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Lawana Blackwel

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Sunday November 1st, 2009
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I checked the hives today and notice a few more dead bees on the entrance boards.  The manipulations yesterday did a little damage.   A few bees always get crushed and blowing, while being a fairly gentle procedure, is not entirely without harm.  They are also flying around quite a bit, even though the temperature is around five degrees.

The total weight has dropped another two pounds too.  That is a half pound per hive in one day. I'm hypothesizing, but I assume that the disturbance has aroused the bees to the point where they have become much more active, burning more honey than when they are settled down and clustered tightly as they were before I disturbed them.

I reworked the above chart a bit after consulting the pictures I took of the sliders and looking at times and dates.  Seems the cooler weather showed less loss and that the warmer weather, accompanied by my disturbance increased consumption quite a bit

I drove to Edmonton this afternoon, and took a few pictures along the way.

The blue utility tarps at left are quite a pretty sight compared to the usual dull black most of us use.  There appears to be no insulation or consistent top entrance.  I do see some holes that might be entrances in some of the four-packs, though. 

I saw little signs entrance activity here, except on one hive.  This could be due to the cool wraps, a lack of anything outside to fly for, or just the type or condition of the bees themselves.  I don't know who this beekeeper is.

The hives on the right belong to a beekeeper I do know.  These wraps are insulated and black to absorb the heat of the sun.  The summer lids are tied alongside.

The ambient temperature was 5 degrees C according to my car dashboard at both yards, and here the bees were flying a bit.  Some were checking to see if there was any feed left in the drum.

I dropped by Jean and Chris' and then headed to The West Edmonton Mall.  I checked in and met some other early arrivals in the bar.

Monday November 2nd, 2009
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I've been at the Alberta Beekeepers Convention.  It keeps me busy, but I promise I will catch up here.  I have some good stuff.


Hi Allen.

I saw this pic on your web site:

I like this picture and am thinking to do something similar for my bees for wind protection.

Are these your bees? If "yes" Do these bees have any insulation under blue tarp?

I do not see any exit holes on these tarps. Do they exist? Can you elaborate?

Actually, the blue tarps are a simply an interesting picture.

I have no idea of what the survival rate will be. The next picture is of a proven method. The blue tarps are probably better than nothing.

I intended to write more, but am at a convention.


Medhat has been working hard and has some interesting results.  (Click on the slides for a larger view)

  1. The slide at right shows the improvements in hive health in Alberta over the past several years.  This is due in large part to

    1. a better understanding of the issues and

    2. the development and approval of appropriate treatment responses,

    3. the acceptance by beekeepers,

    4. and follow-up by Medhat's crew to monitor and verify success.

  2. These slides (right) examine the relationship between what the fieldmen and beekeepers counted in samples taken fresh with an estimated 300 bees and shaken for one minute on the spot, and what the lab found later after shaking the same samples mechanically and counting the bees as well as the mites.

    The variation from actual seems to indicate that whatever is seen in the field may occasionally be out by as much as +/-50% or even 100%, but is usually very close to actual.  The on-the-spot field results are close enough for determining need for treatment or assessing success, especially if a number of samples are taken.

    In the first chart, if we follow the line drawn through the middle of the plots, we can see that a reading of 5% in the field could actually be anywhere from 3% to 12%, or even (unlikely) 20% (an error, I am sure), and a reading of 15% could be anywhere from 12% to 28%, but most likely means about 20%.

Who cares?  At these levels, that there is an urgent problem should be obvious.

I am assuming the variability may be due to variations in

  1. the number of bees being sampled,

  2. how well the mites are attached to the bees (temperature?),

  3. vigour and duration of shaking,

  4. operator error (mixing up samples, etc.)

In the second chart, we get a closer look at the accuracy when the results are in the actual "decision" range -- low enough that we have to decide whether immediate treating is required or not. We can see that when an individual field result is 2%, that the actual can be anywhere from 1% to 5%.  However, we can assume that if reasonable care is taken and a number of samples are being done in the yard, that the errors should average out to give a good idea of the actual levels. 

This may not always be a safe assumption, though, if a specific operator error -- too small a bee sample, poor shaking technique, filtering the mites through the bees and leaving them up top when draining down -- is consistent.  That is where having a trained field person there to verify and calibrate the beekeeper's technique can be invaluable.

We can console ourselves, though that zero never seems to indicate a true reading of more than 2% and 2% is in the safe range.

  1. The slides at right, as I understand it, show that there is indeed a correlation between the spore counts in samples of 30 bees and the degree of infestation of the entire apiary.  This was the focus of a debate between us as to whether a few highly infested bees might skew the meaning of the results of tests.

