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-- Ralph Waldo Emerson --

Styrofoam Hives.  One dead.

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Thursday 10 April 2003
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 From a recent buyer of hives...

...We got the bees home safe and sound , we waited a couple of days for them to settle down after we unloaded . We looked in the lids and found that most are nice looking colonies and maybe two on the weak side .( which is OK )

At that time we fed the hives with some sugar syrup and placed the patties on the top frames . So the other day we took a peek and found all the hives have eaten ALL the protein patties like its all gone ..Like do they need more of the protein patties till May or is one patty good enough for the spring start up ?? are they in need of the patties in front of them all the time ?? Where can we read so more of this ?? If they require more I guess We better get some more...

Is there pollen coming in on the bees in your area? If there is, then they are okay. It never hurts to feed patties, but they are okay if there is natural pollen. We do have lots of patties on hand.

Have you checked the weaker ones for queens? Did the weaker ones eat their patties. If the bees eat their patties, they are usually okay, but if not, then they need to be checked for queens.

(The colonies we sell vary in size from the size of a 2 lb package on up to 10 or more frames of bees.  I know that I tipped some a while back and there were bees on five or six bottom bars in the lower box, but some are smaller.  There are some carniolan types that winter small, so a smaller cluster is not an indicator of much.  They catch up fast, as long as the queens are okay)

Well, if I have figured correctly, today we sold every hive worth selling.  We've been waiting on two buyers to get their financing into place and, finally, they both came through.  One took 600 hives and the other, the remainder.  The second buyer wanted about 60 more than we will have and was very disappointed.

We'll be loading bees and taking care of them for a week or so, then we will be out of the business, except for a few weak colonies which we will be keeping.  What will it be like to not have bees and staff?  I can't imagine.  Paulo wants to go back to Brazil in June, and Dennis will stay on as long as we need him.  We'll be cleaning up for some time yet and there are supers still to deliver and, I think, some supers and other miscellaneous stuff to sell.

 Today :   A mix of sun and cloud. Wind light. High 14. / Tonight :   Partly cloudy. Wind southwest 20 km/h. Low plus 2. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 3. High plus 10.

Friday 11 April 2003
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This morning there is a meeting at Bryan Nixon's at 9AM.  About 30 Red Deer area beekeepers are expected to meet with Medhat.  I don't know if I count as a beekeeper now, with only a few stragglers of hives, but I'll go anyhow.

During the meeting, Ellen phoned to say that the second buyer's financing had fallen through.  He had gotten a verbal okay from the local office, but the head office had turned it down  That means that 375 hives or so were now not sold.  She really wants them all gone, so she started phoning the waiting list.  By the time she was done, 175 of them were gone.  There are more buyers on the list -- enough to sell 700 more -- but I am not sure I want to sell the last hives until we sell the brood chambers and supers.  Besides we have Dennis around and he needs something to do.

Today :   Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of morning showers. Wind light. High 17. / Tonight :   Mainly cloudy. Wind light. Low 3. ? Normals for the period :   Low minus 3. High plus 10.

Saturday 12 April 2003
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A poor man's bee glove or emergency glove.  The end of the tape is doubled back on itself to make a tab to pull to make removal easier.
We always keep a roll of duct tape on the gearshift.  It often comes in handy.

A load of bees and stuff with a forklift behind

We were up at 5:30 and loading a truck for a small buyer west of here who was willing to pay for professional delivery (smart).  Dennis arrived and was gone by 6:30.

I went out with a truck and forklift and brought home 3 yards of bees that the guys claimed they could not get into, so that we would have enough hives for several buyers coming this weekend.  One truck is coming from Vancouver area, another from High Prairie, and another from East of Edmonton.  I was very impressed by both the weight and the strength of the hives.  It seems that either they are very good, or dead.  Losses still run at 12%, including the weak ones.  I', thinking that I'd be nuts to sell many more.

