cold at -20C but at times a bit warmer up top and the sun even peaked thru . Skied from 9:03 'til 4:20 and we were still getting deep untracked lines. Our GPS showed we skied 35,000 vertical.   At 4:00 it started snowing hard...so.....you may get a second chance tomorrow.  Don't blow it.
Heli-skiing is running well over $500 per day (castle is $40) and you will not get the deep powder on the open steep bowls like castle can offer "Avalanche control" ---Only a hundred of so on the mountain..   loads of empty chairs.......



--Doug says " Today was just like I remember it 15 years ago". Incredible


Today :   Occasional snow. Wind northeast 20 km/h. High minus 18. Cold wind chill minus 30. Risk of frostbite. Tonight :   Occasional snow. Wind light. Low minus 28. Normals for the period :   Low minus 10. High plus 2.

Friday 7 March 2003
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Well, what do you know?  This morning, the news is that the US is getting concerned about the safety of imported food and that mechanisms will be put into place to verify the origin and quality of food imports.  Exporters and importers are concerned about the costs.

I thought of going to Castle this morning -- I was up early enough -- but the weather and traffic reports convinced me to stay here where it is warm. 

Being inside all the time and sitting most of the day was starting to make me feel sluggish, so I decided to start exercising again.  Yesterday I only did a half mile or so on the treadmill, plus some weights and stepping, but the difference is quite noticeable today.  I feel much perkier.  The human body was made to move, and it suffers if it is not used.

I went to Calgary in the afternoon and stopped in Airdrie along the way to see Frank and Mike.  They have had a good year making patties for beekeepers.  There have been some wrinkles, but mostly minor ones. 

The biggest problem has been estimating the demand.  It seems that some beekeepers were willing to order well ahead of time, but others held back.  It is essential to obtain supplies in the correct amounts so that volume prices can be obtained and so that shipping costs can be minimized to save everyone money.  Indecision costs money.  This year they didn't make money, but they did provide a tremendous service to our industry.  It was a trial run.  They put a lot of time and money into it, and -- for those wondering how I fit in -- I lent them machinery and expertise, gratis.  Next year, the plan is to increase the volume and change the price structure to favour those who order early and in large volume and those who distribute patties to other nearby beekeepers to simplify the transport and transaction costs.  The plan is also to keep the price low.

I'm amazed at how many people only plan to put on only one patty in the spring.  Last year we fed three to five patties per hive, and some had zero pollen content.  I'm also noticing that some of those who want to use high pollen content also want to use only one patty.  IMO, that is not a good plan.  Here's why:

Pollen is an attractant.  It enhances the nutrition content of the patties a bit, but the principle function of including pollen in the ration is to get the bees to eat the patty.  Bees eat patties much more quickly if the pollen content is high -- i.e. if about 30% of the protein portion is pollen.  Pollen is particularly important if patties with low sugar content are being fed, since bees really don't care much for patties without lots of sugar.

If you use enough sugar, the bees will eat anything you put with it.   You don't need pollen.  We generally use at least 50% sugar (calculated on the dry part of mix) and find that bees will eat patties -- even with zero pollen content --  at any time of year, regardless of whether there is natural pollen available in the fields nearby or not.  If zero pollen is used, the bees consume the patties at roughly one third the rate (in my experience) of a high-pollen patty.  That means low or no-pollen patties will last three times longer -- three weeks instead of one -- and that can be a good thing if a beekeeper is only planning on using one patty, and particularly if he/she is adding that one patty more than a week before fresh pollen is coming into the hives. 

When feeding high-pollen patties, timing is very important.  If only one very attractive patty is being fed, and fed too many days before natural pollen comes in, there is a real risk of over-stimulating too much brood rearing too early.  If additional patties are not put on the hives before the previous patties are completely consumed, and if natural or stored pollen does not become available, the bees may actually tear out some of the brood that has been initiated as a result of the feeding!  Feeding too early with too attractive a patty and failing to keep the bees supplied, can result in hive collapse.  The collapse is not immediate; it comes several weeks later and can mystify the beekeeper.

Using 3-5% pollen will about double consumption in my experience, over patties with no pollen, and that is our preference.  It is a good compromise.  Remember also, that we keep putting on patties even after the natural pollen flows start because we know that there may be cool or rainy weeks when the bees -- particularly small colonies -- can get out only occasionally, no matter how much pollen is on the trees and flowers.

