A Beekeeper's Diary

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Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
-- Bertrand Russell --

I found a great price on cameras at a Staples in Florida, so Aaron & I each bought a Samsung Digimax 360 camera.  Aaron took this shot of me trying to get a decent internet connection from Saint Augustine.  The fastest I got was 16,800 and I was hung up so often that I gave up trying to update this diary for the time we were there. I see my nose is a bit sunburned.

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The beach at our motel

Standing behind a mortar at the fort

The fishing pier at Flagler Beach

Aaron & friends at Epcot

Allen the Viking (Epcot)

Tuesday 20 January 2004
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We spent another day at Saint Augustine, catching the shuttle downtown for the day.  It was cooler, so much so that the Mexican restaurant closed its balcony, but we ate there anyhow.  I particularly enjoyed the Castillo de San Marcos (1)  (2)  (3) and we spent a few hours there.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light / this morning. High plus 3. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low minus 8.

Wednesday 21 January 2004
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Aaron wanted to hit a few more of the sights in Saint Augustine, so he caught the shuttle into town.  I drove in later in the car and we met at the Mexican restaurant.  We left Saint Augustine around 2PM and drove down the coast, stopping at Flagler Beach, then drove into Orlando to stay the night.  Again. motel prices were rock bottom, and we got a good room at a Day's Inn for $35.

Wednesday : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind west 20 km/h. High plus 5.

Thursday 22 January 2004
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A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore.
Yogi Berra

We had set aside a day for Orlando and Aaron chose Epcot Center, so we spent the day there.  The park was pleasant and interesting, but highly commercial.  Being a country boy, and from the generation immediately preceding this post-war consumer society, I find such places vaguely amusing, but probably not in the way the designers intended.

We left a bit earlier than we would have liked to, but got the car back right on time to save a day's rental and be driven to our new hotel closer to the airport, The Clarion Inn, where we were promised a shuttle would drive us to the airport the next morning.  We were told it left every half hour beginning at 4 AM.  My flight was at  7:30 and Aaron's at 10:30.

I always like to leave myself a little extra time to relax and to allow for things that tend to come up at the last minute.  I could have taken the car back at 5 AM tomorrow and gone straight to the airport, but I don't like to cut things that close in a strange town in case of getting lost, or having some last minute screw-up.  As it turned out, I was exhausted by the time we got to the hotel, and was glad not to be driving around looking for the hotel in the dark.

of the Day

Thursday : A mix of sun and cloud. Low minus 1. High plus 3.

Friday 23 January 2004
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I awoke early and decided I might as well spend the time at the airport, as wait around the hotel.  When I walked out of the hotel at at 5:20, the shuttle was sitting outside, waiting, with several passengers already loaded.  I climbed in, and it left at 5:30:00 -- exactly on the dot.

Anyone who thinks there's safety in numbers hasn't looked at the stock market pages.
Irene Peter

I'm back home from Florida.  Hopefully I'll get caught up a bit in the next few days.  I flew out of Orlando at 7:30 and arrived an hour late at YYC, around 2:30.  We had been held up by de-icing at Minneapolis and by headwinds.  Ellen picked me up and we drove home.  Weather here has been mild and most of the snow is gone, but cold weather is on its way, I'm told.

Now, I have to remember. Have I received some beekeeping pictures I haven't used here yet?  Have you sent me any I haven't used?

of the Day

Friday : Periods of snow. Low minus 4. High minus 2. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Saturday 24 January 2004
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It's minus 15 and snowing.  I'm catching up at my desk.

I guess the ABA meetings promoting the commission are over now. I see nothing about it on the ABA site.  Nor do I see anything about the IPM meeting, yet.  I understand that they have had some server problems, but even at that, the ABA, like many if not most bee organizations, has not caught onto the power of the Internet.  Older folks just don't understand that people these days expect to find it on the web and if they don't, they just pass by.  Paper literature is wasteful, goes obsolete fast, is never there when you need it, and gets lost.

The CHC meeting will be happening in Winnipeg this coming week, but I am definitely not attending.  It will be a good party, and I am sure and I could find lots to do there, but my focus this week will be on cattle, and, besides, I am almost out of bees.  That fact makes me wonder how much longer I will write this diary.  I do have one remaining bee-related project these days, though.  I've promised Frank and Mike to help develop and promote their business, Global Patties.  A trip to Winnipeg could prove useful to furthering that end, as did the trip to Jacksonville, but I have bigger fish to fry right now.

Ellen and I drove out to see Elliotts in the afternoon to discuss buying cattle.  If we are to become cattlemen, we should get going this week for best effect.  Prices are low, and, although they could go lower, they could also improve.  As it turns out, my next door neighbour has a feedlot with capacity for 1,000 head and was stiffed by the outfit that had a contract to fill his yard.  With the BSE situation, the large feedlot had reneged, claiming force majeure.  There has been a lot of that in the industry since the first BSE find.  Packers had backed out of forward contracts with producers, and the industry has been in a mess.

