Today's post is always the last post on the page and is often revised over the next day or two
May 1 to 10, 2003
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I went out to pick up more hives this morning, and found a snowdrift in one of the yards. We had a snow fence there to slow the wind and it is very clear that it worked well. Snow cover is good for hives, since it moderates the temperatures near the ideal bee wintering point, and the drift breaks the wind.
When I went out at 6 AM, I noticed visible plumes of breath from the hives in the home yard, backlit in the cool morning air by the light of the rising sun.
Paulo continued to sort supers. Dennis checked the hives I brought in and loaded some drums of honey to get them ready for shipment. He and I also tried to get the Beamer running, but I finally decided that the points and/or condenser must be shot, and ordered new ones. We need two forklifts, and are now down to one Swinger plus the Beamer. It ran fine last Fall, but won't start now, even with a tow.
In late afternoon, I ran a trailer bill of sale to Calgary for a customer who is having problems registering a trailer in BC. It's a little over an hour's drive to Calgary, but Fed Ex is the only way to get things to BC overnight, so I had to drive to the airport. I did a little shopping, but wasn't into it. I'm finding a lot of things that I used to like don't appeal much anymore. Have I outgrown them, or am I depressed? Hard to decide. I doubt I'm depressed -- I think I'm excited -- but many things that were important and needed doing are no longer pressing. It's been a long hard grind, selling everything, and trying to guess who will keep his word, and who won't. The weather of the past few weeks, and earlier, has dragged out the spring work and the delivery of items to buyers. I can't remember when I had a few days off. We did go to Edmonton when the baby was born, but that was hardly a holiday.
We're down to 100 hives or so. It's hard to tell, since I think a buyer who committed to 30 may backed out. No matter. I am sure they all will sell, and I've decide to let everything go. I need a summer off, and I can work on bees all I want any time I visit friends, and I have friends throughout the world. Looking for hives or equipment? Check here.
In the evening, a customer came to get his last 41 hives and some drums for open feeding.
Today : Sunny with afternoon cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers. High 19. UV index 4 or moderate. / Tonight : Clear. Wind west 20 km/h. Low 6. / Normals for the period : Low 3. High 16.
I went out again this morning at 6:30 and brought in another 35 hives. We had 44 here, and need to have 100 for tomorrow night. This makes 80.
Ellen & I drove to Red Deer to see Jean and Chris and Mckenzie. We saw Jean and the baby at the hospital and then had supper with Jean and Chris at the Dragon City Cafe. Ellen did a bit of shopping, but I was dog-tired and slept in the car.
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 19. UV index 5 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 20 becoming light near midnight. Low 6. / Normals for the period : Low 3. High 16.
I was out early again to pick up bees in outyards to bring them in for loading tonight. I went first to Loosemores, which has always been a bit hard to get into, and always one of the last we do. Today, I was glad I had a Swinger and that Swingers are 4WD; I had to carry each pallet out on the forks, through a small brook to the truck. I'd never have been able to drive in.
I noticed dandelions today for the first time.
The day dragged on. For some reason, I have been really tired for the last two days. At any rate, we shipped one load of honey today and will ship another tomorrow.
I came across a letter from the National Honey Board to packers and importers of honey regarding ultrafiltered honey. Apparently, there will be some restrictions on how the packers will be able to use this product. Apparently, a product labeled, 'Pure Honey', will not be able to include any ultrafiltered product, but look for something labeled deceptively, and pretending to be honey -- coming soon to your neighbourhood.
I was waiting for a buyer from up north to come to get his hives. He was to come around eight to load, but I got a call that they were having trouble with one of their trucks and would be late. They arrived at around ten, and we loaded. It was 2 AM before they left and they had an eight to ten hour drive ahead of them. I hope they made it all right. The bees start flying at nine or so, but tomorrow promises to be cooler than some days, so that will help. Nonetheless, they won't be able to stop anywhere along the way once the sun comes up. The hives were strong when they left here, and I hope they arrive in good shape.
This makes me think of the progress we made over the years, from where we hauled bees on a car top, then a pickup, then a trailer and then a flat deck truck. We even got up to a five-ton truck at one point, but found that too big and expensive. We eventually settled on a fleet of identical one-tons and trailers, and were able to haul 2,500 hives from scattered home yards to pollination and back, and make those moves easily, safely, and routinely in a space of a week or two. We learned to tarp loads to keep bees and small parts in. Nets never worked well for us, but they can serve the same purpose.
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind southwest 30 km/h. High 21. UV index 5 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind southwest 30 becoming northwest 20 near midnight. Low 1. / Normals for the period : Low 3. High 17.
