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Wednesday March 10th, 2010
March past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I went out early and put on some patties.  I had two boxes of 15% pollen patties in my cold shed over winter.  I prefer them to be fresh, but figure the refrigeration preserved them.  The last patties in each box were hard to get out of the box, though.  They had gotten like taffy and stuck together somewhat.  I was able to separate them fairy easily, though, and I put anywhere from 1 to 4 patties on each hive.  I didn't use smoke, but lifted the pillows and put the patties on before the bees could come up.  I really should have used a little smoke.

In picking up the deadouts, I discovered that I had one hive starve, a large cluster.  That surprised me, since I figured they were all pretty heavy.  Maybe these bees ate all winter, non-stop.  It happens sometimes.

Putting patties on can make the hives hungry and I plan to be away for weeks.  Here is hoping they have enough feed.  The ones in  three boxes seem larger and have more feed, so hopefully all will be fine.

I have a tank of HFCS which has been sitting in the sun since 2002.  I mentioned it to a researcher and he wanted samples, so I went out this afternoon and pulled some out.  I have doubted that it would be  good feed any more, but who knows?

The top fraction is layered and swirls are seen when it is poured into a bag and it mixes (left).  On the right are samples from the top, middle and bottom of the tank and a small sample of the mold slime that forms around the edge.  All things considered there is very little evidence of the mold or fermentation.

The upper picture at right is a shot looking down into the tank.  The HFCS is clear and not as yellow as it looks in the picture.  The yellow cast is partially from the light coming through the poly tank.  There is a white powdery precipitate on the bottom, with a thin hard crust on top of it.

Thursday March 11th, 2010
March past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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Right now, I should be on a turbo-prop headed for Regina, then an E90 for Toronto, and a CRJ on to Sudbury, but I am not.  I'm at home at the Command Centre, recovering from a long night.

> I respect your opinion but surprised at your response to not give a commercial beekeeper a LOAN to stay in business!

Maybe a short course in business is in order here.

Bob and I -- and anyone who has run a business -- understands the difference between business credit and personal credit.

Personally, I (and I am betting Bob, too) as a business man, would never, if I could help it, borrow money for any personal consumption purchases, and that includes cars, houses, etc.

Most people think nothing of it, but those are not earning assets. They are consumption. Houses and cars are consumables and eventually decline in value unless much, much more money is poured in over time to maintain them.

The average wage earner does not understand business and its reliance on credit. Credit is cheaper than equity and allows for larger operations than would otherwise be possible in many cases. Credit is the lifeblood of many businesses and permits getting past short-term bottlenecks and financing of expensive equipment over the life of the asset.

A business and its expenses are incurred for purposes of earning more money and there are two kinds of loans. One is for short-term needs like meeting next month's payroll because there is a shortfall until the pollination fees are collected or the honey sold. The other is to pay for things of enduring value which will be paid for as they are used up over time, like bee hives. Bees, being livestock fall somewhere in the middle.

Businesses typically borrow money to operate annually. Operating loans are due *in full* annually and are paid back at least once a year, or else there is a long talk with the banker. The long term money is like a mortgage and only a portion plus interest is due annually as the assets age and earn income.

The credit system usually works well because it works for everyone, the lender and the borrower, however recently, the banks corrupted the system and lent money to people who should never have been able to borrow. As a result, they lost a lot of their depositors' money and all of their own as well, if truth be told, because actually banks are very thinly financed compared to their liabilities.

The result of this wreck and loss of confidence and destruction of the banks' underlying capital, is that money is no longer easy to get even for good purposes or by people and firms with very good performance records.

After the banks wrecked the system, the US government 'lent' the big banks a lot of money and guaranteed 'loans' to huge companies which had made huge and obvious errors bordering on fraud, so that the system would not seize up entirely.

Often these large firms turned around and gave much of that money as 'bonuses' to the very people who caused the wreck in the first place.

There is a certainty that much of the FDIC money is going to be lost and many of the TARP loans, if paid back, will be paid back with little if any interest and in depreciated dollars.

So, Bob is saying, why not lend or guarantee loans for people who in no way caused their misfortune and are very likely to pay it all back, and who will in the meantime provide a valuable service.

Good question.