At any rate, this seems like an opportunity; both for us, and for our neighbour.  As Grant said, we can look out our window and see our cattle.

"Yes", I said, "And smell them, and hear them".

"You'll also know where they are", he added.

"Yes", I smiled, "On the railway tracks".

I was referring to the fact that, once or twice a year over the past decades, various neighbours' cattle escape and wander through our yard, or down the tracks nearby.

From: "allen dick"
To: "Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology"
Subject: ABF Meeting
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004

Well, I'm back home finally, after the ABF meeting in Jacksonville. I missed the Texas meeting, but would have like to have made that one too. I understand that Charlie was a speaker there, so maybe he can mention a few high points.

As always the ABF meeting was excellent, with more sessions that any one person could take in and a vast display area with vendors offering familiar equipment, as well as some things we'd never seen before.

Off the top of my head, I'll mention a few things that stick in my mind.

Tom Rindererer explained that the Russian bee project is over, and that they are now into a selection project, sifting and sorting through the genetic material that they imported previously. The quarantine location remains available and can be used in the future.

He stated that they had thrown out more of the lines that did not make the cut, and have simplified the descriptions. They continue to select and breed.

The most important message, to my ears, was that the Russian stock today is not what it was last year, and what it was last year is not what it was the year before. Buyers need to obtain stock from breeders that stay up to date and have a variety of current stock. Using only a few breeders or the same breeder in successive years will result in bees that are not representative of the Russian project. Although he did not specifically say so, I deduced from his comments that we need to be selective in what we believe, since many of the reports we hear about the Russians are from people with impure or old stock from doubtful sources, or who only have an unrepresentative sample.

John Harbo spoke about his work and showed a list of traits that they consider to have greater and less potential for varroa tolerance. The list went from almost 100% heritable traits to traits that were almost totally non-heritable. I did not take notes, but, from memory, recall that the percentage of mites on bees P-MIB was something like .89 and SMR was .46, while low mite counts was -- if I remember right -- at the bottom at .1(?) That has very significant meaning for those trying to select bees for varroa tolerance by counting mites. My understanding is that P-MIB appears most promising and is a target for ongoing work.

P-MIB (inverse of phoresy) refers to the ratio of varroa that are found in brood vs. the number on adult bees at any given time. The normal number discussed was in the vicinity of 66% in brood. With such a high percentage in the brood, protected and reproducing, mites quickly build up, however, in some colonies, due to some property of the bees, the number can be half that or less. In such colonies, the mite reproduction rate is much lower, and, since the mites are most vulnerable to accidents when phoretic, the attrition rate is higher as well. As a result, hives with low P-MIB will have much lower mite build-up rates and possibly be able to manage varroa without assistance. Since the trait is highly heritable, breeding for it may prove worthwhile. The work is still in the early stages, and, so far, my understanding is that it is not known whether the trait is associated with any undesirable characteristics.

A screened bottom board from Quebec was on sale in the display area. Alexandre Cote, an associate of Jean Pierre Chapleau was offering their design for sale. It is nicely made, has a screen and drawer that slides left and right. They used it last year to treat varroa and tracheal by placing a paper towel in the drawer and squirting formic onto it. I understand they did this three times and lost only 4% over winter. This past winter, many beekeepers in Quebec lost anywhere from 50 to 100% and blamed it on resistant mites, so their relative success appears significant. Of course, Jean Pierre is a very good beekeeper and queen breeder, and that factors into the success as well. His site is at http://www.reineschapleau.wd1.net/ 

Of course there was much more, but these are the first items to come to mind. I'll likely write more later, here or in my diary, as time permits. Hopefully others will add their comments and recollections, although I did not meet as many BEE-L people there as sometimes.


of the Day

Today : Snow. Amount 2 to 5 cm. Wind becoming north 20 km/h this afternoon. Temperature falling to minus 16 this afternoon. / Tonight : Snow tapering off this evening. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low minus 20. Wind chill minus 25. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Sunday 25 January 2004
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Charlie writes about the AHPA meeting...

Hi Allen

...I went to the AHPA meeting in Texas.  Internet access was a bit faster than your experience -- 500k wireless checked speed on internet site.

I gave a talk and slide show about my New Zealand trip to talk about the Russian program. I took about 350 pictures while there and presented 130 to the group showed some beekeeper stuff and tourist type pictures. Talked about the price they get for manuka honey -- NZ$ 27.00/kilo and prop. NZ$ 145.00/kilo. Showed the equipment for extracting manuka honey. 

Met several beekeepers from your country and sold several Russian breeder queens (not to the Canadians). Over all had a very good time.

Harper's Honey Farm
Ph# 337 896 5247

The entire economy of the Western world is built on things that cause cancer.
From the 1985 movie "Bliss"

Minus 2, this morning, and lots of fluffy white snow on the ground and drifting by. 

I've been working back over the past few diary pages and filling in details and correcting errors.

