Page May 2010
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Bees on a Queen cage laid on the top bars to check for response.
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We're scheduled to drive north today. I look out the window and can't see as far as the tracks. Maybe by the time I am ready to go, the visibility will be better.
I have not marked any queens yet, but here is a link to a video.
I used the Rogers Rocket Hub on the way up, running it off a small inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter and making phone calls using Skype. I also was able to surf the web and do email (I was not the driver for much of the trip). There were a few drop-outs along the 300-mile drive, and at points the sound was less than perfect, but for the most part the test was a success. With and external antenna, I am sure the performance would have been almost perfect. I have yet to figure out the data cost, but should have an idea soon.
BTW, I have discontinued the scale hive charting for now, since I have split the hives and generally changed things. I'll start up again soon.
I slept well.
Finally, all over the province, after some trying weeks, the weather looks stellar and the bees should really get a lot of brood started this week. I'd love to be home to do some lawn and bee work, but I am on the road. By the time I get back on Friday night, things should look a lot different. Dandelions are in bloom and the fruit trees should be starting any day.
I'll have to get more boxes under all the hives before I go west on Monday for ten days on Salus.
I'm hoping to get some more (BeeMax) boxes before I get too far into splitting because I will need them to winter. Once before I made the mistake of mixing wood and plastic brood chambers in double hives and discovered that I could not wrap them in any easy fashion.
I should also check for varroa and consider using some formic.
I spent a twelve-hour day inspecting bees with another inspector, in the yards with the beekeepers. The weather is great and the beekeepers we visited have great-looking bees. With few exceptions the beekeeper works with us and pulls the frames and we sample and comment. Occasionally the beekeeper cannot make it and we work alone, but I think in such cases, the beekeeper misses out on a good opportunity to get a second opinion.
These visits are a very useful opportunity for the beekeepers to get an idea where they stand and what we have learned by visiting around the region. Most of the varroa levels we see are very low and in some surveys we see no mites at all. We may, however, have saved one beekeeper from major losses by providing early warning and insight about his abnormal and alarming varroa populations.
Another fine day, and two more good operations visited. We have now spot checked about -- I'm guessing -- 15,000 or 20,000 hives. These are pretty good commercial beekeepers and their bees all look good and wintering losses were in the 10 to 20% range, which this far north is excellent.
Tonight we stay in Grande Prairie, and tomorrow we do one small inspection out near the BC border in the morning, then drive the five hours back south to the Crop Centre North. From there, I have a three-hour drive home. I expect to arrive late.
It seems my plans for the upcoming San Juan Islands cruise have been altered and that I've moved up to skipper. The member of our trio who was to be Number One has run into some wrinkles at work and will be unable to arrive as early as the rest of us.
We did the last inspection out at Beaverlodge and returned to Edmonton. From Edmonton, I returned home, arriving around 10 PM
If there is one thing I have learned on this trip it is that the successful pros make sure they monitor and treat. I've been puttering with my bees and not being very serious. What I see in my yard and what I see in these yards tells me that I am slipping. When I was commercial, I never lost one hive to varroa to my knowledge and had AFB 99.9% under control. In combing through hundreds of hives this week we never found any AFB and very few cells of chalk, sack or EFB. We often found whole yards where alcohol wash turned up no mites at all.
Medhat Nasr gets much of the credit for this. He spends long hours working with beekeepers to gather consensus and cooperation and networks with the top scientists worldwide. When I returned to the office last night on the way home, the Edmonton Journal was on the table and this article was on display. image article
It's our wedding anniversary today. Forty-two years. 1968 was the year we married and bought The Old Schoolhouse.
The inspecting trip was great. I had a lot of fun and think that we may have saved a beekeeper or two from big losses due to nosema or varroa getting out of control. It makes me think I should take a better look at my own bees.
Time is short and I have a lot to do before I go, so I won't have time to write much here for a while. We'll see.
On the left is a really good picture of something that amazed me in the last inspection of the trip. (Click for a close-up).
This is what we saw in the burr comb under a lid in a hive we were inspecting. This hive only showed three mites in an alcohol wash of 300 bees. In addition to the mites in the small area shown in the picture, we had already pulled four varroa out of those cells to examine! We did not look further, since we were out of time, but if there were 7 varroa in just that small region, how many more were hidden?
We also compared some foundation we came across. The wax is a popular product made locally in the Peace. The plastic is Permadent, I think. I'll have to check.
Count ten cells along the ruler and measure. The result, divided by ten is the cell size in millimetres. I get 5.5 for the wax and 5.3 for the black plastic. There are 7-1/2% more cells on the plastic than the wax sheet shown. That results in greater brood density -- 7-1/2% more cells in a brood chamber and can be a consideration when running single brood chambers as many are these days.
