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A frame of queen cells

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Brown text indicates personal ramblings that have little to do with bees and beekeeping.

Thursday July 1st 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Canada Day

At seven this morning, the four fox kits were frolicking around the yard.  They are almost full grown, now. I also hear the distinctive sound of a spray plane making passes over a crop, but thankfully, it is not in sight.  Last night was cool, and I worry about the cells, so I'll get out shortly to make sure the bees covered them well.

Well, we came home last night to find that Airenet Internet is not working again.  Airenet has been our ISP for years, being the only game in town since we are in a valley, but now we have Rogers Rocket Hub.  Airenet's  "service" has been abysmal, with frequent outages and no response to phone messages.  I used to pay them twice a year in advance.  Now I am paying them monthly.  I think it may be time to fire them for bad service.  First Bell, now Airenet.

Another method of swarm prevention promoted around the same time period was know as the Padgen system later modified by Heddon. This method is somewhat like splitting a hive where the queen and frame of capped brood are removed from a hive that is preparing to swarm and placed into an empty hive body with drawn comb. The parent hive is picked up and moved to another site in the apiary (while the bees are flying) and the hive body with queen and frame of brood placed at the parent hive’s location. The parent hive either raises a new queen or one is introduced. Heddon modified the system by placing the hive body with queen and frame of brood on the parent’s location and moving the parent hive slightly, turned at a right angle to the original location. After two days the parent is moved to the opposite side of the hive body with queen, facing 180 degrees from the previous placement. After two more days the parent hive is moved to another location within the apiary. The Padgen, Heddon and Demaree methods involve work!
(From
http://mainebeekeepers.org/pdf/Swarming_2-08.pdf)

 

It turns out the cells are well covered with bees.   

I set up to make up brood chambers using the new boxes.  That took a few hours, since I found lots of little things to do, some of which were totally unrelated.  One was padgening hives.  Actually, what I do is not strictly padgening, but along the same vein.

I had marked some hives as extra weak and others as extra strong.  Today, I exchanged them in pairs, hoping that the populations will equalize, making splitting easier and forestalling swarming.

In the process, I disturbed the bees a bit.  Having them fly out without orienting is part of the idea, so I did not use smoke.  Poor Zippy decided to come around the corner at the wrong time and I had to go back to the house with her and pick the bees out of her fur.  I think she may have learned something, but I am not sure she has put two and two together yet.  We'll see.

...I guess she has.  I went back over to the bees and she stayed near the house.  I see the Internet is on again.  Well, sorta.  I had to switch to the hub again because Airenet barely works.

      

Here's another thing I like about Pierco frames: this one has some drone comb on an otherwise perfect frame.  What do I do?  Simply scrape it down and put it back.  Next time I look, it will be perfect worker comb.

OK.  Procrastination and all, I got 17 boxes done.  Depending on how I look at things, that may be about 10% of what I have to do.  I have not scraped boxes or frames for years, so this is a huge change, and a lot more work, especially catching up on years of not scraping.

My philosophy has been to not fight the bees, and leave burr and ladder comb that does not interfere with the few manipulations I was doing.  Most of my manipulations involved moving entire boxes and only pulling occasional frames.

With the change to BeeMax boxes, I have to be more careful about how frames get stuck together, since these boxes cannot handle as much prying as the wooden ones. 

I'm also splitting by removing and sorting frames this year and inspecting for disease more carefully, since I have proven to my own satisfaction that I cannot rely on genetics alone to manage AFB.  Even if the bees do not break down with disease and show overt symptoms, the sub-clinical levels can kill enough larvae to be a significant economic cost.

Ellen went to visit a friend, so it is just Amos (our cat), Zippy (our dog) and me.  Life is somehow slower and different without any (other) human around.  Time slows down.

Friday July 2nd 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

The weather looks good for the next few days.  The nights will not be cold, and that is important when new splits are being made up.  We made splits one year and were hit by a frost immediately after.  Many of the splits were damaged.  We can get a frost any month of the year, here in Alberta.  Even a slight frost that does not damage crops can stress splits.  If there is wind, too, that will increase the damage.

Ellen will be back this afternoon, accompanied by Mckenzie, our granddaughter.  Mckenzie will be staying a few days while her parents make a quick trip to the coast and back. 

I have to keep my nose to the grindstone again today, since I have a hundred or more brood chambers to make up and only a few days left until the cells hatch and until I leave for the east again.

I hear that bees are now moving to pollination in Southern Alberta, and canola is beginning to bloom around here.  I'm hoping that the farmers will not be inspired to spray.  Hearing that plane yesterday got me a bit worried.  I'm not hearing anything today, though.

I now have 27 brood chambers made up and painted with the primer coat, so I am about 1/3 done. 

The more I work with the BeeMax boxes, the more I appreciate the Swienty design. 

Elmer's ProBond was recommended on one of the Betterbee web pages, which says,"The ultimate, contractor's grade adhesive from Elmer's. Waterproof, super strong, bonds virtually everything! This is the only adhesive we recommend for assembling our new BeeMax hives".  Maybe I got the wrong version, but the one I purchased and used is probably not very good for this job. This glue turns out to be very brittle, and the drips scrape off easily.  That's not an indication of a good bond, IMO. 

Also, after I put all the boxes together, I saw another Betterbee page, saying, "We suggest gluing with ProMax polystyrene glue".  OK.  Which one is it?

In addition to the problem of weak corners, and the work of assembling these boxes, there is also the issue of the embossed recycle symbol and "No CFC" emblems on every side.  These indentations are hard to paint with a roller and take as much time as the rest of the surface.  Of what use are these defacing marks?  We already know that CFCs are no longer used in expanded polystyrene manufacture and what recycle centre is likely to want to accept painted boxes with wax and propolis on them?

