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Wednesday 10 December 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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Help!  I'm out of good apiary pictures.  I have one yard and it always looks about the same. 

Do you have some that show the season where you are?  If so, please send me some.  I'm on dialup, though, so please keep them under 500K, and don't send more than one at a time.  better still, send me some thumbnails to choose from.

Date:         Wed, 10 Dec 2003 10:17:57 -0700
From:         allen dick
Subject:      Re: Sugar Sensitivities

> The term "sugar sensitive" or "sugar allergy" has been
> (mis)used to describe nothing more than a (claimed)
> addiction to sugar, and carbohydrates in general.

Possibly, in some cases, however, I do know that my mother travels with a woman who is sensitive to refined sugar. She is not deathly sensitive, but has some sort of problems when she consumes much of it. I didn't ask.

I'm sensitive to some foods myself, and find that although I can eat them sometimes, the effects can be very unpredictable -- from no discernable effect, to considerable discomfort. Sadly, some of them are favourites  like pizza sauce, some pepper, and some wines.  As I say, though, the reaction is very unpredictable, but one thing is very obvious: the reaction does get worse with amount consumed over a timeframe of a week, and goes away after a week or more of abstention.

As far as I know, I was not born sensitive to these foods. These reactions crept up on me over time, and I am told that they may disappear again in time. I hope so. Immune reactions have been poorly understood in the past, and are still somewhat mysterious. What we do know is that immune reactions can be extremely sensitive. That is why I brought up this point.

I only mentioned it because, if I know of someone who is sensitive to refined sugar, there must be many more, and probably some with greater sensitivity, and some with less.

Such people, a tiny few, may have a legitimate and unexpected interest in what is in the 'honey' they buy, even if the 'secret ingredient' is a common food item. After all, if we use peanut oil to grease our home extractor, some people would like to know. It could save them a lot of discomfort, since some with peanut sensitivity can react to almost unimaginably small traces of peanut. Could this same thinking apply to refined sugar in the honey? I don't know. It seems plausible to me.

I realise that by mentioning homeopathy, I could attract some abuse from those so inclined, but I try to listen to, and find some reason in everything I hear. One of the interesting ideas in homeopathy is the idea of the differing effects of various dilutions of substances. We are discussing small amounts of adulterants here and the possibility that some -- maybe a very small few -- people may have an interest, in the matter of what we do with our honey, that is not mainstream. I personally think that keeping an open mind, and not dismissing everything that we do not know much about, can lead to better understanding.

As I intimated, although I have been involved in various sugar feeding practices in the past and continue to impenitently feed my bees, if I am to maintain intellectual honesty, I cannot dismiss the ideas I do not like or which do not put money in my pocket, or, especially those that threaten to take money out of my pocket.

We learn best by listening respectfully to those who disagree with us, and there are many who disagree with us about things we do, from feeding sugar, to using antibiotics, to how we regard and handle our bees. Whether these people be 'food nuts', homeopaths, kosher, animal health advocates, or other 'fringe' thinkers, we can usually take something worthwhile away.

Many of the ideas that are currently mainstream in beekeeping, from using foundation, antibiotics, pesticides, to hive design, and more, are again subject to scrutiny in a constantly changing world, and we have had some surprises. If we keep our minds open, we may discover more, and be on the front line of new ideas, rather than the last to get the news.

I really appreciate this topic and Robin's refusal to give it up. Whatever comes of it, we will be more conscious of the potential effects of our actions on others, and the arguments that can be used against us.


We went to town and got the second in the hepatitis shots series in preparation for traveling.  Later, I did some odds and ends, then re-wrote some of the material above.  I'm stuck by how totally obvious the damage done by border closure has turned out to be.  I've lived through over 15 years of it, and been so close, I did not realize how badly it damaged Alberta beekeeping!

In the afternoon, I went to Global Grounds to visit the Robinsons.

  • Allen's
    of the Day

Today : Sunny. High minus 6. / Tonight : Clear. Low minus 18. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Thursday 11 December 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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I'd have sworn there was no convention info on the AHPA site a few days ago, but he agenda is there now.  It's an Acrobat PDF file .  Their program has a lot of fantastic speakers and should answer all the questions in  the back of our minds.

Copyright © allen dick 2003 This article may not be reproduced in part or whole, by any means, without written permission from the author

I circulated the article I wrote, for comment, and got some comments back...

I had a quick look at your article and see that you put some thought into the numbers. Your experience about the factors that were in play over the past three decades is useful in explaining some of the issues.  However it is clear from the graphs that the price of honey is a huge factor as was the arrival of varroa mites.  Obviously beekeepers do not make enough money with honey selling for less than 70 cents per pound.  That situation did not
change until 1995 and colony numbers have increased accordingly since then.

Look at the huge jump this year when honey hit $2 per pound and the number of Alberta hives soared to more than 250,000 despite winter losses and border closure.

Actually, I have been told that the number is 227,000, and the series does not extend to 2003, yet.  I guess this comment also goes to prove my point.  Expanding under the present regime is very costly.  It takes a high dollar to be able to do so, since sacrifices have to be made.  With extraordinarily high prices, some are able to take advantage of the opportunity.

It is too superficial to take Alberta numbers out of context and not make mention of all the factors at play.  Over the same period of time the USA has decreased from 4 million to 2.6 million colonies, mostly on account of honey prices, consolidation of farms and the spread of varroa mites.