After unloading, I went out and checked the front yard.  I was stunned to see that the guys had put on pollen patties without pulling back the waxed paper.  I had explicitly discussed pulling it off the bottom with Dennis before they went out.  Now they have done 600 or more hives incorrectly and will have to go around to check. That will cost money, and that wasted labour cost will come out of the bonus I was planning to pay.  With waxed paper preventing access to the bottom of the patty, the bees take a long time to chew through and the patties are not eaten promptly.  The weaker colonies -- the ones that really need the protein -- chew though more slowly than the strong ones.

This is exactly the kind of stupidity that makes me sell my bees, and want to never have to manage staff again.

We were expecting a buyer from B.C. mid-afternoon, and the weather got warm, so I stayed around, waiting. They were a little later than I expected and it cooled down and began to rain  a little, so I went out and got the Graveyard bees.  On the way, I passed them, about five minutes from home.  No matter, with our system, I only takes minutes to load an entire tarp , tarp, and run back. 

The hives in the Graveyard had been in a deep snowdrift for the latter part of winter and the snow has just barely melted.  I picked everything up, including drums, and headed home.  I arrived shortly after the visitors, and we proceeded to check and load bees.   Of the 24 hives in the lot, only one was dead, and all the rest were declared excellent.  We finished loading by seven, when Purves-Smiths were expected for burgers, so I invited Neil and German to join us.  We all had a pleasant evening, then, by nine, everyone left and I got some sleep.  It has been a long day.

I've quit buying the pre-formed hamburger patties .  When they first came out they were excellent, and a relief from hand-forming patties.  Now, I notice that all the patties I can find -- even the 'lean beef' ones -- are about 50% fat and made from inferior beef.  I'm back to hand-forming them again.

We hear frogs and ducks on our pond today.

Today :   Mainly sunny. Increasing cloud this afternoon. High 15.
Tonight :   Periods of rain developing. Wind east 20 km/h. Low 6. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 2. High plus 11. /

Sunday 13 April 2003
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I awoke early and found that we had received a lot of rain overnight.  Nonetheless, I went out and loaded the bees at Elliotts' East and brought them home.  The ground was soft, and I had to be careful where I drove. I let down the electric fence and drove along the high spots to the entrance.  At that point, I had to detach the trailer and drive it out to the road with the Swinger.

The guys came in to work today.  We'd called them in due to some error that had been made putting in the protein patties.  Paulo had somehow decided that the bees would eat through the wax paper that covered the batch we used -- in spite of my explicit instructions.  Of course, the strong colonies will eat through, but it slows them by several days.  The weak colonies will not get through, though and thus the hives that really need feed, will not be getting the protein.  The guys fixed the problem and got the truck ready and I let them go home.  We won't go back to remove the paper, but we plan to be ready to go around again.

Adony dropped in and we discussed why varroa does not seem to be building up according to the models in our hives last year, but during the same time, other beekeepers were experiencing control problems.

Today :   Showers. Morning fog patches. Risk of an afternoon thunderstorm. Wind light. High 8. / Tonight :   Showers changing to flurries overnight. Wind east 20 km/h. Low zero. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 2. High plus 11.

Monday 14 April 2003
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From Quebec province...

I hope this finds you all keeping well. Have you sold all your bees yet, must be a good demand.

We are down to the last 200 or so. Demand has been brisk, and continues strong.

I recall once that you said that the axles on the Swinger were the same but that one was installed up side down. I was looking at the wheels on mine and noticed that the axles are longer on one side that the other meaning that the offset wheels are not the same on each axle. But the inflation valves were always on the outside. Does this mean that there are two sets of 2 rims for each Swinger? If so this would mean that if I propose to carry a spare then it should be the model with the least offset??

There have been quite a few changes in Swinger design over the years. I have assumed that in some models, including the 1970's/80's 100 gas models, the one axle is flipped end-to-correct the rotation problem. Whatever the reason, the axles do stick out by different amounts, and the rims can be rotated to make the unit narrower or wider in its stance.

