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Feeding Bees in Southern Alberta

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

Friday October 1st 2010
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Today I am at home.  I have an appointment his morning to unload a truckload of peat moss for the neighbour's greenhouse.  I have the only forklift in town.  Hopefully, I can also get caught up on a few things around here.

At left is a shot of a beekeeper doing some serious fall feeding.  On the truck is a tank of 67% sucrose syrup.  A pump (right) powers the syrup through the hose into the five-gallon hive-top feeders.  A valve allows the flow to be stopped and started.  (This style of pump is not bothered by the flow being cut off and the pressure does not go sky-high).  This sort of set-up is typical of the methods used in Southern Alberta to mass feed thousands of colonies large amounts of syrup in a short time.

A close-up shot of a feeder is at lower right.  These feeders hold about five Imperial gallons and are made from a 6-5/8" super.  It takes less than a minute to fill one with 67% sucrose syrup, the preferred winter feed.  A canvas (here) or other cover like a plastic pillow or a wooden inner cover seals the feeder from robbing bees from other hives which would enter any cracks. (Thanks to Leroy for permission to use these pictures).

In late afternoon, I went out to see if the bees need feeding, judging by the amount of supplement consumed and the amount of syrup left in feeders.  They have pretty well emptied the drums.  A young skunk was out there scavenging crawlers and ambled off when I showed up.  They are used to me by now and quite tame.  I like them, but have to figure out some way to make them less of a nuisance to the hives and anything I leave around. (This picture was taken later by the game camera).

Anyhow I found that most of the hives had eaten most of the patties I gave them not too long ago. (See Sept 20) and either emptied the feeder or were very close.  A few had eaten less and/or had syrup left.  I went through the yard and filled feeders and replaced patties.  I have one box of patties left and another ten hives to go.  I ran out of syrup.  I'll feed all the remaining patties this fall. I have little confidence in old product.  Patties should be reasonably fresh.  I suppose I could freeze them, but new patties are better.

         
The Dri-loc 50 pads used for flash formic applications against tracheal and varroa mites mentioned on the Sept 23rd entry above are quickly removed by strong colonies after the acid evaporates.

I'm amazed at how my bees are eating the Global patties this fall.

Considering that the bees which eat the patties are mostly young bees under 18 days of age, it appears that these young bees often restrict themselves to a very small part of  the hive, judging by the small areas where the patties are eaten out on many hives. 

Typically, the eaten area of patties  can be just the space above the middle of two or three frames.

When we sampled varroa, we discovered that the young bees may be concentrated in one small region and that the varroa seek them out and are concentrated where the youngest bees are.

In summer and strong hives, though, we see the bees consuming patties from the whole area above the top bars.  I am now thinking that the distribution of young bees may well have to do with temperature isotherms within the cluster.  I'm also thinking the young bees stay only in the warmest parts, whereas we know the older bees favour the cooler parts.

If this is true, then wrapping the hives early results in more pollen patty consumption and wider distribution of young bees through the cluster and even some comb building.  Is that a good thing?  Or does it wear out the bees more quickly as I have always suspected?

In comb production we know that maintaining hive heat and crowding a bit enhances the comb building.  Maybe the above points help explain why.

I posted about my experience and thoughts to BEE-L:

Some weeks back, we discussed the interesting fact that varroa are not evenly distributed in drone brood and that often a patch can be found with multiple mites per pupa and other patches in the same hive with little or no varroa on the drone pupae of similar age.

Here is another observation. Apparently the varroa are not evenly distributed in the cluster. In fact they are very unevenly distributed -- if my observation yesterday is any indication.

I do a lot of varroa sampling for other beekeepers, and have been instructed when sampling 300 bees for varroa, to look for brood in the top brood chamber box and to sample bees from a frame containing brood. The age and the amount of brood does not matter, but there must be brood on the frame. If there is no brood in the top box, I am instructed to close the hive and move on the the next rather than go to the labour of disassembling the hive. In some occasional yards, that means many of the hives are not suitable to sample under these instructions, but this has been what I was doing.

