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Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
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Hopkins Case Method

... “Many extensive honey producers who desire to make short work of requeening an entire apiary, and do not care to bother with mating boxes or other extra paraphernalia, make use of the Hopkins Method.

To begin with, a strong colony is made queenless to serve as a cell building colony. Then, a frame of brood is removed from the center of the brood nest of the colony containing the breeding queen from whose progeny it is desired to rear the queens. In its place is given a new comb not previously used for brood rearing. At the end of four days this should be well filled with eggs and just-hatching larvae.

This new comb freshly filled is ideal for cell building purposes. The best side of the comb is used for the queen cells and is prepared by destroying two rows of worker cells and leaving one, beginning at the top of the frame. This is continued clear across the comb. We will now have rows of cells running lengthwise of the comb, but if used without further preparation the queen cells will be built in bunches so that it will be impossible to separate them without injury to many of them. Accordingly, we begin at one end and destroy two cells and leave every third one intact....

If all conditions are favorable, the beekeeper will secure a maximum number of cells. From 75 to 100 fine cells are not unusual...

The entire article is here.

And there is more here, too

I arrived home from YOW (Ottawa) Sunday night, leaving my van with cousin Paul, since I intend to go to Round Lake later this summer, and Ottawa is halfway there.

After settling in, I looked the bees over and saw that several hives were getting crowded and there were a few dead-outs, I gather from failed splits.  Nonetheless, the numbers are up.

I got to work splitting and organizing, and, when finished, have 30 hives where there were 9 this spring after unwrapping.  Jean, Chris and Ellen split them last on May 17th.  That is six weeks ago and more.  I should have been here to split again sooner.   If I had, I'd have another 5 to 10 hives. ( I may, actually after I go through them, if I do, since I can probably pull some brood and bees from the larger ones. I normally don't go through the boxes and scrape, but after years if no scraping and being plugged, the frames do need some attention).
Not having queens, we have been making walk-away spits.  With the price of queens being around $20 or more, and not wishing to produce any honey, this method makes sense.  As it is, most of the hives are plugged with fresh honey.  I'm going to have to go through the hives and pull some out, I am afraid so there will be room to expand.  For now, I pulled a fat comb of dandelion honey and pressed the honey from it using a spoon.  We got a large quart jar full, plus some.

In working the hives I notice that all the supplement is gone from every hive.  I had crammed the hives with feed back in April, some taking three or even four patties.  Ellen had put a lot more on when they split in May.  Nothing is left, and I'm out of patties, but will get some next week and resume feeding.  I can see it pays.  I'd like to get some of the Southern Alberta pollinators trying patties while on canola pollination.  I am sure it would be a huge boost and improve their wintering success very noticeably.

I suppose I could use the Hopkins Case method, but, again that means making a strong hive queenless, at least long enough to get the cells built and capped, at which time they can be distributed to colonies.

I could raise queens for the splits, but that takes time and resources.  It takes a hive or two to do so, and time to do the graft or prepare the eggs, and this way, I get the biggest bang for time invested.  I'll go back and check in a few days, being careful not to damage any cells, and adding eggs to any that do not seem to be raising a queen.  The hives should all be queenright with laying queens three weeks from now.  Some may be ready for another split.  We'll see.  the end of July is the deadline for successful splits.  After that, some years, half the split hives will die over winter.

In the past, I have received considerable flak for advocating emergency queens, with many beekeepers insisting that bees will choose larvae that are too old.  A few wise old beekeepers have taken my side, but most beekeepers are afraid of emergency queens.  After all, emergency queens are what we get in walk-away splits, so if the queens are no good, neither is the method.  In searching around, I notice that Michael Bush has found some justification for my beliefs.  See http://www.bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearing.htm.  Here is a quote:

Emergency queens:

"It has been stated by a number of beekeepers who should know better (including myself) that the bees are in such a hurry to rear a queen that they choose larvae too old for best results. later observation has shown the fallacy of this statement and has convinced me that bees do the very best that can be done under existing circumstances.
"The inferior queens caused by using the emergency method is because the bees cannot tear down the tough cells in the old combs lined with cocoons. The result is that the bees fill the worker cells with bee milk floating the larvae out the opening of the cells, then they build a little queen cell pointing downward. The larvae cannot eat the bee milk back in the bottom of the cells with the result that they are not well fed. However, if the colony is strong in bees, are well fed and have new combs, they can rear the best of queens. And please note-- they will never make such a blunder as choosing larvae too old."--Jay Smith

C.C. Miller's view of emergency queens

"If it were true, as formerly believed, that queenless bees are in such haste to rear a queen that they will select a larva too old for the purpose, then it would hardly do to wait even nine days. A queen is matured in fifteen days from the time the egg is laid, and is fed throughout her larval lifetime on the same food that is given to a worker-larva during the first three days of its larval existence. So a worker-larva more than three days old, or more than six days from the laying of the egg would be too old for a good queen. If, now, the bees should select a larva more than three days old, the queen would emerge in less than nine days. I think no one has ever known this to occur. Bees do not prefer too old larvae. As a matter of fact bees do not use such poor judgment as to select larvae too old when larvae sufficiently young are present, as I have proven by direct experiment and many observations."--Fifty Years Among the Bees, C.C. Miller

Jonathan arrived up from California with the kids for a holiday


Thursday, July 9th, 2009
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It has been a busy week.  The kids and Jon have kept us busy, visiting Jean and Chris, attending the Stampede, and generally holidaying.  I had a visit with the gang at Global on Tuesday and picked up several boxes of patties to feed to my splits.  I figure they need feed all summer for best build-up.  Some, of course, may not actually need the feed, but some will, and all will benefit I am sure.  Supplementation helps balance nutrition and makes sure the hives do not run short on days like today when it is windy and cool with rainy spells, the type of weather that limits foraging.