The trip to Saint Augustine acquainted me with the intracoastal waterway.  I'd heard about it from my friend John Holditch and we'd been talking about cruising it someday.  I idly did a web search and found this website.  Hmmm.  Looks like something I'd do myself.

Hey!  Here's more of the same:

It's Aunt Ev's birthday.  She's 90 today.

Here's more email...


... I took in the meeting in San Antonio. Guys like Charley Harper and Hubert Tubbs, who are in the Russian Bee development program, have had good luck.  Hubert said he had test hives that haven't had a strip for five years.  However, guys outside the program, who have bought breeder queens and open-mated the offspring have not fared well. One individual who runs 1000's of colonies experienced a 40% winter loss in a southern locale.

Some of this may be associated with management rather than the bees, but it is in line with our experience. The Russians were poor producers and didn't show much mite resistance. This was our first season with them so we have yet to see how they winter but so far I am unimpressed.

My impressions from what I hear are similar.  It seems that no one is selling pure Russian stock, except Charlie.  pretty well, all the rest are selling crosses, from what I hear. By the time that the stock gets into the beekeepers' hives it is only 50% or even 25% Russian.  Some of the breeding stock used is also several years old, or in operations where the stock has not been renewed annually to avoid inbreeding.

As for high losses, I wonder if the beekeepers are actually monitoring their varroa loads, or just assuming that they are safe from a wreck because they bought the stock.  In my opinion, repeated often, and loudly, faith is no substitute for observation.  Although I do feel empathy for these who lose their bees after failing to monitor varroa carefully and often, I really don't think that anyone should expect any other result of such negligence.

My other big impression from the meeting was how many chemicals are being dumped into bee hives. It's pretty scary. We only treat once a year and some years we can get away without a treatment. It's a whole different ballgame for guys moving north to south and have brood most of the time.

Scary is the word for it.  You know what I think, but then again, everyone's situation is different.


Meijers and P-Ss came for supper.  Our piano needs tuning.

Today : Cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind becoming north 20 km/h this morning. High minus 19. Wind chill minus 33. / Tonight : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 26. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Monday 26 January 2004
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It is minus 30 today with little improvement forecast.

Here's a note that came in the email the other day.  I wondered about presenting it here -- I am reluctant to publish names without explicit permission -- but he asked me to share, and this is sharing.

From: saffari abodolreza
To: allen dick
Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2004 12:43 PM
Subject: A promising pollen substitute.

Dear Sir,

We are pleased to send (attached MS Word version  HTML version) you the preliminary result of our new diet (named Feed-Bee) fed to honeybee colonies in fall 2003, in comparison with Pollen and Bee-Pro in form of patties.  We hope that you are interested and that you find the result good enough to be shared with others. We appreciate your valuable comments.

Thanking you.

Best regards,


Here's his article MS Word version  HTML version and here's my (edited) reply...

Thanks for the article. It looks as if you may have the beginning of something there, but there is a long road from conception to general acceptance, and many pitfalls along the way.

As you probably know, getting bees to eat a diet is only the beginning. There is a lot of work to do before a new feed is proven to be beneficial, on both an absolute and relative basis, and cost effective when compared to alternatives. New formulations must be tested over several seasons in a variety of situations and locations before the apparent absence of adverse effects can be demonstrated. Formal government approvals may be required, depending on the ingredients, especially if the product is marketed into the USA. Unexpected consequences of feeding must be considered as well. An example of such an unforeseen effect was the discovery of higher than normal levels of butyric in some honey. After investigation, those levels were somehow blamed on feeding (well-known bee feed)  and some ingredient in their formula. Who would have ever guessed? I have no idea of how valid this conclusion may have been, or if it was due to decomposition of the feed, rather than the formula as shipped, but this story gives a hint as to unforeseen things that can happen when we put things into bee hives. There is also the (hopefully remote) risk of lawsuit or expensive failure if efficacy and safety is assumed, rather than proven, and a load of honey is rejected -- or bees die.

It seems that quite a few people have come to believe recently that a good bee diet will prove to be a gold mine, and will make the developer a lot of royalty money, in perpetuity, for a bit of cursory initial research and a few simple tests. Those of us who manufacture and buy bee diets know from experience that finding something the bees will eat, and on which bees can raise some brood, is only the very beginning of the process of coming up with, gaining acceptance for, and maintaining a successful product. Our perception is that optimizing, proving, maintaining and marketing such a product are far more difficult than formulating it in the first place, and is where the expense and risk is highest.

Our group in Southern Alberta -- consisting of beekeepers, and a manufacturer of patties -- is considering commissioning nutrition research this year to verify the value of the patties we are currently feeding and to examine ways to improve the formula. Additionally, the optimal timing and amount of feed provided are of interest. Other formulations could conceivably be included; we have been in discussions with several people who are developing diets and who wish to establish efficacy.  

