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Health food makes me sick.
Calvin Trillin

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Wednesday, June 2nd, 2009
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I'm resting up. It is quite a switch from working 24/7 and sleeping when one can to shore life.

Mom and I went to a greenhouse to get some plants for her patio.  That was it for the day.

BTW, Ellen and I now have a dog. I have thought it would be a good idea to chase the deer away from the garden and orchard, so an opportunity came up and Ellen took it.  The dog's name?  Frankie.


Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
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> Have noticed you are not posting on BL so trust all is well with you and > your Misses.

Yup. Just got back to Ontario from six weeks on a sailboat. Details in my diary. I am resting up a bit and getting my own little sailboat ready to launch here.

> We had a terrible Spring to put it mildly, came out of Winter with just > around 5% losses but this grew to around 10% as cold weather continued. I > should have bit the bullet and combined weaker colonies but second guessed > myself so this accounted for additional losses.

Sorry to hear that. My loss was less: one hive in the fall, so after splitting, I hear I have 17. My wife and daughter split the remaining 9 for me, since I was away. I plan to split again soon, since I have no extraction facility.

> Blueberries are now over and were starting to move to Raspberries, > colonies are two full boxes of Bees and heavy with stores despite the slow > start. In fact this has probably been one of the better years for > Blueberry Honey.

Good to hear that.

> Have been trying to obtain Larva to raise Queens using a Cassette and > Cloake Board Method but with poor success. Queen lays a full Cassette but > after she is removed and we are waiting for day-and-a half old larva Bees > pull eggs from the cassette. We are also feeding Colony Pollen and 2-1 > syrup and there has been a good Honey flow. I first thought because there > was a good Honey flow Bees were looking for more space for stores so I > moved capped Brood and gave them drawn foundation didn't help. Guess I > should have stayed with Grafting in fact will be starting tomorrow.

We never had much luck with cassettes. Always grafted. Some queens and some bees and some seasons just don't work with the Jenter system. Often, though, I just bust the hive in half once it occupies two boxes, make sure both halves have eggs, and let them raise their own. Seems to work well. The queenless time is not a whole lot longer than it is with using mated queens and slow release, and the split often passes the queenright half within a few months. Saves on labour. Of course a few fail, but we just stack them onto a queenright hive and try again later. Deadline for reliable splits in Alberta is the end of July, though.

> (My wife) and I have been spending time at our Summer Place cutting grass and > doing a little fishing and a lot of nothing.

That is the life. We are very lucky to have that option.


I left the boat in a hurry last fall. I had purchased a tarp and found it smaller than claimed when, at the last moment, I covered the boat.  Nonetheless, it came through well.  some water pooled on top, but the boat is pretty dry.

I have some cleaning to do, but otherwise all is well.

Mckenzie helped with the splitting

Thursday, June 4th, 2009
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Today and yesterday were spent in unwrapping and cleaning the boat and generally getting everything ready to go.

When I arrived, it turned out that my van battery was entirely flat and had been frozen.  I checked to see if it was still on warranty, since it had self-discharged, then frozen and found it was four years old already.  Have I had the van that long?! I guess so.  Time flies.  Anyhow, I took it to Canadian Tire and they adjusted it, giving me a new battery for less than half the new price since it had a 108 month warranty.  Then I discovered that the air-conditioning has lost its charge and there is an ominous groan from one of the struts.  I guess that is what happens if a person leaves things sitting for six months over winter in Northern Ontario.

The boat came through winter well, and cleaned up nicely with just a bit of boat soap.  The Poli-Glo I applied looks as good as the day I put it on.  The battery needed a charge, of course, but did not appear to have frozen.  It was brand new last year, so held its charge just fine.

I didn't put the boat in, though, since I have no mooring for it and the weather promises 25-knot winds.

I'm now working on studying my sailing theory.  I have done the practical for the CYA Advanced Cruising and Offshore Standard, but have not written the exams.  I also have some prerequisites to do: St. John Ambulance Standard First Aid Certificate; and a nationally recognized certificate in CPR - level "B" or higher, the Radio Operator's Restricted Certificate - Maritime Voluntary, Advanced Navigation Standard, and Celestial Navigation Standard. I see I have already almost qualified for the Yachtmaster - Coastal endorsement, so I need to get someone to sign for me on that one.