> So, now we should go to the public and ask for "loan" money to put more bees back in these same hives, not knowing whether they are contaminated with lethal viruses or lethal chemicals? Knowing that if the bees die again, they will likely go bankrupt and default on the loans? Imagine the US government as proud owner of millions of empty bee boxes of zero value.

What is suggested is actually *loan* money, loaned on sound lending principles, not a 'bailout'. The beekeepers in question would normally have been able to tap loans and keep on going, but their banks have gone bust or quit lending -- or both. Even a government guarantee will not necessarily get blood from a stone.

There are ways to guess if the hives will immediately collapse or just return to the normal probability of collapse. I think Bob and Jerry can comment on this.

Again this is not a problem that someone who has not been in business for years would understand.

I recall back in the seventies, going to my bank with a good proposal with a government guarantee and being turned down.

I was somewhat crushed -- I had worked hard on it and it was sound -- and the banker saw that so she said to me, "See the sign on the sidewalk? That is what I have to pay for money these days, and we are short. It is not you. Your proposal is good. the problem is ours. Sorry".

 
Subject: Re: super bee coming
From: allen
Reply-To: Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2010 11:47:13 -0700

Reply

> Dave, I've never suggested that Joe Beekeeper need to sacrifice colonies--it would normally put them out of business. However, I strongly support those breeders, and government programs, that are looking to a future when we may have no effective miticides, and will be forced to move to naturally resistant stock. This kind of support is to look beyond your own immediate self interests, and to try to leave a better world for your children.

I think we are all agreed on that. The real shame is that there is no organized campaign to use peer pressure on beekeepers to buy stock which has at least some superior qualities in regard to disease and mite tolerance.

There are efforts, but for the average guy, it is more a matter of finding any queens or packages than finding some that are going to improve the neighbourhood.

Up here in Canada, getting good stock is even worse, since many of the US specialty breeders are unwilling to face the paper hurdles and fees our protectionist 'representatives' have thrown up to 'protect' our bees.

I would love to be able to identify and purchase bees which can eat AFB and keep going, which don't succumb to nosema or mites and which winter and produce honey, too. I know they are out there, but I am really having trouble identifying and sorting them with any degree of confidence.

I know I do have access to some good commercial strains and they are better than in the past, but to make any improvement, we need to move beyond 'good' and 'OK'.

Last night I was packing and I had just checked in for my flight online and printed the passes, when I went downstairs to find Ellen had fallen, and was lying on the floor.  She had been there a while, and the back of her head was covered with blood.

I called the paramedics, having taken first aid and knowing that things are not always a simple as they seem, especially with head injuries.  After getting lost along the way, they arrived, checked her out and decided a trip to the hospital was in order.  I would have expected a back board since we could not figure out exactly where she fell, but they walked here out.

My flight was for 7:10 AM, with at least a two and a half hour head start required to get there, so, not knowing what the situation was and realizing that that in even the best-case scenario, I should not leave her at home alone for a day or two, my trip was off.

I followed to the hospital in the car and we discovered she had a gash on the back of her head and she would spend the night there.

Later, we deduced she had fallen on the stairs and made it that far before blacking out.  There were additional bruises on her back and elbow.  we have had a low-grade flu for weeks and it is accompanied by spells of feeling faint.  She must have blacked out on the stairs.

By all the rules, they should have used a back board!  Not that this would have mattered a lot, since the hospital was on skeleton crew and the only care for the first three hours was a young and apparently inexperienced nurse.  The doctor eventually arrived and stitched up the gash on the back of her head.

The doctor  (whom I did not meet and who I assume was competent) notwithstanding, it is a bit scary to realize that I, with only my Ski Patrol experience and a recent Saint John Ambulance First Aid refresher probably had a better grasp on proper procedure than the crew on the "meat wagon" and the "nurse".

It is no wonder that farm locals in an emergency will chance the one-hour-plus drive to a Calgary hospital than drive the fifteen minutes to Three Hills.  Even with the long drive, in off-hours, the wait for urgent attention is likely to be shorter.

I returned home just before midnight and since I had already checked in for the flight, tried to cancel.  Air Canada could not help me and Aeroplan was closed until 7 AM.  They did not say in what time zone. Their website was also down for maintenance until morning.  I did not want to be a no-show and lose my fare, so set my alarm for 4 AM, assuming that they meant Eastern Time.