Whether the valves are in or out is immaterial. 'In' is better in some ways, since we had big problems with them being hit and broken when loading into the chute on the trailer.

Our Swinger 'quick load' trailer.  The side rails can damage protruding valve stems, if the operator is careless or unlucky.


Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2003 11:33:52 -0400
From: Bill Truesdell  <bhfarms a t SUSCOM-MAINE.NET>
Subject: More info on Oxalic acid

I was sent a couple of scientific papers on Oxalic treatment.

One was on the stability of Oxalic acid solutions over time. Keep it cool and it will last but heat caused HMF concentrations to increase, which is bad for bees. Personally, it is easy to make up, so I see no real reason to keep it around in solution.

The second confirmed Oxalic acid is an excellent Varroa control, in the area of 97-99% (even the drip treatment) but only when the colony is broodless. It is only in the 70s when brood is present. Sort of obvious, but a lot of science is in confirming the obvious, since there are exceptions. The nice thing is it can be applied in cold weather (down to freezing!) so no problem applying when the colony is broodless (when it is usually in the 50-40F range).

The third, and most interesting, is that Oxalic Acid treatment does not increase the natural level of the acid, while Formic doubles or quadruples its concentration in honey, sometimes to the point of being able to taste it. Both Oxalic and Formic Acid are in honey naturally, but Oxalic Acid levels did not increase at all after treatment, but Formic did in every case.

So it Oxalic Acid treatment is undetectable in honey while Formic is. Plus, if you do not use the proper concentrations (too much kills, so more is not better) it still does not show up in honey but will either be ineffective (too little), or kill off your bees (too much). Sort of takes care of the morally challenged beekeepers who overdose their bees on fluvalinate and coumaphos. Almost Darwinian.

When you consider the ease of treatment, its effectiveness, the lack of residue, it seems to be an excellent alternative control for Varroa. Plus, it is cheap and widely available. Only trouble, it is not permitted/licensed in the US (but is in Europe). I used it last fall and had no problems. Bees came out fine and are flying today, working crocus.

Bill Truesdell
Bath, Maine 


A note in my inbox today...

Sounds like a bummer with the customer who backed out of the brood boxes. When they ask me to hold stuff, I always tell them the first guy there with the money gets it unless it's somebody I know pretty well. I still find it impossible to read most people. I've been stiffed more than once by people I thought were okay. In my mind, a deal is a deal but most folks just don't operate that way.

Yup, but we really did not suffer on account of it. We just lost some time and effort. I build in a little to cover the cost of things like that. Over the years, I've learned that even those with the best of intentions are not always able to follow through. In this case, the guy was (is) a jerk, plain and simple, but I am no judge, having fallen short myself more than once.

Temps have been in the mid80's here the last two days and the bees look great. Pollen has been coming in for the last three weeks. We had snow and cold last weekend but overall the weather has been good. Yvonne Koehnen called me at 10 o'clock Saturday night to let me know queens were going to be late. I went out Sunday and reversed the hive bodies in the yards I'm not going to get to soon enough and gave a third box to the really good ones.

Sounds wonderful. You are about a month to 6 weeks ahead of us, by the sounds of things.

Enjoy your "retirement". One of my kids is coming home to help this summer. Maybe I can test the retirement mode. I'm a little older than you are.

Okay, let me know what it's like. I'm still not quite there.


The guys went feeding and medicating again today.  Morale is good.  Although we do have bees to move for some customers, the ground is so soft that the only access is by 4 x4 in most yards and the back roads as so greasy that they are dangerous.  We're in clay soil here and when it gets wet on top, it is just like grease.  Gravel helps, but the clay come up through it on a wet day.  It is easy to slide off the side into a ditch, just due to the crown of the road.

A buyer from Nampa came by to pick up his 50 hives.  He had paid us to yard them, so the loading was simple for him, and he was gone in no time, but not without getting stuck on our lawn.   As I say, after three days of rain, the ground is soft.  Even turf won't guarantee that vehicles won't sink. 

 of the Day

Search Engine Features Chart

Guilty until proven innocent

Today :   Occasional drizzle and fog this morning. Showers or wet flurries this afternoon. Wind light. High 4. / Tonight :   A few showers changing to snow this evening. Wind light. Low minus 1. /  Normals for the period :   Low minus 2. High plus 11.