Our goal is not to stimulate brood rearing.  It is simply to ensure that the protein needs of the adult bees are met until real pollen comes in and that the bees are always in top shape.  Our our patties encourage slower, but steady, consumption and do not raise the bees expectations to unreasonable levels.

Although we have neglected to do so recently, we have fed protein patties in fall some years, and think that fall protein supplementation  does reduce winter loss.

Today :   Occasional snow. Amounts up to 2 cm. Wind east 20 km/h. High minus 22. Very cold wind chill minus 36. Frostbite likely in minutes. Tonight :   Cloudy with flurries. Wind east 15. Low minus 29. Wind chill minus 36. Normals for the period :   Low minus 9. High plus 2.

Saturday 8 March 2003
Last year on this date     Year 2001 on this date  Year 2000 on this date  Write me

Minus 29 this morning, but little wind.  I've noticed that some radio stations are now reporting the wind-chill numbers and not the actual temperatures.

That may be all fine and good for determining the effect on flesh and some other uses, but knowing the actual temperature is useful for determining things like, "Will my car start?".  I see this new trend as being part of the trend to citification.  As populations live more and more in the cities, the traditional country interests recede in the popular mind and are replaced by reporting and viewpoints that are slanted towards city dwellers.  Those of us who do not live in towns or cities have ways of thinking and being that are incomprehensible to many city folks.

I see that the honeybeeworld forum is getting a little traffic, and some worthwhile input.  I wonder how much it will grow.

A Fly on
the Wall

People send me interesting things that relate to my musings here.  I appreciate them all.  Some I repeat here.  Some I do not.

From France, Peter Dillon sent me this letter (right) about OTC residues.  We'll do a translation in the next day or so.

And -- FWIW -- this arrived in my email.  Somehow it is not a big surprise...

"At this morning's meeting, the Beemaid directors decided to not allow Australian packages to move through our facilities due to risk of small hive beetle to honey plants. I think this decision indicates serious concern with the import protocol as it stands, especially with respect to the lack of movement restrictions within Australia".

HACCP rules severely restrict what can be done in a honey plant -- or attached warehouse -- these days

Today :   Morning fog patches otherwise mainly cloudy with flurries. Wind light. High minus 25. Very cold wind chill at times minus 35. Frostbite likely in minutes. Tonight :   Mainly cloudy. Occasional flurries. Wind light. Low minus 26.  Normals for the period :   Low minus 9. High plus 2.

Sunday 9 March 2003
Last year on this date     Year 2001 on this date  Year 2000 on this date  Write me

It was minus 32C this morning.  I had been planning to go skiing, but I figured the car won't start: the block heater is not functioning and I haven't gotten around to finding out why.  I tried to connect to the internet, but the phone lines were flakey.  The problems started last night, and that's why my logs are full of errors this morning; I couldn't complete the upload of some files that are shown on this page. Try again now.  As far as I can figure out, there must be something in the phone system (outside) that does not function well below minus 30, since everything seems okay now that the temps have risen to minus 22C.  I've heard of pipes freezing in the cold, but this is the first time I've heard of the internet freezing up on a cold night.

I have updated some of the comments higher up on this page.

BTW, when reading these pages, the easy way to get to the bottom of a page like this is to hold down the 'Control' key and then press 'Home' after it has loaded.

Peter writes today with a translation of the (above) letter  and also some background comments (below)...


Please find a reasonable translation re: material that you received yesterday.

Short points: For your info:

  • French beekeepers have asked for a maximum of 15 ppb. as for the moment the residue limit has never been defined, therefore is theoretically zero!
  • Before being trapped by too low a level, the 15 ppb was suggested as a reasonable compromise.
  • Michaud (and I presume other packers) have asked for a higher threshold value - above 15 ppb.
  • The reasoning from the beekeepers is that if the threshold is set too low, then antibiotic material arriving from other sources (such as treatment against fireblight in orchards) may condemn honey.
  • A higher level is not considered acceptable - as there is general agreement that antibiotic use should be removed/ limited to a minimum (!) as a method of treatment. The 15 ppb. is therefore considered as a compromise position, one that should stop systematic misuse of antibiotics in bee colonies.
  • There is also the problem of detection techniques and their limitations.

