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Houseboats on the Shuswap in early October

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Friday 3 October 2003
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A beekeeper wrote me with this enquiry, quoting a previous diary page...

"Friday 6 June 2003

"Today I asked the co-op to remove me from their membership list and to refund all my deposits with them, and my equity. As readers may have gathered, I am not at all impressed with the ability or philosophy of the current board nor am I at all impressed by the focus of management. I'll be writing about this in depth soon, here in this space, but I'll need time to do a good job.

"A co-op, endowed with members' money, and a good lead in the market, should not only match the returns producers can get in the market, but should also pay a profit to the members. In the past, though, as far as I know, the co-op has always -- at best -- matched the market, and often fallen short. Although I am sure the private honey packing firms manage a return to shareholders of at least several percent on sales most years, the co-ops have never AFAIK, been able to do so.

Say Allen

I have been watching for your thoughts on this subject . Have you written this article some place?

A question I have is why is it the co-op can not turn a profit ? We have the UFA which turns a profit and other co-ops as well that generate a reasonable return ? so what is their problem ,they have a reasonable market , they buy and sell products for the honey trade which they mark-up! So are they top heavy? or poor in management skills? What are your thoughts?

PS I am still new in this industry , still watching and learning

I haven't gotten around to it yet. I am giving them time to think before I hit them with a broadside, hoping they will smarten up.

I spend too much time writing, and the bit about the border took a lot out of me. It is too easy to fall into believing what everyone else does, and to ignore the facts.  The co-op story will take me several days -- and a lot of remembering.

I notice Capilano (an Australian co-op) has bought a Quebec base and is setting up to attack the North American market. This began with one of our co-op officers taking a trip to Australia to try to arrange an alliance.  As before, this was done without member input -- just like the decision to waste millions on a wax plant years ago.

Looks as if the trip backfired. I think the Aussies will eat BeeMaid alive.


 Hi Allen,

I recently accepted the position of regional apiary inspector for (X). I am seeing a lot of AFB in one county and while it is easy to identify it brings up a number of questions which are not so easy. Do you think it is easy for the beekeeper to transfer disease from hive to hive by using the same gloves or hive tool or by handling the frames and the smoker in each colony. My feeling was that spores would be not high in number on the end bars or where you would generally handle the frame so it would be hard to transfer disease where it could get into the food. I noticed however that when I found one diseased hive there was a good chance that the one behind it or on the next pallet was likely to be infected. Apiaries were uninfected or had several infected hives. They never had just one hive infected. I have been very careful to flame my tool and wear throwaway gloves when inspecting but I noticed that the commercial beekeepers don't bother and they have lots of disease.

I personally never did worry about such things, since my assumption has been that in a commercial outfit, there is a background level of spores higher than what would be transferred. We also always used OTC medication to keep AFB from expressing itself. In an isolated hobby operation where no medication is being used, additional care might be appropriate.  Although AFB can indeed spread though all the following, in most cases, disease is distributed through an outfit far more by moving comb and boxes from one hive to another, during splitting and other operations, than by hive tools and gloves; and robbing is a far more serious method of spread than drifting.

One commercial beekeeper claimed to use hygienic queens but I noticed hives with AFB had chalkbrood too. He claimed that it is unusual for hives with chalkbrood to also have AFB. My feeling was both diseases present themselves when the bees are slow to clean out dead brood. Certainly with chalkbrood, early removal of dying brood will remove the fungus in its vegetative stage and spores will never form to infect other larvae. What do you think?

HYG occurs with some definite frequency in any bee population, so any sizable yard of beehives will have some resistant and some susceptible hives. 

To maintain hygienic characteristics, constant selection and testing is necessary, as is scrupulous attention to detail. See http://www.honeybeeworld.com/misc/hygienic.htm. Unfortunately, commercial supplies of supposedly hygienic queens, in many cases, may prove to be very little different from queens not claimed to be hygienic, but which are raised by a knowledgeable queen breeder.  Simply rejecting hives which exhibit AFB and chalkbrood from the parent stock will increase the HYG trait to some extent in offspring and, even more importantly, reduce the frequency of most susceptible genes.  It is susceptible hives that will first exhibit a breakdown and thus contaminate the yard to the point where more resistant ones break down too.

As for AFB and chalkbrood being antagonistic, I have no idea. I believe I have seen both in the same hive. What you suggest sounds reasonable, but I don't know.