If you look at the strength of the US dollar vs. the relative weakness of the Canuck Buck (right) over that time, that one effect pretty much explains it all.  Honey is priced in US currency.  Imports from two countries with currencies pegged to the US dollar and low or no cost of production, hurt the US beekeepers badly.  We, in Canada, were spared most of their pain, due to the amazing drop in our dollar during that period, so we had a huge advantage over the US beekeepers, who were really getting almost nothing for their honey. 

We got $1.66 for every dollar they got paid during the worst of their anguish.  Our input costs are a little higher, but not much.  Our average crops are considerably larger, and since our honey is generally higher quality it commands higher prices.  Canadians make considerably higher returns on honey production than the average US counterpart, especially during the period when the Canadian dollar has been very weak.

An important fact that many people do not understand is that in a business like beekeeping, a change of 10% plus or minus in returns can mean the difference between a nice profit and a serious loss.  Quite a few beekeepers in the US who were shrewd managers, willing to move around, and willing to do pollination in California and other states for income, managed to grow during the last several decades, however.   Mites did them very little damage.

As I have stated before, we have a competitive advantage over the US in honey production, just as they have a competitive advantage over us in bee production. If we were sane, we would be exploiting that disparity for the benefit of both parties by buying their bees and selling them our honey.  As it stands, we are getting away with insisting on a one-way street.  I don't know how long that can last.  I don't know if they will protest too hard, though, we are hurting ourselves far more than we are hurting them.

Sure, there were some horror stories about mites and losses, but there always have been similar losses as long as I have had bees, and the losses are always blamed on the latest scourge.  Oftentimes, the true cause is mismanagement or neglect, just bad luck, or one of those ideas a beekeeper gets into his head and does to the whole outfit without testing, but the beekeeper gets much more sympathy, and loses much less face, if he/she blames it on whatever is fashionable.  The simple fact is that many, if not most, bee losses are unexplained and the reasons given are just guesses.

It would be more informative to show what has happened in other places at the same time rather than harping on the border issue. The one beat drum gets a little annoying when you try to make everything a result of border closure.

Okay, so I have dug a bit deeper.  I'm convinced that border closure was the biggest factor, although there is no denying that the other factors have had some  effect.  Here are two graphs using US data. I couldn't find any going back past 1986, and I'd appreciate any URLs that anyone has.  BUT, I think this data speaks for itself.


Copyright © allen dick 2003 This article may not be reproduced in part or whole, by any means, without written permission from the author

Comparing Beekeeping Stats
Examining Industry Decline: Comparing Figures from the USA and
from Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada

By Allen Dick, Retired Commercial Beekeeper


The above chart was my starting point in a voyage of discovery.  Obviously, something happened in 1987.  An industry that was growing quickly, abruptly ended its expansion and went into a decade of decline, losing both hive numbers and beekeepers.  Only after a decade, did it begin to grow again, and then slowly.  What caused this decline?  Can we deduce from the data, whether it was the advent of mites?  Was it the disruption of traditional bee supplies from the Southern US?  Was it something else?

Inasmuch as the mites came in and spread slowly after 1987 -- varroa showed up in our outfit in the late nineties -- mites can hardly be the culprit.  We can see a large and immediate drop in 1987 and 1988, well before the mites filtered in or could have an appreciable effect!

Moreover, we can see (proof below) that -- when the effect of price declines in the US are filtered out -- US hive numbers were not visibly affected by mites.  However, the Canadian prairie provinces all experienced similar continuing declines in numbers of both beekeepers and hives after 1987.

Although the border closure was instituted to prevent damage to our industry, many now believe that the border closure was, itself the cause of the decline.  After closure, vital supplies of replacement stock became harder to get, less reliable in quality, and much more expensive.  Moreover, after border closure, make-up packages could not be ordered in late spring if earlier packages or overwintered colonies needed boosting.  Even obtaining queens became more difficult, and supplies are currently rationed to the extent than beekeepers routinely find they must do without.

I began with this chart and soon saw what I considered proof that the watershed event was closure of the border, and that the economic cost was greater than we would have incurred if we had just carried on.  Of course, we had no way of knowing that at the time, and, for that matter, many have benefited from delaying the coming of the mites to their area.

The point is that the loss to the industry, our communities, and the country -- not to mention the beekeepers who went broke -- was great, likely much greater than the benefits.  However, I leave it to you to decide as you examine the charts below.  I doubt that, even with overwhelming evidence, that we could move some whose minds are made up

Note: All the studies use constant dollars.  Prices are adjusted for inflation, using the COLA figures appropriate to the country in question, so that they can be compared from year to year.  Total return per hive is used throughout and is calculated by measuring the average crop for the year times the average price (in constant dollars) at the time.

Note:  The position of the lines in the various charts is not significant, since the scales have been adjusted arbitrarily to place the lines where they can be compared. 

The shape and the slope of each plot is what is meaningful, and allows comparisons.


1.) Beekeeping in the USA from 1986 to 2002
The relationships between total return in constant dollars and hive numbers


US - 1986 to 2002                                                            US - 1986 to 2002
       Key: Return Price Colonies                                                                 Price Colonies (return is held constant at 100%)

The graph at left shows returns per hive (adjusted to 1986$) in brown, price (in 1986$) in blue, and number of colonies in red.  It is hard, or impossible, to interpret, since three variables are all shown.  Therefore the chart on the right was created, holding return constant to see what happened to hive numbers and number of beekeepers independent of return.

