May 20 to 31, 2003
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We had already lost 4 of the 13 styro hives over winter and I haven't seen as much flight from them as from the normal hives, so I finally opened them to see how they are doing. We had started last fall with thirteen in the insulated plastic hives: twelve in BeeMax, and one in Swienty, (For more, see also One Two Three ) plus twelve controls that were in our normal boxes and winter wraps. (See Our Winter Wraps (1) (2) (3) (4) )
As I expected from previous visits, the results were disappointing compared to the control hives. I found one more dead and the tally now stands at: 5 dead, 2 weak, 4 average, and 2 strong. The 12 controls scored: 0 dead, 2 weak, 3 average, 5 strong, and 2 extra strong. Of the thirteen in plastic, we lost a total of five over winter. Of the twelve controls, I lost none.
My test was hardly scientific. I transferred the bees into the boxes late. I've heard that others, Aaron and Murray included had great results with the plastic hives.
|Hive Type||Start of test||Dead||Weak||Average||Strong||Extra Strong||Average or better||Able to be Split||Potential Producing Colonies|
|Wood & Wrap||12||None||2||3||5||2||83%||7||19|
The images below are thumbnails. Click to enlarge.
This is just one test, in just one location, and maybe it was flawed. I always caution beekeepers not to mess with the brood chambers in late season (after the end of July in Alberta) because, not always, but in many years, such activity will cause winter loss in up to 50% of the hives. Other observers have also noted this. Moving hives does not seem to have the same bad effect, but somehow, rearranging the brood combs can.
The styro hives lack upper entrances, and I think that may be an important factor. Our normal wooden hives with wraps have upper auger holes for flight and ventilation. My understanding is that the screen area in the floor of the styro hives all the additional openings, besides the entrance slot, they should need, so I followed the directions I was given. I did take the liberty of adding a pillow on top, under the lid.
We did not manipulate or rearrange the frames, but we did invert each brood box and push the frames out in one mass, bees and all, then lower a new plastic box over the mass of frames and restore them to upright. It occurs to me now that I delegated the job, and possibly some top boxes may have been rotated 180 degrees on the bottom ones, but, other than that, the frames were not rearranged. We also did this very late in the season, and Murray says that those familiar with the boxes recommend giving the bees several months to adjust to the different heat profile and also the new ventilation and entrance positions. That may have been the factor, but, whatever the reason, we had a failure. I'm glad I did not jump in with both feet. Meijers and I had been dreaming of changing over all our broods to plastic. At this point, my own system, with the sleeves, seems to be away out in front for success and spring colony strength.
|Comparing the Results of Wintering in Styrofoam Brood Chambers to Wintering in Standard Wooden Boxes with Individual Hive Wraps|
A styro hive with a pillow under the lid
A smallish cluster of bees
Bees pile up in the screen on the floor
Here's a better looking cluster in a wooden hive
Looking down on a typical cluster in a wooden hive
The screens are glued on. Several became detached over winter.
This hive had an upper entrance due to the pillow being on crooked. This hive did better than most.
When a screen came loose, a mouse took the opportunity to build a nest
This is a typical screen covered with debris. Note that there are not many bees on the bottom bars
Looking under a wooden hive on a wooden floor.
Bricks positions indicate the strength of each hive
Looking north at the entire experimental group
|Other references to styro hives: One Two Three Four Five|
|I'm getting ahead of myself and starting Tuesday's page on Monday
At any rate Terry called me a minute ago to say that my contact page was still addressing email to Internode. Good thing that I mentioned here that I had killed mail from that address. I wonder how much email I lost over the past two weeks? I'll never know. At any rate, I have fixed it now.
Experiences like this show where the low spots really are. It is often not at all obvious how low a spot is until runoff. I got fooled this spring, and I still can't figure out why the water gathered where it did. The spot still doesn't look very low to me.
Looking across the landscape for good locations for bees, it is easy to choose a place where water and cold air will pool. That's often where the shelter is. Water only pools occasionally, but cold air will gather in spots like this every still night, and, as a consequence, bees may not do as well as if they were a bit higher. Even placing hives on a stack of pallets will make a difference.
It's easy to be fooled -- and I have many times -- by attractive spots like this. They look so perfect. Often the only windbreak around is near such a depression, simply because the farmer found it too wet to clear or till the area, and of course, trees flourish near water.