Friday, June 5th, 2009
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As mentioned, my van started groaning ominously, so I traced the problem down and it proved to be coming from the front left strut.  I took the van to Midas for an estimate and they said the upper bearing was seized and that I should give them $1300 to change the struts.  Canadian Tire's quote wasn't much better, but they had the struts on sale, ending today.  I bought two quick struts for $450 and a can of penetrating oil for $5.07.  My pal, Bill said that he had heard that spraying penetrating oil around the strut loosens them up sometimes, and I figured that it was worth a try.  It was hard to see any place up in the underbody where the bearing was exposed, but, having the new struts to look at, I guessed where to spray, and took a few wild shots up through the tiny drain holes and went for a drive.  No luck.  The moaning continued.

Since my air-conditioning had quit, too, while at Canadian Tire I also bought a recharge kit for $50.  The directions with the package were not too explicit, so I phoned the 800 number (just before 5 on a Friday) and got straightened out.  I followed the instructions given, and in moments, my air was blowing cold again.  Really cold.

So, now I'm one for two.  I'm not looking forward to jacking up the van and changing the struts, but it looks pretty simple.  I sprayed penetrating oil on the nuts, to be ready later.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009
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Guess what?  This morning, when I went to do a little shopping, the van quit groaning!.  So, I returned the parts to Canadian Tire.  Fingers are crossed.

Thursday, June 11th, 2009
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I finally launched my boat and went for a sail.  The wind was gusty and changeable, not really a good sail. I decided to anchor off my mother's place, so I set two anchors for safety, then tied the stern to the remains of the dock that my Dad built 50 years ago and which has been moved and twisted by ice, and rotted by time.

I then had to swim in, since I anchored well out, not wanting the boat to touch bottom (rock) or the shore (also rock).  The bottom out a hundred feet or more where I dropped the anchors and chain is mud and the anchors held very well when I tested them, which is important since the wind sweeps down the lake. 

The water was icy, and after a few trips back and forth to ferry my clothes, etc., I was pretty cold and tired.

Saturday and Sunday, June 13 & 14th, 2009
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I spent 8:30 to 5:00 Saturday and Sunday in classes for First Aid and CPR C certification.  Procedures have changed a bit since I last took first aid with Canadian Ski Patrol.

Ellen reports the dog has disappeared a few days back and not been seen since.

Monday, June 15th, 2009
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Mom and I got ready to go to Muskoka today, since we plan to go down tomorrow for a few days.  I adjusted my ties on the boat and discovered the water has warmed up a lot.  It was very pleasant.  Maybe wearing a shortly wetsuit and surf slippers helped?

I went to Bill and Faye's in the evening and we called an old friend, Grant.  We had been thinking about him due to an upcoming school reunion, and also because I am planning to drive to Ottawa at the end of the month for a family reunion, and he lives along the way.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
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> My grandson just started with bees this May. He has one hive. My daughter (his mother) would like to plant sweet clover or something the bees would be attracted to. My question is how large an area is needed to provide sufficient flowering for just one hive?

About an acre is the rule of thumb, but bees forage for up to a mile, so they will use all the acres in that circle, no matter what you plant. It is not usually economically practical to plant bee forage and expect anything more than to see the bees enjoy what you plant.

Try this link


We left at nine and arrived in Port Carling before lunch.  We had lunch and I then fell asleep for two hours.  I guess I was tired.

Everything looks good, and the weather is fine.  We se the wind is from the east, though and that signifies rain coming.

I've planned my trip back to Alberta at the end of the month, arriving in time to be there when Jon and the kids arrive for a visit.  I bought the Air Canada "Explore Canada' pass.  It seems like a good deal.  Maybe not as good as some passes in the past, but still good.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
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The forecast was for cloud and rain, but the day has been sunny, with wind from the east.  Rain is coming.

Cottages need work, and I cut some grass, then got ready to install a shower.

Hi Allen

I was reviewing some of the info on splits on your website (see here) and am trying to figure out what the optimum practice would be for this location (near Boston) using walk away type splits. There has been a lot of buzz about the routine on Beesource and I guess it is commonly utilized.

Interesting.  I have been an advocate of this method for decades and gotten mostly flak. Maybe it is an idea whose time has come.  As I recall, Chas Mraz was an advocate, too, so it's not a new idea.

I tried something akin to this, two years ago, in May. I didn't want to have to give the bees weekly attention to avoid swarming, so I figured I would split them and re-unite them later in the summer. I basically split the doubles (without searching for the queens) with a board, no screen involved. A rim on the upper side provided an entrance for the upper unit. This was essentially a walk away split, but one half was above the other half.