This afternoon, I went out to put on some patties.  I leave my smoker box on top of one four pack of hives for convenience.  Inside are two smokers, some paper, matches, a squeeze bottle of BeeGo that I haven't used for years, but somehow is still in there, hive tools, and burlap for fuel.  I opened the box to get a smoker and noticed I was suddenly surrounded by bees.  They were brightly coloured, not like honeybees.  Bumblebees, I realised, wondering why they were the first to greet me.  When I pulled out a piece of paper to light the smoker, I learned why: bumblebees had moved into my smoker box!  Of course, I worked around them and let them carry on.  These were the first daughters, small bees about the size of honeybees.  Over the next months, I expect to see larger bees until there will be a crop of queens that are comparatively huge.

I've mentioned that the bees remove all traces of the patties, but that is not strictly true.  I use pillows that can press down on the frames, if there is no wax on top and so, sometimes, when the frames are well scraped (not normal in my outfit) and there is no ladder comb, the bees cannot access the paper and it remains on the top bars.  No big deal.

Some beekeepers are now feeding patties on the floor and reporting good results if the weather is warm and the hives are strong.  In my case I can count on neither, so I feed on the top bars.

In addition to the bumblebees, I encountered a family of skunks, happily mousing under my pallets in the shed.  I had noticed a little bit of skunk scratching around some hives that had been hanging out, but that was my fault for crowding the hives.  After splitting, the bees don't hang out and the skunks have quit eating bees.

I found one split that had dwindled, but also several hives that needed splitting again.  When I left, the hive count was up to 32.  I expect to lose three or four of that number, but we'll see.

Saturday, July 11th, 2009
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We took in the parade in Three Hills and then had a picnic at the Trochu Arboretum

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
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Subject: Re: What makes the successful beekeeper?
From: Allen Dick
Reply-To: Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology
Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 21:36:30 -0600

> Pretty good, I guess. But to me, a real beekeeper is simply someone who > can't NOT have bees. (Believe me, I tried for a few years but it didn't > last)

Interesting thought. Somehow I imagined I might manage to stop having bees, but they just keep multiplying. I was down to three hives a year back and figured I might finally break free, but now I find I have 32 hives again.

Also, it turns out that having bees can be as much work or as little as you like. Before I was a commercial beekeeper, 32 hives would have occupied all my spare time. Now I might spend 30 hours a year on them and only work on them a few times.

Subject: Re: What makes the successful beekeeper?
From: Allen Dick
Reply-To: Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology
Date: Wed, 15 Jul 2009 09:14:08 -0600

>> Now I might spend 30 hours a year on them and only work on them a few times.

> Yes. Some of us pick up the "benign neglect" style of beekeeping. With an 82-year-old back and the Louisiana heat, it beats the alternatives and seems to work at least as well.

What I did mention is that when I was a 'commercial beekeeper', I was actually a crop pollinator and a honey producer who kept bees for that purpose.

Now I am purely a beekeeper and keep the bees for the sake of keeping bees. There is a huge difference.

These days, I try to avoid producing and handling honey and just keep splitting the bees when they threaten to start making too much of that heavy, gooey nuisance. I use a quick and dirty walk-away method. At some point soon, I'm going to have to sell some hives if the trend continues.

I should also mention, I keep them loaded with Global's standard pollen patties all spring and into the summer. Right now, I have three patties on most hives and at least one on all of them. Seems that constant feeding in spring results in better bees all around and reduces the winter loss the following winter to the 15% range, which is about as good as one can expect over time in our cold, long winters. (More info and pix at www.honeybeeworld.com/diary

>Do you know about how many quick splits will succeed on average?

We used to split a thousand or so that way and get at least 85% success.

We split on May 10th and after, which means there was a flow, somewhat settled weather, drone rearing well underway and many already emerged.

Timing is everything, and the colony must be strong in the first place, with brood in all stages in both boxes. Tipping the double forward, there have to be bees on most bottom bars at mid-day. It is best not to let them get so strong that they get swarmy, though.

We usually put a deadout or other empty brood box on the floor and set the split on top. Where the hives were on pallets, we set the split close beside the parent on a single floor. The two were visually similar, so bees usually divided quite evenly between the original and the split. We use auger holes. Not sure that the normal floor would get such an even drift.

When splitting watch for queen cells on the bottom bars. They are a valuable head start, and it is easy to wreck them by just setting the box down on another.

The duds were not a huge loss, since they were full of young bees which had not been used up, so we just used them as seconds on any queenright hives that looked a little weak.

Much of this is described in detail at my website under 'Selected Topics" and scattered through diary entries.

One other thing: Walk-away splits are just that. Don't keep peeking. Moving the frames and boxes can damage the few cells that are built. The cells could be anywhere and denting them consigns the new queen to death. Wait several weeks before looking. 21 days after the split is a good target date for looking for new eggs and young brood.

Don't worry about wasting bees if they do not requeen, since the bees in that divide will be fresh, not having been used up in brood rearing. Also the broodless period will be very hard on varroa and reduce the load drastically.

When found queenless, failed splits make a tremendous booster to drop onto a weaker hive. Usually they will not be robbed out or abandoned, assuming you followed the rules and only did the splits on a building flow period and be full of bees, pollen, and honey.

This method of splitting may not make the most intensive use of the bees and equipment, but is very economical on labour and not too hard on the bees, especially if the owner is not a frame moving and frame-scraping fanatic.

I posted on BEE-L, and mentioned this page, so I figure I should update.  Here are some of the patties several days after application (on the 9th). 

We are in the middle of an intense honey and pollen flow, yet the bees are getting going on the patties.  Since the hives were without patties for at least two weeks, it will take time for them to get accustomed to them again.

Today's pictures are extra high-res for those who want a close peek. Click to enlarge

The bumblebees are coming along well, too.

I haven't been doing anything in the way of monitoring or medicating lately.  I suppose I should check them out for varroa one of these days.  One thing, though, constant splitting is a good varroa control measure in itself.  Constant splitting is also a good control measure to prevent honey production, and that is good, since I don't have an extractor.  I gave my last super of honey to friends to extract, but never saw it or the honey again.