We got the rest of the drums of honey out of storage and readied them for shipping; we expect a truck at 1. While were finishing up, Russell dropped by, and bought a dairy tank. Ellen & I got away to an appointment in Calgary with only moment to spare, and left Paulo and Dennis to load the truck. We told them that they could leave early when done, and take a long, long weekend.
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind
west 30 km/h. High 14. UV index 4 or moderate. /
Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 30 km/h. Low zero. /
Normals for the period : Low 3. High 17.
We're now into a long weekend, and I'm looking forward to a few days without interruptions. On normal days, the FRS radios we use to keep in touch around the place keep me on edge. These little radios have been very useful for supervising the various activities that go on in the yard, since the guys can call in and ask if they are not clear on what they should be doing or find something noteworthy. The downside is that, no matter what I am doing, I am interrupted constantly, and often for inconsequential matters. We have become dependant on radio contact for getting instant updates, and the current guys rely on being able to call in instead of making sure they have a prioritized work list and clear understanding up front. We wind up micro-managing, and that is never a good thing.
Today : Flurries this morning. A mix of sun and cloud this afternoon. Wind increasing to northwest 30 km/h. High 9. UV index 5 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind west 20. Low 1. / Normals for the period : Low 4. High 17.
I was cleaning files out of my computer and came across some things Doug McRory sent me some time back. Here's an excerpt from one that relates to feeing pollen, and, I assume, supplements. Emphasis (blue) is mine
What made the foregoing so interesting to me was that I had recently written the following article for Hive Lights:
Feeding Protein Patties
Anybody who raises livestock knows that success depends on making
sure that the animals are properly fed at all times. Sometimes
feeding is as simple as turning the animals out to pasture, but at
other times, particularly in winter, feed must be supplied.
Depending on the quality of that feed, nutritional supplements may be
necessary as well. Even when livestock might be able to survive on
their own, good managers provide supplements, since there is no
profit in animals that are just getting by.
Contrary to what many beekeepers think, the same reasoning applies to bees. Some years and some places, bees may be able to take care of themselves, but when kept in large yards, especially in areas where monoculture has become the norm, and when the hives are intensively managed, there is a real possibility that bees may run short of good pollen or honey stores at several times of the year. Weaker hives may be unable to compete, and are particularly at risk.
Chances are, most hives will survive, but they may fail to thrive. If there is a shortage of either pollen or honey, hives will reduce or stop brood rearing, and even tear out half-grown brood. Any larvae that are raised at such times will be malnourished and, when they become adults, will not be as good nurses and foragers as they might have been. The effects of even temporary starvation can last for generations, and will have continuing negative impacts on splitting, honey crops, and on wintering success.
Most beekeepers can detect when their hives are short of honey, but far fewer can determine with certainty when their bees are short of protein. As the amount of uncultivated, wild area in agricultural regions has diminished in recent years, and intensive farming has reduced the variety of natural forage, more and more progressive beekeepers are routinely feeding protein supplement in spring and fall. They know that, even if pollen appears to be abundant in a hive, that the pollen may all come from one floral source -- possibly one that is inferior -- and prove to be an incomplete diet for the bees.
Careful attention to nutrition has become even more important in recent years because adults and brood now are often parasitized by mites. Supplementary protein, fed as patties, helps balance the diet and ensures adequate nutrition, both for the adult bees and for the brood being fed.
Carbohydrate shortages are easily made up with honey or with sugar syrup and most beekeepers know how to feed syrup or honey successfully, but far fewer understand protein supplementation. Protein is usually fed as a patty on the top bars of the brood chamber that contains the open brood. Careful positioning of the patty is very important. Unless the patty is within a few inches of open brood, the patty will often not be consumed, and the beekeeper may blame the patty. Often, if there are only small patches of brood on a frame or two, only the portion of the patty directly over that brood will be consumed, and the corners further away will be left untouched by the bees until the brood area expands.
Protein supplement patties are usually made of relatively cheap high protein food ingredients like brewers yeast and soy flour (both must be suitable for bees – see a bee supply specialist), plus trapped pollen and sugar. Although pollen is a valuable ingredient, it is expensive and is not always available. Moreover, unless the pollen is sterilized by radiation, patties with pollen will spread chalkbrood and possibly foulbrood, and as a result many beekeepers prefer to use patties that contain no pollen.
Pollen and sugar both make patties attractive to the bees. Patties with a high proportion of trapped pollen will be consumed about three times more quickly than those without any pollen content, however, if sugar is used to make up about 50% of the dry ingredients in patties, those patties will be eaten at an acceptable rate, and even consumed at times of the year when natural pollen is being brought in by foragers.
