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How to get to Beaverlodge from Alberta and B.C.
It's a rainy day. Paulo restacked some supers and Dennis did some odd jobs. We have about four thousand supers left. We got a call for supers last might and expect that we should be getting some calls over the next few weeks. We're hoping people won't put things off until the last minute, since we plan to go east in early July.
I was planning to go to Manitoba for the auction in Minnedosa, but decided to skip it due to lack of good flights to Winnipeg and lack of time. I'm interested in finding out how the prices are there, but cannot sell things into Manitoba or Saskatchewan at any rate. Even though we have no resistant AFB, the powers that be in those provinces, in their infinite wisdom, have banned imports from Alberta and B.C.
The Beaverlodge Field Day is coming up on Friday the 20th, and I'm thinking I'll likely go this year. It's been about thirty years since I've attended. The last time, I was a bee inspector and was in that district with my crew, inspecting bee. We rode around in my 1969 Chrysler convertible.
Today : Showers. Risk of a severe thunderstorm this afternoon. Wind southeast 20 km/h. High 16. UV index 2 or low. / Tonight : Showers. Risk of a severe thunderstorm this evening. Storm total 20 to 30 mm. Wind northwest 30 km/h. Low 6. / Normals for the period : Low 7. High 20.
We spent the day doing the usual stuff. Paulo tidied, Dennis changed some motor mounts. I did some bookwork, Ellen did some gardening.
A beekeeper came by mid-day and bought 40 wraps, some excluders, and a one of our large Jabsco honey pumps. We had a call from another who is coming on the weekend for supers. It's time to super now, and, for those with decent overwintered hives in our area, all supers should be on by the end of the month. We've been working on getting out the odds and ends we have for sale and making them ready for sale. It is now less than a month until smart beekeepers must be ready to extract. Sometimes extracting can be delayed until August, but other years -- and this looks like one of those -- extracting must begin in mid-July if the maximum crop is to be had.
Supers being pulled for extraction usually hold a bout 30 pounds of honey on average when the beekeeper is caught up with the bees. As much as forty pounds per box is still acceptable, but if the boxes being harvested weigh much more than 60lbs (20 for the box and 40 for the honey in it), on average, honey production is definitely being lost.
If we figure 30 lbs per box, a 180-pound crop requires 6 supers per hive on average, or three supers used twice. a 240-pound crop requires 8 supers, or 4 supers used twice. Of course, some hives do not fill their supers, and some supers are in the honey house or on the truck, and the flow sometimes takes place over a period as short as a week, so -- at $2 per pound -- each drawn super is worth as much as $100 in honey production!
I called a friend who attended the auction in Manitoba yesterday to see how the sale went. We were expecting the prices to be firm. Apparently the supers went fast, and for over $30. Two years ago, at an auction held not far from this one, the sales went slowly, and some items were sold cheaply and with difficulty. My source said the boxes in yesterday's auction were old, but freshly painted, and that the frames were pretty poor; 10% to 20% of the frames would need culling due to broken tabs, split top bars, etc. Moreover some of the equipment had not been in use for years, and was old and dry.
Supers, regardless of condition, are very valuable this year, since the price of honey continues to be good and beekeepers are trying for maximum production. Without lots of supers of drawn comb -- three or four per hive, minimum, in addition to the brood boxes -- beekeepers stand to lose a large portion of their potential crop. Beekeepers also need extra supers, beyond that, because at least a few hundred are on the truck, or in the honey house being extracted, at the peak of the flow when the bees need the maximum amount of space.
The dark comb went cheap, at $20 per box, but my source said that they were very poor, with serious AFB problems. Live hives went for $240 in doubles. Again, the report I got was that the hives were not great: they had about three frames of bees and brood in top and bottom. (Again we encounter this very rough estimation -- frames of bees and brood. Beekeepers understand what this implies, but it is hardly scientific). Previous auctions I've attended: one two.
The two Kelly extractors went for $2,000 each, even though one had the original Kelley (clunky, dangerous) drive. The other was converted to a decent drive. Generally, prices ranged from reasonable to high; for example, a 250 gallon dairy tank, like one I am selling for $250, went for $700!