Date: Mon, 13 Jul 2009 09:06:58 -0400
From: obatechtransfer
Subject: Reassessment

Attached is a regulatory proposal from the PMRA regarding the reassessment of Note to CAPCO C94-05 65% liquid formic acid (FA) stating that it is proposing to phase-out the Note to CAPCO C94-05 by December 31, 2010. All uses of 65% liquid formic acid will therefore be required to be registered.

PMRA is suggesting that there is sufficient time between now and December 31, 2010 for submitting applications for registration of 65% liquid FA, but recommend that applicants go through pre-submission consultation prior to submitting their re: Note to CAPCO C94-05 application(s).

The PMRA will accept written comments on PRO2009-01 up to 45 days from the date of publication (June 4, 2009). Please forward all comments to PMRA Publications  prior to July 17.

Pest Management Regulatory Agency Health Canada Facsimile: 613-736-3758 2720 Riverside Drive Information Service: A.L. 6605C 1-800-267-6315 or 613-736-3799 Ottawa, Ontario pmra_infoserv@hc-sc.gc.ca K1A 0K9 pmra_publications@hc-sc.gc.ca

You can comment on an online feedback form by following this link: Pest Management Regulatory Agency Publications Section

Thank you
Ontario Beekeepers' Association
Tech-Transfer Program
(519) 836-3609

Here is something serious that Wayne, and others have brought to my attention -- A regulatory proposal from the PMRA (new window)

Some of us have been aware for a long time that having any approved product for formic acid application could endanger the current status of formic in Canada which allows a number of application methods and some latitude in use.

With an approval of a commercial product, two things happen.

  1. The PMRA has an excuse to say that the other applications are now unnecessary, and

  2. The owner of a registered product has an incentive to squash competition for the much cheaper generic product -- plus the funds to do so from sales --  by lobbying the PMRA until they cave and make other methods of application illegal.

The simple fact is that the commercial product does have its place, but should not be permitted to drive out other applications.  The one commercial method is very limited as to timing, hive configuration and other factors, and in no way replaces all the other uses.

We have seen this in the US, where the use of formic is a touchy question, and risky for the user, since a number of regulatory agencies may descend on the user and administer draconian punishments, simply for using one of the safest and most efficient methods of control.

One size simply does not fit all.  Mite-Away is not suitable for all purposes and situations.  There are many vital applications for raw formic, such as in nucs, flash treatments, etc.  Beekeepers are wise enough be able to use this product safely.  Not to minimize the real concerns in safe handling, formic is no more dangerous than gasoline, and in many ways safer.  There is no danger to the consumer from residue.  The only risk is to the handler and that IMO is an occupation health and safety issue, not a pest management issue.

Attention Canadians!

You can comment on an online feedback form by following this link:
Pest Management Regulatory Agency Publications Section

Do it!

Remember, if each and every one of us doesn't squeal and squeal loud, we will only have one expensive, limited method legal in Canada for applying formic for tracheal and/or varroa mites -- and you'll only have yourself to blame!

Here is my comment.  Feel free to borrow, but please do write to PMRA. Now.

As a long-term commercial beekeeper who is informed and active in industry issues, I am very concerned about any action which might influence the ability of beekeepers to apply formic acid in beehives as they see the need, subject to published recommendations by extension apiarists, and with consideration for weather, hive populations and worker safety.

Although I am very concerned about food safety issues and operator risks, I believe that formic acid in the liquid state is a safe product in the hands of educated users and that restrictive or prohibitive legislation or regulation would be counterproductive and quite damaging to our industry.

I realise that there is now a commercial product on the market that incorporates formic acid and that fact may be used to suggest that it is now reasonable to eliminate the need for our current permissions for 65% formic use, but what must be remembered is that there are many circumstances where that specific product is neither practical or effective, but other methods of formic acid application are very useful.

To cite just one example, many beekeepers manage nucleus hives which are much smaller in volume and number of bees than the product design anticipates, and additionally, there are numerous other situations where that specific product is not practical. Moreover, there are times when a partial treatment is better than none at all, and the commercial product is designed for one inflexible application.

Unlike some chemicals which may create pest resistance if over or under-dosed or used for an incorrect period of time, dosage and period of treatment with formic are not critical and there is no likelihood of resistance being a problem.  Likewise, formic acid is not a cumulative or dangerous poison in any dose that is likely to get into hive products.

It is my understanding that the formic application product now registered was originally designed by a Canadian scientist who has expressed strong reservations about the efficacy of his own creation and subsequent modifications of that design in many everyday circumstances, but has been unable to comment recently due to legal action against him.

I personally believe that the commercial product is a useful product and has definite applications, but is not suitable in all situations and cannot replace the use of liquid formic acid in all, or even the majority of instances.  The need for additional wooden beekeeping equipment to employ the commercial product is also a major drawback compared to other methods of application.  Moreover, the cost of the prepared product is very much higher, discouraging its use in many situations where liquid formic would be used.

To limit, prohibit or otherwise restrict the use of formic acid by beekeepers would be a mistake and encourage -- possibly covert -- use of far more toxic but less obvious chemicals as a result of desperation.

Formic, used properly by educated users is a totally safe product from the honey consumer perspective, and as safe a product from the applicator perspective as any chemical that is used.

As a result, I along with the many commercial beekeepers in Canada entreat your agency to continue the current permissions for use, for the sake of our industry and the health of our bees.

Nothing good will come of restricting formic acid use by beekeepers.

Thank you.