Although we would consider testing proprietary formulae, there are many, and we are not really interested in wasting our money on something with an undisclosed formula, and which may be subject to unexpected change, and which might ultimately -- after we pay to prove it -- require paying a royalty for an uncertain benefit. We are far more interested in working with an open and fully disclosed recipe, utilizing standardized, commonly available, inexpensive commercial ingredients that have more than one supplier in Canada or the USA.

Our group wishes to hire a person to work with us on our concerns, and can provide necessary funds, materials, vehicles, hives and basic labour for such a project, but would wish to put the results of the work into the public domain for the benefit of all beekeepers. As I see it, without having gone through extensive discussion with other sponsors, the job would consist of

1.) designing wide scale tests to be conducted at diverse locations in commercial bee hives in Alberta, then

2.) supervising the execution of the applications by the beekeepers and their staff, then

3.) evaluating the effects of various diets, as well as amounts and timing of treatments by actual examination of hives in the field, then

4.) analyzing, tabulating and writing up the results.

As I see it (I have to consult with the other potential sponsors) anyone hired for the job would be free to publish the results and build a reputation on the work, but would be expected to be willing to consult long-term, since material available for manufacturing diets have a way of going off the market or changing over time.

I spoke with (several Canadian bee researchers) but both times, we got hung up in business details, and over the question of who controls the agenda and the eventual results of the work. Our position is that if we pay the costs, we expect to have a strong voice in the design and objects of the project, and to control dispersal of funds based on reasonable conformance to written agreements. We don't expect to have anyone hog the results of the work, but expect that what is learned should be shared for the benefit of the entire industry.

Basically, we are looking for a good hard working and knowledgeable person to work with us to design the project, to work in the field collecting data, to arrange lab work where required, and to make sense of the results. A clean driver's license is essential, as is an ability to keep good records, arrange grants and matching funds. A good personality and the ability to work with beekeepers and share information is essential as well.



After reading the paper  (MS Word version  HTML version), I see that the authors were able to demonstrate only that bees would eat the diet, but nothing further.  The test seems a bit limited and sketchy, but perhaps that is reasonable for a preliminary palatability test.  We do not know much about the 'pollen' in the test.  Was it fresh, frozen, dried?  It says only that it was powdered.  How old was it?  What was its source?  Maybe we do not need to know, but the lack of specifics makes me wonder.

I also notice that the ratio mixed with syrup varied, I assume to get a desired consistency.  The fact that less syrup was used with the test diet than the others seems significant and indicates attractiveness, but the poor consumption of BeePro runs contrary to our experience, and thus draws the validity of the test into question in our minds.

 The new diet patty was 330g of new diet powder mixed with sugar syrup (60% w/w) in the ratio of 1: 1.13 respectively.

The Pollen patty was 340g of powder mixed with sugar syrup (60% w/w) in the ratio of 1: 0.89 respectively.

The Bee-Pro® patty was 370g of powder mixed with sugar syrup (60% w/w) in the ratio of 1: 1.89 respectively

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.
Alfred Hitchcock

Converting that to a more intuitive format, where the syrup portion is taken as constant, we see that the amount of the new diet to a portion of syrup was 0.88 by weight, while the pollen was mixed at 1.12 parts to same amount of syrup and the BeePro™ required only 0.53 part to achieve the same consistency (I assume).

Thus the portion of the actual feed in a patty would be 47%, 53%, and 35%, respectively.  This is significant, since the pollen and test diet give more feed per pound -- according to this test -- of patty than BeePro™.  Of course, we have no idea if the bees will actually do well or get good conversion from the test diet, no matter what they eat.  Besides, from what I have read, there is an optimal level (16%) of protein in a diet.  Whether that is based on dry weight and considers carbohydrate, I do not know. Above that some undesirable effects may manifest themselves.  If maximum protein is limited, then what is the bulk of the diet?  Filler? Water? Carbohydrate????  Or is that limit not valid?

Now for something completely different: Today, I realized that no one from CHC has expressed the slightest interest in having me present any of the results of my studies on the effects of border closure on Western Canadian beekeeping.  My work was preliminary, but I would have thought that people would have been pestering me to finish it and present it. 

What does this mean?  Does it mean that they have accepted my incomplete study as gospel, or does it mean that they have no interest in the truth of the matter, particularly in regard to showing graphically  the damage that the CHC's actions have had on beekeepers in the most important Canadian honey producing regions?  Maybe they do not wish to ask about things which, when made plain to them, may cause them trouble?

I ran Ad-Aware 6 and Sypbot Search and Destroy a few moments ago and, although Ad-Aware did not find anything, Spybot found some registry entries it did not like and removed them.  Looked to me like minor searchbar issues, but I deleted them.  We'll see if anything important stops working.

Now I'll run Pest Patrol.  Security questions?  Check here for my humble contribution.

I spent the day working on the planned cattle purchase, to happen later this week.  Jim B came by this afternoon, just when I was about to go to the accountant's, but I got away in time to make it there before closing.