Such shelter is attractive, but oftentimes, bees will do better on a nearby knoll. Sometimes not. Choosing locations is an art, and after 30 years, I still cannot predict where bees will make a good crop and where they will winter well, without a trying the location out. Some spots are consistently good for both, and others are good at one or the other. Only a precious few are consistently excellent for both summer and winter.
According to the forecast, we can expect continuing below normal temperatures. So far, this has been a cold, wet spring.
Dennis and Paulo will be back at work today. Now that we have sold most of the bees, we have much less work than normal. We'd be hiring additional help if we were still running several thousand hives, but at this point, we are cutting back. All that is left is cleanup, but there is lots of that to do. I expect it will continue into fall, but with time off in summer. Paulo will be returning to Brazil in June, so we'll just have Dennis left, unless we hire some additional help to clean up.
The grass needs cutting, and the dandelions are coming into their peak.
|From the Midwest USA
What can I say? Thanks for the note. As usual, it's on the diary.. Did you see the flooded hives?
Today : A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of afternoon showers. High 15. UV index 4 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 3. Risk of frost. / Normals for the period : Low 4. High 17.
One more month of spring, one more month until the longest day of the year. We still can see the remnants of snow drifts in the coulees. They are melting, but there are still a few white spots standing out against the new bright green grass on the slopes.
Mad cow disease is in the news today. Apparently there is no great risk to consumers, but the auction marts are closed and the US border is closed to beef exports until the situation is clarified.
|From a new beekeeper who bought 32 hives last fall:
We got confirmation that all out honey is now sold and paid for today. We had shipped the last of it to the co-op.
We went to Drum to drop off some paintings and to meet Meijers for supper. On the way home, we bought a motorhome.
Today : A mix of sun and cloud. High 18. UV index 5 or moderate. ? Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low 7./ Normals for the period : Low 4. High 18
We started the morning by taking the two trucks I sold recently to Linden for a safety inspection. I don't want the buyer to have any surprises.
I looked under some of the remaining hives today, and we have no choice but split about a third of them. If we don't they will be splitting themselves soon. Bees are filling the floor boards and hanging off the bottom of the frames, so I had Dennis and Paulo split four here in the home yard and then go to Zieglers', one our 6 remaining locations (some have only four hives). They took 16 brood boxes along, and we figured they would find two duds to use up, and that would suffice. Well, they had to split 11 of the 28 and ran out of boxes, so they loaded the two hives they couldn't do and came home with them.
This evening, I looked at two hives that were split at home around noon, and they were already down to the floor and cleaning out. Frankly, I could not distinguish them from un-split hives nearby, simply by watching the entrance activity. We used the procedure mentioned in this diary a day or two back, but set them side-by-side as described in the Spring Management pages, rather than haul them away. We also put a brood chamber under each split because the splits were so strong. The hives are exploding with new bees. Hives that were rated 'medium' this morning were rating 'extra strong' by tonight, using the 'tip 'em forward and peek' rating system.
I was waiting around all day for a young fellow who had indicated that he intended to come by to buy 25 hives or so. He was to have phoned ahead, but I heard nothing until after supper. At any rate, he arrived in the evening with a friend, in a pickup truck, and they decided to buy two hives. We loaded them by hand, and since I had been expecting to use a forklift, I had no smoker with me. They had veils, but no suits and I was in shorts and had no veil. They picked two of the strongest (and paid a premium price for the privilege) and we heaved them onto the truck. Everyone got stung and it was hilarious. We duct-taped the lids on and, of course left the entrances open, since it was dusk. The experience took me right back to when I first started beekeeping, and moved bees on a platform on the trunk of my car with the help of a teenage friend (I was just a bit over twenty myself). We sure had fun in those days. Somehow, a lot of that fun has gone out of it for me, but those guys are having a ball. I kinda envy them.
Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 30 km/h near noon. High 21. UV index 5 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy. Wind west 30 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 4. High 18.
We started with checking the hives in the yard here for strength again this morning, and found the populations have mushroomed in the past few days. The decision, after inspecting, was that we have no choice but to split them, or super them. Today. We decided to split the biggest ones immediately, and got going on that. Then I got a call from a buyer who had purchased some bees earlier and was very happy about the bees he had gotten earlier. He says he needs another 96, but prefers them un-split. I hustled to figure out what we have left and and to get the permit to send them into BC, and got it all figured out. We decided to put an extra brood box on them and hope that holds them; he says he is coming tomorrow to pick them up.
Ellen and I went to Linden and got the trucks back from the safety inspection. There are few minor things needing doing, but otherwise they are just fine. Dennis went on to visit the remaining outyards and to put on boxes.