I counted the cells and put cell protectors on them.  There are 52.  Seeing as all the cells are in one nuc in a yard with other hives, there is the slight risk of a stray queen entering or one emerging earlier than expected and having them all torn down, so I like to use protectors.  Protectors also allow placing cells into newly made nucs without waiting a few hours for the bees to realize they are queenless.  They will have to be removed for candling the cells, so I am hoping the bees do not gum them up too much.

The bees had built a bit of comb on some of the cells, and in removing it, I accidentally dropped a pupa out of its cell.  We can see that they are developing well and that they are only days from emergence.  Although the body is well developed, there are no wings yet.  This is day 11 from the laying of the eggs and day 7 after grafting (on day 4).

Here is my schedule again.  I have four days to finish the brood chambers and split and do various other odd jobs.  I have 37 brood chambers done as of this evening, but may have to give up on painting them unless I get a paint sprayer.

 Day 4
 Friday 25
  Graft date 
 Day 5
Saturday 26
 
     Day 6
Sunday 27
 
       Day 7
 Monday 28
 
Day  8
Tuesday 29
   queen cells 
  capped
  Day 9
Wednesday 30
(Today)
 Day 10
Thursday 1

Canada Day
Day 11
Friday 2
  Make up nucs
Day 12
Saturday 3
  Make up nucs
Day 13
 Sunday 4
  Make up nucs
Day 14
Monday 5
  Install queen cells
Day 15
Tuesday 6
 
queens begin to emerge
Day 16
Wednesday 7

  I leave for 
 Ontario
Day 17
Thursday 8
 
Day 18
Friday 9
Day 19
Saturday 10
Day 20
Sunday 11
 Mating Flights
Day 21
Monday 12
 Mating Flights
Day 22
Tuesday 13
 Mating Flights
Day 23
Wednesday14
 Mating Flights
Day 24
Thursday 15
 Laying begins

While I'm at it, here is the population projection again.  It is important since I have to decide how much space the hives will be needing until August 8th. The chart assumes that the new queens lay 1,500 eggs a day, and they begin egg laying on the 15th of July, and also that a bee's life expectancy is six weeks (click to enlarge).   See also the June 30th diary entries.  Here is the spreadsheet I used.

This projection calculates August 8th populations at around 20,000 bees.  At 2,200 per frame, that means they will cover 9 frames.  A standard box has enough room for all the brood one queen can lay, but limited additional space for honey and pollen.  I keep a feeder in each brood box, too, so that means that there is one less frame.

Will one box be enough?  Probably not, since some hives will exceed this projection.  Also, they will need room for honey, so they don't plug up and stop expanding.

How long will the season be?  Last year it extended into October, but many years, we have killer frost around the 20th of August, so it does not pay to overestimate their needs.  Besides, I have only 360 boxes with frames in total, including broods and supers.

Saturday July 3rd 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today: Sunny early this morning then a mix of sun and cloud with 30 percent chance of showers this afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm this afternoon. High 21. UV index 6 or high.

Tonight: Cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers early this evening with risk of a thunderstorm. Low 8.

I've decided that I'm running out of time.  I have to quit working on boxes and makes some splits today.  First, I'll drive to town and see about getting a paint sprayer.  This rolling and brushing is too slow.

I got the sprayer and finished painting all the boxes with one coat, and put a second coat on the 27 I had painted previously.   started up the motor home for power and was able to paint them over at the quonset.  Of course the wind came up as  soon as I started, but I was able to create some shelter behind that large machine and get the job done.  When I moved it to let the boxes dry in the sun, the wind knocked them all down,  Fortunately none broke.

The sprayer I bought was the B&D Pro 5.5.  It does and adequate job, although I found I did need to thin the latex a bit with water.  The tank holds 1.1 litres, and does quite a few boxes between fills.  I found it pretty heavy after a while, though.  I suppose I could have used the lift tube which can go into a bucket, but it is pretty short.  Just dragging the electric wire can get a bit tricky.  I was disappointed to find that it came with only circular tips and not the fan tip I would have preferred.  The sprayer paid for itself the first day, if my time is worth anything.

I started on the splits in late afternoon, just before we had to go for supper.  I found I was confused somewhat by what I found, even though I had planned the job.  Reality often fails to conform to expectations and the first two hives were very different.  The first had an established queen and about seven good frames with good patches of brood in three boxes, the second was a previous split and had a new queen and only two significant frames with brood in its two boxes.

Adding to the difficulty was the hot, hot weather and time of day which had bees spread out and everything soft and gooey.  Foundation is being drawn and frames are filling with honey.  Honey makes the job harder.  I am really trying to avoid producing any beyond what is needed by the bees for wintering.

I got several splits done before I had to go.  Ellen showed up to call me to get ready just a the moment I was discovering that the cell protectors had all fallen off one of the frames of cells.  The other had kept them on quite well.  I really should have turned down the invitation, since I was just getting going on the main job, and my days are running out, but life is more than just work, so I closed up the hives and quit for the day.

We drove to Irricanna and had pleasant dinner and evening with John and Maves.

Sunday July 4th 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Day 13
 Sunday 4
  Make up nucs
Day 14
Monday 5
  Install queen cells
Day 15
Tuesday 6
 
queens begin to emerge
Day 16
Wednesday 7

  I leave for 
 Ontario

The above clip is from this website.

My Hive and the Honeybee arrived. today.  It is a valuable reference and can answer most any question I am likely to think up.  FWIW, it says that queen cells younger than 11 days from grafting are easily damaged.  If grafting is day four, then handling before day 15 is risky.  Of course, they hatch on day 16, so what is a person to do?

Today I have to check on the cells and replace the protectors since emergence is getting quite close and make up the splits, but first I need to finish painting.  It is still cool out and I feel a breeze.,  That can make spray painting difficult and messy.

*   *   *   *   *

I re-did the protectors, placing the cells between top bars in the nuc.  I then found that the lid would not close, so had to use a pillow.

