A Beekeeper's Diary

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Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something
            no one else is thinking.  Do, every day, something no one else would
be silly enough to do.  It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.
-- Christopher Morley --

Putting on patties at Keremeos

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Wednesday 10 February 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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A psychiatrist is a fellow who asks you a lot of expensive questions your wife asks for nothing.
Joey Adams

I was tired today and stayed around the house until noon.  It was a gorgeous day, however, with temperatures rising to 14C.

 I went down to the beach and walked from Kits towards Jericho and back.  I stopped at Future Shop and got a wireless card to try hooking my notebook into Ron's network, but was unable to connect, since Graham has encrypted the site, and Graham is up in the mountains building snow caves until Friday.

Today : Sunny. High minus 3. / Tonight : Clear. Low minus 5 with temperature rising to minus 1 by morning.

Thursday 11 February 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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Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well.
Samuel Butler

After catching up on some paperwork in the morning, I caught the 1 PM ferry to Schwartz Bay, and went on through to Salt Spring.  I had supper with Bruce at Moby's and that was my day.  The weather was again, perfect.

Thursday : Sunny. Wind becoming west 30 km/h in the afternoon. High 7.

Friday 13 February 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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In a country as big as the United States, you can find fifty examples of anything.
 Jeffery F. Chamberlain

I'm getting out of shape.  All the worrying and dislocation from retiring has kept me from my usual activities, so today I suggested we take a hike, and we wound up at Burgoyne Bay Park. 

Bruce is a rock hound and a bit of an archeologist, so he took his metal detector along.  Going on walks with Bruce is always fascinating, since he always finds something.  We found some wire and a carburetor, plus some bottle caps, but no treasure.

I spent the afternoon reading and sleeping a bit.  Bruce helped Jane with setting up the film fest for tomorrow.  We all met at Moby's for supper later.

Friday : Sunny. Low minus 1. High 7.

Sat & Sun 14 & 15 February 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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The tooth fairy teaches children that they can sell body parts for money.
David Richerby

I spent Saturday reading, and attending the film fest.  In the evening, I had supper at the Harbour House.  That was notable in that I had a hamburger that rated with the best I've ever eaten

Sunday, I caught the ferry back and drove to Ron's.

Saturday : A mix of sun and cloud. Low minus 5. High plus 4.
Sunday : Sunny. Low minus 6. High plus 5.
Normals for the period : Low minus 12. High minus 1.

Monday 16 February 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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It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.
Robert Anton Wilson

I took the rental car back, Neil picked me up, and we drove to Osoyoos, arriving in mid-afternoon.  The usual gang was there and ready to work on bees,, but it was raining and we went down to the pub and visited for a while.  Everyone was tired, so we all called it a day earlier than usual.

Today : Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h this afternoon. High 5.
Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind south 20 km/h becoming west 20 overnight. Low minus 1.

Tuesday 17 February 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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I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs.
Samuel Goldwyn

In the morning, we went out to see Grant and Denis' bees.  They all look good.  It seems to me that Grant's look even better than last year, but it might be the fact that he has a chunk of expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam®) on the inner lids and that make the bees warmer, so they spread out more.  I like to think that feeding supplement in spring has a lasting effect, however, and -- maybe it is my imagination -- but it seems to me that the bees retain some residual effect over the entire year, and that I can see the increased quality of the hives.  Grant's losses are very low so far, around 5%, and that is to be expected, since we all have hives that lose queens at the end of the season and go into winter queenless.  Few commercial beekeepers have time to check that late in the season, and, besides, we know that the disruption of checking late in the season can cause additional losses during winter.  I think Grant must like the effects of the patties, too, since he was putting on as many as four on the good hives, while last year he only used one or at most, two on the first pass.

It was plus two Celsius and bitterly cold, but the guys went ahead with applying the patties.  We watched a while, then headed for Alberta.  We left around 9 and got home at 11 PM, after waiting 1-1/2 hours at Revelstoke for avalanche control.

Tuesday : Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h increasing to 30 gusting to 50 in the morning. High 6. / Normals for the period : Low minus 12. High zero.

of the Day

BeeBiz.  The magazine for commercial beekeepers.

Cruise the canals in England in Narrowboats.  Want to go?  We're thinking of it.  Could be a lot of fun.