Today : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of flurries this afternoon. High minus 27. / Tonight : Periods of snow. Amount 2 cm. Wind north 15 km/h. Low minus 31. Extreme wind chill minus 40. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Tuesday 27 January 2004
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Virus Alert! Win32/Mydoom.A@mm. See this page!  Also see E-Mail Worm Snarls Computers Around Globe

This morning, my inbox was full of SPAM for the first time in a long while.  Honeybeeworld has been fairly immune to SPAM until today, but obviously, one of my readers has been compromised and my email addresses have leaked out to SPAMmers, probably via this new worm.  Was it you?  Better check and be sure.

Coincidentally (I hope), in addition to the unusual influx of SPAM, when I started the machine up this morning, my firewall, reported that MYIE2 had changed.  I okayed the change, but am running RAV online scan as I write this.  RAV is the scan that I have found the best, although it can show an occasional false positive.  In fact it always finds the viruses that I have archived in very old messages from the Argentine bee lists lapisada@yahoogrupos.com.arapicultura@lists.mdp.edu.arapi-lista@interlap.com.ar

Readers may recall that I ran some scans yesterday and removed some low grade searchbar items that I assume were installed with the last MYIE2 upgrade.  Shortly thereafter, my computer froze and I had to power off to get it to restart.  That has seldom happened with XP.  I think I've experienced lockup only two or three times since I installed XP.  Freezes were a daily occurrence before that, and my laptop (Win ME) freezes periodically to this day.

After the shutdown, the machine rebooted and I did not look at it until this morning when it came out of hibernation.  It seemed okay, with WinPatrol and Pestpatrol messages saying all was well, but when I called up MYIE2, the firewall complained.  I hope that the cause was the registry changes when I removed the searchbar items.

RAV online has been running a while (so is AVG) and here is a little of what RAV reports, truncated for privacy and readability

C:\Documents and Settings\...\Microsoft\Outlook Express\New\Deleted Items.dbx->Message.75: (facts@shaw.ca [])->(part0002:)->(part0002:text.zip)->(Zip) - Win32/Mydoom.A@mm -> Infected
C:\Documents and Settings\\...\Microsoft\Outlook Express\New\Deleted Items.dbx->Message.73: (TELUS Mail Administrator [Your Message Could Not Be Delivered])->(part0002:)->(... - Win32/Mydoom.A@mm -> Infected
C:\Documents and Settings\...\Microsoft\Outlook Express\New\Deleted Items.dbx->Message.52: (MAILER-DAEMON@mail19.speakeasy.net [failure notice])->(part0003:document.zip)->(... - Win32/Mydoom.A@mm -> Infected
C:\Documents and Settings\...\Microsoft\Outlook Express\New\Deleted Items.dbx->Message.51: (djohnston@beemail.com [Hello])->(part0002:)->(part0002:data.zip)->(Zip) - Win32/Mydoom.A@mm -> Infected

AVG reports nothing, although these reported items are in 'deleted' mail, I am fairly sure AVG would have triggered if I tried to open one.  I'm not going to try, though.

Brain: an apparatus with which we think we think.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Hint: RAV online presents the results in a tiny box.  To read the results, just click on the box, then type Crtl+A, Ctrl+V, then open Notepad or other text viewer, click on the empty pane and type Ctrl+V.  Maximize Notepad and you should find reading much easier.

I see the SPAMmers are still blitzing honeybeeworld, using common names to try to see if any addresses respond, or if anyone is dumb enough to open messages sent.  If I were to open any, immediately their computer would see me accessing an unique custom URL, matched to that address only, buried in their message, and the address would be added to their CDs of 'hot' names and that address would start getting email from all the idiots who buy these sucker addresses in hopes of getting rich quick.  Let's hope they tire of their fishing expedition soon.

I've been deleting the messages as fast as they come in, but may have to start screening email with Mailwasher again.  Mailwasher allows a person to read the first few lines of any message without triggering the URLs or exposing me to viruses that might lurk there, and to simply delete unwanted material on the remote server without wasting bandwidth downloading it.

 8 AM: Well, both virus checkers finished and the machine checks out clean.  The attack of SPAM and Win32/Mydoom.A@mm (see this) seems to have abated for now.  I imagine it will pick up again when whichever one of you connects the the internet again, or a new person with my email in his/her address book gets exposed.

It's minus thirty-five this morning at, and I have no plans to leave the house.

Today : Periods of light snow. Wind north 15 km/h. High minus 31. Extreme wind chill minus 45. / Tonight : Periods of light snow. Wind southeast 15 km/h. Low minus 32. Extreme wind chill minus 44. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Wednesday 28 January 2004
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A sage thing is timely silence, and better than any speech.

It's minus thirty with a south breeze this morning, and the house is a bit cool.  I gather the coal bridged a bit, and the delivery to the furnace slowed a bit during the night.  The temperature dropped to 15°C, before I woke up and broke the 'bridge'; we're recovering quickly back to 20° -- normal room temp -- now.