Pollen is particularly useful if patties with low sugar content are being fed, since bees really don't care much for yeast or soy patties unless the patties contain lots of sugar. However, if you use enough sugar, the bees will eat anything you put with it, and you don't really 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 or not.
Although bees will benefit from protein feeding at any time of year when they are confined, other than winter, spring is the traditional time to feed patties. Stimulating brood rearing is often the stated goal, but causing early brood rearing by using substitutes and supplements can be tricky. Once the bees are induced to raise unnatural amounts of brood by feeding, they must be supplied with the diet continuously and never allowed to run out until natural pollen comes in reliably. If they run out -- even for a day -- the brood they have started may be thrown out or develop poorly. Brood rearing takes a lot out of the old wintered bees, and if the first spring brood cycle does not successfully raise new nurse bees, their fat bodies may be used up and they may not be able to raise much >>
brood later, even with fresh pollen coming in.
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, as previously mentioned, 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 and short-lived a patty, and failing to keep the bees supplied, can result in hive decline or collapse. The collapse is not immediate; it comes several weeks later and can mystify the beekeeper. The explanation given for this effect is that supplements are not a perfect replacement for pollen; when raising too much brood with artificial diets with no new pollen, nurse bees deplete their body reserves dangerously.
Nonetheless, many people feed only one patty to each hive in the spring, and many of those who plan to use only one patty also choose to feed patties high in pollen content. In my experience, if only one patty is fed, it should be low in pollen, so that it will not stimulate the bees prematurely, and so that it will last. If high-pollen patties are fed, then they should be fed continuously until natural pollen is coming in. That means getting out weekly and replacing any patties that have been consumed.
How much patty each hive consumes is a good indicator of how good the hive is. Queenless or weak hives will eat much less of its patty, and a beekeeper can easily decide which hives in a yard to work on, just by looking at the patties after a week or two.
In my view, inducing unnaturally large amounts of early spring brood rearing is not the best use of protein patties. I prefer to use early patties to nourish the adult bees in hopes that these bees will be in better shape when real fresh pollen comes in and they are needed to rear brood, then continue feeding so even weaker hives have protein available on those days when the weather keeps them confined. Last year we fed three to five patties per hive, ending in June. They were all consumed, and some of the patties had zero pollen content.
Pollen in patties is an attractant, and enhances nutrition, but pollen available for feeding varies in quality. Not only can collected pollen vary due to the plants available when it is collected, but drying and storing will diminish nutritional value. Pollen also declines in value over time to the point where, after three years of storage, even if frozen, it may become worthless. The best pollen for feeding is frozen without drying as soon as it is collected, stored only one winter, and irradiated immediately before being used in patties.
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 certain to be coming into the hives.
3-5% pollen is our preference. Using 3-5% pollen (calculated on the non sugar and non-water portion of the mix) will roughly double the rate of consumption, in my experience, over patties with no pollen, and that 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.
As I said before, 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 patties encourage slower, but steady, consumption and do not raise the bees’ expectations to unreasonable levels.
Although we sometimes neglect to do so recently, we have fed protein patties in fall, and think that fall protein supplementation does reduce winter loss. It certainly does no harm.
Making patties is a big, messy job. We used to make our own patties but found that unless we were right there constantly, the labour costs got out of hand and mistakes cropped up. A few years back, we got together with our neighbours and hired the job out and that worked well, but we still had get the materials and supervise. Mistakes were made.
Finally we found Global in Airdrie. They do a good job, with no fuss and for a much better price than I could ever manage with my staff. They make both grease patties and protein patties to the buyer’s specs and deliver an accurately made product, on schedule. I recommend them highly. You can find them at www.globalpatties.com or call Frank at 1-866-948-6084 or 403-948-6084.
Today : A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers with a risk of a thunderstorm. High 10. UV index 4 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers or flurries. Risk of thunderstorms this evening. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low minus 2 with frost. / Normals for the period : Low 4. High 17.
This has been a cold, late spring. Temperatures have been running consistently below normals, but the bees are doing well, and we have lots of moisture. Spring weather like this usually ensures that the insect pests will not flourish, so we don't expect a lot of pesticide spraying this year, unless something changes drastically.
Queens are in short supply, and many beekeepers are unable to get nearly enough for splitting or requeening. At one point, a few months back, it seemed as if Canadian beekeepers would get together and work to get an import protocol into place for US mainland queens. That was not to be, however. As usual, the provinces fell to squabbling, and some provinces that do not need to import queens decided to be dogs in the manger.