Allen Dick

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

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> To Mr. Allen Dick. beekeeper colleague :

From central Chile I write. We are here at the end of winter - almonds pollination stats around august 10 - . I studied your patties ingredients. Since I have still lots of pollen flower as any amounts of honey, I was trying a formula without sugar or syrup : 24 % soya; 14 % yeast ; 14 % pollen and 48 % honey. It comes up to 23 % protein .So, my formula has some 6 % more proteins than yours. How much does the bee tolerate ? Will this higher % make it less attractive to the bee ? Have you done any tryals with these components ? With the hope you find some time for an answer or directions to references

Measurement of protein levels can be a bit tricky, since some people talk about the level compared to dry ingredients and others on the finished patty. Some think 20% is ideal, but I don't think it matters as long as the levels are high enough that the bees don't have to eat vast amounts to get sufficient nourishment, especially if there is pollen coming into the hive as well.

Personally, I don't think that the percent protein is critical or that there is danger of too much protein as long as the bees have choice and can eat other things at the same time. That will dilute the protein, lipids, etc. to the levels required by the bees.

I think anything from 10% to 25% based on wet weight is just fine, since it is important to add enough sugar the get good consumption and prevent spoilage, plus the right amount of water for good texture.


From: Peter Borst

As one might suppose, the quality of emergency queens is not simply a matter of the bees raising queens from a bunch of different eggs and letting the first (and worst) come out and rule. While they do use eggs and larvae of different ages, they then proceed to destroy a lot of them, suggesting that they are "evaluating' them in some fashion. According to work by Dave Tarpy, et al., bees seem to prefer queens raised from older eggs versus either those from younger eggs or older larvae.(quoted material):

Selection of high-quality queens by the workers during queen development has been demonstrated by Hatch et al. (1999), who found that during emergency queen rearing workers preferentially destroyed queen cells built from older worker larvae. Workers destroyed 53% of the queen cells that they initiated.

Despite selective behavior by the workers during queen rearing, considerable variation in quality exists among newly emerged adult queens. This variation in quality among queens gives workers the opportunity to benefit by selecting high quality queens that are fully developed, when the decision will be most accurate.

Honeybee workers interact with queens extensively following queen emergence and may affect the outcomes of queen duels in favor of high-quality queens.

The influence of queen age and quality during queen replacement in honeybee colonies DAVID R. TARPY, SHANTI HATCH & DAVID J. C. FLETCHER
Worker regulation of emergency queen rearing in honey bee colonies
S. Hatch, D.R.Tarpy, and D.J.C. Fletcher


Subject: Re: Walk Away Splits
From: allen dick
Reply-To: Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology <BEE-L@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM>
Date: Thu, 16 Jul 2009 22:19:31 -0600

> After years of observing hives that didn't take our grafted queen cells, I > have the opinion that the emergency queens were 50 % good size, but many > queens were small runts, some so small as to be hard to differentiate from > workers.

I'm glad to hear comments from those who have had different experience from mine. No two operations, locales or management systems are the same, so differences are to be expected. Your situation is obviously very different from mine, and I expect that I would make decisions similar to yours, if in your shoes.

Also, you may be a much better beekeeper than average. I suspect you are. The average beekeeper is not able to consistently obtain the quality you that you may consider normal, and therefore have a lower standard of comparison.

So, in the following, I am not arguing with you, but speaking more generally on the topic and making some random points.

Understanding that situations vary, as I said, the emergency queens of which I speak are those which are raised under specific ideal conditions. For fairness, should be compared to to grafted queens raised under typical conditions, In both cases there are bound to be some culls.

Nobody who has dealt with poor queens raised by grafting methods blames solely the method in the way, for some reason, people tend to blame the emergency impulse for the duds they have seen every time the topic comes up.

Seems to me that we hear a lot of grumbling about the quality of commercial queens and then idealize those same queens when comparing to nature's product.

Just as grafted queens are not all the same, lumping all emergency queens into one class is unfair. I guess we should think about the fact, too, that grafted queens are raised under the emergency impulse, so the only question is who gets to choose the mother and the larva and who is best at handling the larvae, pupae and newly hatched virgin. Each of us has a different opinion as to who knows best, the bees or some newly hired grafter and summer help at a queen factory.

> I would never advocate splits made with emergency cells *if* high quality > grafted cells were available, any more than I would buy cheap poor quality > queens from a breeder to save a few bucks.

There are a lot of factors to consider here. Having bought thousands of cells and evaluated the result, I am less inclined to make a strong distinction. There is also the whole economic question. What is in short supply, time, expertise, weather, equipment, bees? What is the price of honey? Queens? Cells? What is the development and production window?

> All things considered, a good queen has the most impact on the general > quality of the hive.

This is generally agreed. The question then becomes, what defines 'good' and how much better 'best' than 'good', and can that difference be made to pay or is the extra cost and effort just an investment in managerial ego?

> One other consideration that has not been mentioned on this subject most > recently is this: the time factor. When we split in Florida, every day is > crucial to get queens laying ASAP to build up good populations to make > honey. By using cells, one can get a jump on it, especially when queens > are not available because of high demand and pricey.

Very good points that illustrate why an approach that fits me and my goals does not fit yours.

Another consideration is that a beekeeper is not necessarily stuck with either/or. Smart beekeepers when out in a yard a long way from home, no queens along and with no likelihood of an early return to this yard and faced with a need to split, or to deal with a strong but queenless or suspected queenless hive will drop in a frame of eggs and/or young brood -- and walk away. Moreover, queenless hives may not accept a queen, but will generally accept eggs and brood.

All in all, I am sure that walk-away splits will never become the main method, but it is astounding how popular it has become in recent years, especially with those who are not under pressure to extract every penny from their bees.

> It has been shown (or at least strongly implied) in the reading I have done > that starting with younger larvae results in generally more ovarioles-down > to about 18 hours or so anyway, and you tend to diminish the quality of > queens as you move much over 24 hours. "Contemporary Queen Raising" By > Laidlaw Page 18

My understanding is that these studies are in relation raising single queens by grafting, not batches of emergency queens. Maybe there is no no difference, but maybe...