The graph at right is 'stacked', with total adjusted return held as a constant. Surprisingly -- contrary to popular wisdom --  when total return is removed from the picture, the number of hives appears essentially flat, suggesting that, in the USA, hive numbers have an almost direct relationship to total return and no relation to the coming of mites.

This revelation discounts arguments that factors like mites and urbanization have been significant factors in the US honey industry decline during this period.  Apparently, the return per hive on honey production is the single governing factor.

2.) Beekeeping in Alberta from 1986 to 2002
The relationships between total return in constant dollars and hive numbers


Alberta - 1986 to 2002                                                           Alberta - 1986 to 2002
       Key: Smoothed price  Beekeepers  Colonies                                          Beekeepers  Colonies (return is held constant at 100%)

Compare the US charts (top) to these Alberta charts created using the same bases, and see what you think. 

After 1986, it is clear that, Alberta hive numbers and the number of Alberta beekeepers dropped drastically, independent of returns, and continued to drop until demand by hybrid pollination caused a 40,000 hive 'bump' in hive numbers in the late 1980sand '90s.

The advent of hybrid canola pollination essentially created a new source of reliable cash flow for Alberta beekeepers.  Seed production in Alberta is essentially a new and profitable alternate industry which requires and can pay for bee hives.  Unlike honey production, which has uncertain returns, seed companies will pay whatever it costs to obtain the tens of thousands of hives they absolutely need to pollinate the thousands of acres of seed they grow annually.

In Alberta, unlike much of the US, beekeepers must choose between honey and pollination.  The season is short and Alberta pollination takes place at the time when the major flow is on.  Due to crowding and other factors, hives on pollination produce much less honey -- 1/2 to 1/3 -- compared to hives placed on locations for honey production.

The conclusions are obvious -- honey production returns were not the factor responsible for honey industry decline in Alberta from 1986 through 2002. 

Other factors were responsible.  Inasmuch as mite problems were as bad or worse in the USA, and mites arrived earlier and spread more quickly there -- and because we had the opportunity to learn from watching the US experience -- It seems clear that mites were not the direct cause of Alberta's decline.

3.) Beekeeping in Saskatchewan from 1986 to 2002
The relationships between total return in constant dollars and hive numbers

Ok, I'm a bear for punishment, and also a bit curious.  I dug up the Sask stats and got to work.  

Same conclusions.  Hive numbers increased up until 1987 independent of return, then began to decline thereafter.

There is a third chart shown here, on the right that is the same as the second, but going back to 1981. It is useful, since it shows how the number of hives increased and the number of beekeepers was flat, in relation to return, until 1987.  After 1987, both the number of beekeepers and the number of hives went into decline relative to return.

I should mention that many the Saskatchewan figures appear to be very rounded, much like estimates.  I also wonder how the production figures are compiled.

I also wonder if the fact that one Saskatchewan beekeeper exported millions of pounds of of honey, purchased from nearby provinces, influenced the figures in recent years.

4.) Beekeeping in Manitoba from 1980 to 2000
The relationships between total return in constant dollars and hive numbers


Here is Manitoba.  I only have data going forward to 2000, but this series goes back to 1980, not 1986, like some of the other data shown above.  Inasmuch as the region of interest centers around 1987, the lack of 2001 and 2002 is no great handicap, but, hopefully, I will fill in the last several years when I come cross the data.

These charts show trends that are very similar to those seen in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In all three provinces, the number of beekeepers and number of hives go into decline at the same time: the year the Canada/US border was closed.  At the same time, the US beekeeping industry did not show a similar downturn that can be blamed on anything but the effects of the strong dollar.  The US was on the frontline against the mites, and should have shown a decline correlated to mite appearance, if mites alone were responsible for decline anywhere.  However, all the US decline correlates nearly perfectly with lower total returns caused by a strong US dollar and competition from imports.

The word on the street is that some Manitoba data have been recently found to be very inaccurate.  It is difficult to reach good conclusions unless good statistics are available for analysis.  No matter; assuming, as suggested to me, that the figures are on the high side and exaggerate the prosperity of beekeeping in Manitoba, they do not do so sufficiently to mask the unmistakable downtrend.

4.) Beekeeping in Ontario from 1982 to 2000
The relationships between total return in constant dollars and hive numbers


Okay.  I know it's after 1:30 AM, but I had to do just one more set of charts.  I had to do Ontario, and there you go! 

In Ontario, we also see a drastic decline in hive numbers and beekeepers after the mid-'80s.  

Note: I see that the large graph on the right is missing and I'll have to dig up the data again and fix this part when I have a chance, but it looks as if Ontario has suffered under border closure as well.

US Data References

Other Data References

The Manitoba data was received by private communication

Copyright © allen dick 2003 This article may not be reproduced in part or whole, by any means, without written permission from the author

Of course, the mites would have been a lot less of a problem -- and would be a lot smaller problem today -- if package bees from California were available all along. 

Anyhow, here goes...