Hawaii, for whatever reason, did not plan enough queens to supply Alberta. I suspect that it had to do with the prospect of losing business if the US mainland was permitted to ship into Canada. It takes time and investment and staff to be ready to ship tens of thousands of queens, and if the market is not certain, who would ramp up to supply? I wouldn't.
I also heard that some Alberta beekeepers went out of their way to tell Gus that they would cancel orders with him, if mainland queens came on stream. What ever happened to loyalty? Gus has provided good queens to us at fair prices for many years, yet some were willing to dump him on short notice and told him that. As a result everyone is suffering. I also hear that US mainland producers are unable to meet the US demand in a timely fashion, so how certain is the supply, even had the protocol been approved?
As for Hawaiian queens, there are many good Alberta beekeepers who love Kona queens and would use nothing else -- if they could only get them. Just as an example, this spring, my neighbours bought Australian packages early, while Kona queens were available, took out the Australian queens and replaced them with Gus' queens. They then sold off the Australian queens for a cheap price. (Word has it that the queens from Oz were just fine, but that just goes to show how highly Gus' queens are valued by many). Unfortunately, Gus' loyal customers -- the ones who would never cancel -- are being shorted right along with those who would go elsewhere in the blink of an eye.
| These same neighbours cannot get
Kona -- or any other -- queens now, for splitting and requeening, due to the crazy allocation system that is in
The way Hawaiian queen are currently allocated and sold in Alberta makes little sense to me. The way it works is that all Kona queens imported into Alberta come through the Alberta Honey Producers Co-op (AHPC). That part is just fine. Derrick and Lorraine do a selfless and fantastic job of managing the paperwork, picking up queens at the odd times when the planes arrive, dividing up the shipments, and distributing queens -- all at low cost to the beekeepers.
The big problem with this has to do with how orders are taken, and how the queens are allocated. Regardless of the size of operation, past purchasing history, or any other factor, each beekeeper or operation -- no matter how large or small, how many family members are involved, or purchasing history -- is limited to 500 queens in the peak period from the end of April to the end of May. Moreover, advance orders are refused up until the Alberta Beekeepers Association Convention, each November. At that convention, beekeepers must remember to order queens or miss out, and the book fills up instantly. If you forget, or your order is somehow lost -- as some were this year, including mine -- you are placed on a waiting list, and must rely on Gus supplying more than his firm commitment. Most years he has supplied well over the base amount, but this year he has not.As I see it, another big problem is that orders placed with AHPC do not require a deposit, and can be cancelled by the beekeeper without cost. As result, orders can be placed capriciously or -- as was threatened this year by some clueless beekeepers -- cancelled without penalty at the last moment. It is true that, when ordering queens in advance, it is difficult for a beekeeper to predict how many queens will be needed, and exactly when. What happens if all one's overwintered bees die, as happened to some this year? In my experience most sellers would refund the deposit in such a case, on proof of the disaster, especially if there were alternate buyers.
As I see it, both buyers and the sellers would benefit if some substantial deposit were required with advance queen orders. Otherwise, because buyers can cancel without penalty -- as might happen in large numbers if the US mainland border re-opened and queens were in good supply there -- there is no way that the supplier can be sure of a market. Consequently it is in the supplier's best interest to err on the conservative side and keep supply a bit short.
As I see it, everyone would benefit if it were possible to place standing orders from year to year, and if such orders were to be accompanied by a 25% non-refundable deposit 6 months in advance. That would allow everyone to plan.
From today's Globe & Mail...
Soaring dollar passes 73 cents
The Canadian dollar soared above 73 cents (U.S.) yesterday -- jumping almost a full cent to a six-year high -- and surprised economists say it won't stop there.
Some analysts see the surging loonie hitting almost 80 cents by the middle of next year, and, said one, even 82 cents suddenly "doesn't look so ridiculous any more."
While the currency's spectacular rise may be a boon to Canadians buying American goods or travelling in the United States as the run-up to summer holidays begins, the dollar's abrupt advance is expected to hit Canadian exporters. ...
The recent and continuing increase in the loonie's vis-à-vis the US dollar will soon have an impact on honey prices paid to Canadian beekeepers. The 15% rise in the Canadian currency since the beginning of the year means that $US1.50 honey, which returned $2.40 CAD at the end of 2002, will today return only $2.05 CAD. At 82c -- if the loonie climbs that high -- the return for the same $US 1.50 would be $1.83 CAD.
Who knows where the loonie will actually wind up? The pundits are often wrong. Nonetheless, the US appears to be unable to defend the dollar. As deflation threatens, and with it the potential for depression, the Fed cannot raise interest rates to defend the dollar for fear of wrecking the fragile US domestic economy.