At 5, I managed to get in touch and cancel.  I'm out the change fee of $90, but that is all.  I then called Mom to tell her I would not be there for her 91st birthday tomorrow and went back to bed.

At 7:45 the phone rang and it was my daughter wanting to know the news.  Mom had called her. I called the hospital and they said El was ready to come home. 

Zippy and I went and got her and here I am, tired and shell-shocked.


Hi Dick,

Been reading your diary, all the way back to the jump at 2004.

Even read through the section where you purposely bought AFB infected equipment.

We had our monthly club meeting last night, and in the 'spring management checklist' that they went through, they recommend several treatments...

March

  • fumadil B added to sugar syrup

April

  • Formic acid pads on for 21 days (after daytime temps @10C)
  • Treat for AFB using oxytet-25-s or oxysol 62.5... use icing sugar spread on the endbars in upper brood chamber. 3 times @ 5-10day intervals

I took over these hives last fall, after working with them all summer. This is my 2nd year as a beekeeper. Went into the winter with 6, came out with 5 so far... one is weak... but it was weak going into the winter... thought it would be the one to die. My one dead-out was weak in the fall as well. As far as I know, my mentor didn't do any of those treatments last spring, although he did do formic acid pads and Apistan strips in the fall.

Some of the local hobby beekeepers are reporting serious losses (80-90%... 13/16, 4/5). I would like to think my bees are nice and strong!

What are your opinions on the above treatments?

I have no signs of nosema...lots of nice round/oval spots all over my car, but no streaking.

No signs of AFB... and that includes going through piles of boxes of old equipment, and cleaning last Spring's dead-outs.

From talking with others, it seems that tracheal mites are not a problem here yet.

I am thinking about supplementing with protein patties, to give them a boost this spring before we split (and a boost after we split).

And any opinions on hive density per bee yard, for a hobby beekeeper? I know it can vary depending on forage, but am I pushing it to try and fit 10 hives in my backyard? As far as I know, there are no other beekeepers in a 5-8km radius. (there are, however, lots of blackbears!)

Wondering if I should try contacting some neighbours who are ~5km's away to see about putting hives on their property. 5 hives here, 5 hives there... that sorta thing. My goal is honey production.

One interesting option... the golf course that is no longer a golf course... owned by a horse stable now. ~5km's from my place.

Would love to hear your opinions,

I'll address the letter in the left column now.  The panel on the right contains two replies I wrote to BEE-L.  I was active on BeeSource for a while, but that wears off quickly.  Too many people who just don't know and don't know or care that they don't know, but who feel obliged to offer opinions. 

For all its problems, BEE-L is much better, except the list owner is too nice a guy and lets idiots post sometimes out of mistaken kindness.  Of course it throws sand in the gears.

Interesting that I am reminded now of the AFB equipment I bought and used for years and that I am again seeing some AFB after years of not see any.

I medicated routinely and preventatively until a few years ago at which time I saw a little AFB in some Australian Italian package bees.  I'm thinking that the outbreak I have right now is related to that.  It could have been buried in some of the brood chambers I had from deadouts.  we did not inspect them at all carefully when splitting.  We simply did not inspect them at all.

My  recent hive inspections reveal that I have been careless and lost four good hives to AFB this past year and may lose some more.  I'm going to have to go through all the hives looking and then decide what to do.

I have relied on having good, hygienic bees in recent years, but have not paid a great deal of attention to the stock I have or checking for signs of disease getting ahead.  I had already decided to get more aggressive in my beekeeping this year and to get better stock, but now I have added incentive.

What will I do?  Well, I'll go though all the hives frame by frame and look for AFB.  Any AFB colonies I will segregate.  If there are enough to justify it, i will medicate them with Tylosin, which has proven very effective. I'll also re-queen any hives with any cells of AFB showing even if I medicate.  Obviously they are not hygienic enough.

I don't plan to destroy very much or sterilize.  I know I have background levels of AFB and that I just have to accept that.  If I burned anything beyond the scaly frames, I'd have to burn everything.  That is the lot of a commercial beekeeper, since the disease is endemic.