The above article for emailing or printing

Here is the same Canadian data again, only with prices adjusted to constant 1974 dollars.  The Number of beekeepers is added for interest, and I divided by ten so it would be the same scale more or less as the others.  The return per hive (yield x price in 1974$) is expanded by a factor of ten to get all the lines on the same scale. So the left axis is Beekeepers (multiply times ten), returns per hive in constant 1974$ (divide by ten), and number of colonies: actual numbers.

> If you added some info on
> diseases and pests into your comments on the reasons for low
> production, that would be even better. I know that some beekeepers
> had AFB and did not realize it until their brood was into meltdown.

Having been a bee inspector in the seventies, I can assure you that serious AFB was rampant at that time, and since. I recall a big outfit (owned partly by ***) at Falher that had 100% AFB in one yard, and on the same trip having to call the Mounties after being threatened by **** at Sunset House when we called to mention we were about to inspect him. Ulf said "Never mind", and we let him off. Years later, **** sold and I heard the outfit turned out to be polluted.

I recall also that when mites took the focus off AFB, we commented on that fact. I recall, in fact, having a conversation with M*** D***** about that very phenomenon at an ABA cocktail party where we both were quite amazed about it. "Where did AFB go", we asked. Of course it was there all the time.

I don't think much has changed over the years in terms of disease. Same play, different characters. As for mites, as I said before, tracheal was, and still is, a real bitch. Varroa has turned out, in all except a few notable cases like Barrie's brother's, to be a non-starter for really good beekeepers, and he got fooled by the political process and trusted people who could not deliver what they promised in time. Sure, VM cost us all $2 to $4 per hive per year, and a little money for monitoring, but In my frank opinion, anyone who has been hit by the big V -- in my part of the country, at least -- was asleep at the switch.

> Many blamed their low production on overseas imported stock instead
> of their own management problems.

Having been there and done that, and more, I have to say that I have had some very good Australian stock, especially in the early years. Some ranked with the very best I have ever had, BUT I also had some (later) that did not build up enough to make pollination, and lately, that seems to be the rule. Even after feeding both syrup and patties, I was told in no uncertain terms not to take those hives to pollination, but the wintered hives I had split in two were fine. A confession: I sneaked a small yard of the packages there just to see, and they came back 50% dead, compared to the splits, which came back just fine (the usual 5-10% loss).

I recall that W**** had to change all his Ozzie queens one year, after they proved NG, and lately, both S** and M***** -- to mention only the beekeepers that come quickly to mind (all are top beekeepers) have chosen to
use Gus' queens and to discard the Ozzie queens that came with their packages. We are talking smart, no-nonsense businessmen here, not some idealistic wannabees. These guys don't do things unless they can see a very good reason.

Looking back, I also recall that I clearly recall that my California 2 pounders had five frames with brood in mid-May and, later on, being puzzled that the best Aussies had only 3 at the same time of year. Moreover, Adony counted as much as 30% chalkbrood in some of my Aussie packages one year. Having been a government inspector doing a chalkbrood survey all over Alberta when we first got CB back in the '70s, and having seen lots since (especially after feeding E***'s pollen in patties), I must say, that I have NEVER seen anything like 30% before -- or since.

> Production in some of the big operations picked up considerably after
> they sorted out their disease and pest management problems in the
> late 1990's.

True. But that really is not the point. IMO, anyhow. Things have always been the same.

I don't know why beekeepers would lie about this. Sure, there are beekeepers that lie, and beekeepers that kid themselves, but I do not know of any that run large outfits in Alberta.

You don't get that big by kidding yourself.



  • Allen's
    of the Day

Today : Sunny. High minus 5. / Tonight : Clear. Low minus 10. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2

Friday 12 December 2003
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I went to Calgary in the afternoon and researched heating again, then dropped by the zoo on the way home.

I had decided that gas fireplaces and heaters are not quite ready for prime time, yet.  Their efficiency  ratings are too low and too untrustworthy, IMO.  The Canadian government has just mandated an Energuide rating for all such appliances, starting in October, and I expect over the next year that more info will be available.  At present, gas fireplaces and stoves are sold primarily as decorative units, and the salesmen don't really know much about energy consumption or efficiency. 

It seemed to me that, with stoves or fireplaces, we could spend $10,000 and still not have what we really need, and a higher than desirable operating cost continuing into the future.  I had called in a gas fitter the other day, and he had come by and looked things over, then had directed me to some wholesalers that handle high efficiency boilers.  I went in today, and the first one I went to had what I needed.  I was pleased to see that a boiler could run at 98% efficiency and use fan coils (radiator core) in the existing ducts to heat the house, and also heat our hot water, and provide circulating water for baseboard heaters for local augmented heat, if desired.

I've shown Meijers' boiler system on this site the other day, and was aware of the possibility of using such a device, but the fan coils are the part of the equation that was missing.  using fan coils, we can keep our existing system running if we like, but also have the advantages of gas backup, or we can simply run the gas, if the prices of gas continue to be reasonable.  A few years ago, these boilers were in their infancy, but they are now mature products, and likely of interest to any commercial beekeepers for heating and wax melting.  They make old, low efficiency units obsolete, and they can be vented with plastic pipe,  the savings on venting (chimney) cost alone is significant.

I also continued to work on the Beekeeping in Alberta 1970 to 2002 topic and, in the process, generated a new graphical view, almost by accident.  I'd been using OpenOffice.org, the free office suite that is similar to Microsoft office, but found the charting in the spreadsheet a bit weaker than MS Excel, so I switched over to Excel, since they are entirely compatible.