Today : Cloudy. 30 percent chance of afternoon showers. Risk of thunderstorms. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 18. UV index 6 or moderate./ Tonight : Cloudy periods with a 60 percent chance of showers this evening. Risk of thunderstorms. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 7. High 20. / Sunrise : 5:21 / Sunset : 21:50 / Moonrise : 18:37 / Moonset : 3:38
|This came in this morning. It's a good question. Any
Again, the term, "four frame nuc", is fairly unspecific. I gather those who buy and sell them understand what is meant, but I am not certain how much brood they should have, and how many bees. I suspect that, as a buyer, I would expect two frames, about 50 to 75% full of brood in all stages, and that all four frames should be well covered with bees. I assume that the equipment is either exchanged (risky from a disease perspective), or lost. If lost, at the current price of supers and brood boxes, the frames and box would be worth at least $15. (all figures are in Canadian dollars).
A nuc of this size arriving in late May, in Alberta, would not be expected to produce much unless the season turns out to be a long one, running into the fall, as it did last year. In an early year, with the flow in July, such a nuc would still be building up on the flow.
Resistant AFB and Apistan resistant mites are a problem in some parts of the lower mainland. I don't know about the the Island. I suppose, if these are to be found in the region where the nucs are delivered, this is not a problem, nonetheless, I would think it is a factor to consider.
Bulk bees, sold in packages can be very valuable in building up colonies, particularly where package bees have dwindled, or overwintered bees have failed to build up.
Several beekeepers came by today, and over 500 supers left on trucks and trailers, headed for bee yards. This is looking like a fast spring, and it is time to super. The smart beekeepers are getting at least their thirds on now. The smartest ones have thirds on their best hives for a week or more already.
I recall several years ago, having had to remove two full supers per hive from several yards on the June 20th so the hives would be light enough to move to pollination. The young fellow who bought those yards has not yet come for his supers and I am worried. I've warned him twice to get supers on, but what more can I do?
Purves-Smiths came for a barbeque.
Today : Sunny. High 20. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Low 10. / Normals for the period : Low 7. High 21.
| This came in a few days back. Enquiring minds need to know:
Mid-morning, a TV crew dropped in to do a shoot, and I spent a couple of hours helping them out, taking the same hives apart, over and over. Finally we had a wrap, but not before I got a sting or two. For some reason, non-beekeepers seem to be fascinated by bee-stings, almost to exclusion, sometimes, of what seems important to us, and media people seem to want to be sure to get a few shots of people being stung, or pretending to be.
Interestingly, while we were able to find a number of bees on dandelions, actively gathering pollen and nectar, around eleven AM; a half-hour later, bees were hard to find on those same blossoms. Whether the bees have a better source of nectar and pollen at that time of day, or whether I had disrupted them by smoking and removing wraps, I don't know. I did see a lot of small triangular moths on the flowers though, and hope they are not the sort that cause farmers to spray blooming crops.
Something I discovered, while examining the hives, was that they are plugging up with nectar. Even though we split all our remaining hives, except the styro hives, which were too weak, in order not to produce honey this summer -- I want a summer off -- I saw brood areas plugged with honey in the splits. I'm going to have to super them right away. This spring is shaping up fast, and I've been warning people to get supers on, now. The smart ones are, but I'm thinking I may have to go out and put supers on hives for one young fellow who has bought a lot of hives and is missing the boat.
Ellen and I drove to Calgary in the afternoon for another session with our estate planner.
Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming south 30 km/h near noon. High 23. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind south 30 km/h becoming west 20 this evening. Low 6. / Normals for the period : Low 8. High 21.
It's been quite a day. We sold the White Gas, a truck I had thought I might wind up keeping after all others are sold, but I guess I'll keep whatever people leave me, if they leave me any. Everything is for sale.
Another hundred supers went, and more wraps, more tanks, and a super elevator. We now have just one tank left. Two are on hold for a buyer I invoiced a week ago, and I'm assuming he will follow through on the purchase. He assures me he will.
Things are selling fast. Honey prices are holding firm -- I'm hearing of some good honey prices in the States. I'm down to 47 hives, and it looks as if people may even want to buy some of them!
Before supper, I started loading the tank and super elevator onto the truck for the buyer, and set up the tarp for him. It should have taken an hour, but somehow I was not done until nine.
Today : Sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 22. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : Clear. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light near midnight. Low 6. / Normals for the period : Low 8. High 21.