I finished the second coat on all the boxes and walked out of the quonset.  Glancing west, I saw a storm five miles southwest of us coming our way with the dust devils kicking up dust clouds ahead of the front. I was quite aware that I had just finished painting with a water based paint and that it was not yet dry.  As I watched the storm veered north and looked as if it would pass, so I pulled the motor home closer to block the wind and went in for lunch

Fifteen minutes later, I noticed a disturbance on the pond and found that the storm had circled and was approaching from  the northwest.  I got to the quonset before the rain came and managed to move the boxes inside, however a stray gust must have come through before I got there because all the boxes were knocked over when I arrived. 

As I picked them all up, I discovered that two boxes had broken!  See the picture at right.   They had been stacked six boxes high and empty, so the fall had not been particularly hard.  These boxes are fragile!  The joints are very weak.

At left is a shot of a hive with a BeeMax on top and a Swienty on the bottom.  They are both same age, about eight years, now.  Click to zoom in for a comparison.  IMO, the Swienty appears to have stood the test of time much better.  (Neither was ever painted).  My hives got very badly glued together at one point and I had to pry to get them apart.  I soon learned to pry the individual frames through the crack, but initially, I had simply tried to pry up the top box.  So, if you look closely, you can see that normal use of a hive tool will leave dents, so special care is indicated.  I'll have to test the two versions for density and weigh them.

I've been waiting for some rain to provide safe conditions for burning a pile of old pallets and plywood.  This was my opportunity, so I took it and burned up some unsightly trash that has been in our way for a while.

The weather improved after supper, so I went out and transferred the frames from the old plastic boxes shown above to new ones and made two splits before the rain began again.  Now I have one empty old BeeMax and one empty old Swienty box to compare. (the ones from the picture above).

  • The Swienty box has slightly thicker walls, strong corners, no joints, and weighs about one pound.  IT has a smooth surface which has not weathered much in eight years. The handhold is ample and slopes on the bottom so as not to hold dirt or water.

  • The BeeMax weighs about 7/8 of a pound, has thinner walls, and very weak corners.  The surface is rough and marred by mold marks and by insignia and deteriorated significantly in the same time period.  The handholds are slits which are longer, but not as wide and are simple dados.  They might be harder to use when wearing heavy gloves.

I'll reassemble the BeeMax boxes with glue and paint them all when I have time.  I have to find a better glue, and then I'll also glue the broken new boxes back together.  I suspect that they will be stronger than new.

I wonder about the practicality of buying Styrofoam home insulation, the pink stuff, and cutting and gluing it into boxes.  How much would that cost, I wonder.  That stuff is not cheap.

Speaking of gloves, I hardly do any manual task without wearing the blue nitrile gloves these days and my hands are in great shape.  I have almost as good sense of touch with them as without when doing mechanical or bee work.  In recent years, I had been avoiding mechanical work, which I enjoy, because the oils and solvents now dry my skin uncomfortably and because of minor cuts and abrasions which were sometimes slow to heal.  These gloves seem to eliminate those problems.  A box of 100 (50 pairs) costs about $10 and I am still on my first box.

Peter D must have been reading my diary reference to there being few black flies in Central Ontario this year, but the reports are that there are lots of blueberries.  He sent this link.  Here is the gist:

Shattering the folklore: black flies do not pollinate sweet lowbush blueberry
Fiona F. Hunter, Steven G. Burgin, and Allan Woodhouse

Abstract: It is often said that on the Canadian Shield, black flies pollinate the sweet lowbush blueberry, because years with high black fly populations also tend to be those with large blueberry crops. This folklore has never been tested experimentally. Here we report on research designed to test whether or not black flies can act as pollinators for two species of ericaceous plants, sweet lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata). In enclosures, black flies may assist in leatherleaf pollination but there is no evidence that they increase fruit set in sweet lowbush blueberry. However, we do not exclude the possibility that in the wild, they act as opportunistic nectar thieves of sweet lowbush blueberry. More at the NRC website...

The little skunk is a regular visitor to the yard these days.  I often encounter her during the day.  She is quite unconcerned when i come, but retreats under a pallet.  At first, she alternately faced and turned her back to me, but she is not o0ld enough to be able to spray.  So far, she is just cleaning up the crawlers out front.  I hope she restricts herself to that and also finds another source of food.  Otherwise, I may  face a tough decision.   I have placed anti-skunk strips on some pallets, but as the number of pallets increases, I have not kept up.  Keeping the bees well enough supered that they do not hang out and tempt skunks is important, too., to prevent problems

Monday July 5th 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. Becoming cloudy near noon then periods of rain. Wind becoming northwest 40 km/h gusting to 60 near noon. High 17. UV index 4 or moderate.

Tonight: Periods of rain ending this evening then clearing. Wind northwest 40 km/h gusting to 60 becoming light this evening. Low 10.

Tuesday: Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming north 20 km/h early in the evening. High 24.

The weather is becoming of increasingly concern to me, since I have two days to finish the splits and because tomorrow the cells begin hatching.  If I don't get them used up today, I'll have to make provisions to cage them individually. 

My comments about expanded polystyrene EPS boxes have drawn some interest from readers.  I am grateful for this insight which is offered by a reader in Sweden:

I see you are getting into EPS boxes and are struggling with the four-piece type. You are right, the one-piece (Swienty) is the way to go.

We have been using EPS boxes extensively in Sweden for at least 20 years. I use ten frame modified Dadant (= Jumbo) for brood with two coats of paint and Farrar (= Shallow?) with plastic frames (-> +15% area -> max 15 kg total when full).

The supers get only one coat of paint. Paint with white spirit base gives the best surface. Density must be at least 80 g/l or else it will be too soft, 100 g/l and up it will be too fragile. Swienty and other high quality makes (Nacka-kupan) is about 95 g/l. They will last 20+ years if not abused. Other: - Pink/Blue foam (XPS extruded polystyrene) is still too soft, do not waste your time.