Besides, I personally don't consider the claimed difference to be that significant. For those who are in conditions where their queens are always the limiting factor, maybe this is important, but in my experience, in my operation, the limitations are usually the number of supporting bees, the feed available, the weather, etc. not the queen -- unless she is really bad.

> Randy commented that he had seen some small emergency queens. My > observations are in line with this-that the % of emergency queens that are > small is higher than those rasied "normally".

I have seen some, too, but usually those runty emergency queens we recall seeing are ones raised at inopportune times by weakened hives under stress.

The topic here is walk-away splits made under ideal conditions in terms of population, young bees, season, etc. and I think that tends to preclude the problem.

One thing that should be mentioned is that the walk-away split -- as with anything to do with bees -- may work marvellously for some and not at all for others.

One should not suppose that because it is written up here that everyone is going to see the same success.

The locale, the strain of bee, the condition of the hives, and many other factors may enter into the mix.

The judgement and experience of the beekeeper is a huge factor, too. Some people can do just about anything with bees and get away with it, while others don't ever seem to have any luck.

In addition to experience and empathy for bees, I suspect it comes down in many cases to the ability -- or lack thereof -- to understand and follow instructions, plus the ability -- or lack thereof -- to observe and make intelligent extrapolations.

> When I've done it I've gone back on the fourth day and broken down sealed cells to prevent this. There are usually some.

Since the diet for larvae is the same for the first three days whether the end result is to be a queen or worker, and we are using hives that are thriving, with lots of young bees, and that are on a honey and pollen flow, why would a two or even three-day-old larva not make as good a queen as a younger one?

Also, what makes you think that the unsealed cells were not started with larvae of the same age as the ones being broken down, only later?

> The point Kirk made about timing factors in most of the time. A mated > queen speeds up the process

It can, assuming 1.) the beekeeper is skilled in introductions and assuming 2.) the new queen gets laying right away, and assuming 3.) the new queen is good in the first place, handled OK in shipping, and not superceded as soon as the beekeeper turns his back. We assume a lot.

In many case, in the right hands, these are safe assumptions, however, I have seen the pitfalls too often, and queens cost $20 here in Canada, plus they have a long trip to get here oftentimes...

> plus when bees return to the Midwest from almonds we can not raise our > own queens or even use cells as we do not have mature > drones.

Then the walk-away technique is out of the question. Why even consider it? The fact that people even consider at at times when they should not adds to it's undeservedly bad rep.

> Walkaways are a bit of a gamble as are cells at times but most > professional beekeepers have experimented with walkaways. Another tool for > the beekeeper tool chest.

Yes, and use them fairly often, but don't give the technique much respect. If the truth be known, the bees raise most of the queens in commercial hives behind the beekeeper's back. <Allen is ducking and running :)>

> I will say that only using walkaway splits will *in my opinion* set bad > traits in your bees. Some of the most aggressive bees I have worked years > ago came from beekeepers using walkaway splits year after year.

That can happen, since walk-away tends to be a selection technique, and not one that takes the sensibilities of the beekeeper or his neighbours into account <G>. Depending on the original stock and other factors in management, the results can be unpredictable, except that you will get bees that build up to splitting size, requeen themselves well, and survive to the next split. Obviously some selection would be a good idea from time to time, such as encouraging drone rearing in attractive and productive colonies, and eliminating unbearable colonies, and bringing in some new stock. We all do that. Beekeepers can never be stopped from bringing in a new queen from somewhere distant. It is a given.

Additionally, many of us who do use walk-away techniques will insert cells we raise or beg, or queens when we have them, but do not worry when we do not.

> When you raise your own queens from a chosen breeder or buy queens/cells > from a chosen breeder queen you will *in my opinion* end up with better > yards of bees in all aspects.

Yeah, but you are stacking the deck here. Most beekeepers are victim to what they can get a lot of the time, and only kid themselves that they are getting something decent the rest of the time, after the queens have been raised en-masse by hired help, banked, shipped in hot conditions, and held pending intro.

As pros, influential writers, and volume purchasers, we have some purchasing power, leverage with the shipper, and some idea of who is hot and who is not, but most beekeepers take what they can get and say, "Thank You!".

Saturday, July 18th, 2009
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Metamorphosis of the queen bee
Egg hatches on Day 3
Larva (several moltings) Day 3 to Day 8˝
Queen cell capped ~ Day 7˝
Pupa ~ Day 8 until emergence
Emergence ~Day 15˝ - Day 17
Nuptial Flight(s) ~Day 20 - 24
Egg Laying ~Day 23 and up

I split last, it seems on July 2nd, with a secondary split on the 9th.  That means the earliest I can split again is on the 23rd (2+21), and that day is coming up fast. 

Looking at the table from Wikipedia, we see that, assuming that the larvae chosen for queens are aged 3 to 5 days, then the earliest we should expect nuptial flights to be complete is 24 - 3 = 21 days after the split date, or July 23.  Of course, we do not want to mix up and confuse the yard during mating or the queens could get lost.  The splits from the ninth should not be mating on the 23rd, but one never knows.  Sometimes the hives being split were already raising a queen or queens when we split them.  I don't look.

Pollen Patty Consumption During a Major Flow

Looking at the pictures below, I put these patties onto the hives on July 9th and this is the 18th.  That was just over a week ago, and during a strong nectar and pollen flow.  There are hundreds of acres of clover, alfalfa and canola in full bloom all around these hives. (see the entrance activity in a typical hive, below). 

Some people think that bees won't eat patties when there is honey and pollen coming in.  Hogwash.  These are Global standard patties with 15% pollen, but they would be eating patties even without pollen, but possibly not as quickly.  Consider that what I gave these hives and the amount that some ate in a week is as much or more than many beekeepers put on their hives in a whole year!