Tuesday 15 April 2003
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Foggy again.  Another day of feeding, medicating, and putting in Apistan.  The feeding is mostly unnecessary and is just on general principal, the medication is prophylactic -- AFB is much easier to prevent than clean up if it gets a toe-hold -- and the Apistan is overdue by a few weeks.  It is an ideal time for having apistan in the hives, since the temperatures are now warm enough, but if we had put it in two or three weeks back, then it would be time to take it out when splitting on May 10th.  As it is, Apistan put in today is due to come out on May 20th.  If any hives are split before then, then the tough decision of whether to put Apistan in the splits (and for how long), pull the Apistan early, or some combination of the above.  This quandary presents unique record-keeping challenges to say the least.

This just in...

Don't mean to be cute by any trick of the trade or... I don't know if you are testing who is awake or not... but putting apistan in today (April 15th) would be due for removal on May 27th and not 20th...if 6 weeks or 42 days are recommended....

Thanks.  I publish before reviewing sometimes.  I thought that sounded early, but did not double check before sending it out to the world.

It's nice to know others are thinking critically, and sending feedback.  The later date makes it even worse, because we try to split between May 10th to 20th.  Splits made after that will not reliably build up in time to make a crop.


From central US...

Started to make splits on Sunday. It was almost 90 degrees & the wind was a blowing 30+ mph. Took Monday afternoon off to make splits & temps 90+ & wind was over 30mph again. It's so hot, windy & dry here that the dandelion's have quit blooming.

Got started about 1:00 & things seem to go along just fine until 3:00 or so, & the bees started to rob the wet combs my son put in the split boxes. Then to compound the matters, this is the same yard that the skunks 2 weeks ago had been picking on 3 or 4 hives. Now it's up to 9 or 10. When you have holes dug 3 inches deep in front of the hives you have a problem. All kinds of plum brush in bloom, just oceans of white so I could not figure out why the bees started to rob so bad.

Got finished up and drove out of the orchard & took a look at the plum brush then figured out why the bees were robbing so bad, seems the plum brush flowers had turned from white to almost brown due to the hot wind & no dandelion bloom. I maybe should have waited another week to split this yard, but 10 days ago they were almost all lid to bottom board with bees. No thanks now to my friends the skunk family.

I went to another orchard to make splits & it then struck me as here it is the 13th & 14th of April & I am making up 4 framers. This is 2 weeks early for us in a normal year, but then what is normal with the weather any more?  And then we usually only make 3 framers. I don't know what I was thinking. I can remember dad & I made splits one year on the 21st as the weather was hot just like this week & then on the 23rd temps dropped 50+ degrees & we still had 6 inches of snow on top of the hive lids the next morning at 11:00 am.

I remember that year well as I think we only had about a 60% take on the 1st 50 queens. We went from t shirts to snow boots in less than 12 hours time. I guess the next plan of attack for the day is to deal with our skunk problem. It has been 3 or 4 years since we have had to get radical with them I guess they are due to be dealt with.

Allen why in the devil would you want to retire from all this fun??????

..and you ask me????

I spent the day on business until after lunch and then went out and brought back the remainder of two yards.  We had picked up what was not frozen down previously, and I got the remainder.  It took me 2-1/2 hours to bring back 29 hives.  The weather, naturally, warmed, and the sun came out as soon as I began loading bees, but not many were flying.  With the judicious use of smoke, I was able to keep loss to a hundred bees or so.  Nonetheless, I hate to leave any behind.

Paulo and Dennis left around 9, and went to the Elnora hives.  They managed to feed and medicate 190 and to clean up the yards. and they came back at about 7 PM.  There are two yards left up there.