Paulo was sounding and acting sick, and I sent him home. I am not amused by people showing up when they are sick. We've had people do this to us before and find it really annoying. I have told people very clearly and several times, never to come to work sick. They just do a bad job, and usually have to leave early anyhow. They also make others sick, especially if they ride in the same car or truck. Then everyone loses. Add to that the fact that Ellen and I often visit a premature baby these days, and it is very clear that deliberately arriving at work ill is just plain selfish and irresponsible. I realize that people feel they cannot afford to miss a day, but can they afford to have a black mark on their bonus record, and to have their friends miss days on account of their selfishness too?
Dennis called from the Willows, and says that 5 hives there are hanging out, big time!
Today, it has become apparent that the styrofoam hive colonies are pretty much a write-off. I don't know what all I did wrong, but they are a disaster. I suspect that the lack of a top flight hole was a big factor, but the late transfer was probably the biggest factor. I'll be transferring the frames out into wooden boxes. Maybe I'll try the expanded polystyrene again, and maybe not. I have friends who like them and maybe I'll pass the boxes over to them. Even though I got them all for free -- for evaluation -- I can't afford what they cost me. I figure the 13 hives cost me about $900, minimum in lost bees. Imagine if I had done what I dreamed of doing, and changed more hives (or all) over to plastic before proving the idea! Granted, I must have done something wrong, but, until I know for sure, exactly what, they are not for me.
We went to Three Hills for supper with Walt.
Today : Sunny. High 23. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : Clear. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 5. High 18.
Dennis arrived around six to bring in bees -- we have a customer coming for 96 tonight -- and could not get D5 started. I had to go out and we gave it a tug. I guess I will have to change the glow plug timer. He, of course has whatever Paulo had yesterday, but seeing as he was working alone and wasn't too sick, we let him bring in the hives from the two remaining yards. After he finished, there was more to do, but we decided that he was sounding worse and sent him home. I went down later, and finished the organising to be ready for loading.
The bees are on a flow and hanging out of some hives. We had pulled the reducers, split, or put a third on the strongest ones, but some of the splits continued to hang out a bit. I noticed the bees smelled really rank, too, like a dog that has rolled in carrion. I am not sure what nectar source smells like this, but another beekeeper commented that his bees are smelling the same right now.
We still have the wraps on most of the hives, and I guess it is about time now to take them off. We still have entrance reducers on most as well, and taking them off can help if they start to hang out. The temperatures are now much warmer and the nights are well above freezing, but these are tropical insects and we figure they can accomplish a lot more if the hive interior is around 90 degrees F than if it fluctuates, so we take off wraps and reducers only when the bees tell us to. We're also selling the hives, so having everything in one package when loading is handy.
Meijers and P-Ss came for supper and Bert arrived a bit later. Neil showed up for the bees around nine and, we started loading shortly thereafter. It was quite a load, since he had a short deck, but he was done tying down around midnight and headed for Pittt Meadows. By then it was getting quite cool, but in the lights of the forklift, we could still see bees hanging from the bottom bars of the bottom boxes in the three-storey hives which had their reducers off.
We now have about thirty hives left, and ten of those belong to a customer who bought bees last winter and still has not gotten around to picking them up.
We were up until about two, visiting with Bert. Turns out he wants some bees on his place, because he has an acre of saskatoon berries and does not see any bees on the flowers. He either needs bees, or must use a pollinating spray that has to go on three times a day and costs several hundred dollars. He works in the city, so it is clear that, without bees, the pollination won't happen. Normally, we had a yard about a half-mile from his pace and the bees would be there, working, but we have moved out all the local yards. We had another call today from someone lamenting the lack of bees in his garden this year and wondering about getting a hives. I guess I had not realized the impact our retirement will have on many diverse people through the country who were not even particularly aware that we were around.
Saturday : Sunny. Wind southeast 30 km/h. High 28. Low 10.
I awoke this morning very tired and feeling raw, and noticed my face was a bit puffy. At first, I wondered if I had what Dennis had, but decided my problem was just the combination of staying up late and loading bees in the wind. I often forget that I have an allergy to bees (bees not stings). When I load bees at night during a flow, I often suffer from the effects of the air they expel from the hives. It's not a serious effect, but it does make me a bit uncomfortable and dopey. I take antihistamines and that helps, but they work better if I take them before I get the allergy reaction. Nonetheless, I sometimes forget, as I did this time. I also had a beer with supper, and alcohol exacerbates allergies.