I understand AFB is a spore forming bacteria that can create billions of spores in one dead larvae. Even if Hygienic bees get to the larvae before it is dead there are probably millions of spores in the cell. If they do not remove the larvae whole then how do they prevent spreading the disease? This kind of suggests that in order to kill a larvae a large number of spores have to be fed to it. Do you think this is the case or there is something else I am missing? If I am right perhaps it is difficult to infect a colony from your gloves or hive tool.

You are quite right. Oftentimes researchers have problems infecting larvae. At other times, however at other times, AFB spreads easily. There are many factors we don't understand. If you are an inspector, though, appearances and perceptions are a huge factor, and it is important to not appear careless.

One of the things that surprises me is how in 30 colonies you will find some heavily diseased and others nearby that appear clear. Could it be that they also are diseased but are able to clear up the cells fast enough that it just appears as a somewhat spotty brood pattern?

If hygienic queens are used, they are often uneven in that ability. HYG also appears naturally, and in 30 queens from any source, there will be at least a few that are less susceptible to AFB.

I believe supers have the potential to re-infect colonies yet I noticed a commercial beekeeper take off his honey without looking to see if any hives were diseased. How did you prevent reusing supers that came off hives that had AFB. Did you inspect earlier and remove those that had disease or what?

When an antibiotic is used in spring, AFB is unable to express itself. After the brood nest has reached full size, the major risk is past until fall, assuming there is a good flow, since all brood cells in use will have held one successful larva. Any cell that has successfully raised a bee is usually OK unless contamination comes from another source, such as in infected honey that is dug out of storage during a dearth. During a flow, nectar is going up into supers and not down. Then the supers are taken off.

The area of inspection I now have has been without an inspector for years and with much disease it is going to be difficult to clean it up. I know the attitude of some in this area is that they don't want to burn their hives because they feel that AFB is in old trees, the soil etc and they are just going to get re-infected again anyhow. I welcome your input.

The soil, etc. will not cause disease. Old equipment in sheds and behind bushed may. Nonetheless, intelligent use of OTC combined with careful identification of scaled comb, along with use of queen excluders to confine the queen to brood chambers can reduce the AFB to very low levels very quickly, with minimal burning and melting.

This one commercial beekeeper said he uses hygienic bees and treated with antibiotics three times a year yet he has lots of disease. It appeared that he was throwing a lot of swarms and I wondered how often these new queens were hygienic since they were mating with whatever drones were around.

If there is one thing I know about beekeeping is that you can never believe anyone about anything. You have to go and look for yourself, and think.   95% of AFB comes from within the outfit where it is found. Good management can reduce AFB to very low levels very quickly, even in the presence of scale (not recommended, but possible).


Today : Sunny. High 22. / Tonight : Clear. Low 6.  / Normals for the period : Low 1. High 15.

Saturday 4 October 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
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of the Day

  • Windows Update
    Microsoft has new patches out again.  If you are a Windows™ user, Be sure to visit Windows Update ASAP.  Windows security problems affect more than just MSIE, however, they affect your whole system, and you won't be safe just because you use  -- for example -- Netscape.  If you have not updated for a while, you may be looking at hours of downloads, but start now, or risk serious problems later.
    You must visit Windows Update using MSIE, even if it is not your favourite browser. 
  • The Road to Serfdom
  • http://learnfrommymistakes.com/

I never have been good at throwing things out, but have decided that the time has come.  I spent the day cleaning up a pile of old electronic junk in a corner of my shack, and talking to California stations in the California QSO Party at random as I tried to figure out what to do with eight-track tapes, old slide projectors, etc, etc. 

I'm not a serious ham, but have held an advanced ticket since 1976 and had the call VE6CFK since that time.  At some points I was quite active and went to picnics, did satellite and considered moon-bounce, ran a net and all the other things that fanatic hams do, bit when the Internet became available in the early nineties, I joined the Calgary Unix Users Group and transferred my 'ham' passion to the internet.

In the evening, Bert dropped by for supper.  Shirley came over later and we talked flying and houseboating until eleven or so.

Today : Sunny. Wind becoming north 20 km/h near noon. High 24.  / Tonight : Clear. Low 4.  / Normals for the period : Low 1. High 15.

Sunday 5 October 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
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This was in my inbox this morning

I would like to wish you a good birthday!