That is one way to do it.  Makes it hard to super adequately, though, if you don't move them to separate stands.  They will both become full-sized hives pretty quickly.  We usually have at least five standards equivalent of space for hives at flow time, whether they make honey or not.

I added an excluder and deep super to the bottom and top units. Both had adequate food reserves. Well...I thought, this is great, I cooled their jets and they will not put any effort towards swarming. The queens, it turned out, were usually in the top unit. The black locust flow came on, end of May, and a small amount of surplus was stored and capped in the supers. However much to my chagrin, shortly after that, the bottom units (well most of them) began swarming, and not only swarmed, but cast repeated afterswarms. It was dismal, small and medium sized swarms way up in the trees, virgins on the ground with clusters of bees around them. Never seen anything like it in before. What a mess. So much for my walk-away splits.

Hmmm.  Not sure what to think of that.  Was the swarming at the time the cells emerged?  Or was it after?  When did you split?  If later, sounds as if they were crowded.  You can crowd bees late in the season, but not before the swarming date in your area. 

Also, if thin nectar comes in fast, and 30 lbs or more can come in one day, the combs can be full and the hive plugged.  After the nectar is dried down, maybe only a day or two later, the hive does not appear plugged.  The secret is to get lots of boxes on early.

On the bright side, even with the loss of a lot of bees/swarms, I was able to get a decent crop that year, from later sources. This, because I quickly re-united the two halves of each colony to try and salvage what I could. I think I was lucky, as July/August is often dry with hardly any forage, and around here the good old days of goldenrod and aster are long gone. I am wondering if this swarming of the queenless half is a common issue with walk-away splits, or if you noticed the same, in some years.

I have never seen that problem.  Could be your region, the strain of bee, or maybe lack of eggs and young larvae in the lowers, resulting in intercastes that were superceded.  Supercedure can also become swarming if the the timing of the emergence happens to coincide with ideal swarming dates.  Still, I have never seen that, so it could just be happenstance.  I had an entire package yard swarm one time years ago, not too many weeks after installation.  It was a freak occurrence AFAIK. There are signals that bees perceive that we cannot.

We have trouble, here -- the black locust is heavy and fast and the brood chambers get clogged with nectar. It is hard to keep an open brood nest, without a lot of labor, and at the same time the inclination to swarm is peaking. It presents a real challenge.

The secret is lots of boxes added early -- even weeks before the flow if the weather is settled enough.  Adding boxes as the flow progresses simply does not work until after the swarming season has passed.  That approach is a guaranteed formula for swarming.  Besides, people who super during the flow -- instead of before -- never find out what their bees would have been capable of doing.

After the black locust there is a light flow from clovers, etc. and then the basswood comes on at end of June. In other words, the good nectar flows are early in the season, so there isn't time to build up splits to booming colonies to exploit later nectar sources. Most years after the beginning of July, there isn't much nectar out there to be gathered. It would be easier if there were reliable later nectar flows. I would like to try to find a way to do simple splits, let the bees raise new queens and prevent swarming while still being able to secure a good crop from the black locust and early summer sources, but I haven't found the optimum key to it yet. I have not attempted walk away splits again. Yet.

To do a real test, the best approach is to do some hives one way and some another, not all the same.

What I have been doing is removing 2 combs of capped brood every 10 days to the center of a honey super and adding it above the excluder. This keeps the brood nest open and works well, but is a bit labor intensive. I don't look for queens, only shake the bees off the brood combs that I move up. It goes pretty quickly. I do this three times, starting in May, until the colonies have 3 deep supers, each having had brood put at the center when it was added. I was able to get almost one deep filled on locust this year despite poor weather during bloom, and I have had zero swarms, so I am pretty pleased. This trick has worked for me the past 2 years. Anyway...any thoughts on how I might do the EZ splits without having to go in and remove all queen cells but one? Having to do that, to prevent afterswarms, unfortunately detracts from the simplicity of the walk-away concept. Many thanks for any comments or suggestions, if you have time to reply.

Personally, I would split onto floors, side by side add an excluder on top of the single, and then super like crazy. I've done that often with comb supers and had little if any swarming.  I go back and move supers from hives that prove they don't need them to those that show they do later on.

I think you must have underestimated how much space your hives needed.  Maybe all the sealed brood was in the lowers? 