Frank and Mike came by to get queens. We always share queens with some small beekeepers, as a favour. This year they, and several others, would be out in the cold if we had not spoken for queens, and if we had not kept up the practice of sharing them. I don't know what they will do in the future, but maybe we'll continue to do this, even if we only have a few hives ourselves.
In early afternoon, we went to Red Deer for a few hours to visit Jean and Chris. We saw several yards of bees along the way and were impressed that our bees -- even after splitting -- appear much stronger. Or, at least they were -- they are now almost all gone. We are down to two score or so. I also noticed that there were few, if any dandelions to be seen near Red Deer, so maybe they are a little behind us, this year.
When El and I got to Red Deer, we went to the hospital, but Jean and Chris were just leaving, so we all went to the Bower Ponds for a stroll. As it turned out, I was so tired that I slept for almost an hour in the car while they visited. El and I then drove to Bert's for supper, and returned home to load some hives for Bert's saskatoons. We loaded a pallet of four, and he headed home with our truck and forklift, just as darkness fell.
Today, I must be the best-equipped hobby beekeeper in this part of the galaxy. We have a Swinger and trailer, numerous trucks, four big extractors, etc. etc..., but much of it is for sale.
Today : Increasing cloudiness this morning. 60 percent chance of showers this afternoon. Risk of thunderstorms. High 25. UV index 4 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers. Low 10. / Normals for the period : Low 5. High 18.
Today is my first day as a hobby beekeeper. I drove to Bert's and supered the four hives he had taken home, and took off the wraps. He chose a nice, sheltered spot and they should be just fine. I pulled the reducers too. Then I went to Meglis' and picked up the four catch hives (and three drums that were supposed to have been picked up already by Dennis on his last trip). I then went to Cyril's and got the one hive from there. When I got home, I counted 38 hives, total, and 10 are Kevin's, so I have 28.
The trees have leafed out in the last three days, and now we have a carpet of dandelion, too. I see that that saskatoons and carraganas are blooming, as are the cherry and apple trees. Everything has turned on at once.
I was very tired again today. allergies, I guess, or maybe the thing that Paulo and Dennis had. Dennis was off again today; he called in this morning to report he is not 100%. Paulo is fine and did a good day's work.
In the afternoon, Ellen and I went and picked up the motorhome we had bought. I was feeling very tired and everything seemed grey and awful all afternoon. Everyone has days like this once in a while. All we can do is wait for it to pass. By evening, I felt better and hope that a good night's sleep will make everything look more cheerful.
Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. 30 percent chance of late afternoon showers. Wind northwest 30 km/h. High 21. UV index 4 or moderate. / Tonight : Clearing this evening. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 8. / Normals for the period : Low 5. High 18.
I awoke feeling much better. I find that taking 50 mg of diphenhydramine hydrochloride before bed ensures at least six hours. I'd wondered why six hours, but it turns out that this site says that the duration of activity following an average dose of diphenhydramine hydrochloride is from four to six hours. of good sleep when I am facing allergies. I have discovered some much cheaper generic versions of the more expensive Benadryl, at Wal-Mart and The Real Canadian Super Store.
I did deskwork and, in the afternoon went out with Dennis and we reversed the styro hives. They seem to be building up well now, considering how far behind they were. Subjectively, the brood seems a bit more solid than in our other hives. We also did few more splits and started taking off wraps. The weather is now settled and we have had a string of nights that were not near freezing. We'll have some cold snaps yet, but there are enough newly hatched bees, and good enough nutrition from the spring bloom, that the bees should be able to handle a few cold days or nights.
In the evening, Kevin and Bryan came by to get the ten hives that I have owed Kevin since last December. I gave him ten decent hives -- some of them splits -- and they also picked up some queens I had managed to get for them. Kevin bought 500 hives from us in December on location, as-is, where-is. When he went to the yards that were assigned, he counted 495, and there were 5 of the 495 hives that were either dead or obviously going to be soon. Our deal -- each deal is a bit different -- was that I would replace any that were obviously duds as of the time of purchase in December, so I owed him 10. The question was: what 10? Assuming that he was owed hives as of December, 2002, and that he had 15% winter loss to this date and also the fact that some of his yards had 100% survival, and other yards had 40% loss; and considering also that surviving hives range from super-strong to weak, did I owe him 100% alive, 15% dead, 60% alive, or a random selection? We settled on 10 live hives or average strength. Some had been split, some not.