I am a newly started amateur beekeeper in my first year, and came across your site by chance. I find the comments fascinating , particularly regarding the 'protection' by banning imports from the USA. We seem to live happily (?) with varroa, with a regime of checking and treating with apistan where needed. Some negligent keepers lose whole apiaries, but this is not common.

Keep up the good work with your site.

Best wishes

Yup, I'm 58 today.

of the Day

Today : Sunny. High 25. / Tonight : Clear. Low 5. / Normals for the period : Low 1. High 15

Monday 6 October 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
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Today we are expecting temperatures up to 26 degrees -- perfect feeding weather. 

I've not been paying much attention to the bees, and realized we need to check weights and do any remaining feeding before the opportunity passes.   Dennis wants to eventually own his own bees, so remembering the essential tasks and scheduling is a critical skill he must learn.  as a result, I have been leaving these things to Dennis and only intervening if it looks as if the time window is about to close with a task incomplete.  Today I realized that we have not hefted the hives for one final time, and not done natural varroa drop tests.

We have fed, and we are not expecting varroa problems, but now is the time to verify that our measures have been successful, so Dennis went out and found that we still have some light hives. 

We check by taking two brood chambers that, together, weigh 50 kg (110 pounds) along with us on the truck and hefting them to get a sense of the ideal weight, then hefting hives in the yard.  To check hives for weight, we just grab the lower handhold and tip each hive back a tiny bit to get a feel for its weight.  We compare that to the feel of tipping the similar boxes with a known correct weight.  Experience shows that anyone can soon guess hive weight within a kilo or two!

Our goal is to have all hives right at, or slightly above, 50 kg.  Usually if 85% or more are at the benchmark, or above, the yard will winter just fine -- assuming the yard has been fed twice.  Some hives are always heavy and some a little light, especially if there is a variety of genetics in the yard.

We always feed at least twice, with a break of several days between feedings.  During that time, after the bees clean up the first round of syrup, we leave the drum(s) without any feed, until the feeding frenzy has died down.

The first open-barrel feeding gives all the hives a chance to fill the brood area with syrup as the brood hatches.  Some hives are more agressive and fill up fast.   In the second feeding, the full hives usually are not as enthusiastic and the second feeding, a week later, attracts mainly the hungry hives, and they catch up with the others.  By having a short break between feedings, we equalize the weights.  If we fed continuously, the most aggressive feeders would go far overweight and plug to the point where they would not winter as well, or have room for brood in spring.

Since Dennis reported that he found some hives were still light, and we see the weather will be warm for a day or two more, he got syrup into all the three yards by noon.  Then he settled down to putting in mite-drop boards and recording weights (with brick signals) for our final round later this week.  We have a buyer who wants to buy all the remaining hives this weekend, so we want them fed by then, and we want to check them to eliminate any obvious duds before he comes to get them.  We intend to sell them in a ready to wrap condition.  The price?  $225 Canadian each, as-is, where-is for the whole lot that we consider okay to winter after we eliminate the 'dinks'.  That includes the bees and two broods, feed, floors (pallets) and lids. Supers are extra..

Ellen & I drove to Calgary in the afternoon to see our planner.  We had supper at Foody Goody and came home.  I've had a cold for the past few days.

of the Day

Fungal Mite Pathogen:  Evaluating the fungus Hirsutella thompsoni as a control for Varroa mites

Today : Sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 24. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light near midnight. Low 8.  / Normals for the period : Low zero. High 14.

Tuesday 7 October 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
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We continued feeding hives.  Dennis brought back back the hives from Boeses' in expectation that they will be sold on the weekend, and having them here will make the pickup easier for the buyer.

I spent the afternoon rewiring the phone circuits in this house.  Several hours were wasted when I installed a defective receptacle.  It took a while to find the short.

This was in my inbox this morning

Hello Mr. Allen Dick

I appreciate your work very much. Congratulations for the home page...

Is it possible to add more photos about beekeeping in it? I enjoy them a lot when you put them into diary of a beekeeper.


Silvio - Brazil

I try to put in interesting pictures, but I am not doing much anymore.  I also have a problem if I put too many pictures in, since the pages get slow for those on telephone dialup.

Anyhow, thanks for the note.

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind becoming west 30 km/h this afternoon. High 19.  / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 30 km/h. Low 4. / Normals for the period : Low zero. High 14.