I attribute my current problem to simply failing to look and to trusting bee stock which is not sufficiently robust against AFB.

OK.  Now to the list in the email:

I don't plan to feed either syrup or fumagillin this March.  I don't see a need to feed, and if I do, it will be frames of honey.  I have lots.  I've been meaning to do some nosema smears, but I am not convinced that even if I see nosema now that this means much since the build-up has begun and any bees I see with spores now will be dead soon.

That is just my way.  I don't over-manipulate my hives as many/most beekeepers do (IMO), and I have had no trouble with nosema in the past.  I have looked, though.

All that could change, of course, but fumagillin is a drug and if there is no need...  Nonetheless, our recommendation in Alberta is to use fumagillin and it seems to be working for those who had nosema problems.

Formic acid pads?  I don't like the long term type.  Too expensive and bulky, and too hard to predict the weather more than a day or two out. The result is an over-dosing or under-dosing.  I have been in contact with Medhat, ever since back in the '90s he decided to refine the 'Homesote" or boot liner method some beekeepers were trying.  He kept refining it, and was hopeful at times, but was never really satisfied with it.  David has gone on and commercialized the idea, and maybe it is the only legal use of formic in the US, but in my opinion, it is of only limited usefulness. If it were any better, we would be using it and not Apivar™ in Alberta today.

The short-term pads do work and can drop varroa levels by 2/3rds quickly, but there can be collateral damage, too.  Damage to your honey crop.

I see I have one tracheal suspect hive.  It is quite obvious, actually, but it seems to be coming along OK, so I am waiting.

The trouble with using formic is that it knocks back brood unless used very judiciously.  Good stock is the answer IMO, but if tracheal is a problem, then treat.  It is a good idea to check the trachea for mites, but the job is slow, expensive, and tedious.

Oxytet for AFB prevention.  Well, I don't know what to say.  I suppose it all depends on the history of the outfit and the location.  If there is AFB in the outfit or it is located near where there is some, then a dusting is a good idea.  I prefer grease patties, but that method has been maligned sufficiently that I hesitate to mention it.  If you do use Oxytet, be careful to follow the guidelines as to timing.  In my experience, though the recommended does is about half what is required to actually work.  For prevention where there is little challenge or where there are bees with resistance, it is likely adequate.

Apistan™.  I don't know if it still works anywhere.  The only way to know is to use drop boards and see what happens.  I have a bunch on hand, but quit using it in favour of oxalic drizzle.  I don't like synthetics.  I prefer things we find in everyday foods like oxalic acid and formic acid.

I am a big fan of protein patties.  I fed all summer last year and had great results.  Years ago, I started making patties and became a patty evangelist after seeing how much better my bees were doing.  Eventually, I hired a hobby beekeeper and his nephew in Airdrie to make them.  They did such a great job I told all my friends and, from that start, they built "Global Patties" into a popular, mostly known by word-of-mouth supplier.  They now make patties in both Airdrie and Butte, Montana and sell all over North America.  They still use my original formula, although they have made a variety of other mixtures and made patties for the manufacturers of FeedBee and MegaBee. I still do consulting for Global and we are like family.

And any opinions on hive density per bee yard, for a hobby beekeeper?  That's a tough one.  In my experience, one hive by itself does best.  That is not a practical bee yard, though for most of us.  I currently have about thirty and they did fine.

Andy Carr said last summer that he had hundreds in the home yard and they made over 100lbs on one flow.  Asked about the fact that some hives always do worse when with other hives, he said he figured no matter how few hives that he put in  yard, there would always be the same proportion that did poorly.  I did not ask what happens if there is only one :)

I spent a little time widening and tidying the scale hive chart.  Things should be a little easier to understand with the widening to accommodate the many additional days.  When I began, April 1st looked a long ways off.  Now it is coming fast.

I noticed the bees are flying a lot today.  I think the patties have stimulated them a bit and it seemed they were gathering water on the ground.  That means they are raising brood.  They also were interested in a decaying chunk of skunk feces, whatever that means.  Hack would say they need electrolytes.  My guess is that they are Paparazzi bees.

Well this is enough for one day.  Back to Desperate Housewives

Friday March 11th, 2010
March past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I updated some of the oxalic acid evaporation info on my pages and did some research into the latest details.