Yesterday, Ellen & I spent the day studying the cattle business. As often happens, I found that I know less after all that study than before.  It seems that any topic looks pretty simple until you get close to it.  At any rate, we did learn quite a bit and are closer to deciding what we will do.  We talked to several people during the day, and Jim came by again to help us make a plan.

As it stands, we think that 700 to 800 weight steers would be the best choice.  If we put them on feed, they should be ready by June or early July, and that is hopefully the best market.  We don't want to wind up selling in August. 

Right now, the weather looks pretty bad for the rest of this week, and we had thought we might be shipping cattle.  I think we will likely do the deals, but ship when the conditions are better.

As readers may have gathered, my interests are shifting from bees to investments and cattle, plus cruising.  After we buy some cattle and put them on the feedlot, and deal with a few loose ends, we will be ready to do a little travel.  I have been intending to buy a boat in the 30 foot class, and tend to sail over power, but would want a good diesel auxiliary.  I'll have to take some courses to learn more about navigation and these larger craft before I decide.

All that brings into question the future of this site, and also the future of BEE-L.  I've resigned from moderation several times in the past, but always been convinced to return.  In the near future, I may be away more than I am here, and I am sure that moderation will be of even less interest then.

As my interests shift, I wonder if beekeepers really want to read about cattle and the future of China, and the M, M2, and M3 supply in the US, and gunk holing on the West Coast and the Intracoastal waterway, or Mexico.  These are topics that interest me more than bees right now, although I am still involved in helping Global, and for that reason -- together with my conviction that nutrition is the key to many of the problems on pollination -- I am attending some bee meetings and working towards getting some bee nutrition studies underway.

We'll see.  I shall keep the current material on the web for the foreseeable future, and perhaps continue to add more.  At ABF, I ran into gene B. and he mentioned that they are still looking for the computer with Andy's site on it, since I had been chasing it, and had offered to reactivate it for auld lang syne, if found.

An email received the afternoon

Hello Allen and Happy New Year to you and your wife.

I have read your diary for years now and quite frankly am shocked! Out of the frying pan and into the fire you go... Cattle... In a words sir, you got balls!

Anyhow I was wondering if you had heard any information on the price of honey these days. The honey hotline has not been updated since December 24th and from what I hear the price has taken a tumultuous tumble.  2 bucks before Christmas and $1.55 now from and eastern packer as of yesterday.

Would you have any ideas as to the mighty fall of the price of honey?

As to your comment about contributing to your diary, I hope not, I think that you can see that through your eyes, many a beekeeper live their experiences too.

BTW, last night here in Saskatchewan prior to any Wind Chill adjustments... minus 49.3 degrees! Ouch!!!! my poor bees are outdoor wintered and I do feel for them.

Take care
The Old Droaner

Well, going into cattle was not something I would have seriously considered a while back, but, by my nature, I have to do something besides play.  I am done with commercial beekeeping, since to make a living at beekeeping, one must be either in or out and that there has never been a comfortable halfway for me.  Operating below full scale is painful.  (There are many reasons that maybe I'll get into sometime).

An added incentive -- besides the bargain prices and nearby opportunity -- to go into cattle or another farming endeavour at this time, was that our accountant has explained that if we were to simply quit farming, abruptly, we would wind up paying unnecessary tax compared to staying in and cutting back.  Why do that?   Anyhow, I had to find another farming enterprise, and what better sector than one that is right next door, has local expertise and facilities available, produces a high quality product that is normally in high demand, and which has fallen on times resulting in bargain basement prices?  As I studied the cattle market, it appeared to me that most of the likely losses have are already happened there.   Once that initial drop in price is discounted, feeding appears as profitable (or not) as ever.  People are eating more beef than ever, and, in spite of losing 10% of their markets (exports), the US supply is dropping to crisis levels and carcass weights are away down.

As is always the case after a catastrophe, people are generally leery for a while, then again rebuild their confidence to the point where overconfidence prevails, setting up for a new catastrophe.  Today, people in the cattle business have lost heavily, and cannot afford to risk more -- financially or psychologically.  It is time for the fools to rush in <g>  Here I am.

Once we decided that cattle was what we wanted to do, my wife and I both have gotten quite involved in the process of learning and making the necessary decisions.   The way we plan to operate is to manage the herd on a feedlot next door and hire out most of the daily work to experienced people.  We're not planning to drive the feed wagon every day.

As for beekeeping it is clear to me that the price cycle has topped, and that we are on a downstroke.   Whether it is temporary or long term, and how far it goes, I have no way of knowing, but I do know that the recent price spikes were highly anomalous.  The highs of  $2.50 or $2.75 (CAD) a pound was achieved due to several unusual events occurring simultaneously and removing much of the excess world's supply from the US market.   That may have provided respite long enough for other factors to come into play.  The psychology of the consumer is shifting to an emphasis on known sources and on purity.  Managed well, this can work in our favour.  The world economies and currencies are shifting,  Some of these shifts are, perhaps in our favour.  It is hard to tell now.