The collapse of the NASDAQ and the shrinking Dow have destroyed a great deal of the wealth that was driving consumption -- and profits -- in the nineties The main body of US consumers have now acquired good cars and good housing. Computerization and home entertainment has reached a plateau where the old stuff works well enough to keep a bit longer. New consumer gadgets are failing to achieve the innovation and zing that previous offerings had. People are afraid to travel. The consumer is sated, jaded, broke, and worried about future employment. Investors are not making the killing they were a few years back and have had to tighten their belts. Demand is shrinking, and the fear is that the economy could soon shrink too, in spite of heroic efforts to pump out more money.
The US consumer has been on a binge for over a decade now and has everything he or she can afford, plus some. Consumer debt is at record highs, and credit card debt has been paid down by eating away equity in homes. Any significant increase in interest rates to defend the dollar could drive down home prices and trigger an implosion in real estate. The currency speculators know this and that they have the upper hand. Add to that the fact that the Euro now, for the first time, offers a real alternative to the US dollar as safe refuge for for foreign investors, and we are seeing a flight from the dollar to the Euro, for which there is no end in sight. Though a long and difficult battle over half a century, US and world bankers have managed to fight off gold as an alternate currency of choice, but now the Euro is gaining credibility and sapping the dollar. The bankers of the world were able to work together to fight gold, but how can the US bankers fight their European counterparts -- continuing allies in their common battle of paper against gold -- in an attempt to keep the Euro from replacing the US dollar?
Here in Canada, the economy has been running a bit hot lately, and our central bank has bumped up the lending rates a few times in recent months, but the US is our biggest trading partner -- and our most significant customer. If the US goes into the tank, then so do we. Maybe not right away, but soon after, so I think we won't be seeing any more increases in the Canadian lending rate unless the US economy starts to heat up.
The lower US dollar will help US producers, though, so at some point, the scale will tip the other way. As for war, a traditional way to break a depression, that is an interesting question. Two recent wars may have held off the inevitable, but they have also wrecked the budget.
The hope for continued good honey prices for Canadian producers lies in the fact that the Euro has strengthened, so maybe now Europe will find Canadian honey more attractive. The Argentine peso has also recently strengthened against both the Euro (slightly) and the US dollar (more so). Hopefully, that will make the Argentines less aggressive in their price cutting.
Ellen & I went for a drive into the city today and looked at cars and motorhomes. It's funny, we drive vehicles that are older than what our employees -- even the kids -- usually drive because we're too cheap to spend any money on cars. Our trucks are all kept shipshape, but they are always ten years old or older. At that age, they are fully depreciated, and they are also common enough that any mechanic can fix them. New machines are usually okay, but sometimes new models an be a nightmare for the owner if something goes wrong.
Anyhow, we looked at some nice new machinery and dreamed a bit, but when it comes to taking out our wallet, we always hesitate. $57,000 for a new pickup truck? $200,000 for a motorhome? Cars are more reasonable at $20,000 to $45, 000, but I know that if I am patient (and live long enough) that I can buy one of those $45,000 units for $4,000, after the shine wears off.
Life is full of surprises. I was thinking that the demand had slackened for hives, since no one had called for a day or two, then today I got two calls. One guy took 25 hives and another wants me to hold the balance of them for him. Looks like we're sold out of bees and hives! We'll see.
Not only that, but while I was talking to the second buyer, I hear a 'beep' and put the fellow on hold for a moment. It turned out that I had another call, so I asked the former to call me back in ten, and I sold two of our trucks to the newest caller. Things are hopping!
We still have supers and trucks and excluders and lots more to go, but the end is in sight.
Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. 30 percent chance of flurries or showers. Wind north 30 km/h. High 8. UV index 5 or moderate. / Tonight : Clearing. Wind north 30 becoming light this evening. Low minus 1 with frost. / Normals for the period : Low 4. High 17.
A while back, I dropped email@example.com as an email address. I had dropped Internode as a WPP and, besides, the incoming email from Internode was almost 100% SPAM. If anyone is still emailing me there, there will be no reply. The account is dead. One thing I did lose for a while, though, as a result of the change, is Tom Sanford's Apis newsletter. I had to re-subscribe.
In the afternoon, I decided to go out and look at some hives. I checked some of the pallets left after the last pickup by customers -- they looked pretty good -- then went down to look at the Styrofoam hives. I've been putting this job off, but figured I'd better get it done. The results are in tomorrow's entry.
Today : Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h this afternoon. High 14. UV index 5 or moderate. / Tonight : Clear. Wind south 20 becoming light this evening. Low minus 1 with frost. / Normals for the period : Low 4. High 17.
"If I make a
living off it, that's great -- but I come from a culture where you're valued
not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away,"
-- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)
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