Wednesday 18 February 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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An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

I rested up a bit today and started catching up with the pile of paper on my desk.  I also got the Swinger going.  It started on my first try today, after refusing to start all last month.  I suspect the problem was that I had left summer diesel in it, and today the temperature was warm enough (+6C) to turn the fuel liquid again.  I added some anti-gel compound to the fuel and imagine it will not give us any further trouble starting now, even if temperature drops to minus twenty.

Among things that I've had to face today is further problems with the Alberta Honey Producers Co-op.  I've alluded to this before and suggested I'd say more, but, frankly, I'd hoped that if I ignored them, the problems would clear up, that we'd get along, and we'd all be spared the embarrassment of further confrontation.  Apparently that hope is not shared by the AHPC board.

As it happens, bad weather (and old age?) caused me to be unable to deliver the honey I had promised to AHPC by the magic date of January 31st.  I had clearly announced the intent and the amount in advance, but the unexpected and prolonged bitterly cold and snowy weather in the last weeks of January kept us from starting machinery and from driving to Spruce Grove.  We were waiting for a break in the weather.   I planned to take the one-ton and pick up drums on the same trip.  I also have to pick the honey up at a neighbour's place, where it was extracted, and where it sits somewhere in their stack of full drums.  They have been reluctant to start machinery in the extremely cold weather, and I am dependant on their assistance.

As I was wrapping up our year on January 31st -- our fiscal year ends that day -- I noticed that we were in technical default and faxed AHPC to ask if we could just bring it up when the weather broke, but the response, coming some time later, from the board, no less, says, "No".

Apparently, rather than just say, "We understand, and this is only a tiny bit of product, we knew it was coming, it's only a matter of a few days, and we won't be packing your honey immediately anyhow -- and besides you have been a member for a long time" -- they are telling me, as I understand it, and I hope I am mistaken -- that due to this bad weather,

  1. we'll be losing our membership
  2. the 120,000+ pounds of quota (for some of which we paid good money (6c/lb) to purchase) will be confiscated
  3. to add insult to injury, our equity will be held by the co-op until they see fit to release it, while we have no say over anything

I'm told that I can appeal to the board, etc., but what does that mean?  They've already made up their minds.  Is there a chance they will change their position?  All this over a few days here or there, an inconsequential amount of honey, and after we have delivered many hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years?  Am I being silly, or does this not seem unnecessarily hard, and a bit oppressive?  Write me, and tell me if I'm wrong.

Maybe I should add that AHPC has been complaining that members are not delivering enough honey -- and seem upset with me for not shipping my whole crop to them although we have no contract to do so -- so, I also, in the same note, mentioned that a young fellow who had bought bees from me might be interested in delivering against our quota.  I did not specify whether into the past or coming crop year.  They refused that as well.  What is with these people?  Am I missing something?  I think I've finally lost my patience with this kind of treatment from a firm that I -- supposedly -- own and which should be operating, at least to some measure, to my benefit.  Are there others who feel that they are being mistreated?  I'd like to know.

Although, at one time, AHPC very much lived up to the "co-operative" part of their name, in in their dealings with me, in recent years I have found them very unco-operative.  In fact, their actions in dealing with me recently seem overtly oppressive to my interests as a member, capricious and petty.  Recent AHPC boards have changed policies in mid-stream without sufficient notice to members to allow members to adjust, and then they have enforced arbitrarily and oppressive policies towards some of us, for little gain, but much acrimony.  I find this puzzling and unprofessional.  I also wonder about its legality.

Over the years, while I was a big shipper, I was always impressed that I was, personally, treated extremely well at AHPC, but at times I've seen what appeared to me to be unjustified and arbitrary treatment towards other members.  I've always believed that this cultural problem has done the organisation great harm over the years and is largely responsible for the continuing decline of the organisation.  I have tried to change the AHPC culture for the better and even (successfully) defended a former chairman of the AHPC board when they kicked him out over a similar oversight.  I would have though that they would have learned.

In my own case, I noticed a change as soon as I announced my upcoming retirement.  Up to that point, I always found AHPC accommodating and reasonable, but in the past several years I have experienced little but hassle and pettiness in my dealings with them.  I think I cannot ignore this any longer, for my own sake, and for the sake of other members or would-be members.