My feeling is that our best hope is that the Chinese revalue the renminbi upwards and also increase their domestic honey consumption. If they doubled their consumption, I expect that they would become importers.  Looking into my crystal ball, I suspect that the honey price will fluctuate between the $US 1.50 and $US 1.25 range for a while.  That means $1.95 to $1.65 CAD, but better operators will get prices nearer the high end due to better marketing and better practices, and there may be periods where the price falls below that range in low volumes of trading.

The prices over the next while should provide a very good living for astute operators, particularly those who invested the windfalls of the past several years in labour saving equipment and better facilities without taking on excessive debt, but those who have grown too accustomed to the highest prices on record may feel the pinch.

As for the present market, in Canada, although prices have slackened a bit, mostly due to a strong Canadian dollar vs. the US dollar, demand has been picking up.  A packer well-know for his bottom-feeding has been trolling around looking for beekeepers who are panicking and anxious to sell.  He's offering $1.55, but recently loads were in the $1.80 range and higher.  The problem in Canada is that honey that has been barred from the US has been coming into Canada, due to our higher dollar and lower standards. I'm not sure how that will affect things, but I suspect that the picture will come clearer after the CHC meeting, now on in Winnipeg.  CFIA, CHC, and many movers and shakers will be deciding on a number of things that may restrict access to the market, or throw or wide open.

Time will tell.

of the Day

Do you use spreadsheets to get bank loans, calculate your profit/loss?
Then you must read this.  Spreadsheet mistakes - news stories

Today : A few flurries. Wind south 20 km/h. High minus 27. Extreme wind chill minus 44.  / Tonight : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind southeast 15 km/h. Low minus 31. Extreme wind chill minus 43. / Normals for the period : Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Thursday 29 January 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

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Our pen of 83 heifers

Minus thirty again this morning with a south wind.  Nonetheless, we need to complete our cattle purchases.  My neighbour, Grant, and I spend the afternoon touring the country looking at cattle with a buyer, and at the end of the day I had written a cheque for190 - 800 weight steers and spoken for 83 - 760 weight heifers, already on a feedlot.  We were very lucky to stumble onto these steers.  They are in good condition and quite uniform, even though they are from several farms.  The farmers selling are mostly related to one another and share breeding stock and practices.  The heifers I bought already look okay, but are not as high quality.  The big advantage here is that they need not be moved, and should give them an advantage.

I don't know a thing about cattle, and I know less the more I read and talk to people.  My neighbours have been in cattle for decades, and I am most fortunate to have them advise.  They seem happy to do so, and one will be doing the feeding in his lot.  I'll be making the management decisions -- with their advice -- and maybe even doing some of the outdoor work to boot.  Should be interesting.

I'd have taken pictures today, since we were lots of interesting places, following Lester around (the one here is from yesterday) but my new camera did not want to work at minus thirty, and I was not exactly patient, either, standing out there with bare hands, trying to read the LCD.  Those %$&^ things are never bright enough in full daylight under the best of conditions, to read the tiny symbols that explain what is hung up.

Statistician: A man who believes figures don't lie, but admits that under
analysis some of them won't stand up either.
Comic Dictionary

For those in beekeeping, there is a lesson to be learned from these cattle people.  They work together, and help beginners freely.  There are many beekeepers who do share, but also many who think they have 'secrets' and will not help others.  In my experience, those who fall in the latter group actually do not have much to share, and, were they to reveal what they 'know', it might not be worth sharing.

The amazing thing about teaching is that it reveals clearly a person's gaps in knowledge and forces a person to fill them.  I learned a lot from my own writing, and often have had to go back and research things or ask questions.  Personally, I'd attribute the greatest part of my success to the discipline I forced on myself by writing articles, actively participating in bee forums, and writing this diary.  Diary writing forces introspection, and for some of us who start out extroverts, that is a good thing.  Writing, to me, is a form of meditation.  When I was young, I hated writing because it was very hard work, and because I was really bad at it.  That was before the word processor.  I am a slow writer, and revise over and over to get the exact meaning I am seeking, but find that, even then, I am misunderstood more often than not.

Looks as if the person who is responsible for the blitz of virus emails is in New Zealand.  These nuisances have come through at night for the past few days and and very early morning, MST, and are still arriving today.  Most of the spoofed addresses have *.nz domains.  Obviously the owner of the culprit machine is unaware of what it is doing this to me -- and all his or her friends. 

If YOU don't have an up to date virus checker and firewall running, and if you don't scan for bad stuff at least weekly, you are a menace.  Better clean it up before the DOS attacks begin.  See here for some starter ideas.

of the Day


Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. 30 percent chance of flurries. Wind south 15 km/h. High minus 25. Extreme wind chill minus 40 this morning. / Tonight : Cloudy. Snow beginning overnight. Low minus 28. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Friday 30 January 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Four Years ago | Forum | Sale | Home | Write me

We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.
Ray Bradbury

At eight, I got a call from Lester, my cattle buyer.  Apparently one of the farmers had backed out on his part of the deal.  Lester had found out at 10:30 last night, but I had told him when we parted after I wrote him a cheque at the Acme bar, "Don't phone tonight".  I had hit the sack at 7 and slept like a baby.  He said there is a satellite auction this morning and he has his eye on a likely lot near Gem.  I said, "Go for it."  We can always fall back on the heifers I turned down yesterday from the lots where I bought the steers, if these fall through. The only question is price.