 (Click on the above slides for a larger view)

Tuesday November 3rd, 2009
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Coming soon...

Wednesday November 4th, 2009
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Coming soon...

Thursday November 5th, 2009
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I'm home again, and it is nice to be here, catching up.

Last year, I commented that I thought the chairing of the meeting was overly formal for a group where there is little contention and a lot of mutual respect.  I heard a few comments after, so I will rush this year to say that I thought the meeting was run perfectly and that procedure did not get in the way.  I expect I will write more when I have time, but it is lovely outside and there are things to do!

I checked the scale weights again today and see that the decline continues.  The bees had settled down nicely to where they were consuming almost nothing, then I disturbed them and the consumption went up! Note the arrow showing the maximum stress the day I pulled off the top boxes. (Click to enlarge graph).

I see also that the bees are flying quite a bit.  That uses up feed, but also ensures cleansing flights.

Friday November 6th, 2009
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Regardless of what the forecast says, we have some rain and wind this morning.

I tried upgrading one of my Ubuntu 9.04 installs to 9.10.  I got messages about insufficient space -- it is on a very old 5.7 GB HD from an old notebook -- but managed to get things going and all seemed well until the computer shut down.  It did this on Windows before, too, when running memory tests or drive intensive work.  I suspect overheating occurs when the drives run steady for too long.  At any rate, the drives now won't mount and I suspect that install is hosed.  No matter.  All my data and browsers are protected and made available on all machines through Evernote, Dropbox, Xmarks and Mozy.

I highly recommend all these services.  Each has free version which has sufficient capacity for most people and reasonable fees if our needs grow to require the paid,  unlimited services.

9.10 runs fine off the USB stick and looks good.  The crash was simply due to my trying to force the upgrade onto insufficient space, I think

I've been considering buying the Windows 7 Family Pack, at about $65CAD/machine, but am also tempted to just switch to Ubuntu.  I'm already running it on one of my machines here in front of me, sharing the same mouse and keyboard using Synergy and Quicksynergy. My son in law is determined to go to a Mac.  For me it is not the cots so much as the hassle of remembering and not losing the registration details in case of the need to re-install.  I have a perfectly good copy of Office that I cannot move to my new machine because I somehow lost the original disks.

I checked the scale again and see that the loss has dropped again to  0.375 lbs/day per hive.  This is close to the average daily loss thus far, 0.42 lbs/day, with 0.17 lbs/day being the least consumption, and 1.0 lb/day being the highest.

I see dead drones at the entrances and debris from cleaning as well.  I put the reducers on the entrance when I worked the hives and the bees are adjusting things to suit their needs.

Saturday November 7th, 2009
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Today, we plan to extract. Jean and family are coming down and we are setting up to go through all the boxes and extract whatever seems to need it.  We have a 20-frame extractor at the ready.

Meijers are coming for supper, but the rest of the usual suspects are scattered this week.

Sunday November 8th, 2009
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We ran four loads this afternoon and got six 33 lb pails of honey.  The little extractor works pretty well.

We walked over and checked the scale and the loss was 1-1/2 lbs for the four hives or 3/8 lb each for the last 24 hours.  Seems the consumption has levelled out again.  I'll be interested to see if it diminishes as the bees settle down again.

Monday November 9th, 2009
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 I still have quite a bit of honey to extract.

Allen, Thank you for the info. I am going to make the covers and cover my hives this year, even though one should not have to down here. Last year I lost 9 hives. They had plenty of stores but didn't break cluster and some of the hives were, probably, a little weak. We have had a wet, cold fall so they were unable to get out and forage and now that it's warm and not raining, for once, most of the flowers are gone. We have really gone through the sugar this fall.

If you have a chance would you share your fondant recipe with me. I tried to pull it up but I can not open that day.

Actually, I did not make the fondant. I bought it here in Canada.

There are recipes in the bee books, though. It is often called. "bee candy" and poured into deep inner covers or "trays" that fit neatly on top of the brood chamber, candy side down.

Bbes at the Upper Auger Hole Entrance in an Expanded Polystyrene HiveSee here for recipes.

FWIW, I don't think that covering Styrofoam hives would be much help.  They are already very well insulated.  In fact, I drilled auger holes in of mine to provide some ventilation and an upper winter entrance.  The bees like the holes.

I checked the weights again and see the consumption has dropped to 0.25 lb/day.  That is in line with the consumption before I disturbed them.  Guess what, though?  I plan to drizzle oxalic on them soon, and I imagine that will drive up the feed burning rate for a few days after.

It is becoming one of those days.  Just got a call from a reporter trying to track down a story on a load of bees in an accident at Grindrod.  I have been on the phone for an hour already this morning.  Thank goodness for Skype.

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