Referring to the letter:

  • The mention of which antibiotic(s) is (are) being referred to when quoting the persistence periods!
  • I suggest that this letter as well as putting the valid problem of residues before beekeepers - is one that is playing the role of:
    • 1. The packers covering themselves.
    • 2. Any residue fault is that arriving from the beekeeper - and hence the beekeeper being the guilty partner - a frightener!



I'm getting increasing numbers of requests about bees and equipment.  I can see people are getting anxious, having put off decisions in hopes that prices would drop, only to see that the prices are running away from them.  Writing back and forth takes time, so it occurs to me that my answers might be useful to others.

One writer says...

...I would hope maybe we could negotiate a lower price.

RE: colonies. I need to know what style of bottoms and lids?. Do they have frame feeders? How old is the average Queen?  Are the queens New Zealand, Hawaiian, etc., etc.?.

When and If I were to purchase a yard of colonies, would all the colonies be alive with a reasonable size cluster?, Or I would get what ever is in the yard be it dead-excellent colonies?.

Our colonies are on special wax impregnated pallets with sloping floors and a solid entrance reducer. The lids are telescoping and vary from brand new to older. All are sound. Everything is the way we use it ourselves. Each and every brood box has a frame feeder in it.

We have used Kona carniolans for the last several years and buy 1/3 to 1/2 our total hive numbers in queens each year.

When we sell a yard, the buyer can inspect it -- we insist, in fact -- to verify that all hives are alive and viable. They will vary in strength, naturally, but any goners we keep. The buyer takes over responsibility for the hives from the moment of purchase. We normally have a 10 - 15% winter loss, so naturally, we charge more as time passes to compensate and to take into consideration the fact that we are now only four months from extracting!

As for the supers, they are not actually for sale right now, except with hives, since we don't want to sell all our supers and then find we have some hives left. We're not expecting that, but you never know. Also people who buy hives often need supers, and they come first.

And, as for the price, well, I know it's a shock, but, for supers, $33 is cheap these days. It takes 2 lbs of wax to draw a super and that eats up 14 lbs of honey.   At $3/lb that costs $42 and that number does not take into consideration the cost of the wood and nails and foundation... I expect there will be a real shortage of drawn comb this year, since even those who had just enough boxes last year will want to be sure to have extras so as not to miss any honey, and many beekeepers are expanding.

Best regards,


Note to non-Canadians:  All prices are in Canadian dollars.  $1.00CAD = $0.67 US


Another writer had seen the prices on our sale site in the fall, and phoned at the time, but not made a firm order or a deposit.  By this point, we have sold about half of what we have to sell, the prices have gone up, and we have further specified that want don't like to sell less than a yard at a time.  Nonetheless, I try to be accommodating...


I understand your problem, and we'll see what we can do for you.

In a case like this, we can make an exception and sell 10 or 20 hives, but I think you can understand that the price has gone up, and not just for bees and hives. During that same timespan honey has gone from $1.50/lb to -- I am told -- $3.00/lb -- in the drum!

Last fall, a winter and ten cold, hard months stood between us and the next crop.  The bargain price last fall was set in consideration of the fact that the risk and potential loss was in the hands of the buyers.  Today, we are only about four (warm, easy) months from extracting honey and we have have now taken the risk, and absorbed the wintering loss.  Assuming demand stays strong, our price is scheduled to continue rising to $250/two storey hive by mid - April.

As for wanting to sell only complete yards, the reason we discourage small sales is simply that small buyers tend to be picky and have unreasonable (in our view) expectations. We are selling commercial equipment in commercial lots and there is always some variability in livestock -- from very strong to less strong. In quantity, that variability averages out, but if we are only selling a few hives, it usually turns out that the buyer wants to only take the strongest and newest, but pay the same as if he/she were buying a larger lot. We'll sell small lots, but small buyers must accept a random selection of the hives we judge to be saleable (nobody gets a dead or dying hive). If they can do that, we are happy to work with them.

So, we are willing to sell smaller lots on the understanding that the equipment varies from brand-new to fairly old and the bees in any group will vary from very strong (hopefully most of them) to weaker (hopefully fewer).

Hope this helps.


Note to non-Canadians:  All prices are in Canadian dollars.  $1.00CAD = $0.67 US

Today :   Cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h. High minus 17. Cold wind chill near minus 30. Risk of frostbite. Tonight :   60 percent chance of evening flurries then partly cloudy. Wind shifting to west 30 overnight. Low minus 19 this evening then temperature rising. Wind chill minus 29.Normals for the period :   Low minus 9. High plus 2.

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