Wednesday 8 October 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
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From FloridaBeekeepers@yahoogroups.com
Date: Tue Oct 7, 2003 7:14 pm
Subject: Re: Bee Sting Prevention

My local bee inspector used the best line I have heard about beekeeping, "Remember there are always more of them than there are of you."


My cold is better today, but I hardly slept last night.  Dennis came in and we sent him to Meijers' to get the supers that they extracted for us.  All told, Joe figures we got 1,100 pounds or so.  Not too bad, considering we started with 30 hives and split them heavily, with the goal of not having to extract.  Many hives were quite heavy before feeding, so I am assuming that another 50 pounds or so of honey went into the broods in each hive.

My mother arrived at Edmonton International and Jean picked her up.  Mom'll stay with Jean and Chris for a day or two, then come down here.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h this afternoon. High 17. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind southwest 20 km/h. Low 5.  / Normals for the period : Low zero. High 14.

A stack of mite boards coated with salad oil and with screens held on by elastics. Tabs made of tape identify the hive tested.  We test about 10% of the hives at random, and only test further if we see problems. Click to enlarge.

Take a test. How many adult varroa do you see in this picture?  Click to enlarge. Write me with your answer, if you like.

Thursday 9 October 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
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 We picked up the varroa mite drop boards this morning and looked them over.  The first batch of five sticky boards showed 10, 6, 2, 0 & 2 mites over three days of natural mite drop, and the second batch showed 0, 0, 1, 1 & 3.  The third showed 0, 0, 1, 1, & 4. The boards had been in for three days and, therefore, each result should be divided by three then multiplied by 100 (the estimated average varroa lifespan ) to estimate total mite loads.  Thus the worst hive could be assumed to have a 333 mite load.  That is nowhere near serious.  350 mites as a total load, is very light, in fact.  A visit to the varroa calculator gives a different perspective, but it also assume drone brood, which we no longer have at this time of year.

Counting is always difficult when there are so few mites, and we are always tempted to count the immatures -- the occasional mites we see in the board that were almost fully developed in a cell when the host bee emerged, but which die immediately of exposure, when deprived of the special conditions inside a cell.  Such mites have the shape, and often the size of mature mites, but are pale and translucent.  We know they did not live even one day after emerging, and were never part of the adult, reproducing, population.  Since their lifespan is zero days, the 100 day  estimated average lifespan multiplier does not apply, and I figure immatures should not be counted.

By this time of year, there should be very little brood in which mites can hide, so most varroa should be phoretic at this point.  When the mites are phoretic -- on bees, and not hidden in brood -- they are at their most vulnerable, and have the highest mortality rates, so, even using a multiplier of 100, which could be high, we are seeing very low infestation rates. Over winter, the mites will be under even greater pressure, as they occasionally fall off bees and are exposed to the cold conditions at the hive floor, unless they are able to grab back onto another bee.

For some reason, varroa is not giving us much trouble.  For the past several years, the only treatment we have used is a single Apistan™ strip placed in the centre of the cluster in the early spring and left for 42 days.  Our tests always show very low levels of mites, much lower than when we used two strips in the fall plus several formic treatments.  Granted, we had a dry year in 2002, and we spilt heavily this year, and both these factors tend to reduce varroa loads, but, nonetheless, we did not split all hives, and when  everything is considered we still are seeing lower levels that we would expect and lower levels than we saw in the past.

The drop boards we use are just Coroplast™ sheets cut to roughly the size of a sheet of foundation, with a tab of Duct tape added, and with a piece of 6 mesh hardware cloth sitting on top to keep bees out.  The screen has been bent to be a bit dish-shaped so that it sits up above the board about 1/4" so the bees will not contact the salad oil/Vaseline™ mix which is smeared onto each board before it is placed under the hive, to catch and drown falling mites. 

To insert the boards, we just hold the hive floor down with one foot, if necessary, and tip the hive back a bit.  It does not matter if some frames touch the screen when the hive is lowered.  As for catching all the mites, we centre the boards under the cluster and figure if we miss one of two mites, that this will not grossly affect our estimate.  This is not rocket science.  We're just looking for a rough indication whether to expect trouble, or not worry for another six months.

Current Diary Page | Selected Topics | Mite drop article formatted for printing

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind west 40 gusting to 60 km/h. High 13. / Tonight : Clear. Wind west 30 km/h. Low 3. / Normals for the period : Low zero. High 14.

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