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Tuesday 1 July 2003
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Hi Allen,

Thought you'd get a kick out of these pictures of my husband and number 2 son. This hive was given to us 2 years ago in a whiskey barrel. We raise 5 boxes of cut comb every year plus take at least 15 frames of brood from this hive to keep it from swarming. As you can see, they are not a bit mean. Although we run several hundred colonies, this is still what beekeeping is about.

Dennis and I spent a few hours today, playing with the Beamer, our old forklift.  Now that I've lent the Swinger to Meijers, we need the Beamer to load a truck today, and for other odd jobs, but the Beamer has not run since last winter.  We dragged it a round trying to get it going earlier, in the spring, with no success, so today we got serious and pulled plugs, removed the rocker cover, etc.  After a few hours, and no luck, we gave up and went out to look at the bees.

We have 25 queens we need to install into splits. Dennis wasn't sure, last week, if some hives had queens or not, so I went with him today to look.  By today it has become obvious that all are queenright, since the brood is easier to see after it gets to more advanced stages.  Last week, some had only eggs.  We managed to put in only one queen, and will finish tomorrow.  We also split a few along the way, since the hives were starting to put on honey, and I don't plan to extract this year.  Tomorrow, we'll go early and look for queens in the halves.  It should be easy early in the day, before the bees spread out in the hives.

After supper, a beekeeper from the North came by to get some supers.  Ellen took care of that, while I worked with Matt on the Beamer.  Matt had come over, at my request, to see if he could work some magic on the Beamer.

He said that it must be spark plugs, so we looked see what we had around.  We found some Ford plugs and they fit, so we put them in and set up the timing etc. by a the wild guess method.  One crank, and the unit started right up, but we found the clutch would not release.  I figure we must have jiggered it, pulling the beamer around and popping the clutch when we were trying to pull start it last spring.  We gave up for the day.

Today : Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h near noon. High 25. UV index 7 or high. / Tonight : Increasing cloudiness this evening then a 30 percent chance of showers. Risk of a thunderstorm. Wind southwest 20 km/h. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 23.

Wednesday 2 July 2003
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

It's cooler this morning, and we started by fixing the clutch on the beamer, then setting the timing.  It runs just fine, now, and we are ready to load the tanks when the trucker calls.  I had been about ready to give up on the Beamer yesterday, but this goes to show that sometimes it pays to press on, and it also pays to have friends.

In the afternoon, we went out to work on the bees around three.  Since I am now a small operator, I have the luxury of waiting on weather and time of day.  In the afternoon and evening, assuming warm, sunny weather and a flow, the bees are more active.  They are also more docile, since the foragers are out and the hive is less crowded.  We had made some splits and were checking for queens and making further splits.  I am trying to keep the hive strength down and reduce honey production, but, nonetheless some of the splits were plugging.

Because we were working in the late afternoon on hives working a flow, the bees were spread out in the hives.  Although we looked a bit, we did not see even one queen.  That made determining which half of a split hive had a queen harder, and we decided that any further splits would be made by shaking frames and placing them over an excluder for pickup the next day.  We than made a number of two-frame splits so we will be sure to use up the queens.

We got as far as the styro hives and found a curious thing: two hives had what looked like swarm cells -- they were numerous and near the periphery, no new brood, apparently no queen, and a small population.  They had never occupied the bottom box to any extent and they were not plugged.  It looked to me as if they may have swarmed without occupying the whole hive or being crowded.  Other of the styro hives had reached sufficient strength to need splitting, and we filled all the styro equipment and had to transfer some into wooden boxes.

When we guessed that it was about six, we quit for the day, but found, on returning home, that it was actually seven.

On June 13th, a contributor wrote mentioning difficulties with small cell.  Here are his latest experiences...

Hi Allen,

The bees in my Tbh (top bar hive) are doing it. They are now building 4.8mm and 4.9mm brood comb in the brood area during a major honey flow! And it's not just scattered patches. They are doing it on the vast majority of combs. From my experience with small cell foundation in standard hives this will allow the bees to handle varroa mites. Hurray for the bees!!!!