The hive tools edge is asymmetric, use it with the right side up to "roll" up when cracking boxes. The wider edge, compared to wood, will give a tighter fit and thus less propolis to crack.

Thx for the diary, it is very educational and also personal. Makes my day to catch up on your daily deeds.

Jens

Emerging virgins are hungry and only survive hours if not fed, and may kill one another if they get the chance, so they must be separated from one another and accessible to be fed by bees.  From the forecast, I have this morning to get things done; rain is forecast for the afternoon according to the radio, but it is still quite cool now, at 6 AM.  According to the thermometer, it is 10 degrees C, so the bees are not likely to be very hospitable yet.

Thanks for that!  I think that EPS boxes will catch on over here, but can see that the North American version is simply not tough enough for commercial service.

He says, "The hive tools edge is asymmetric, use it with the right side up to "roll" up when cracking boxes. The wider edge, compared to wood, will give a tighter fit and thus less propolis to crack.

I'm not sure we use the same hive tool -- the Maxant tool is asymmetric, the standard one less so --  but I did learn years ago to push down with the handle so that the tip lifts up against the full width of the lower bottom edge of the upper box, not down on the half-width front rabbet surface of the lower one.  He is right about propolis; these boxes do not accumulate much propolis in the cracks.

Jens sent me a picture  to illustrate his comments. (Right)

My experience is that North American hive tools are less beveled,  The Maxant is an exception, having the described bevel.  This is something to think about for those of us using EPS boxes.

I like the Maxant tool for other reasons, as well.  The hook is great for hooking out centre frames without killing bees.

*    *    *    *    *

"I hope the sketch explains my point. The same principle goes for pulling nails with the back of a hammer, the curvature makes for a larger area to take the point pressure off and leaves no mark".


 Click to enlarge.

The conversation continues...

AD: OK, I see what you mean. Most hive tools sold over here are not as beveled, but rather tapered equally on top and bottom. The Maxant tool (the one with the hook) is more as you describe.  I do pry the way you suggest, but many beekeepers pull up on the handle, damaging the rabbet. Thanks.

Jens: I think EPS boxes require you to be somewhat careful. This, IMO, will be the challenge for EPS boxes in the new world. The idea of actually having and using something for 20+ years is remote to many people, and to generalize in a euro-snobbish way, foreign to most in North America. In video clips on YouTube from US, AUS and NZ the rough handling of boxes seem uncalled for to me; hammering in the tool, yanking on it, banging on the boxes and tossing them on the truck. I guess it makes them feel efficient, I dunno, it sure adds work fixing boxes wintertime.

In my accounting I write off the boxes over three years but expect them to last for twenty with one additional painting mid-term. One hour now and another in ten years in maintenance is sound economics to me, even if I have to spend a second or two extra cracking the boxes. One reason for having one large brood chamber is to avoid cracking and lifting, but that is another story.

AD: Have you any experience with Swienty or other brands of one-piece plastic frames with foundation molded in, or other frames?  I'm thinking that, since the major cost of shipping to North America is  the container freight, and that volume, not weight, is the constraint, then maybe if the boxes were shipped full of frames instead of empty, there could be a cost saving.

Jens: A large part of my honey frames are one-piece plastic (modified Dadant is not available in plastic). I use Pierco, but will start using Agreb (Swedish producer), mainly because they have slightly better finish and that the maker (Carl-Georg) is a very nice guy, price wise no difference. Neither of these can be cleaned in warm water, which I see no reason for.

However, on the last convention for commercial beeks there was a demo of some Italian one-piece deep frames that withstand boiling. It seemed to make many happy, and I can see that it might be useful for cleaning brood combs. I think the frames where blue. Lars Pettersson biodling (http://www.lpsbiodling.se/) have connections to Swienty but runs his own mold for EPS boxes (Nackakupan).

So, if you would like to stock the boxes with boilable blue Italian one-piece frames you might have a case.

I've made up four nucs so far this morning and can see that I may not get as many as I had thought.  Some hives have 9 or 10 frames with good brood patches, but others just have new queens getting started and only a few frames with brood. 

The forklift also does not want to go into gear.  That will be a problem when it comes time to move the nucs.  It has been temperamental lately, sometimes working perfectly, and other times, like today, not wanting to go into any gear.

 I come in every so often for a break and am headed back out.

*    *    *    *    *

I'm pretty tired now, exhausted, in fact.  I worked out in the light rain and strong wind until 4 and came in for a rest.  It was hard on me and hard on the bees.  They seemed to handle it OK, though and most found their way home alright.  In some ways a rainy day is good for splitting, since the bees do not drift back as badly.

I'm starting to think I'm not going to get everything done in time and maybe I should reschedule my trip East.  I'm getting a lot done here and later what I'm doing will not be as easy.

I managed to get all the EPS hives organized so that they are all in identical new boxes and pulled the old ones out of service for repair and painting.  I had not figured to paint them later, but am concerned that some hives may need them before long.  My intention is to have as many as possible of the hives in three boxes going into winter.  I see some signs of plugging already.  I'm probably just worrying too much.

I have quite a few double and triple hives in standard wooden boxes marked for splitting, and reckon I need to have 32 seconds ready for the job and on the hives by the end of tomorrow.  I have enough boxes and could just go and throw them on, but I have done that a few times already and the boxes really need to be gone through.  Some are mouse-eaten, some are waxed up so that frames are hard to handle, some combs are broken or unsuitable.  Some boxes are full of honey, while others are light and also dry.  Some feeders are full of junk.

With the new mower, I am getting lots of yard cleanup done and enjoying myself.  I could be rushing east to put the starter into the boat and wait around for Jean and Chris to get there, or spend a few more days here.  Ideally, I'd put my trip off for three days, but Air Canada ramps the prices up impossibly for flights within 7 days, so my best deal is to add seven days to my stay here.