I use Opera as my main browser, but it has a few drawbacks. For one thing, not all web pages work properly with Opera. For example, my banks' site does not. MSIE, Microsoft's browser is the standard for many such sites, but I hate using it because it throws new windows randomly all over the desktop and is vulnerable to popups. MyIE2 is a browser that uses the MSIE guts, but puts a more pleasant face on it. MyIE2 makes MSIE look and feel like Opera (or Mozilla) in many ways, and opens multiple sites in separate tabbed windows, but without the Opera drawbacks. MyIE2 is free! Try it. You'll enjoy this site much more -- it's designed for tabbed browsing.
Maybe I should explain why tabbed browsing is so important to me: I am on a slow dialup. When opening a new page, I simply right click on a link and 'open in background', continue reading, then, after a reasonable time, click the new tab and continue on the new page. No waiting. Also, on restarting Opera after a shutdown, all the previous session's pages are there in the one window, open and ready to continue when I click the tab.
Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20 km/h this afternoon. High 23. UV index 5 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 7. / Normals for the period : Low 5. High 19.
I have discovered something very handy. Some time back, very reluctantly, I purchased a card reader for my camera's SM memory cards. The camera serial download was slow, and when I switched to Windows XP, XP somehow would not recognize the camera, even after much tinkering. I bought the reader, then I found an 128 meg card cheap at Costco and bought it. I found the large card is slower than a smaller one in my camera (but hold 300 snapshots!). I also discovered that I can back up my essential computer files much more quickly and easily onto this card than onto a CDROM, or other removable medium, and that I can also use the data instantly on any XP computer with an USB port.
I was planning to go out and visit Joe in the yards this morning, but, by the time I was done my chores in Three Hills, he was done the jobs that interested me and we cancelled. I went home and spent the afternoon doing a few things, but nothing very memorable. We're still tidying up, and servicing the trucks in readiness for selling them.
Dennis went out and split the remaining hives, 4 at Bert's and 6 at Boese's W. We either have to split or super. I reckon we have 47 hives now.
|Bee Morphology Links|
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h. High 28. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind southeast 30 shifting to west 30 gusting 50 this evening. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 5. High 19.
I worked on the items for sale section of this site in the morning and id some accounting, then a beekeeper came to pick up the Cowan system he bought some time back. Dennis worked on vehicles and Paulo tidied up the south yard. It is starting to look better than I can remember.
In the afternoon, I ran to Trochu to get rocker cover gaskets for the Motorhome and get some groceries.
Joe Meijer came for supper. Oene is in The Netherlands for a visit. Joe and I went to look at the hives I split and we looked into the styro hives for comparison. The splits are stronger in most cases.
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming northwest 30 km/h near noon. High 21. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind northwest 30. Low 7./ Normals for the period : Low 6. High 19.
I got up this morning and noticed that I had left the queens outside overnight, sitting on the barbeque, and that the wind had blown off the lid. Not a good idea, but they all are fine. I had cocked the lid up to give them shade, but it kept blowing off, so I decided to cut a small flight hole instead, and place the lid on the box properly.
I spent the day getting ready for the accountant. In mid-afternoon, a micro-burst almost blew my barbeque off the deck, and succeeded in blowing the queen box twenty feet. I picked it all up and wondered about tying down the barbeque. Weather can be violent here. I'm glad I wasn't flying an ultralight airplane when the gust hit out of nowhere.
We went to the Mill for supper.
Today : Sunny. Wind becoming southeast 20
km/h near noon. High 23. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy periods.
Wind southeast 20. Low 11. / Tuesday : Sunny. Low 7. High 19.
Normals for the period : Low 6. High 19.
The hives we split on Tuesday are ready for queens today and the ones Dennis did Wednesday will be ready tomorrow. The weather has turned cool and breezy today. I'm finishing up the books.
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods this
morning. Becoming cloudy this afternoon with a 60 percent chance of showers.
Wind becoming south 20 km/h near noon. High 20. UV index 6 or moderate.
Tonight : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h near midnight. Low 9.
Sunday : Cloudy with sunny periods. 60 percent chance of showers in the evening. Risk of thunderstorms. Wind north 20 km/h. High 16.
Monday : Cloudy. Low 8. High 16.
Tuesday : Cloudy periods. Low 7. High 19.
Wednesday : Sunny. Low 6. High 18.
Normals for the period : Low 6. High 19.
|Zach's Bee Photos|
"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)
|Please report any problems or errors to Allen Dick
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