One of the additional possible chart types offered in Excel was 'stacked'.   When I chose it, I was surprised at the result.  This feature sets one of the parameters being graphed as a constant at 100%, and scales each of the other parameters accordingly.  I'd like to say I was a genius and dreamed the view up on purpose, but it just happened that the program chose 'total return per hive' as the constant, and laid the others out neatly.  If there was any genius involved, it was in recognizing what had happened and working with it.  Since the return per hive is regarded as a cause, this approach makes sense.  Showing return as a variable makes deductions far more difficult than if it is made a constant.

I feel as if I am writing a thesis.  There are so many things to consider...

I heard back from Gene Brandi that neither he nor Bob know where Andy's site backup got to off hand, so I guess that rumour was false.

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 20 km/h. High 2.
Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 20 km/h. Low minus 9.
Saturday : Sunny. Becoming cloudy in the afternoon. Wind west 20 km/h becoming south 20 in the afternoon. High minus 3.
Sunday : Sunny. Low minus 7. High minus 1.
Monday : Sunny. Low minus 10. High minus 3.
Tuesday : Sunny. Low minus 11. High minus 4.
Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Saturday 13 December 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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Well, I'm spending far to much time on analyzing data and writing, but this afternoon I did go out and spread some ashes, charge some batteries, and get ready to fill propane bottles.  The bottle filling would have been simpler, if the standby generator had been ready to start.  Someone had stuck it to the far back of the shed and the battery was flat -- and frozen.  I disconnected the shed power some time back, since it was costing $55/month and we seldom used it.  I figured the light plant was much cheaper, but it hasn't been started for a while.  At any rate, it needs service, since winter is here and we may need it sometime with no warning, so it pays to have it ready to go.   Last year we were without power for 23-1/2 hours in cold weather after a storm.  We have the one in the motorhome as well, but this one needs to be kept ready.

I did an analysis of the US hive decline and found, amazingly, that the decline in US hive numbers was entirely due to and directly correlated to a decline in total return per hive in honey production.  My pages are getting to be a bit of a mess, since I've been going back over things and revising.  If anyone is following this (I wonder), it might be wise to go back a week or so and review the changes.

The reason lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn't there the second time.
            -- Willie Tyler --

of the Day

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind west 30 km/h becoming light this morning. High zero. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h this evening. Low minus 5. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 2.

Saturday 13 December 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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I've been busy at my computer analyzing data.  This is getting quite interesting, and I'm surprised no one has done this before.  At this point, I could get a great PowerPoint presentation together on this...

As I worked, I got to wondering about he quality of the data I'm working with.  Some of it has a slightly fictional feel to it.  There are far too many round numbers in some of the provincial data, and too many repetitions of the previous rounded value.  One province is better than the rest, and I happen to know that there are some discontinuities -- points where the underlying assumptions were changed -- in that data, seeing as I was there when it happened.  Given that the best looking data has some problems, I really wonder about the rest.  At any rate, I assume that over time, and dealing with large numbers, that the noise should cancel out.  That is only true, though, if deliberate biases have not been introduced.  I have been told by beekeepers who seem to know, that some of the provinces have deliberately inflated the stats to justify the provincial government bee programs.  I would not know about that, but if true, it could account for some anomalies I see.

Having said that, I generated an interesting graph, above, showing Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan per hive production figures over the period from 1980 to 2000, seeing as all I had to do was cut and paste; the data was in my spreadsheets from previous work I did recently.  Why is Saskatchewan going up and Alberta and Manitoba staying on similar trends?  Are those guys that much better than the rest of us?   Notice the square hump on the right that drags the average up enough to affect the trend.  Those two years happen to have exactly the same yield -- which happens to be a record high for the period shown -- in the table I used from this site.  An error?  I wonder.  Garbage in, garbage out. 

Another question is whether the honey that a Saskatchewan beekeeper buys and exports -- some from Alberta and Manitoba -- somehow figures in this number?

At any rate, what I see when I analyze the data is not what I have been hearing from individual beekeepers. 

Sunday 14 December 2003
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I spent pretty much the whole day on the researching and graphing history of beekeeping in various provinces and the USA to try to determine the effects of border closure.  I think I overdid it and started making mistakes.

People, even many who are trained in science, tend to uncritically believe the results of studies when they are released.  However, when a person actually has to do research or examines in detail the data that makes up the results of a study, a less than reassuring picture often emerges.  There is plenty of room for doubt.   Even if the data is perfectly recorded, and not corrupt or inaccurate as the result of guesses and approximations made to compensate for unexpected events in the lab or the field, there are many ways that mistakes or unproven assumptions can creep in during the tabulation, analysis, interpretation and writing phase.  Unless the reviewers actually reproduce the entire post-lab process, there is a good chance that blatant errors can go undetected.

We cooked a big roast.  Oene Meijer and Purves-Smiths came over for supper.

Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. Clearing this afternoon. Wind west 20 km/h. High 1. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Clearing overnight. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light overnight. Low minus 6. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Monday 15 December 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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I'm burned out and have other things to do, but am concerned that, since I've posted results and charts here, that people may believe they are complete and definitive.   It has been my habit to post as I write, and correct later, but the problem with that is that is that sometimes, people come and print off a copy and wind up with something other than my "Final Answer".