The bees initially drew comb about 1/3 the depth of the hive and expanded horizontally without lengthening the comb. Since the yellow sweet clover has started to bloom and a major honey flow is on the bees have returned to the brood area and completed the combs.

They started at the topbar with 5.3mm worker and very gradually decreased the size until a little over halfway to the bottom of the hive 4.9mm comb is being drawn uniformly. Two thirds of the way down the 4.8mm comb is being uniformly drawn out.

Whether they sense the bottom of the cavity or just what triggers the small cell is a mystery. But they do gradually taper the brood comb to small cell size toward the bottom of the nest, even in a shallow nest like my tbh at 13 inches.

The first 10 topbars are essentially brood comb and the bees are rapidly constructing honey storage type comb on topbars 11 and 12.

You commented on Bee-L that maybe foundation wasn't such a good idea. I would have agree, at least one cell size foundation. If this behavior can be understood then maybe the difficulties of getting the right bee, at the right time to draw small cell foundation would be over.

Maybe a foundation with large cell dimensions at the top that gradually reduced in size to small cell dimension half way down the frame would provide a way to get the mite resistance and easily drawn comb.

I bet if you could open your toolbox hive, you would find the small cell comb.

I did measure some comb in the toolbox a while back and reported here.   Can't recall the details.  I think I did see some small comb, but the last time I sneaked in and measured a bit, the cells were 5.2mm

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming northwest 30 km/h this afternoon. High 19. UV index 6 or moderate.  /Tonight : A few clouds. Wind northwest 30 km/h. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 23.

Thursday 3 July 2003
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 20 km/h. High 21. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : Clear. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 23.

Today Dennis and I went down and finished working through the hives.  We used the rest of the queens, and estimate that we need about ten more.  Fortunately Meijers have some queen cells nearly ready and offered to bring some over when they next visit.  We are now up to 69 hives.

Dennis finished the last of the work by himself, since I had to go to the accountant in the afternoon.  The visit was brief, and the take-home message was to stop selling equipment, or risk giving a large percentage of the proceeds away in taxes.  I had been geared up to sell the rest of what we have on hand over the next few weeks, but now must truly retire for a while.  I realize that some beekeepers had counted on buying things like extractors, supers, uncappers and other essential items from me at the last minute, but I'll have to tell them. "No".  It feels strange to hear myself tell callers that I am not selling anything more at the present.  I'll have to ask in more detail when the accountant is finished working everything over next week, and see if there is any way that it makes sense to sell at least a little more, but, for now, I guess I'll have to take some time off.  I've been enjoying selling everything off, but it has been harder and more disruptive work than running an ongoing business.

When  Dennis returned at the end of the day, he reported that he had gotten stung fairly heavily while working the last several hives.  The alfalfa had been cut at that yard, and the bees were cross, but he persevered.  I had been encouraging him to work without gloves when working brood chambers, and had not put them on to finish when things got tough at the end.  he was feeling a bit punchy from all the stings, but seemed fine to drive home. 

Although good beekeepers usually work without gloves where possible, especially when working in brood chambers, Paulo always insisted on wearing gloves, and never got comfortable working without gloves and a net.  Dennis worked less with the bees and had followed Paulo's example when he did.  Actually, what choice did he have?  If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is not to work without a veil and gloves near someone who is wearing protective equipment.  Inevitably those wearing full garb are blissfully unaware of the mood of the bees and will get you stung with their blundering around, sometimes suddenly and badly.  The reason for wearing minimal protection is to be sensitive to the bees, but a smart beekeeper keeps a veil and gloves close by and dons them quickly when the occasion warrants it.  Bees can and do flare up suddenly, and the occasional hive can be vicious and attack in large numbers when the lid is lifted.  Such hives are maybe, one in a thousand, and not always hives that have shown signs of hostility before.  I personally throw a veil loosely over my head most of the time when working through hives, to avoid surprises.