I drove to Calgary for the day, and along the way, I stopped at Global to visit Frank and Mike. Then I continued on to Calgary to spend a few hours at he Zoo. That was fun. It was packed with people of all imaginable shapes, colours, ages and sizes. I spent more time watching the higher primates than the caged animals. Then I decided to ride the LRT. In all the years I've lived in and visited Calgary, I've never ridden it, even once, until today. I rode for an hour and a half, until my ticket expired, then drove home.
Today I realized that Calgary is no longer the cowtown I came to 25 years ago from the East. It is now a Big City. People no longer meet a stranger's gaze or smile.
Today : A mix of sun and cloud. High 23. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 8. High 21.
Hope you're getting used to dealing with 50 hives !
You mention drawn supers being valuable...and it got me writing. It seems to be an ongoing battle between experienced (hobby, up to 50 hives) beekeepers here in the South of England. For every one saying drawn comb is gold, there's another saying bees on a flow need to exude wax too, and several claim to have tried the experiment on hives side by side, to gain a little more honey in the drawn comb, or no difference. Plus the loss of disease spores, valuable wax crop and ease of melting versus extraction tilt the scales [ :-( ] to a total harvest. ( I say you can taste the difference from a melt...but hey...) Got any facts and figures, either from your own experience or scientific trials I can quote?
Interesting 4.9 stuff. I was totally furious when I used Apidea (copyright) mating hives for the first time this year. Why has no one done the multiple generation comb size experiment in these mini hives ? You could get the second and third queen cells started in ordinary starter hives from the apidea eggs, and use the downsized workers through 4 or 5 generations in 50 mini nucs in a year.
I bent the trunk on my car the other day. I'd parked the truck I'd sold, to await pickup by the buyer, in a place where normally there is just empty driveway. When I backed out to leave for town, I was distracted and hit the back corner of the deck. There was no hint of a scratch on the truck deck, but the trunk lid was bent to the point where I could not open it.
I called my trusty wrecker friend today, and he said he had one -- and one that matched in colour. I believed him, but thought it best to take the old one as a sample, and as I was going in the motorhome (I was stopping to have a mechanic look at it along the way), I decided to take the lid off. Being in a hurry, we took the Sawzall to it and were done in a few moments. The problem is that when I got to the wreckers, it turned out he was mistaken, and now I have no lid at all. Hope it does not rain before I can find one.
The extractors are staring to sell. A fellow is coming from the North tomorrow to get one, and that means that only three are left, I know that about five people are sorta counting on picking one up at the last minute, and some are hoping to knock off a few bucks. That's not a good strategy this year. Some may just wind up having to buy new extractors at $6,000 or so, each -- if they can get them. I hear all kinds of bee supplies are in short supply. It looks to me to be an early crop, and smart beekeepers are already testing their extracting setups. Nothing is worse than having a crop on the hives and no working extraction facilities. The crop is limited in how much can come in, and the early honey that does come in is often canola. Canola can granulate in a week some years. Other years, it stays liquid into the fall, but who wants to gamble?
I hear one of the buyers of my hives still has 300 hives on one location. Another still has not begun to super. Beekeeping is tough and unforgiving for beginners. There are specific days of the year by which specific operations must be done. If these things are not done, nobody comes and tells you that you just blew the farm. You just find that your bees die or swarm away, and you don't get a crop that will cover your debts, even while your neighbours are doing well. Then your bees don't winter because they were plugged or starved. Not only that, but crop insurance does not cover losses due to mismanagement.
Everyone is remembering last year. Around here, very little honey came in before August, and small hives and splits had lots of time to build up. That was a very unusual year. This looks to me to be an early year. I've seen years when supers filled in June and early July -- for those who had strong hives and supers on -- but there was nothing much at all after August 1st. In years like that, splits produce nothing, and the supers that are put on late come home empty.
Around here, every day you are late putting on supers can cost as much as $50 per hive. If you have 100 hives, that is $5,000 lost forever. If you have 500 hives, that is $25,000 thrown away! Of course not every day that is missed is a $50 day, but who can afford to take a chance? On the other hand, it costs nothing to super early, and if it rains so that you cannot reach the yard, if you get sick, if your truck breaks own, or if the flow comes earlier than expected, you are covered.
|A smart operator always gets things done early, and plans to take a day or two of rest every week. That way, if something goes wrong, there is a bit of reserve and a possibility of getting back on schedule. Those who try to run flat out, with no reserve energy, time, or money, are bound to get clobbered sooner or later by some unexpected event that could cause them to miss the flow by a few days, and ruin them.|
Today : Sunny. High 25. UV index 6 or
Tonight : Clear. Low 11.