Be warned.  The material on this current page is under construction, and you are privy to my thoughts in the developmental stages.

I went out and tried to fill bottles, but the generator would not start, so I started the motorhome to drive it over and use its generator.  Sounds as if the water pump may be hatched, but it ran okay.  I got the first bottle onto the scale and tried to weigh it.  Seems the scale had drifted full of snow and was not working.  I took it back home and put it inside to thaw.

Then I installed the block heater into the blue truck and went back to my desk

of the Day
If you use Outlook Express for email and news, then you need OE Quotefix, and it is free! 

Today : Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h. High plus 2. / Tonight : Clear. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low minus 7. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Tuesday 16 December 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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Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.
-- Claud Cockburn

Well, time flies.  It's the 16th already.  Anyhow, today, I decided to go to see the guys at Global.  After a bit of business, I went to grocery shopping and went home.

I was back in time to fill a bottle or two before the sun went down.  By now, the scale was thawed out and I had no problems.

Tuesday : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming west 20 km/h in the morning. High plus 5.
Tonight : Cloudy. Clearing overnight. Wind west 20 km/h. Low minus 3.
Wednesday : Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h. High plus 4.
Thursday : Sunny. Low minus 6. High zero.
Friday : A mix of sun and cloud. 40 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 6. High minus 4.
Saturday : Sunny. Low minus 12. High minus 6.
Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3

Wednesday 17 December 2003
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Frank and Mike came at ten to drop off a drum of honey and got some HFCS to try in some test patties. 

Frank and Mike came by to get some syrup for an experiment

I used HFCS a few years ago and liked the patties better than those from sugar, but I don't always have HFCS on hand. For winter feed I prefer sucrose, on precautionary basis, since some western beekeepers had problems with off-spec HFCS a few years ago.  Nonetheless, in patties, HFCS stays moist better and is more like honey.  For those who are afraid of HFCS, what I have on hand is the good (on-spec) stuff, and I always get a signed spec sheet with the delivery.  This HFCS proved similar to sugar syrup in caged bee longevity tests.  Another reassuring factor is that, patties contain relatively small amounts, and are fed in spring, when the quality of feed is not as critical.

I have been busy and haven't been to the Forum for a while, but today, I dropped in.  There is a most fascinating message there, and we'll be hearing more about it I am sure.

After Frank and Mike left, I worked on their site a bit and added a forum there for their customers to discuss the patties.

The human race is faced with a cruel choice: work or daytime television.
-- Unknown

I decided that I'd buy the data for my analysis from StatsCan and redo the entire thing.  I spent an hour on their (very slow) site and came up empty.  My idea was to buy the data going all the way back to 1924 and cut and paste it into the spreadsheet.  With all the data from all the provinces in similar format, the job would be simple, and only one set of charts would be necessary; the data could be inserted into each with minimal effort, simply by switching matrices.

Today : Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h gusting to 40. High plus 4. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low minus 8. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Thursday 18 December 2003
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Ellen is off to Red Deer today to see Jean there.  I'm finally feeling 100% after the bouts of flu and am thinking I'll get outside a bit.  I have a few more bottles to fill and a few other jobs to do.


In his book, the Psychology of the Stock Market, David Dreman describes an experiment that demonstrates the "pressures of compliance." Each subject was asked to pick which of three lines on a card was the same size as a single line on a second card.

Dreman wrote, "The lines were of such disparate lengths that there should have been no difficulty in immediately choosing the one of the proper length." Of eight people who participated in each group, seven were confederates and one an actual subject. As the experiment progressed, the confederates would go from indicating the correct line to calling out wrong answers. The pressures of group opinion increased the rate of error tenfold as subjects simply "went along" and also responded incorrectly, whether they thought the group was right or wrong!

The natural and human response is to remain a part of the community. Exclusion from the community equates to being "wrong." Thus, "compliance" is a strong element in our behavior.

This seems to describe perfectly what I see in discussions of border closure: Herd behaviour with many, if most people following leaders without any thoughts of their own.

Well, I broke down and blew $130 on the data for all Canada from 1924 to 2002.  I figure that it will be worth it it get a clear view of the history of beekeeping in Canada.  I've been a bit concerned that some of the recent data for some of the provinces does not look very accurate, but we'll see.  As soon as I downloaded it, I tried charting it in Excel and found that the chart cut off at 1980 and that the right end of the chart had a weird discontinuity.  I wonder if there is a limit to what Excel can chart?  I hope not.

I then tried OpenOffice.org and it worked.  I saved the graph and was able to open it and edit it in Excel.  Odd.

I'm beginning to see how I'll have some very interesting presentations available.  I'll likely put them on PowerPoint or Impress (the free OpenOffice.org equivalent, that is 2-way compatible with PowerPoint) and offer to do talks at meetings.  However, I can also see that it will take me weeks of work to get through it all.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind west 30 km/h becoming light this morning. High 5. / Tonight : Clear. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h this evening. Low minus 3. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Friday 19 December 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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Estimated amount of glucose used by an adult human brain each day, expressed in M&Ms: 250            -- Harper's Index, October 1989

A nice day, with a forecast to plus 8 C.  I am feeling much better.  That flu had me for 8 weeks, but now I see that my weight is dropping  again (with no real effort) and I am feeling like doing things.  Sleep is still disrupted, but my sinuses are less stuffed up every night.