Running two kinds of boxes makes everything harder.  I figured using the EPS boxes would spare me wrapping for winter, but I am finding that switching is a lot of work.  A lot of it is work I should have done anyhow, but now I have to remember to keep the supplies for some hives separate.  That was something that tripped me up in the past, too.

I find it ideal if all frames are either Hoffman (self-spacing) or straight end bar style using 9-frame spacers and if all boxes are either standard wood or EPS.  Mixing types cause consternation.  I am thinking I am in transition, but I do have thousands of wooden boxes lying around and only 122 EPS boxes.

Speaking of wintering, I'm wondering if my greater success in the EPS boxes was due to the fact that I wrapped late.  I had planned to wrap before Christmas, but extreme cold weather caused  me to put it off until more comfortable weather, and that turned out to be January as I recall.

I looked at several queens in cells as I installed them.  they are still white.  Somehow, I expected they would be gaining some colour by now.

(It is possible to "unscrew" a cell from a JayZee BeeZee cup to glance at the pupa and then "screw' it back together.  It does not seem to injure the pupa if done gently).

I've pretty much decided to put off my trip east for a few more days.

I can't figure out why these queens are slow developing.  I've seen this before, when we bought about a thousand cells and the various batches seemed to mature differently.  People blame the grafting, the incubation, the weather, etc., but it seems to me that there is just a natural variability and that the tables we use are averages.

   We are here    

Day 14
Monday 5
   Install queen cells 

Day 15
Tuesday 6
    queens may begin 
   to emerge

Day 16
Wed 7
Queens emerge

Day 17
Thurs 8

Day 18
Fri 9

Day 19
Sat 10

Day 20
Sun 11
 Mating
Flights

Day 21
Mon 12
 Mating
Flights

Day 22
Tues 13
 Mating
Flights

Day 23
Wed 14
 Mating
Flights

Day 24
Thurs 15
 Laying
begins

Well, I did it.  I changed my flight to Monday morning. I decided I'd rather be here than there.  That gives me five more days.  At the rate I've been go

*    *    *    *    *

ing, I should be able to accomplish a lot.  I've been on quite a tear.

I just heard from Liz.  She mailed me 10 Minnesota Hygienic/Grand Forks cross queens today.  The Canada Post tracking website suggests they should arrive tomorrow.  (In your dreams).

Ruth showed up in time for dinner, then Jean and Chris returned from Vancouver and picked up Mckenzie.  Mckenzie has been staying with us for the past three days and keeping Ellen entertained.  together they went to several towns and museums.

 
Tuesday July 6th 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
 

Today: Cloudy with sunny periods and 30 percent chance of showers early this morning. Clearing this morning. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h this morning. High 24. UV index 7 or high.

Tonight: A few clouds. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 8.

I count 60 hives now, including 12 splits sitting above excluders waiting to be moved out to new stands, with another 16 (approx) splits to go.  The remaining splits are in wooden hives.  I am being careful not to mix the wood and EPS (Styrofoam) boxes on the same hive, since it makes wrapping in fall almost impossible.

I have plenty of time now to get things whipped into shape.  I've let things slide for years, but seem to have found new enthusiasm for getting up to a 100 hive count.

First thing this morning, I placed four prepared brood chambers on pallets and lifted the splits (in singles) off the parent hives and onto their new stands, plugged the holes, and moved them to new locations.  I didn't move them far, since it was rainy yesterday and because there are many young bees and the splits have lots of mature brood, and mostly because it was more convenient.  I am expecting they will not drift back the way the would in better foraging weather.  I'm assuming that the parent hives won't suddenly burst at the seams.  I intentionally made them a little weak, knowing that some bees always drift back.

I got to wondering if the splits are keeping the cells warm enough and checked with the infra-red thermometer. Seems they are at the correct temperature.

The cells seem to be nowhere near hatching, although they have been kept warm.  I've seen this before and it always puzzles me.  I leave the protectors on, though until they are placed safely into their new split, since just one hatching on time could kill all the others!

Seems my telescoping lids and  and pillows work OK with the EPS boxes.  They sit up top and pin down the edges of the pillow nicely.  They are a little precarious, though.  The brick holds them down and also can display a message by how I position it.  You may also notice that I wrote on each lid with marker, indicating how much brood and the queen status and source, if known, and the date.

Below are more sad-looking broken boxes.  I'm up to 4, now, if we just count the ones broken in normal handling and if we don't count the two or three I made up out of pieces broken in transit.

The first was a box I made using a broken piece with a missing tab, because otherwise I'd have had to throw the other three sides away.  It could not hold up with one tab.  The glue joint opened.  I'm starting to see that these boxes are best used with nine-frame spacing and no crowding together of frames.

The middle box is one I dropped a short distance with some frames in it.  They nicked the edge badly.  I suspect that glue will fix that up.

The third shot shows how very little material holds the sides together.  Those tabs are simply inadequate, and there is no way to glue the whole surface until they break off.  Then it is possible to glue a normal (much stronger) butt joint, but then, clamps are required.

*    *    *    *    *

I hope that "between you and me" just means "leave my name out of this"...

HI Allen - It's interesting to read your experiences with the BeeMax equipment. Just between you and me, fyi, I have about a dozen of the EPS nuc boxes from Betterbee (not sure who the mfr. is; they aren't labeled "BeeMax"), purchased a few years ago, and that is the extent of my EPS equipment. I painted them with two + good coats of latex paint and thought they would be very solid for long-time use, but by the end of summer the carpenter ants had tunneled through them badly and left them with a lot of holes. The ants even burrowed in the spaces between adjacent boxes which were stacked right next to each other and removed large portions of the wall and floor surface material. The same thing happened this year when I used them for splits. Now I have a bunch of nuc boxes to try to repair with glue and repainting. If I leave any of the nuc boxes outside empty, with the lids on, ants (carpenter and others) are soon nesting in them again and excavating. It has been quite a disappointment. Sounds like Swienty is the way to go in places where they are available. You have had BeeMax for some time, so if you were going to encounter the same ant problem you might have seen it by now. I just wonder if a higher density of material would be less attractive to the ants. At the time, I thought I was getting a good deal at $20 apiece, when I go them (on sale), esp. since they did not require assembly. However, in my experience they seem better for raising ants than bees, and I will have to spend a lot of time repairing them, repeatedly. There is quite a bit of damage already. Not such a good value after all. Solid, wooden supers and hives stacked in the same location have not been damaged by the ants. I have spoken to another beekeeper about 20 miles away and he has had the same experience with his BeeMax hives, and swears he will not buy any more. The EPS is light and I suppose it has some advantages but to have to repeatedly fill in ant tunnels and rake up piles of PS dust from under hive stands is not what I was after. It was worth a try. Good luck with the queens!