Tuesday : Sunny. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h in the afternoon. High 30.
Wednesday : Sunny. Low 12. High 26.
Thursday : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 13. High 19.
Friday : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 11. High 18.
Normals for the period : Low 8. High 21.
| I've railed and stormed, and annoyed a lot of beekeepers -- even
lost friends (temporarily) -- with my insistence on supering well before
the flow, but I feel vindicated. Here's just one example of feedback from
those who listen. This is from a man who bought 40 wintered hives, in
doubles, from us for his son, and had us feed, medicate and deliver them,
earlier in the spring.
And thank you for that! That about says it all!
(BTW, the boys' boss, mentioned above, is a competent, mid-size beekeeper near his home, for whom he works in summer while attending school in winter).
This morning, we were expecting visitors. One to buy an extractor, and Jim and Kristy had promised to drop by from Vernon. I also had to find a trunk lid ASAP, since I plan to drive up to Beaverlodge. El and I were talking and decided to call a friend for advice. As it turned out, he was headed to a wreckers in Calgary, so I rushed to Linden to take him the sample lid. Then I returned home, in time to visit with Jim and Kristy and Allison, their daughter. They are now running Stawn's Honey in Vernon. We had a good visit.
Dennis was working on a u-joint on the Blue Gas. He'd discovered a problem and fixed it. We then tackled the motorhome. He found one bolt larger than the rest on the torque converter, so we thought we'd try disconnecting the TC to see if the vibration quit. It did, somewhat, at least. We also had some exhaust problems, and, in the process of repairing the problem, I proved to myself that I am still a pretty good mechanic.
James came and got 5,000 litres of syrup. I was glad to see that it did not foam when pumped, a sure sign that fermentation had not begun. I had been getting concerned because the syrup was in the tanks for a few months. It was kept over winter, and that is never a problem, but in summer, water evaporates from the syrup, condenses on the tank, and runs back down to form a water layer on top of the syrup. Although 67% syrup is too concentrated for fast yeast action, yeast can get started in the dilute top layer that forms as a result of the distillation and condensation described here, and spread to the whole tank over time. Slightly fermented syrup is probably harmless to free-flying bees, and a bit of alcohol does not seem to do any harm, but we always worry about potential off-products like aldehydes being created if the syrup breaks down -- especially in fall for winter feed..
Joe and Oene came for supper, and borrowed a trailer while they were her. They got a sudden call to deliver 300 hives to canola pollination two weeks early. (I've been saying that this is an early year). Oene is just back from Holland, and I think he could have used a few more weeks of holiday (Am I right Oene?). He had a good time, but was glad to be home.
My friend called to say he did not get a trunk lid.
Today : Sunny. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h this afternoon. High 25. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : Clear. Wind southeast 20 km/h. Low 12. / Normals for the period : Low 8. High 21.
A beekeeper came by first thing this morning and looked at the extractors, and went on his way. I decided that the machines need a good wash, and a motor cover installed, so Dennis set them up for pressure washing. El & I drove the motorhome to Three Hills for alignment and a new windshield. While in town, I ordered some motor covers to spruce the extractors up a bit. I had intended to put covers on for some time now, but the extractors worked just fine as they were, and I never did get around to it. I paid the GST at the bank, and was home around noon.
We have concluded that one of the buyers of some of our hives has simply not been able to find time to put on his supers in time not to cause brood shutdown, swarming and loss of crop, and likley will not find time this week either. He has been working long days for his dad, and also been sick a bit. I know what it is like to get behind; we always planned, hired, equipped our oufit, and managed to make sure it never happened, since the costs of being even a week late are just too high to risk. Nonethess, we did fall behind from time to time, and we fully understand the pressure and sense of frustration it causes.
Supering is not a job that can wait, even a few days, if a beekeeper wants a crop, strong bees, and good wintering later on. The supers are still here in storage, and since the hives in question are still on our old locations, we decided that we would send Dennis out to deliver the supers to the yards for him, so he could just slip out and put them on as he sees fit without having to drive all the way to our place, load, drive back, etc., etc. Our contract with the buyer states that if we see that essential work is not done on schedule, we can decide to do it, and bill him. Of course we discuss this with the buyer, but we do have the option to do so unilaterally, if the investment seems at risk. The cost of making a quick round is minimal, probably less than $1 per hive, and the benefits are very significant in comparison to that small expenditure. Dennis has been to those yards many times, so the job should be simple for him.