Maybe I owe CHC an apology (Maybe not).  Several days after the CHPA meeting and my comments about being double-crossed by CHC, and two days after the new, improved CHPA site became live on the Internet, apparently CHC got moving, and sent a letter to CFIA.  It was a very good, honest letter. 

Nobody bothered to tell me.  At any rate a copy of a letter CHC sent to CFIA December 5th finally came across my desk, and after clearly describing the views and positions of all parties, it ends thus:

"We urge that the CFIA pursues the concept of a federal provincial Memorandum of Understanding and speeds up this process. The majority of provincial associations would like to have the federal importation regulation amended to allow importation from continental USA under specific conditions".

Thank you CHC!

To my friends: Please don't assume that I am in the loop.  At one time or another, I am in everyone's bad books, depending on whose ox is being gored on that particular day and what mood people are in.

Truth sometimes hurts, but in the end we are all better off.  I need facts, and I need you to send them to me to get them out in the open.

Speak up for what is right.  Be a whistle blower if need be.  I honestly believe that everyone benefits when we turn over rocks and look underneath, and I also believe that sunshine is a great disinfectant.

I don't reveal my sources and I do keep things under my hat when asked to -- assuming that silence is appropriate, and that I have not already heard the info from somewhere else, with permission to publish.

I don't know how many bothered to go to the Forum, but for those who didn't here a direct link to the info you missed.  Be sure to read it.  My predictions are already coming true!

At any rate, back to the whole border thing:  It is time to write to CFIA, no matter what side of the issue you are on, or even if you are not on either, and state your real, rational concerns as clearly as you can.  I'm hoping that, if you are, indeed, rational, that you can see the benefits of allowing queens in, and hopefully packages soon.  If these honey prices hold up, queens and packages will just get harder to buy, and the cost of raising your own will be distracting you from more profitable activities.  If you don't have any ideas of your own, I've been writing on this topic since July, and you are welcome to use my thoughts or links to my pages.  Unfortunately, I do not have a good index of the articles, so you may have to read them all!

Here is the email address for comment:

             Write to Dr. Samira Belaissaoui, Staff Veterinarian, at or send a fax to (613) 228-6630.

I got my copy of the Saskatchewan Newsletter the other day and read it cover to cover.  It was a good read and more balanced than some previous issues.

I notice that the vote defeating support of imports was held by secret ballot.  Even if the group was not really well-informed, and are lacking good information on alternatives, that is a good step forward: respect for one another's' opinions and right to them.

Imagine for a moment, though, if they had counted the ballots and the 'yes' side had won.   Some day that will happen.  If they keep moving towards democracy like this, free speech will be next.  Next thing you know, they will invite an informed and persuasive open-border advocate to their convention to speak, and will actually listen respectfully.

That will be a new day in Saskatchewan.

And now to some letters.  I sent copies of my ideas to a few friends, and others.  So far, mostly my friends have replied.

> I see that you focused on number of
> hives, number of beekeepers, honey prices and need for pollination. I
> believe that there other factors also could have impacts on the
> economics of beekeeping and hive numbers. These factors could be:
> risk of introducing disease, hive's survivorship, cost of
> production, average production/hive, and even data validity.

All very good questions. I just started off with what was supposed to be a quick analysis, but found that there is a lot there. As I've gotten deeper into the matter, I've become aware of all the various possible considerations and possibilities for error.

Nonetheless, to me, some obvious facts stick out, and principal among those is the huge drop in hive numbers in beekeepers in Alberta immediately on border closure, even when the short term price collapse is factored out.  Moreover, if price was a factor, the industry did not bounce back when price recovered, as it had on other occasions.  It took over a decade to creep back up.

However, the perfect is the enemy of the good enough, and at some point, this analysis has to be better than the existing patchwork of wishes, guesses self-deception, and outright lies. I'm thinking that I've already reached that point, but I've purchased a better data series, and plan to dig deeper as time permits.

At this point, I think I've raised some interesting new perspectives. Inasmuch as the excuses for continuing to refuse imports from the US are seriously flawed, the need for such work may be diminished. Somehow, even the mention of injecting rationality and real economics into this discussion seems to have had a very sobering effect on those who have been kidding themselves or listening to propaganda. At this point, I think the ball is in the other court, and they are finding that there is no string in their racket.

I plan to continue to work on my analysis, but I think I already have mined the best ore, and from here on in, will hit diminishing returns.

As for questions like risk of introducing disease, hive's survivorship, cost of production, average production/hive, I'm afraid that they tend to get quite hypothetical and my goal was to take clear empirical data and see what it says.

The question of data validity is a huge one, and I am now playing with series going back to 1924!  If the beekeeping numbers seem a bit questionable, the CPI data looks even fuzzier!

> This subject could be a good subject for a graduate student in Economics
> to look at.

Wouldn't it, though.

> I like the approach, but the scope needs to be broadened to include
> more factors.

Yes, I agree. There is a lot of work left to do.

Here is a note from far away:

How are you
Here is korea.
First I thank you for the good articles of honeybeeworld.com.
I am worrying about my poor english.
I hope you could understand me.

Very good. I understand you very well.

I am interested in the "rearing cell" which rearing a queen in it.
I have heard it was developed at Germany.
I want to know what do you think of "rearing cell" and how can I buy it .

I think this may be the Jenter System?  Or is it a plastic queen cell?  Does anyone know?  Write me, if you do.