It's now 2 Pm and I have made up 15 splits with three or four good frames with brood in standard boxes since lunch.  The conditions are perfect and the hives have enough brood to make the job easy.  I make them up and then stack them over excluders, awaiting removal.  I leave the queen and one frame of brood in the bottom.  Most of the queens are new this year.

How I did today's splits:

  • Pulled all the boxes off and stood them on end.  Some hives had four brood chambers.  (I have no supers on and don't intend to add any unless I have to.  All the boxes are for brood).

  • Placed each box in turn onto a small pallet and removed the frames one by one from each box, shaking the bees off gently into the bottom box as I went

  • Glanced each frame over for the queen.  She should be amongst the first to be shaken off, but that is not always true.

  • Placed four frames with large brood areas or equivalent into each split.  Tried to balance stages.

  • Filled each split up with brood frames.

  • Left one frame with brood in the bottom box with the queen and filled that box with brood frames.

  • Stacked up the splits with an excluder above the bottom box to keep the queen down, but allow the bees to return up to the brood.

This now brings my current count up to 75 hives, and I am thinking that I will have to make at least another twenty-five splits today.  My goal is the opposite of most beekeepers right now.  My intent is to make the hives as weak as possible without compromising their wintering and also to ensure that I do not make any surplus honey.   I really do not want to have to extract again.

I went out after a break and found my truck has a flat.  What a pain.  It appears to be in the sidewall, so will require a tube.  I use the truck to run around the yard and to carry my smoker, boxes, etc.  i still have the forklift -- when it runs, but will have to take the tire to town soon.

I came in again at 5 for a rest and supper and had a total of 28 new splits at the time.  One queen apparently has emerged from the cells in the nuc, but the others are still lacking colour.

I can't figure this out.  How can queens grafted from the same frame at the same time and held in a nuc with plenty of bees be so different in maturity?  I've seen this many times and people always blame the grafting.  I don't.

I assume that people grafting and raising cells routinely for a living know what they are doing.  I have noticed, though that most people are satisfied with cells smaller and less well-fed than my wife and those who teach grafting consider ideal.  Personally, I don't know.  Small cells seem to produce decent queens most of the time.  I think that producing larger, better-fed cells just adds assurance.

At right is what happens almost overnight at this time of year.  A new queen lays up a storm and three weeks later, the hive explodes.  Because the weather is warm, and because nectar and pollen are coming in, the brood nest expands rapidly.  The hive (in 2 broods) shown at right is now drawing foundation and filling its feeder with comb.  It appeared to be a miserable runt, mostly in one box ten days ago.

I have another fourteen hives to work through in the next days.  They will likely yield two splits each on average.  I simply don't have time or energy to finish them today, and I figure that I will have queen cells left over and possibly hatching overnight, so Ellen went to find the JayZee BeeZee queen cages.  I figure I'll put the cells I don't use today into the tubes of the cages and place them where the bees can take care of any virgins that may emerge through the cage until I can use them.  Newly emerged virgins starve within hours if they cannot get food.

It's 6:44 and I am headed back out.  More later.

I was very concerned about finding homes for all the cells by their expected hatch date, which is tonight and tomorrow.  Ellen suggested just inserting dividers between each split in the stack and installing them tonight.  Why not?  They won't fly for a few days and by then I should have them moved out to their new homes.  Simple!

Our system of having a 1" auger entrance hole in every brood box makes this sort of manipulation easy, and I just happened to have some sheets of plastic cut for that exact job, so I went out, slipped in the separator sheet and put a cell in each.  When I had placed one in every split I had made before supper, there was one cell left and I placed that into the nuc for the night.  I did not need to use the cages.

I'm glad I'm not flying out tomorrow.  I still have seconds to make up for all of today's splits and the parent colonies.  That will take a day at least by the time I get them on the hives.  I have to put the singles down onto floors and move them out.  I usually put the second under the split, but may put them on top of the stronger ones, especially if the weather looks good.

Current count is 83, with about fourteen hives left to split.  I am out of cells unless I find some swam cells.  I have ten mated queens coming and the rest will have to be done "walk-away" style.  If the fourteen remaining hives yield two splits each, then that will bring the total count to 101.  Figure on 10% failure, at least, and the net will be somewhere between 80 and 90, I'm thinking.  That will use up all my frames and wraps.  I have tons of boxes.  I'm thinking I should buy 100 boxes worth of waxed Pierco and put them on.  Otherwise, what will I do next year?

If we have a short or wet August, as we often do, that matter will be moot, but if we have a year like last year, then they could all be drawn and filled.

As I read through the days, and see what I say I plan to do, what I think I am doing -- and what it turns out that I think I actually did, it confirms in my mind that if I am at all typical, beekeepers really don't have a clue what they are really doing or have done, and that it is a mistake to believe any of us.  We just do things, and a lot of the time, we don't understand what we are going to do, what we are doing, or what we did.

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Wednesday July 7th 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers early this morning. High 27. UV index 7 or high.

I awoke to the sound of a spray plane, and sure enough, it was making passes over a canola field in full bloom one and a half miles away.  I drove out and took some pictures.  The dew is heavy and there is a breeze. 