Meijers came for supper and to bring over some bee samples for testing.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge pictures

We're running water and sewer under the tracks to our headquarters (in the background).  Ellen reviews the troops.

Meijers enjoy a hearty meal, then review our Bee Max hives, now moved to the home yard.  We lost three of the 12 BeeMax hives over winter, and, compared to the standard hives (zero) in our own wraps in the same yard, they did not do very well.

Yes, those boxes are full of bees, but, compared to the standard wooden boxes with our single wraps, and the ones that were in our older square 4-pack wraps (the hives shown without wraps) they do not appear to be as good.  We'll see how they do as spring progresses.  One of the strengths of the BeeMax design is a warm environment for spring buildup, but the single wraps have a head start, by the look of things and our single wraps should provide about the same warmth.  In the pictures, the pink is an extender grease patty.  The brown is whatever is left of a protein patty.

I think we need to refine our technique for using the BeeMax hives.  Maybe transferring to them in October was a bad idea?  I know that disturbing bees at the end of the season by rearranging frames is a good way to kill a hive over winter, but we kept everything in the correct order; we simply inverted the original boxes, pushed the frames out as one mass, and lowered the new box over.  Once inverted again to the normal attitude, we figured that little had changed but the box, but maybe the smell and newness offended the bees?  Whatever, they did poorly compared to similar hives that were left undisturbed.

Once of the problems with the BeeMax is getting a good seal under the lid.  We put in one of our pillows, but did not seem to get a very good seal.  That provided an upper entrance of sorts.  That should be a good thing, but, whatever the cause, the styro boxes did poorly in comparison to our tried and true methods.

Joe took a look at the famous toolbox hive.  Two years of continuous occupation by bees, plus at least a year before I was asked to take it from a farmer's back yard, in spite of no treatments or feeding, and no wrapping, there are still no visible mites since I saw one varroa on a bee just after I got it.  (Still no honey for me either).

Today :   A mix of sun and cloud. Wind light. High 12. / Tonight :   Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers overnight. Wind northeast 20 km/h. Low plus 1. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 2. High plus 11.

Wednesday 16 April 2003
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After our morning meeting, I headed out and brought back 42 hives from nearby yards.  It took me an hour and bit to drive the 8 miles, load, return, and unload.  For short trips up and down back roads, I don't bother tying down.  I just drive slowly and watch in the mirrors.

Jean is in the hospital, so Ellen is on here way up to visit.  Jean's doctor thought her blood pressure is too high and put here in for observation.  Hopefully she and the baby will be okay.  Everything is happening at once now, We have 273 hives to visit on this round, and then we are planning to run bees north for a buyer -- at his risk and expense -- over the weekend.  Some retirement.

Today :   Mainly sunny. Wind west 20 km/h. High 12. / Tonight :   Partly cloudy. Wind west 20. Low minus 1. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 2. High plus 11.

Thursday 17 April 2003
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I left around 9:30 to bring in more hives.  The buyer is in a huge hurry to get them moved, although we recommended strongly that he work them on location here, focus on learning beekeeping with us, and move them as convenient on rainy days and nights. He bought them as-is where-is on our locations and has been out once to look, but that is it.  Anyhow, they are his bees, and he wants us to gather them up for him so they can be delivered to his locations, so we are.

I arrived in the yard around ten and was surprised to find the bees already flying.  I guess there may be a minor flow starting, but I did not see pollen or much directed flight, just a lot of bees flying around.  I smoked the hives several times and began loading, but after the truck was loaded, I decided there were still enough bees flying around that I should leave a catch hive. 

Sometimes the bees respond to smoke, and sometimes they do not.  Some days, there are a few bees in every hive that just insist on flying, while the rest stay in  nicely.  At any rate, I doubt I left more than a pound behind.  Once the hives on the truck were shaded by the tarp, the bees settled down.  I wasn't worried much about drifting when we set them down at home, since, even though some start flying when the truck stops, they all find a hive.  The distribution is pretty random if the hives are scattered properly, and any hives that seem to be getting too many are moved or turned around.  It is an art, but can be done, with care.