> I appreciate your reply.
> I made a mistake writing you "rearing cell'
> Yesterday I knew it is called "cell-plug queen rearing"
> People say it is "rearing cell method" in korea and very excellant
> in queen quality more than "grafting method"
> Do you think so?

I got this answer from a person who reads my website:

Hi Allen

Any search engine will pull up loads of references for “Jenter Queen Rearing”. However, there is also the French Nicot system
(see: http://www.nicotplast.fr/ApiAnglais/Queenbreeding/QueenBreedingMaterial.htm)

I have used the Jenter system, but it did not work well for me, but other people say it works very well.

Here is an URL: http://www.google.com/search?hl=&cat=&meta=&q=Jenter+Queen+Rearing

I do not know where you can buy it in Korea.


Here's another email about the essay:

> I cannot seem to read your graphs as the resolution appears to
> low on my computer (they come out all blurry).  Perhaps if you
> save them at slightly higher resolution (or as a j-peg?) and resend
> them it  would help.  Also,  you talk about "stacked" charts and I
> do not think I received them.  (in the attached files that I can read
> there are two graphs (both line graphs).

OK, I see the problem. I used an HTML format to send the article to selected people, and the thumbnails were supposed to point to larger images on the web,  HOWEVER, somehow, they pointed to the copies of those pictures on my hard drive, and, of course, my friends cannot see my hard drive from the Internet.  At least I hope they cannot.

The 'stacked' charts are a special type of line graph, which MS Excel makes quite nicely.  What it does is take one of the Y parameters on the line chart and set it equal to 100% at each point of the X axis.  Then it scales the Y value of each other parameter, at each X point, as a percentage of that value, and plots it.  Effectively, this view nulls out the effects of the one selected parameter, and allows viewing of the behaviour of each other parameter as if the first did not exist.

> I have two questions based upon your text below.  In your
> calculation of returns per hive have you factored in pollination
> income in the U.S. (which is a major factor driving colony
> numbers down there)

Good point.  No, I did not.  I considered the effects of honey production returns only, and my plot was preliminary.  On first glance, I considered US pollination returns to be quite constant, and a buffering force.  I know it is not exactly constant, but in the USA -- unlike Alberta -- pollination growth has been fairly steady for decades, and prices there have been steady and kept pace with inflation. 

Moreover, in Alberta canola pollination, the choice for any given hive is either pollination or honey production (although some honey is produced on pollination). In the US, (as in Canadian fruit and berry pollination beekeepers) can do both, due to a longer season.  Fruit and berry pollination effects are fairly minor for my purposes, and also have been pretty steady over a long time period, whereas, relatively, hybrid canola pollination in Alberta has been an overnight phenomenon, with very significant profit potential its its own right.

Thus, in Canada, pollination is a specialization, but in the US, it is a sideline on the way to honey production.  In the US, bees build up on pollination and are later split or shaken to provide package bees for increase or sale, but in Canada, the bees actually decline on hybrid pollination and, later on, experience increased winter loss.  Most beekeepers on hybrid canola have to purchase bees annually to maintain their numbers. There is no comparison.

Maybe, in the USA, I need to consider a total return number that includes both pollination and honey income?

I figured the US pollination prices, unlike US honey prices would always move to levels that compensated for other factors affecting beekeeper survival and profitability, such as honey price, since having or not having hives on almonds and many other crops is not an option. The growers must have bees and therefore must pay whatever it takes to keep the beekeepers profitable enough to keep going there.  If the price were to get too high, then it would self-correct, since there would soon be  an oversupply.  If it got too low, then beekeepers would not go.  Therefore, for now, at least, I ignored pollination.  Maybe I should not have, since pollination returns may have been compensating for declining honey prices until recently.

Obviously the USA is not homogeneous, any more than Canada is, but I started with a view from the distance.  From there, if there is any reason to, I can zoom in -- probably to the point where I am so close that all I see is noise .   The view from this distance is actually mainly significant in that it does not show any strong effect coincident with the arrival or dissemination of the mites, and that was all I was looking for.

My perception is that the main thing that has hurt US beekeeping in the last decade is the strong US dollar and cheap, imports.  There is no apparent effect from the advent of mites, but Western Canada concurrently shows a big decline, even though mites only spread very slowly and were not found in most of Western Canada until fairly recently.  Ontario does not show the sudden drop, but Ontario, does show a steady decline since 1986.  I suggest that, even in Ontario, it is due to the fact that beekeeping is getting just too damn hard, to be attractive to young people with any brains at all.  A lot of this is due to not being able to count on getting a cheap box of bees in a pinch, dump them into a hive, and get a crop.

> and also the price support program that used to exist?

Another good point.  Whether it was a strong influence or not needs to be determined if a rigorous analysis were to be done.   Perhaps it is already included in the return numbers I have used?   That would make sense.  Something to consider, anyhow.

My thoughts were that such additional effort would only be necessary if the conclusions from initial assessments were inconclusive.  I think that does not appear to be the case.

I was mainly looking for a noticeable decline, starting in 1986, that could be pinned on mites, but none seems apparent.

> Look forward to seeing the graphs.

Sorry.  They are now on their way!

I have more, all good comments, but it's time to go have a life for a while.

Today : Sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h this afternoon. High 8. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 20 km/h. Low 1. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3


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