> I had never use OA (Vapour) because It can cause kidney and liver problems. That > is what I was told by a beekeeper that did a technical trip to Denmark and  Italy some 4 years ago. I also understood that the oxalic crystal are  available for a couple of hive inspections, therefore one should use the  mask for quite a while after application.

It is funny the stories which go around and the fear mongering that goes on. I heard all the same stories early on, but it seems they are unfounded. Oxalic acid is apparently present in many foods in fairly high amounts and mostly harmless if not overdone.

I have pictures of various beekeepers standing around while the 'smoke' swirls around. They are grinning and all are still alive last I noticed. I don't know anyone who uses a mask.

Its use in concentrated form is not without risk to the eyes and skin due to concentration, but we handle many other dangerous chemicals without serious harm. Obviously splashing it on the body or breathing can be harmful depending on concentration and duration, but the rumours appear to have been an exaggeration by several orders. Simply flushing well with clean water is sufficient to mitigate the harm assuming the contact is discovered and remedied immediately.

> I wish that there were a simple answer. The simplest would be to stay > below 2 mites per 100 bees all the time.

Agreeing with Randy, let me add that the question is one of probabilities, and that although there is no 1 to 1 direct relationship between mite loads and colony death, there is a strong correlation. The lower the number, the lower the risk of colony death due to mite-related causes.

However, the wild card here is that if we go too low, there is the risk of developing resistant mites quickly due to killing all but the very most hardy which then multiply and interbreed without competition from their weak sisters.

So, there is probably a sweet spot, where we see the typical mite loads below the seasonal and local thresholds, but not too many zeros.

Saturday March 13th, 2010
March past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I'm still a bit under the weather, but better.  This morning I ran into Airdrie to get more patties at Global.  I loaded the hives with patties the other day and want to be sure I don't run out.

Stand Alone bee villaI see that Mike's Bee Villas have arrived. The people selling these heavy-wall Styrofoam hives had a booth next to Liz and Mike at Orlando.  They are really nice folks.

I thought that the Bee Villas are thicker and heavier than I prefer, but both Mike and my friends the Meijers thought these hives are worth a shot and ordered some.  Meijers run over 1,000 hives in styrofoam boxes -- mostly Betterbee versions (see here), and say that in commercial use they are a bit fragile.  These look far more robust so they will give them a shot.  I have had no trouble with my boxes, but I don't have hired help.

I then picked up an outboard a fellow sailor had for sale and then attended a meeting of the Foothills Association of Cruising Sailors for those interested in a flotilla through the San Juan Islands in May.

After spending $400 on groceries, I returned home around seven-thirty.  We live in the country and only shop occasionally.  Since it is a twenty-minute drive to even get a carton of milk, we keep good supplies of staples on hand.

Sunday March 14th, 2010
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It is Sunday.  We're expecting company this afternoon.  I cleaned up this site a bit and posted a message or two to BEE-L, then the dog came over and suggested we go outside.  Out we went.  The days are bright and the snow is almost gone and I am enjoying being here.  We wandered over to the old granary and looked into the various rooms.  I discovered I have a lot more winter wraps than I thought.

When we quit beekeeping commercially and we had no more staff, I pretty well just dropped everything.  We sold off a few more things and I kept a few hives, but let even those die back at one point.  People wanted to buy things, but I was not interested in even looking at a lot of the stuff or trying to figure what it was worth, and I was away a lot.  Today I took another look and thought, gee, it could be fun to work on some of these things.

But, where to start?  Working alone, I could hardly make a dent in all the various jobs. Hiring help is a pain.  I guess I will just have to either prioritize or just do whatever I feel like when I like.

Somehow I have lost the impetus to go anywhere.  It is so nice here.

Meijers came over and Flo and Val brought lunch.  We all had a good visit and everyone was gone by 5.

It is 6:17 right now and full daylight.

Monday March 15th, 2010
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I just got a phone call and an email about the idea of importing some US queens from small specialty producers.  I have to confess that I have been distracted since I started on it and need to buckle down.  I've been wasting too much time on BEE-L.  I also need to get out into the yard and play a bit.  There is a lot to do.
 

> Add that some "alternative" beekeepers (who knows what that means) have websites or have books that do not reflect the reality of their apiaries, but they are quoted as successful beekeepers with new approaches to beekeeping.