In my experience, though, bees are able to estimate how much room they have, and if it is not going to be enough for the year they swarm if it is early enough.  Two boxes is not enough.  Later in the season, they seem to know a swarm would not survive, and you can crowd them all you like

Enjoy the summer!

You too!

Excellent, Allen! Thanks for the prompt reply.

Regarding those colonies a couple years ago, that I split, piggy-back style, I split them in the 2nd week of May, after reversing them near the end of April. Yes, the splitting arrangement was about the same as Charles Mraz would do, but I split them before there were any swarm (queen) cells started. There were cups, but no cells with larvae. I wanted to split them before they got to the queen cell stage, and so bypass the swarm urge altogether.

Should have worked fine, I would think.  Maybe they were too close to swarming when split.  Swarming is a very powerful urge, and often bees will go out with queens on mating flights.  Sometime they return, sometimes not.

The queenless halves (usually the lower unit) produced emergency queen cells and apparently cast swarms, and afterswarms, with the first few virgins that emerged. That is, the timing of the swarms did coincide with the emergence of the first newly-reared queens in the queenless units. I recall the weather was hot at the time, too, and I probably should have given the bottom units two deeps for brood. I was hoping that using a single would force the bees to rush all that locust honey into the super(s) above the excluder. Oh well.

Just bad luck, I think, but it could be the strain of bee, too.

I will try it again, I think, next year, on a portion of the colonies, only with more space/more supers added at the outset. They were crowded, as you suspected, as there was an abundance of capped brood in both upper and lower units, meaning a lot of young bees emerging and hanging around while the new queens were developing. I remember them bearding and just hanging out front quite a bit.

That sounds like the answer.  Too hot, too crowded, and emergence timed for a perfect swarm date.  Bad luck.  Why could it not have been cool and rainy?

Thanks for the supering advice. I do try to have them on in advance of the flows, well, three deeps anyway, above the double broods, before mid June as I raise brood up above the excluder repeatedly, to keep the brood nest open. However, I could probably be adding multiple supers even earlier, and that could keep the brood chambers from getting clogged up so early.

I personally have no time for raising brood up, usually, but have not had a problem.  The only time there will be a problem is if there is a honey cap in the brood box and that usually means that the beekeeper got there a bit late. Also, I leave some ladder comb on my top bars and excluders.  Queens like that.

As for the splits, the side by side arrangement is better, I am sure, and it's probably easier to even out the population that way.

Yes, and you can switch hives around to even them out if there are not queens being mated at the moment. (I try to avoid opening hives unnecessarily).

I will try it earlier in spring, either as singles or with an empty deep added below each half at the beginning (as you mention on website). I can't imagine being able to do this anytime before May 1. Before that, the brood-nests/clusters are mainly in the top of the overwintered doubles, and I would be hesitant to try to reverse them in April to get them to occupy both boxes -- weather would still be pretty cold. I have lost brood before, that way. But maybe you will tell me you are able to do it in even colder spring temps up in Alberta!

Nope.  Our timing sounds very much like yours.

It would be easier if a peak pop. for honey gathering was not needed til, say July or August. (When does the rape bloom up there?)

Early July until mid-to-late August

However, if the colonies can come out of winter as strong as possible, I figure, that would result in a sizeable enough population to work the early flows, even if the splitting is done. I am eager to give it another try.

I've had to take supers of honey off in June to move to pollination.

It is always a pleasure to hear from you, Allen, and I am grateful for your kind advice.

Cheers & my best to you and family.

And the best to you and yours.  It's been a while since we've corresponded. Thanks for the picture.

BTW, I notice the hives are painted dark colours, and also there is some shade.  The dark colours will make the hives quite a bit warmer than white, and the shade will have an opposite effect.  FWIW, I used white hives and avoided shade, but that is a whole other topic. (Except that heat may lead to swarming).



Friday, June 26th, 2009
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After a trip to Sudbury to meet with neighbours from many years back, the Vouris, and a return to Muskoka, I resumed work on the bathroom, intending to get the shower installed before leaving, but I ran out of time and had to head to Ottawa for the reunion, leaving the shower a bit short of completion.

Saturday, June 27th, 2009
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The reunion went well.  We all met Saturday at Paul and Pierrette's, then met again for brunch the next day.  I had lunch with Grant at Kelsey's.  He drove in from Renfrew to see me, and we had a good chat.

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