Inasmuch as I'll have to turn attention to this unpleasant matter, and decide how far to take it, and how, I'll try to outline and document the whole series of events that have led to my disillusionment with AHPC, as candidly as I can over the next few weeks as I have time and energy and share it here so others with similar problems, and those with their money at risk in the co-op can see how they might fare someday, and comment.

Tomorrow, I am headed to Edmonton tomorrow for a two day meeting.  The agenda is on the ABA website.

Here's an email of interest...

I am also very interested in the orientation of the cells of each comb taken from feral colonies that have died. I first noticed this 2 years ago This swarm had built 10 combs side by side. The orientation of the cells on every other comb was different from the normal which we see on all commercially produced foundation. Both sides of coarse, of foundation has the cells in a vertical format but on the combs in between, or that is every other comb, has the cells in a horizontal format. 

Since first noticing this I have been careful to observe other natural comb and this appears to always to be the case. I wonder why bees would prefer to build this way?  I am sure that there is a basic underlying reason for this; we just have not discovered it yet.


I have no observed this personally, but it sounds to me to be related to what Dee Lusby is calling Housel Positioning, after Michael Housel who first reported it.  The topic has been part of the discussion on Dee's list, organic beekeepers.

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. High 9.
Tonight : Cloudy periods. Clearing near midnight. Wind northwest 20 km/h. Low minus 4.

Thursday 19 February 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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We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I awoke a little later than I intended, and drove to Edmonton.  I missed the first two presentations, and found the room packed.  This annual meeting has become very popular and people come from far and wide to attend.  It is very pleasant to go to these meetings, since many of the people in the industry are like family to me, and we have known one another, or known of one another for decades and gone through many campaigns together.  It does not matter much whether we were allies or adversaries; most of us get over things and try to deal with the issues as they come up without getting personal.

9:00-9:15 John Brown: The Apiculture Program in Alberta Agriculture.
9:15-9:45 Medhat Nasr: The American Foul Brood (AFB): a Disease or a Management problem!
9:45-10:15 Fred Butterworth: CFIA Monitoring Program of Antibiotic Residues in Honey.

This presentation was very interesting in that we learned of all the various antibiotics and other potential contaminants that the Canadian Food Inspection agency (CFIA) looks for in domestic and imported honey and the extremely sensitive techniques they use.  In most cases, the sensitivity is in single-digit parts per billion or better.

10:30-11:20 Adony Melathopoulos: The 3R’s of Managing AFB.
11:20-11:50 Ron Greidanus: A Viable Safe System for AFB Control: Irradiation of Infected Equipment
11:50-12:00 Robert Krag-Hansen: Iotron Facility in B. C. Equipment Irradiation.
1:15-2:10 Ralph Büchler: European Style of Managing Bees for Foul Brood Without Antibiotics.
2:10-3:00 Adony Melathopoulos: Is Comb Drawing You Down: Disease Management Through Comb Renewal.

With the spread of rAFB over much of North America, AFB and its control has become a popular topic.  Moreover, with advent of coumaphos use in Alberta, beekeepers now face the need to change their brood combs often due to the rapid buildup of this chemical in wax and its deleterious effects on queens and drones.  While this rapid rotation will be a necessity for coumaphos users, those who can avoid Checkmite+ use can get longer life out of their combs by using irradiation to sterilize them periodically or if faced with AFB scale in them. 

I am a skeptic about the economics of replacing more than a few brood combs a year, and have found that bees have never wintered well for me on new comb, compared to darker comb.  Moreover, those wishing to expand can seldom afford to discard brood combs unless they are damaged.   Consequently, I counsel caution to those thinking of using Checkmite+ and/or discarding perfectly good brood comb prematurely.

3:30-4:30 Bob Ballard: Alberta Beekeepers Strategic Plans. Grant Hicks: Alberta Beekeepers Commission Proposal.
4:30-5:00 Open Discussion.

I skipped this part.  I'm retired, and, besides everyone knows I am not a supporter of the concept.  It's none of my business, so I butted out.  Ralph wanted to see the West Edmonton Mall, so Joe, Oene and I took him on a tour until Medhat, Bob and Gertie were able to meet him for supper.

7:30-8:30 Edmonton and District Beekeepers Association Meeting with Sue Cobey, Ralph Büchler, Adony Melathopoulos, and Medhat Nasr. Panel Discussion on Bees, Pests & Diseases.

I skipped his too, but hear it was good.

Thursday : Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h. High 7.

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