Dennis went north and did the last two yards up there.  Paulo worked around home, doing brood chambers and getting trucks ready for the highway.  I ran to town and rented a packer to compact the waterline trench.  The work on the far side of the tracks is now done.  Next week, we bore under the tracks.

I was planning to take 200 hives north tonight or tomorrow, but did not hear back from the new owner.  I need confirmation before I load and head out.  I have never been to his place, so depend on his being ready for us and waiting.  I finally decided on taking only two trucks, one with the forklift and trailer, and one with a full bee trailer.  That will deliver 120 hives, and that should be enough to get him started. 

I think we'll take the weekend off, unless he wants to pay overtime.  I don't.  All that is left that must be done other than his moving, which we are doing as a favour, for our cost, is to add Apistan and patties to two yards that are still impassible.  By Monday, though, we should be able to get in.  After that, we'll have around 440 hives in our care.  We plan to keep 220 or so, just for a hobby, unless someone offers us so much money we can't refuse.

The water/sewer project is moving right along.  We're ready to punch under the tracks.

Joe sent me some pictures of their package bee installation into nucs. More later.  I have to get up at three to move bees.

(Later...  I set up a page of Joe's pictures of Meijers installing package bees indoors into Styrofoam nucs)

Today :   A mix of sun and cloud. Wind light. High 13.
Tonight :   Partly cloudy. Wind south 20 km/h. Low minus 1.
Friday :   Mainly cloudy. Wind light. High 10.
Saturday :   Sunny. Low plus 1. High 14.
Sunday :   A mix of sun and cloud. Low 2. High 15.
Monday :   Mainly cloudy. Low 3. High 13.
Normals for the period :   Low minus 1. High plus 12.

Friday 18 April 2003
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I rolled over and looked a the clock.  3:30 it said.  No radio.  I had set it to go off at 3:30.  I guess I forgot to set, "auto".  I do that.  What I cannot figure out, is how I know when it is 3:30 on that clock.  The clock is not even correct, so howcum I'm synchronized?

I got up and did my usual stuff, then headed up to meet Dennis at Three Hills.  We got to the first yard around 5:11 AM and loaded, then proceeded to 3 more yards and cleaned them right out.  By then it was 7:30 and we hit the road for our destination. 

No sooner was I on the highway and the phone rang.  Ellen reported that jean was on here way by ambulance to a hospital in Edmonton.  Apparently her blood pressure was up and some signs were not good.  We were loaded and committed and headed towards Edmonton, so I asked her to pack me some clothes and meet me at Camrose.  We carried on without further interruption towards our destination.  We were hauling bees as a favour to a buyer who had bought hives as-is, where-is, on our locations.

I was in touch with the buyer at various times along the route, and arranged a meeting spot.  When we got there, he was nowhere in sight.  At that remote location, my cell phone -- as I had feared -- no longer worked.  We used the phone in Dennis' truck to finally make contact, but spent an hour running up and down the road so the bees would not fly.  Finally we got together and unloaded.  He had been anxious to get the hives to his site, but they looked quite barren compared to our sites from which we moved them, so I figure there was really no rush.  I had been after him to come down to our place for a few days to work through them, but he wanted them back there, pronto, so we obliged.

I met Ellen and we drove to Edmonton and got a room at the Ramada near the Royal Alex Hospital.  We visited jean and Chris.  Her blood pressure was high and some of the blood tests were scary, so they expected to deliver almost immediately.  By the end of the day, however, she had settled down a bit, and, since the baby is very premature, they decided to wait.

Saturday 19 April 2003
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Chris came to our hotel and had a shower and breakfast, then we visited Jean for a while.  The buyer was anxious to get another load of bees, so we arranged top have Dennis meet him at our place to load him.  He was to arrive at 7, but came much later.  Dennis loaded him, then he claimed that he had seen a hive with no patties.  Dennis opened every hive and proved him wrong.

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