Dee Lusby phoned this morning, to say that Ed has had a terrible fall and a stroke.  He is near death and on life support.  They are in the middle of extracting their first 100 barrel crop in many years, and she is torn between caring for him personally and doing the field work.  They do have some help, but only Lusbys themselves can access some of the distant desert yards that are back in ranches, locked by the INS and ranchers against interlopers.  We'll pray for a miracle and trust that Lusbys many good friends will close ranks to help them through. On the right is a picture of Ed, Dee, Joe Meijer, and Lee, a neighbour from New Mexico standing in one of their yards, with Mount Kidd in the background. See also Jan 2002

Friday 4 July 2003
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

This was another one of those odd, 'retired' days.  With sales on hold, I have little to do.  Dennis phoned to say that he was feeling groggy, and I told him to call if he was better later, otherwise to come in tomorrow when we would have cells.  He called in the afternoon and said he was still feeling a bit off.

Jean and Chris and the new baby, Mckenzie came this afternoon to visit, and Meijers came over for supper as well.  We barbequed hamburgers, lit a bonfire, and sat around outside until dusk.  After supper, Krystal and Emma dropped in to say hello and see the new baby.

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Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 23. UV index 7 or high. / Tonight : A few clouds. Increasing cloudiness overnight. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 11. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 23.

Saturday 5 July 2003
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

We awoke to the sound of a good, soaking rain.  Perfect.  I had just been noticing, yesterday, that things were beginning to look dry, so I hope we get an inch or two.

From a frequent contributor in the Mid-West US (Shown a few days back)

Went to the south end of of system yesterday & found no surprises. I was fearful that all had burned off for now in those yards & I was right. The bees have done nothing in the last 15 days.

Brian went north to the farm with his fingers crossed after looking at those yards yesterday. One of our neighbors had called him the other nite at work to tell him that he was quite pleased as to what he found in many of his yards as the bees had really started to bring it in. Went up to North to check a yard in the city near the river & was very pleased as to what they had done in the last 15 days. Even the bees here in your posted picture will need another box today.

Knowing we would have cells to put in, Dennis showed up for work, even though it was raining heavily.  He picked up a few tools that were outside, then went home to wait until the rain stopped.  Richard and Merilee came by around eleven to visit.  They are moving from Austin, Texas to Norway, and stopped to visit Alberta friends on the way.

Around two, I called Dennis, and he came back, went out and put in the cells.  I spent an hour or two with Chris, getting the camper ready for them to borrow, and then Dennis returned, having finished, but reporting heavy overcharging on the truck.  We traced the problem to a voltage regulator and Dennis found one on the old Thunderbird out back that we have not managed to haul to the wreckers yet.  It seems that Ford diesels use the same alternator as a 79 T'bird with air conditioning.  These alternators are a tough and indestructible unit, and we wound up putting them on our Ford gas trucks too, after we burned out several original equipment units at $200 each.

By then Bill and Fen and Lorilee came along, pulling a boat that they are giving to Chris. It's a Crossbow, in pretty good shape.  It needs a little TLC, but could go into the water anytime without much prep.  Chris left, we had supper and that was another day.  I actually felt retired for a while now and then during the day.

Today : Showers. Risk of a thunderstorm. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h in the afternoon. High 17. UV index 2 or low.
Tonight : Cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of evening showers or thunderstorms. Wind northwest 30 km/h diminishing. Low 6.
Normals for the period : Low 9. High 23.

Sunday 6 July 2003
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

I drove to Calgary in the afternoon, bought trailer hitches for the boat, and took in the Stampede. It is still a great show.  I watched the Rangeland Derby and left before the infield show and fireworks. It was a cool day, with a north wind in the evening.  I can recall years when we wore ski jackets to the Stampede, but this was mostly T-shirt weather during the day.