Keeping in mind that some of these hives are queenless, and some quite small, take a look at the consumption.  Note that one hive ate most of two patties already!  Another is just nibbling around the edges.  I took these pictures at random and did not open more than the first few hives I came to.  I was not wearing a veil or using smoke.  One of the pictures shows why I should have used a smoker last time I peeked.  Note the bees trapped and dead on top of the patties.  I normally smoke them down a little before closing.

The point here is that bees will eat good patties at any time of year. When it rains, when it is dark, when it is windy, patties benefit the bees and keep them building. Less tangible is the improved health and robustness of the bees and the improved wintering that comes after a season of patty feeding. For that you'll have to take my word, or try it yourself.

Click any picture for a better view
Hundreds of acres in bloom
In case you arrived here by a direct route, this topic is part of this diary page, where the history of this apiary is described more fully.

I guess what I am wondering right now is this:  I have a friend who recommended splitting two-storey producing hives (with excluders over the seconds) at the end of July by removing one of the two brood boxes and placing it behind the hive somewhere and adding a cell to each half.

I don't know what to make of the bumblebee nest in my smoker box.  There are lots of cells, but I only saw one bee.  Maybe they are all out foraging, or maybe it got too hot in the black smoker box.  Another possibility is that they were overtaken by parasites.  Bumblebees are heavily parasitized in nature.

The idea was that if the bees are smoked up a bit trough the main entrance before splitting, the queen will  be in the upper brood box and remain with the remaining single brood box and the the hive.  Any working bees that are removed in the lower box will drift right back to the main stand and continue work in the supers. 

That is the theory.  Therefore, the crop should not be affected much and the split, having quite a bit of brood in all stages and two months and more to get queenright and built up for winter should do quite well.  The split would be somewhat depleted of bees by the smoking and drifting, but should be fine in hot weather and robbing should be no problem during a flow. A queen cell should ideally be placed in each of the two brood boxes at the time of splitting to ensure a quick requeening, but that is not really necessary. 

The process can be very easy, if the hive is tipped back on a ladder-like device and the bottom box pried off or if the hives are being stripped of honey at the time.  A hive loader also makes the job simple.

The first year I tried that idea, it worked marvellously and I got a crop and lots of great splits that wintered well, once a second box was placed under it in September, so the next year I repeated the process.  That year, I lost half the hives over the subsequent winter.  At the time, I blamed it on splitting too late, but on thinking it over, I am now wondering if the reason for the loss was that the hives I split the first time were on fixed locations and the ones I spilt the second time were on pollination and thus stressed.  Moreover, I had to move these hives about the time the new queens were getting laying and that might have been a problem.

Hives on pollination are stressed and undernourished anyhow, so I am wondering if I can get away with one more split since I am feeding protein and the hives are not being moved.  I think I'll take my chances.  With luck, I could wind up with 50 or sixty hives next spring from the nine I had this year.  We'll see.

Well, I have been splitting like mad, hoping to prevent the hives getting plugged with honey, but I just went out to take some pictures, and I'm afraid I'll have to super some of them.

I'm trying to get some of my pollinator friends to try feeding patties all summer.  I'm betting that they will see a huge boost in wintering success.  So far, no luck.

Too much work?  Apparently it should not be, though.  In California, many beekeepers are feeding strong colonies by placing Global Patties on the bottom board with great success!  Of course this only works in warm weather with strong colonies.

Sunday, July 19th, 2009
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In the evening, we took a hike in the Kneehill Creek valley near home.

Monday, July 20th, 2009
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> On good hives, I would always try to be at least one super ahead of them,
> in case you get a sudden flow or can't get back in time. That means one
> deep or two mediums.

Peter and the others sum it up well. Lots of room early, and less after
swarming season.

One reason for lots of room is that nectar takes space and the bees ideally
spread it out a bit to dry it down. In a heavy flow, 20lbs or more of
nectar may come in per day. That large volume will be distilled down to a
comb or less of honey overnight, and unless you look at just the right
moments, you will never know the bees used the space.

Many beekeepers don't super enough, and then congratulate themselves on the
work they saved by not carting out the supers when they see that the bees
didn't do much or seem to need the space.

If they had supered generously and early, they might have been amazed to
have gotten several additional supers of honey and larger populations.
Maybe they even lost a swarm and never knew.

I have put on thirds early and returned to see the bees still in the
seconds. Careful examination, though, showed the bees had, indeed, been up
and working on the comb, including a good start on drawing a sheet of
foundation. They will go up and then back down a time or two if the weather
is changeable before they expand enough to stay up. Maybe I'm
anthropomorphizing, but I believe they know how much space they have and
develop to use what they have. Maybe it is not thought, but just the fact
that there is less pressure on the brood area when a quick flow hits
allowing the queen to really lay up some brood instead of being cut back

Just as a swarm will usually ignore a recently placed bait hive, no matter
how attractive, in favour of a cavity that has been on site for weeks, it
seems that bees remember the geometry of their hive. An example that never
ceases to amaze me is how bees are slow to occupy a new third box -- even a
sticky one -- if they have never had a third and been confined to two, but
will rush up into a replacement third when an existing one is taken and
replaced, no matter how ratty and unattractive the replacement might be.


Yesterday, I was celebrating the expanse of flowers in every direction.  Today, two swathers showed up and cut the hay east of us and on our railway strip.  Hay cutting is necessary, and results in regrowth later, but in the short term, it sends the bees farther afield to the canola and ditches.

Nature -- the foxes, skunks, birds, and the weather -- and the farming activity viewed from our windows are far more interesting evening entertainment than anything I've seen lately on TV.

I got a call tonight.  A friend who is a very well respected beekeeper and pollinator is considering trying patty feeding during the summer to see if it results in better wintering.  Hooray!  I think that this is going to be a huge discovery and reduce our dependence on imports.

I have to get out and deal with the ants.  I see they are getting the better of some splits.  I guess I have to decide about varroa, too.  Should I just give everything a shot of oxalic syrup and be done with it, or should I survey.  How much time do I want to spend?  Can I get a sticky board into the entrances?  Do I want to kill 300 bees in every hive?  Option number one is tempting.