What is the 'proper' size for cells? That is a matter of debate, but when bees swarm around here and build comb, it seems the cells always average around 5.2mm. It has been demonstrated, too, that bees are adaptable and can manage just fine on cells 5% larger or smaller than that. A 5% change in diameter (D) from 5.20 to 5.46 results in a 10% increase in cell area. A=π(D/2)2).
I checked with Derrick and he can get me 100 (BeeMax) boxes in about two weeks for about $15 each. I think I should buy them, judging by how much better the styrofoam hives look compared to the others.
This morning I ran up to Heavy metal and picked up a transmission for the forklift. Wouldn't you know it? The forklift worked fine when I got home and I used it to unload the transmission.
In the afternoon, I went through all the hives and looked for mites, disease and queens. Most of the queens were accepted and laying, but several were not there. I used up the rest of the queens, made two more splits and a four-frame nuc. I saw only a few cells of EFB, otherwise no problems were apparent.
We have some very warm weather coming up and I expect that by the time I get back, some will be thinking of swarming, or close. I'll split again before I go east. I now have 43 hives and a four-frame split.
If I had queens or cells, I could split more now, but it would be stretching things. In two weeks, the weather will be more settled and maybe I can get another 40 splits, if I have cells queens. I think I prefer cells.
The thymol is on its way and should arrive mid-week. I ordered 25lbs to split with friends.
Where was I last year on this date? Out in the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf Stream, somewhere between Bermuda and Sandy Hook, New Jersey riding some big waves. That is Frank at the wheel of his Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.2, Compass Rose X. Salus is a 40-foot model in the same design.
We have some hot weather coming. Hot days and warm nights allow the bees to get ahead. Even the weaker colonies can raise a lot of brood, since the dandelions are in bloom as well.
Here are some timely topics:
They cost $10 for 100 and can be re-used a time or two. The fit is comfortable and the feel through them is excellent. My hands feel great when I take them off and there is no need to wash up. They protect from miticides as well as propolis, honey, wax and other goo as well as stings! I think I am a convert. I bought a box and now use them for mechanical work, too.
This morning, I leave for the coast. The bees are ready for two weeks on their own, but by the time I get back, I expect that some will be hanging out.
Yesterday I took a look at my (BeeMax) boxes and ordered another 100. I had simply tapped them together in 2002 and used them thereafter. They were not painted or glued. Not all were outside the whole time, but I have a pretty good idea how they perform.
I tapped apart several which had sprung a bit. I see some damage from wax moth or ants and from prying on them too hard with a hive tool. (One time a hive got really gummed up and while I should just have laid the hive back and pried each frame through the crack, I tried forcing the boxes apart). One tab is broken, possibly from dropping. The good news is that they are simple to fix. A little Weld Bond applied to a break or joint and clamping for a few hours and the piece is restored.
At right is a joint partly tapped open, showing some ant or wax moth damage. It looks bad, but the box actually seals well and is OK. I think a little paint and possibly Vaselining the contact surfaces once a year might mitigate the problem. At any rate I am only showing the worst problems.
It also occurs to me that when the boxes get old, that I can run them across a saw and glue wood strips on the contact surfaces. to extend their life. In the meantime, the message is that I should not let the hives get so glued up that extreme prying is necessary.
Dandelions are blooming at last.
I'm in a motel in Kamloops this morning and expect to be in Bellingham after lunch. After a Skippers' Meeting, we board Salus and spent the night. In the morning, Rick and I are free to set sail into the San Juans once we provision a bit more and plot our course. You can follow our progress on the web in real time. The address is http://tinyurl.com/39o49h6 and the page auto-refreshes periodically to expose any new fixes (map pins).
Meantime, Ellen and the animals are holding down the fort at home. The temperatures are expected to hit 30 today, with a low around 13, so I expect that the brood areas will be expanding rapidly.
I asked Ellen to check and pull entrance reducers if any hives start hanging out while I am gone. Hanging out attracts the skunks and teaches them bad habits which they may pass on to their offspring. The best policy with wildlife is to be careful not to train them to be pests.
We arrived at Bellingham around 2 PM and boarded Salus. After a check-out of the inventory and settling in, we went out to a brew pub with the crew from "Just Fiddlin'", also members of FACS, and did a little grocery shopping.
Soon after we got in, the storm began and continued all night. Rick (pictured beside the boat) and I had an excellent supper at an Italian restaurant, bought a few more groceries and then called it a night.
The rain continued heavy, with
strong, gusty winds all night and into the morning.
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