Thanks for pointing that out, Bill. It is an extremely important point.

As one who has been on the Internet and before that, dial-up bulletin boards, like Andy Nachaur's (long distance dial-up at 200 baud) and CompuServe, and who has followed technology some of these individuals and their stories from the start and before, albeit with lapses and inattention, and as one who has maintained a public web diary since before blogging was invented, that resonates strongly with me.

I'll ramble on here and try to illustrate the difficulty of observing oneself and reporting back. Some may not be interested, in which case, just ignore the rest, please.

Let me first say that it is not just the "Alternative" folks, but I, myself, have a very difficult time reflecting the reality of my apiary and will be the first to admit it. Don't believe what I tell you. Use it for what it is worth and think for yourself, is advice I try to repeat often.

I also often point out that what we see in research reports may resemble only slightly what we would have thought we saw if we had been there throughout. I have chronicled my scale hive experience -- a very simple 'experiment' --and frankly what I see mystifies me, but if I wrote it up, the report would probably be neat and believable because we write more about what we understand or think we do than what we cannot get a handle on.

My first rule in writing a public web diary has been to never go back and re-write what I posted after a month or more has lapsed. That was originally nothing more than laziness when faced with the impossibility of going through it all. I hardly have time to read it all without even thinking of re-writing. Some assure me that they have read every word. I have one word for that : Astounding!

I do sometimes add an insert and re-edit application details when a topic becomes a repeat topic of current and continuing interest like oxalic and formic application. In the recent instance, bringing the oxalic pages up to date, I mostly added new, but left the old , going right back to 2002 and the original presentation by Cor of his machine to the ABA meeting, a presentation which was met by surprise, and considerable doubt -- and the usual cries of "oxalic is dangerous".

On my site, I still have material about grease patties and menthol towels and the Fairview College bee course (which the college at one time tried to get me to remove since many people did not notice the course was cancelled and tried to enroll :). FWIW, there is serious talk about setting up such a course again. Anyone interested, please write.

I do re-write reasonably current material to add and further explain, especially as people point out that some thing or another is CIPU -- Clear If Previously Understood or I read it and realize that maybe I was a bit indiscreet -- or I see that I made an error. That is why some prefer the hot poop and read as it is posted live, I guess. They get to laugh at me or with me.

At any rate, there are some web 'gurus' who have recreated their sites from scratch several times and each website incarnation in no way resembles what I recall from the previous site or have stored away on some old hard drive. Others rationalize a lot of things in ways that soon take over their thinking.

As has been the case from back when magazines were the main medium for propagating ideas and before, many writers are something like about 50% to 95% on the money and credible, but it is that remaining 50 to 5% that we have to watch. Popularity is powerful drug and the temptation to achieve notoriety can take over a person's reason.

It is a simple fact that it is harder to achieve notoriety by being mainstream than by being off-beat. It is a tradition for bee writers of the pop sort to be quirky and invent new words (jargon), 'new' manipulations, or convoluted explanations, rituals and shibboleths to distinguish and isolate their followers from the masses.

That percentage of questionable content in almost any writer's work can be harmless misunderstanding and oversight or a virulent evangelical ideology or agenda, and that payload rides along and often passes through the critical faculties of readers along with the obvious truth.

The problem is that people recognize the obvious truths and assume the rest is probably true, too. If it is all couched in a good story or analogy, the hook often goes down with the bait.

In my experience, these Pied Pipers are usually quite innocent victims of their own misunderstandings and beliefs and that makes them even more convincing. Most do not even realize that they are misreporting their present and past. Of course, we have all met bare-faced liars. These are the astounding people who will lie right to your face, like the mechanic in PEI who told us the air filter was filthy and needed replacing, then when forced to show to to us said, "See, I told you it is perfect and we don't need to change it". There are a few of those out there, too.

At one time, in the magazine days we had editors to do at least a little filtering, but with the Internet, anyone can say anything anywhere (almost) and critical reading and disbelief become even more important. Just as there viruses that go around perverting the functioning of cells in organisms, there are thought viruses which go around perverting the thought processes of people and societies. They are invisible, infectious and self-replicating.