Summer Bee Meetings; I plan to go away again soon.  East, west, I can't decide.  There are two in the East: The Eastern Apicultural Society in Upper New York State and also a Northeast Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference in Massachusetts.  I considered the latter, quite seriously, but looked at the programme and it looks a bit lame -- and meagre. There are some speakers I know and would like to see, but others of the participants I find overly speculative, argumentative and excessively imaginative.

I have been making some mead lately.  I've gotten it down to the basics.  12 lbs honey, enough water to make up 5 gallons, 50ml of dibasic ammonium phosphate, and one pack of EC-1118.  After several days in the primary -- a five-gallon pail -- I siphon it into a carboy and wait until it stops bubbling.  The I add a pack of kieselsol and an hour later, the Chitosan.  After a day or three, it is ready to drink, but, of course the best plan is to bottle it and wait a while.

The EAS theme is "Towards Nonchemical Beekeeping" and the other group, by its name, claims to have already arrived at the goal.  I know the latter group is sincere and some of them are truly "Nonchemical", but I am concerned that the successes are somewhat unique and idiosyncratic and not commercially viable on any wide scale.  The EAS group includes a very respectable selection of scientists and beekeepers and includes quite a few personal friends, some with whom I debate frequently and with whom I am not uncomfortable disagreeing.  The Northeast group includes some friends, but also some who are quite dogmatic and people I would tend to avoid. Both groups, I am sure will provide a worthwhile experience.  I could go to both, I suppose, but imagine I will wind up at neither.

I suppose I should not forget mentioning the Western Apicultural Society and the Heartland Apicultural Society, too. The annual WAS Conference will commence the evening of Monday, August 17, 2009, continuing through Thursday, August 20. The meeting will be held at the Dry Creek Best Western Inn, 198 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, California,

I see that Heartland was back in early July.  Their website is very minimal.  I have to congratulate EAS on their site.  It is very good this year, even if getting it ready was a bit late for my plans.  (I always give them grief about their site).

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
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We moved some bees last night.  32 on one location was getting to be a bit much.  Although I moved 12 of them only 0.65 of a mile, I figure there should not be much drifting.  If queens are being mated, this may not be optimal, but we will see.

I have been trying to keep the hives comparatively weak, so that I get the maximum in splits and also so I don't produce honey.  Looking at the pictures from last night, some are getting pretty strong.

I'm going to have to do some beekeeping. Tomorrow is the next split day on my calendar.



Friday, July 24th, 2009
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I got to work just after supper.  I started by putting a third on all the hives that
were hanging out.
The camera is a Fuji.  It is waterproof and dustproof.  It takes good pictures, but
not as good as some cameras I've had.
I see the bumblebee nest has died off.  Maybe too hot in the smoker box?

That's the trusty forklift holding thirds to put on and some hives are hanging out.

Patties are pretty well gone, now.  Replacements are added on top.

The bees clean up all evidence of the patties, paper and all.

A fragment of paper being thrown out of the hive.  A floor under a split that failed.  Looks like
ants contributed to its demise, but I doubt they were the main cause.  Sometimes queens
fail to emerge or mate and the hive dwindles to nothing as the bees go next door or die off.

I had to pull out quite a bit of honey and replace it with foundation.  As  nine o'clock
approached, the bees began telling me, "It's time to leave".  I worked the
whole time in shorts and sandals only.  No veil.

Saturday, July 25th, 2009
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Five more months until Christmas.

I set up the pool today.  Should have done it sooner, but it got so hot, I figured I had to.  It's not really a very good pool.  I used it one year only and a few days after I set it up, Ziggy the cat jumped in.  He apparently thought he was jumping on top of something solid.  He never was very smart. 

Realising his situation, he immediately headed back for the edge and clawed his way out.  His claws pierced the air-filled support edge resulting in collapse.  I patched it, but the rim has never held air well since then.  The pool also now turned out to have a couple of pinholes on the side.  I patched them, too.  I'm contemplating getting a better pool, but I am seldom home much in summer and Ellen is not much of a water person.

I looked at the bees again and they are not hanging out anymore since I added thirds.  I went over to Elliotts' where I had moved some and was worried they might be hanging out and they weren't either.  I'm now thinking that the large populations in some of the home hives might have been from some bees drifting back.

I intend to work through them quickly and split any that need it, then super everything before I go to EAS. just to give them room.

Sunday, July 26th, 2009
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Well, finally, we got 0.2 inches of rain.  It wasn't much, but anything helps in a dry year.  I notice the neighbour baled the hay on our place and got -- Tada! one big round bale!

I had taken off several frames the other day and left them overnight leaning up against the tailgate in  the truck.  Come morning, they were forgotten and the sun melted them, that is all except the one with plastic foundation.  I cut the combs up and melted them in the oven, getting 9 pounds of honey and a lot of slum.  They were old brood frames.  I dissolved the honey to make mead.  It looks pretty brown from cocoons, etc.  We'll see what comes out.

After the rain, I notice a little robbing on the truck  in the mornings.

The truck battery has been going flat if the truck sits for several days, and I figured there must be an electrical leak.  The problem began after Jon and the kids were playing around in the truck, so I figured the kids played with everything and something must have been left on, but nothing seemed to be.

Today I traced it down.  After eliminating the various lights and accessories, I suspected the alternator diodes -- there was a 1/10 Amp drain -- but the alternator tested OK.  The culprit (I could hear it click once in a while) turned out to be a relay on the fuse panel.  I pulled it off and the leak stopped.  I have no idea what that relay does.  Everything on the truck still works.

*           *           *           *           *           *

I called my favourite NAPA parts man.  Without hesitation, he said, "horn relay". 