Sunday : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind north 20 km/h. High 20.
Monday 7 July 2003
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

Today was our tentative departure day for a trip East, but, so far, we are nowhere near leaving.  I visited the accountant and now the books are done for last year.

Chris wants to get sailing, and came down to look into installing a hitch on his car.  I had bought two, and assumed that it would be an easy job on my car and a bit harder on his, but it turned out to be well-nigh impossible on both.  We're going to have to engineer our own hitches, it appears.  At any rate, he looked over the parts and managed to sort everything out.  There is a little fibreglasing to do, the trailer needs rewiring, and the boom is being welded, but otherwise the boat is ready to go.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming south 20 km/h this morning. High 21. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind southeast 20 km/h. Low 11. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 23.              

Tuesday 8 July 2003
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

As I retire, there is less beekeeping work going on here.  Dennis is still working with us, and although we had planned finish with his projects by now, we are currently thinking he will be here into the fall, and maybe longer.  There is an incredible amount of clean-up and repair to do as we divest ourselves of the bee equipment and tidy up the property.  Dennis also wants to eventually run his own bees and maybe we will build back up to 500 or 1,000 in his care and under our management.  We'll see.  At any rate, he is most a pleasant and considerate companion and little bother to have around.  He's versatile and has learned to organize his own tasks and anticipate what will be coming up later.

Today we mostly worked on the motorhome and other small jobs.  I also wasted the first hour hunting for small parts for the super elevators we were supposed to ship out ASAP.

I had a customer who wanted two of the super elevators we have here, and he was in a huge rush to get them.  These elevators are pretty much like-new -- one even has the Kelley sticker on it -- except that the auto stop/start feature is disabled on all of them.   We had always intended to restore the auto feature, but never needed it enough to do so.  One unit has all the parts for the feeler switch, except a small shaft is bent; the others are missing the feeler and shaft, but otherwise intact.  At any rate, these elevators are apparently $1,200 (Canadian), new from Kelley, and I had agreed to sell them for $500.  That was a pretty good deal for the buyer.  I was thinking as-is, where-is, but the problem was that this customer insisted that the auto feature must be running on both units, and expected me to arrange for that to happen, without compensation.  I try to be helpful, and had said I'd do what I could, assuming that I would just make an easy fix, and ship them out.  Then the buyer also decided that I should deliver them to a town 45 miles distant, ASAP, for pickup, again, I assume, for free.  Again, I said I'd see what I could do.

I started on the job several times and spent a few hours, but did not make much headway.  I was missing the correct size of shafting and not sure how to make up the little cam follower that Kelley uses, and I had a lot of other pressing things and interruptions going on.  At any rate he called repeatedly and was in a rush, so I hunted for parts -- things had been rearranged since I last worked on it -- and started to realize that this was not very smart.  I also began to realize that, perhaps, it was no coincidence that the feature was disabled on all of the units I had bought from various people.  Quite possibly this feature causes problems, is unnecessary (we never needed it) and perhaps was even dangerous in that the machine might start unexpectedly, or be hard to stop.

I hunted for an hour, and then let the buyer know that this was just not working for me, and he cancelled the order.  Apparently the buyers will order new elevators from Kelley for the full $1,200 plus brokerage, etc.  That's fine.  At this point, I'd have been giving them away, and working hard to do it.  If I were the buyer and learned that the previous owners had all not used the feeler switches, I think I'd have decided that it was not that important. 

The other thing that occurs to me is this: The missing parts are probably readily available at a cost of about $25 from Kelly, and install in twenty minutes.

Today : Increasing cloudiness. 60 percent chance of afternoon showers. Risk of a thunderstorm. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h this afternoon. High 18. UV index 3 or low. / Tonight : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers this evening with risk of a thunderstorm. Clearing overnight. Low 9. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 23.

Wednesday 9 July 2003
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

Ellen & I drove to Drum in the morning to meet with a lawyer, had lunch, and headed home.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. High 23. UV index 7 or high. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low 10. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 23.

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