A hive which recently starvedIn the afternoon, I went out and worked through about half my hives.  They were flying freely today (Right).  I found several getting close to starvation and that surprised me, since they had been heavy and many are in thirds.  I moved feed closer to clusters and pulled out a few frames which were unsuitable for brood, including some half-drawn foundation frames.  Another had starved recently by moving to one side. (left).  I seldom ever observed that in the past and have always considered it a risk of small clusters and wondered about the types of bees which winter in small clusters as opposed to the more prolific sorts.  The conservative bees do winter well, so I guess the fact that they use less and raise brood later spares them.  I don't know.

The occasional hive was occupying all three boxes and that is what I love to see.  I removed the bottom box from some of the ones which did not need three. I notice that some hives suffered more from moisture than others.  I looked at only one Styrofoam hive so far and plan to do the scale hives tomorrow.  That should be interesting.

My unfinished foundation problem continues to drag on the bees.  As readers may recall, I had to remove boxes last fall after I discovered undrawn foundation in the top boxes.  Since all the boxes were brood boxes, I had planned to leave them on, but found I had to pull them. This honey removal was done later in the year than I like -- Halloween, in fact.  Such disturbances should be done much earlier to allow the bees to rearrange their stores before the cold weather. Good beekeeping requires planning and observation.  Smarten up, Allen!

The poor beekeeping I did last year continues to catch up with me.  It is quite clear that I do need to go through the hives at least once in a while and that I need to do a bit of scraping.

I am realizing that feeding some syrup might be helpful about now, too.  I have feeders in every hive and it would be an easy job to do.  I'd rather not feed, but if the season is early and the hives are light, I may have to do so.  It is probably a good thing that I did not go east.

I also am seeing more signs of AFB than I like and can see that I will have to do some medicating until such time as I get better stock.  Not medicating was an interesting experiment, but proved a point.  I really don't know what stock I have and whatever it is, it is being challenged.  I am seeing spotty brood and that is a sign that the bees are dealing with disease, but in some hives, I see the odd decaying larva which means that they are fighting a losing battle.  A little medication will help them pull ahead until I requeen and can see that there is no burden.  Simple HYG is not the answer, though, since it means a lot of torn out brood and spotty patterns as long as there is a challenge.  Resistance in other forms, like larvae which do not infect easily is necessary to really thrive in the face of an AFB challenge.  A bit of help from

I got quite a bit done and have the other half to do tomorrow.  Then I have a lot of scraping, sorting and stacking to do.

I went out later in the day -- 6 PM and noticed the scale had lost a pound between 2 PM and then.  It could be the activity, but it also could be  the breeze.  It had gone down and I have noticed previously that the wind exerts pressure on the scale, making it difficult to get good readings on windy days.

  Tuesday March 16th, 2010
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As it happens, I did not do anything more than walk over and weigh the hives today.

Wednesday March 17th, 2010
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I went out and took a look at the bees.  They appear to be doing fine.  The warm weather is letting them get at the feed throughout the hive and to brood up well. I still have the rest to go through, but was looking at the quonset.  I want a way to hold it down and in shape that does not involve tying my truck or forklift to it.

The hives are cleaning the bottom boards, even in the triples.

I fiddled with the scale hive chart some more and put in a moving average line to make the trends more apparent.  I also changed the predictive function to be more responsive, rather than using the average over the entire period.  Both now use the trailing nine day period.

Today is my daughter's birthday, so we drove up to celebrate and spend the night.

 

Thursday March 18th, 2010
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This morning, we drove home.  The weather has changed amazingly.  Yesterday was balmy, and today, we have blowing snow and strong winds.

We stopped in Red Deer to return a coffee grinder, gas up, and get some cable for the quonset.

Friday March 19th, 2010
March past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I did a few odds and ends of things, then drove to Calgary to the FACS meeting.  We're planning a trip to the San Juans in May.  I'm going to be chartering a boat in junction with several other members.  There are lots of things to consider.  Even though these waters are somewhat sheltered, the tides cause serious rips, whirlpools and waterfalls that can threaten small craft.

We plan to sail out of Bellingham, WA and tour the San Juans for a week, with about ten boats in the flotilla. The chart at right is from www.ActiveCaptain.com , a tremendous resource for sailors.

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