Page March 2010
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I updated some of the oxalic acid evaporation info on my pages and did some research into the latest details.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
As it happens, I did not do anything more than walk over and weigh the hives today.
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.
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.
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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