Aha! The kids must have pounded on the horn button somewhere down the field, and I suspect it stuck.  Then, I'm guessing that their Dad must have pulled the wire off the horn to stop it, but not thought to mention it.  Since then, the relay has been clicking on and off, slowly draining the battery.  Of course, I never though to check the horn.  One would expect to hear it, if it were stuck on.

Monday, July 27th, 2009
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Two days, and I'm off to Ottawa and Round Lake, then EAS.  I have lots to do.

The story yesterday about the horn relay was a great example of how deductive reasoning is not infallible.  I went out and honked the horn and it worked splendidly!  I still do not know what the relay is for.  I do know, even better than before, though, how wrong a good guess like that can be.  Those who blame extender patties for resistant foulbrood use similar logic and it seems inescapable -- until the facts are examined.  Looks now as if we got the wrong suspect.  The extender patty story was good and the conclusion credible -- but wrong, it seems in light of a subsequent examination of facts.

I guess I should add the obvious -- all those folks who use obscure articles from the past and selected facts from misunderstood articles from the present to 'prove' their pet theories.  These folks lead others astray and cost them and their bees all manner of grief.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
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As I sometimes mention, I help my friends at Global out with various odd jobs.  Something that has come up lately is the need for more advertising.  Thus far, Global's business has been built mostly on word-of-mouth.  Satisfied customers tell others and so on.  At any rate, they needed an ad and I decided to see what I can do.  Here is my effort.  Watch for it in the September Bee Culture and ABJ.

In the evening, I supered the hives .  I had planned to split more, but when I started, I realised that the was not yet enough brood and that I would just make a mess.  I set on some of the extra brood chambxers from storage. 

The dead-outs were quite heavy and a bit of a mess, so I interspaced foundation with brood combs.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
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Dear Allen, thanks very much for your diary entry on the PMRA plan to ban free FA use. Your situation reminds me very much of ours here in Germany. One company producing an evaporation device (Nassenheider) once many years back got the vet. med. licence for FA "in an appropriate evaporator". Getting these licences is pretty expensive (efforts are similar to clinical trials on human pharmaceuticals). Thus neither research/consultancy institutions nor beekeeper federation issued broader licence application. Now we are stuck with a situation where some people belief pretty much everything is an "appropriate evaporator" and others start lawsuits and criminal cases against them. Last year some persons in few provincial administration started legislation for the temporal use of FA 85%. Obviously only in their provinces and application is only allowed with horrendous administrational effort for an unknown period of time + you have to buy a FA version available through pharmacies only. Summa summarum: Try everything to avoid the restrictions. It just makes life so much more complicated and will never help to reduce Varroa levels (*). Kind regards Michael (*) Most of us are fine with 3 times (spaced approx. 5 days) 2.5 ml AS 60% per Langstroth brood comb and an additional OS application in winter.

I'm in Ottawa.

Got up at 3, did a few things, packed and drove to the airport.   I arrived at YOW at 2:45  -- 1-1/2 hour late due to a thunderstorm. 

My cousin, Paul, picked me up and we had a great visit.  I really should spend more time in Ottawa, there is so much to see and the country is beautiful, but tomorrow, I am off to Round Lake to see Aaron.

Thursday, July 30th, 2009
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Around ten in the morning, I made off for Round Lake, NY.  The drive should take about five hours.  I got there around 7:30 PM. 

Maybe the late night and too much good wine affected me, but today turned out to be "one of those days". 

I use my computer for a road navigation, with M$ Streets and Trips and a USB GPS.  My laptop is a three-year-old Acer.  Not a bad machine, really.  Dual core and 3 GB, but it heats up and it is a bit clunky sitting on the passenger seat.  M$ does not make Streets and trips easy to use on the road either.  The buttons on the screen are tiny, but it works well, when it works

Anyhow, I had been noticing occasional issues with the laptop's power supply and/or its connection to the machine and some random BSODs.  Sometimes the power supply connection fails and the battery runs down.  Sometimes the machine gives a message "Not an Acer Power Supply".  Who knows what that means?  Regardless, the end result is that the machine dies, and Vista does not like that.  My Vista is old and tortured anyhow from many installations and removals, and from the passage of time.  The machine has been hauled around a lot, too and upgraded.  I get occasional BSODs and occasional instant shutdowns.  Time for a reinstall of the O/S -- or replacement. 

The upshot is that today it quit working, leaving me on a strange road without directions.  Today was the day it chose to be really awful.  It died.  Maybe the heat was part of the problem.  The machine gets hot sitting in the sun on a hot day.

Without map or directions, I drove straight south from Ottawa and planned to cross the border and take the scenic route through the Adirondacks.  Without guidance, my first attempt to find the bridge was a waste of time.  I asked directions and a nice man sent me 20 km in the wrong direction.  Finally, I crossed into the USA and, mercifully, found a Wal-Mart, where I promptly bought a Tomtom GPS.  I was assured that it had maps of Canada as well as the US.

I returned to the van, plugged it in, turned it on and found it came up in Spanish.  I thought I knew some Spanish, but soon learned that I did not know enough to figure out how to make it speak Inglis.   Finally, giving up, I drove off, trusting in Fate, but not until I had returned to the store and bought and old fashioned road atlas.  Two non-functional GPSs and a road atlas, and I was off. 

I was somewhat able to use the Tomtom, but it wanted to take me via the Interstates -- the long (very long) way around, that being the 'fastest' route, and in Spanish.  I carried on by the direct route, enjoying the scenery less than I had expected due to concerns about where I was and where I might be headed.  Along the way, I finally found the setting to make ot speak my mother tongue.

I arrived to find Aaron mowing his lawn.

Friday, July 31st, 2009
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As dry as things were in Western Canada, Upper New York State was wet.  Flooding was on the daily news.  Aaron and I had planned to work some bees and go tubing on the Sacandaga River, so we were hoping for some sun.

The day was rainy and Aaron was busy preparing to fill some honey bears and getting ready to extract.  Rainy days are great for washing extracting equipment, since the dampness loosens the honey and wax.


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