Grant and I were off to Miller's this morning and I wrote a check for the heifers I bought the other day.  They look better every time I visit, even though the weather is bitter -- minus 22 C today with blowing snow from the east-southeast.  Ed has a good facility with lots of shelter, and that makes a huge difference.  I thought the heifers could use a bit more bedding, but the weather is bitter and it is hard on the men to get out there to add more, and they are okay for now.  Highway 21 feeders is a top notch facility, so I have to assume they know what they are doing.

Never mud wrestle with a pig.. you get dirty and the pig enjoys it!
Never try to teach a pig to dance. You waste your time and annoy the pig.

Ed was in, and so we had a chat about feed and the price of tea in China.  He is a businessman with an encyclopedic mind and most interesting to discuss these matters with.   After we discussed his fishing trip north of La Ronge, and his 45 inch trophy fish on the wall, and the economy, and the cattle business, we got down to the nuts and bolts of the management for the heifers. 

When I got back, I learned that Lester had not gotten the additional steers we had counted on.  He chased them up to 77-1/2, but the seller had decided to keep them at that price.  That's the thing about a satellite auction.  The cattle are all safely in their home pens and the sellers are not as committed as if they had just hauled them all the way to Strathmore or Ponoka.  Apparently only about 1,000 head of the 4,000 on offer sold, so Lester is back to work, rounding up the rest of our requirements. 

Since the weather is so bitter, the farmers have agreed to feed our cattle until the weather breaks, since shipping them right now would be hard on them.   Lester had a truck lined up for Monday, but we have put the hauling off until Tuesday.  No matter, I know where they are.

of the Day

The ABA finally got the February program onto their site.  Here it is.  The program is extended to two days, now and on the 19th and 20th at Executive Royal Inn, West Edmonton.

Today : Snow. Amount 2 cm. Wind east 20 km/h. Temperature steady near minus 23. Wind chill minus 37. / Tonight : Flurries. Wind north 20 km/h. Low minus 25. Wind chill minus 37. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Saturday 31 January 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Four Years ago | Forum | Sale | Home | Write me

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
Douglas Casey

It's minus twenty-five again this AM.  This is the last day of the month, and our fiscal year, so we have to tie the ribbons on our cattle project.  Everything is pretty well done, but there is still some confusion about one lot of animals, and I have to finalize the feed with my lot manager.  Then I can relax a bit.

Next week is a new year, and we have some business to do on account of that, and two meetings.  After that we are free for a while.  The Calgary Boating Exposition is on this weekend, and I'm thinking of running in to see it, but frankly, their website sucks, (I hate Flash) and there is almost no info there compared the Vancouver show, and the Calgary show is at the convention centre in the middle of downtown, so parking will be expensive.  I may just go the Vancouver event instead.  They have a decent website and are closer to the ocean.  In fact, they have a shuttle to local marinas to look at display models.

Jim came over in the morning and we finalized plans for feeding. alter, Ellen & I drove to Drum to have supper with Joe, Oene, Jake, and Ruth.  The roads were bare, but snow was falling and drifting sideways, so we returned home earlier than we might have.

I heard that a friend saying his computer got hijacked and was flashing porn at him.  Moreover, a 'dialer' had installed itself with his knowledge and had called out to a 900 number, resulting in a $75 phone bill.  He is hoping that he caught in time and that this month's bill won't be even higher.

When I got home, I continued some earlier reading on security, and came across www.webroot.com and tried their scan.  It quickly sorted my favorites according to their categories and I was surprised to find, among more likely subjects,

  • Adult/Mature Content (2 URLs)
  • Personals/Dating (1 URL)
  • Pornography (7 URLs)
  • Files with Profanity (0)

Well, I don't visit porn sites and have no interest in dating, but I have found myself at one at least once when doing an innocent Google search for some unrelated topic.  What some porn purveyors do, is take over expiring legitimate domains when the owner accidentally fails to renew them on time, and put up a dating or porn site at that URL.  People expecting to go to the old site, find themselves unexpectedly at the new site, and, unless they have high security settings, a script there can add the URL to their favorites without their knowing it.  In past times, I had lower security, after all, no one realized what this net would come to, and this must have happened.  I carry my favorites from old machine to new machine, so who knows when I picked them up, or if the sites were once non-porn?  Anyhow, these days, traces of porn on a computer is no proof that the user has been deliberately visiting porn sites.

Visit my security page for a little of what I have accumulated on tools and ideas for self-protection.

Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. 60 percent chance of flurries. High minus 21. \ Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low minus 22. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

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