Dennis loaded two trucks this afternoon, and plans to take a trip up tomorrow, unload the truck, leave the Swinger, then come back for the second truck. Then he will bring the Swinger back at he end of the day, reload, and go again the next day and do the same thing. Each truck carries 360 supers without any problem, and could carry more, but the height of the pallets gets a bit unwieldy for the forklift when the stacks are over six boxes high. We have 1,500 to deliver, so four loads will work out just fine. If we had two drivers, we could send a truck/trailer unit with 720 supers plus one truck and forklift with 360, but we are down to one man, and I am planning on going to Beaverlodge.
In mid-afternoon, I called my friend and learned he had found a matching trunk lid. I met him in Linden and we installed it in minutes. By then, it was four, and I rushed home to get Ellen and we went to pick up the MH. I was thinking of heading north tonight, but felt rushed and decided to wait until morning. I've been looking at cars in the Auto Trader and am amazed at the low prices on ten-year old cars. 1994 luxury models in good shape are going for under $3,000, and, for some reason, the best deals are in Edmonton.
I've been saying for some time now that with all the new cars sold on lease over the past ten years, and given how much better cars are now than in the past, that, at some point, a glut of good used cars was bound to appear on the market. I guess this is it. Used cars and trucks were going to ther US in large numbers in recent years, but the sudden increase in value of the Canadian dollar vs. the US dollar appears to have ended that. As a result, there is an amzing variety of good cheap cars to be had.
After supper we got a call, approving our decision to deliver the supers to the yards, and also asking us to super the hives with one box each. The only thing that concerns me is that the buyer does not want excluders on the hives. Of course, we'll respect his wishes, but we went without excluders one year -- our son thought it would be a good idea -- and it turned out that we had slow flows that year. As a result, we had brood in the supers right into October. That impacted our subsequent wintering negatively. It was also a nuisance working the hives without a clear delineation between the brood chamber and the supers -- hard on the bees, and hard on us. Nonetheless, he is the boss, and we will do what he says. I just hope that at extracting time he will be caught up and on schedule, since pulling honey with brood above is more work. I also hope the queens stay down.
Something I always recommend to anyone buying an operating outfit is to follow the previous owner's practices and schedule, and to not change the procedures any more than necessary the first year, and do so thereafter only with caution. There can be little local tricks and variations in the region's microclimate and flora that the previous beekeeper has learned and adapted to over time. Different hive set-ups, and bee strains may perform differently than expected. Someone with experience in another area may find some surprises.
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. 30 percent
chance of showers late this afternoon with risk of thunderstorms. Wind becoming
southeast 30 km/h near noon. High 30. UV index 6 or moderate.
Tonight : Cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers. Risk of an evening thunderstorm. Low 13.
Thursday : Cloudy with sunny periods. 30 percent chance of morning showers. 60 percent chance of showers in the evening with a risk of a thunderstorm. Wind becoming east 20 km/h late in the day. High 21.
Friday : Showers. Low 10. High 13.
Saturday : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 7. High 14.
Sunday : Cloudy periods with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 8. High 20.
Normals for the period : Low 8. High 21.
I awoke, turned on the radio, and heard a neighbour explaining that he is seeing up to 1,000 grasshoppers per square metre on his farm, and that this is over 40 times what experts say is the economic threshold. He can already see damage around the edge of his wheat crop. Experts are saying this looks like a peak of the grasshopper cycle.
Beekeepers should be watching for grasshoppers and talking to farmers and crop dusters if it looks as if crop spraying is going to become popular this year. Large beekeepers who are spread around the country are very vulnerable if the farmers and crop dusters are not aware of ways to protect bees.
Today : Showers. Risk of afternoon
thunderstorms. Amount 5 to 10 mm. Wind becoming north 20 km/h this afternoon.
High 18. UV index 2 or low.
Tonight : Showers. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 10.
Normals for the period : Low 8. High 21.
"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
© allen dick 1999-2012. Permission granted to copy in context for non-commercial purposes, and with full attribution.