A stack of splits.  Only a few bees are flying this early in the dayOnly a few bees were flying when I got home, but not foraging, so I don't know what to think.  If the plane is spraying a contact pesticide, I wonder how effective the spray will be with the dew.  If it is residual, then it would appear to be illegal.  With a lot of forage closer by, I doubt that many of my bees are likely to be out there.  Should I only be concerned about my own bees?

Today looks good for finishing the splits.  I could be moving hives right now, but would like to have the truck to carry some of them, since the forklift only goes about 10 MPH safely and can carry only 12 hives.  I have two choices: a yard 3/4 mile away and a yard 2 miles away.  I suspect I'll use both.

The phone rang at 8:27 and it was Steve at the post office.  My queens are here.  I had Liz Huxter make me 10 Minnesota Hybrid/Grand Forks cross queens and here they are, so I'm off to town to get the queens and I'll get the tires fixed on the same trip.

Yesterday I put in a long day and got lots done.  Today, I got off to a good start, and got lots done in the morning and early afternoon, but the heat got to me and I quit around 5.  I was in the middle of splitting a beautiful, four-storey hive and just got so tired that I closed things up and left everything lying where it was in the yard.  Normally, I tidy everything up at the end of the working day, but today, I was just beat and walked away.

From years of commercial beekeeping in distant yards with a crew, though, I am in the habit of tidying constantly as I go, so that I can usually end what I am doing and leave with only a few minutes of finishing up.  There are many good reasons for cultivating and enforcing that habit.

  • Emergencies at home or in the yard can arise suddenly requiring the truck to be loaded or unloaded and tied down safely and ready to go without delay.  If it is surrounded by junk, there can be delays or things can be run over.

  • Forklifts, handcarts and people require space to maneuver.

  • Weather can change suddenly, especially spring and fall, so lost bees and open hives are suddenly at risk.

  • Hives can turn nasty with little warning, especially with several people working a yard.

  • Mess in the yard disorients the bees and causes drifting and stranded bees.

  • Mess can cause tripping hazards and accidents.

  • Being organized makes it easier for everyone to know how much is done and left to be done and to allocate resources most effectively.  No sense running out before finishing a yard or having leftover supplies and having to haul things up and down the road multiple times.

  • Supplies can be better estimated and allocated if organized visually.

  • Clean-up can be a huge job if left to last when everyone is tired.

We also always tried to leave a yard so that it would not need another visit immediately,  We learned over time that when someone left some small task undone in a yard, planning to return again soon, it did not happen.  Here is why:

  • It always seems less important the next day and gets forgotten.

  • In planning the next day it is seen that other yards need a visit more urgently.

  • We switch to working another district

  • Someone is off sick.

  • Something breaks down.

  • The weather changes.

  • Or the big reason: The cost of getting there will exceed the cost of not going
    The remaining job requires only an hour or less of work, and getting to and from, and in and out of the yard requires more than that.  This is a huge decision factor in management decisions that labourers often do not understand or think much about.  It is a matter of perspective that can lead to the crew thinking that the boss does not care about doing things right, since they have less understanding of cost.

    One queenless hive or other condition does not justify sending one man or a crew 120 miles, or usually even 5 miles.  At some times of year, time and materials are in such short supply and even relatively important jobs get missed because they rank below other more pressing work.

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Thursday July 8th 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

According to environment Canada, yesterday's max was 23.8°C and min was 10.3°C.  That was hot enough for me, but today is expected to hit 30.  I have a lot to do, so I had better begin early so I can avoid the heat of the day.  We haven't had real "bee weather", yet.  I can tell because there are hardly any flies around.  Whenever we see lots of flies, for some reason, the honeyflow is also on.  This heat should bring on the flow and the flies.  I see the lawn drying out already and it rained only a few days ago.  We're having a barbeque tomorrow night, so I'm hoping the flies can hold off a few more days.

I have a few hives to split, some queens to introduce, lots of brood chambers to make up and supers to ready.  I also have splits to lift down and move.

After "hitting the wall" yesterday, I remembered my old trick of drinking a glass of water with a teaspoon of salt stirred into it to replace salt in sweat on hot days in the full sun.  I used to do that and it helps avoid exhaustion. (So does wearing nothing but shorts under and pouring a pail of cold water over your head, bee suit and all).

One time, we had an employee who, unknown to us, was on a salt-free diet.  He was in late teens and healthy and had no reason I know of to avoid salt.  He did not mention it on the medical portion of the information dossier we kept on each employee to be able to respond appropriately to emergencies and to assign work appropriately.

One day, when he was working alone in a yard sixty miles away on a very hot day, he suffered heat prostration and called me.  I drove up and by the time I got there, he was passing out.  I drove him to the hospital and the stupid doctor thought that the kids was suffering a bee sting reaction.  Oh, well.

Another thing I did not do was take a siesta, which is the smart thing to do in hot weather.  Today, I also plan to find some work in  the shade for the hottest hours, from one to three PM.

Hopefully, we'll have a breeze today, too, since that makes a  big difference.  My beeyard is quite sheltered and get really hot.  For tropical, insects like bees, that is a good thing.  For me, not so much.

I had some nucs made up yesterday for the Kettle Valley queens that came yesterday and this morning I placed the queen cages on the top bars to see if they are ready to accept the queens.

At first everything looked good, (Left) but then the tell-tale signs of rejection began (Upper Right).  Note the bees doubled up in stinging position. If they got into contract with the queen, they would make short work of her.

These nucs consist of two frames with 60% brood and adhering bees, and two more frames of bees, plus feed in standard hive bodies, moved in the same yard so that older bees will drift out.  Young bees in small hives accept new queens better than big hives full of older bees.

The cages have candy in the tunnel and the queens will self release, but I think I will check again in a day to make sure that the bees have accepted them and that the candy is not disappearing too quickly.

One complaint about the JayZee BeeZee queen cages is that there is no place for the queen to get away from aggressive bees which can pull the tarsal pads off the queens' feet in extreme cases.  Normal wooden cages have large spaces where the queen can retreat, but not these.   These cages have other benefits, but  that one problem can result in queen loss unless a beekeeper covers the cage on top.  Our pillows do that nicely and also hold the cage in place.

Here (Lower Right) is a good-looking one day old virgin queen, from cells Meijers gave me.   Is that a varroa on the thorax of one bee?  Sure looks like one.  I've been watching for varroa and not seeing much.

Looks as if this camera has about had it.  There is a fuzzy spot on all the pictures now.  I thought that getting a waterproof model would prevent that, but I guess not.  A camera last me about a year.

*    *    *    *    *

It is 4 PM, now.  I got a bit done in the way of splitting, queen introduction, and tidying up.  I stacked up my eight-year-old EPS boxes to look at them.  I pulled them all out of service to repair and paint them.  I plan to use them for thirds.   I wonder how well they will take paint, since the surface is powdery.

 Presently, I have 22 old EPS boxes, 26 new ones not yet in service, plus 4 broken new ones and 70 new ones in service, making up 35 double hives. 

If I use all 122 EPS boxes to make triples, I need to make up at least 5 more doubles, and maybe more, since not all will be good for winter.  Of course, I can transfer some of the wooden ones into EPS, but the word is that I should do it early in the season.

Based on the number of frames I have, including foundation, I can make up 117 hives, total, if I use them all.  Of course, I have many more empty boxes.  I think I should buy 100 supers full of frames of foundation.  Placed on these hives, they could all be drawn out and foundation provides much more room than drawn comb.

When we made Ross rounds, we used to start with singles and add two boxes of Rounds.  The singles were started various way.  Sometimes we used package bees.  Sometimes we shook doubles down into singles, and sometimes we just broke doubles in half and walked away.  All methods worked and we got beautiful boxes of comb honey. 

I don't see why this would not work with frames of standard foundation.  They would be white and full of honey, but I would never try to winter on them.  I'd reverse the doubles and place them under so that the actual wintering took place on the boxes of older comb.

In fact, I tried this last year.  The box was drawn out beautifully.  So beautifully in fact that I made the mistake of not placing it under.  Of course the bees died.  Why?  I have no idea.  that is just what happens when trying to winter on new comb.

I think, however most of the hives should be fine for the season in three boxes.

I moved 12 more of the single splits down to the railroad yard.  I'll be making seconds for them shortly and perhaps even thirds, but it will be a while before they really get going.  The queens won't be laying for at least a week.

This is fun!

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Friday July 9th 2010
July past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today: Sunny. A mix of sun and cloud late this afternoon with a few showers or thunderstorms beginning this afternoon. High 33. UV index 7 or high.

Tonight: Showers or thunderstorms. Low 15.

Isn't that great?  We are having a big barbeque tonight and the forecast has changed to rain.  Here is hoping they are wrong.

I'm off to a slow start today and have some bees to move before they get flying too much.

*    *    *    *    *

I went out at 9 and lifted down the singles which were still stacked on plastic sheets above the parent hives, checked for queen emergence and placed them on pallets.  Emergence was better than I had feared, although there are a few queens still not out, but some appearing to be still developing.  It was already unbearably hot by then, but I persevered.

I ran them out to Elliotts' Home yard on the forklift and Ellen and Zippy came along for support  in Bigfoot, since I was running out the last of the tank of propane on the forklift and also needed a convenient way to carry bricks and entrance reducers.

It is oppressively hot at mid-day and I am learning to stay out of the sun for the hottest hours.  I see that the weather is expected to cool a little tomorrow and the next day.  I have two days to finish up my work before I leave, and that will keep me fairly busy, so cooler days will make that work more pleasant.

There are still two splits sitting on parent hives in the home yard.  If I counted correctly, I now have exactly 90 hives and there are several left to split yet.  (Actually I didn't.  As it turns out, I have 94).

I went down and checked the hives with the thermometer to make sure they are cooling OK.  The temps are right on 94 +/-1 degree F.  The Kettle Valley queens are being accepted better today and I poked a hole in the candy for several which seemed to need help.  Others still showed a little touchiness, with bees running around on the queen cages, not doubled up in sting position, but also not exactly relaxed, so I left the full centimeter of candy in those tunnels.

*    *    *    *    *

Well, there has been no thunderstorm yet, and it is 9:30 PM.  We had the barbeque and everyone has gone home.  The weather was perfect.  There are storms circling nearby, though, so I expect we'll have some showers tonight.  That will be welcome.  After the heat of the past days, the grass is starting to turn brown.

Joe and I wandered over top look at the hives during the BBQ and I noticed that three of the singles that were parent colonies were hanging out a bit, so I dropped boxes onto them.  I don't like to have them hanging out since that teaches the skunks bad habits.  Also, they could decide to swarm.  I'm a little concerened, too because these bees must have come from splits.  I'm wondering which splits?  The ones at home?  Or the ones 3/4 mile away at Elliotts'? 

They are hives from which I removed splits this morning, so they must have come the 3/4 mile.  These hives obviously were ones with more older bees than the others, since only the three have beards.  My hives were quite a mix, since some have been split previously and therefore some have older queens and some have younger queens.  Some had a break in the brood cycle and some raised brood straight through.

I worry about the splits because I have placed considerable brood in them and if they get too hot or too cold, that investment will be lost.  I reduced the entrances of the ones at Elliotts', and plugged the auger hole in the ones at home.  What is best?  I don't know.  With the radiant reading thermometer, though, I can confirm temperatures if I am there at peak heat or cold moments. Although there is plenty of feed in them, there have to be enough bees to warm the brood, fan the hive, to carry water, and to feed larvae, so if too many foragers abandon and return to the parent, that could leave those splits vulnerable.

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