At any rate, yesterday I was out with an old friend, checking his bees. We went through three yards, and near the end of the last yard, where we had been getting some fairly high numbers we found a hive which had recently had brood up top and had some empty cells waiting for the queen to lay. We knew she would not since they are shutting down for the year, but we took a sample, assuming that that this would not differ from a frame with actual brood. It was almost the last hive at the end of a long day.

We sampled 300 bees from this frame, shook the sample, and got two mites. We then thought better of cutting corners and and went into the bottom brood box, where we found a frame of brood. We sampled bees from that comb, shook them and got seventeen varroa!

I have always known that there is a difference in mite loads between older bees and the nurse and/or winter bees, but would never have imagined it to be so huge. I had thought that the difference might be a factor of two, not eight!

We imagine that bees mix and wander throughout the hive, but it seems they do not under many normal conditions. We know that the young bees hang around pretty close to the brood most of the time since they are the ones which eat the pollen patties, and that pollen patties need to be within two inches of brood to be eaten reliably. If the patties are placed elsewhere, they are pretty much ignored, except in a strong flow in summer when this rule seems less important and perhaps the young bees wander more.

If my experience yesterday is not a freak, and I doubt that it is, this observation also shows how very important it is to get mite treatment into contact with the bees which have the heavy mite load.

Simply placing the strips into hives is very unlikely likely to have maximum effect. This may also explain why formic treatments are variable in efficacy.

If you wish to comment on the above, please post on BEE-L or use the Honey Bee World Forum. Thanks.

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Saturday October 2nd 2010
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Here is another thought:  The latest version of The Hive and the Honey Bee says on page 300:  " Wax glands are best developed and most productive in bees from 12 to 18 days old".... bees consumed 3.8 kilograms of honey during the production of 453 grams of wax.  Experiments ... proved that protein food is also of great importance during wax production.  When young bees were fed sugar solution only, they lost up to 20% of their body protein in 15 days of intensive wax production. In his experiments a direct relationship was found between the quantity of wax obtained from a colony and the amount of pollen brought into the hive".

Page 272: Some kinds of activities are limited by internal conditions, such as the stage of development. for example... Also, flight is impossible for very young bees, presumably because their nervous system and muscles are not fully developed".

What is "very young"?

From a discussion on BEE-L

PD: I understood that it was recognised as standard practice to take the bee sample from the brood area. At least that should produce a base line.  BUT - If there is a recognisable variation in that area, an up to date protocol should take that into account.

AD: Lots of food for thought...

The idea of an "up to date protocol" sounds easy, but what I am realising now is that a term like "brood area" may be too vague, and defining a procedure with precision may be quite difficult as it needs to encompass hive size, time of year, flow conditions, type of bee, and maybe more if real precision is desired for calibration and comparison purposes.

The locations occupied by young bees in a colony may be very limited at some times of year as we can observe by seeing the limited eaten out portion of pollen patties sitting on brood chamber top bars, even when clusters are large enough to include the patties. That "young bee domain" may or may not be clearly defined and determined by brood amount and stages, but possibly other factors enter into it. If brood stages define the domain of younger bees, then a broodless condition, either due to season and bee variety or to queenlessness also complicate the question when trying to compare apples to apples.

If my line of thinking is correct, then we should be able to see how large the area occupied by young bees is using a hand-held infra red thermometer

It also explains why I have always felt that top entrances can reduce the volume occupied by bees in an off-and-on season with cold spells.  In my experience, if the bees are ever forced to withdraw from an area of the hive by cold, then they are much less inclined to build comb or store honey there.  It also explains why many beekeepers favour prolific bees like Italians which can generate large populations and occupy large cavities better than more conservative strains

What is the difference in young bee preference and population density between an area with eggs, an area with young brood, an area with sealed brood, an area with mixed brood, an area with emerging brood, and and area where brood recently emerged in which cells are polished and awaiting the queen? What about when there is no brood? I am now suspecting there is some difference, and maybe that difference is greater than one might suspect, particularly at some times of year or under some pollen and honeyflow conditions.

At some times of year pollen patties are only consumed close to the brood and at others, I am told, they can be fed in the supers or entrance. (I have no direct personal observation to prove whether they are consumed or simply removed in these situations).

At some times of year, during a long, heavy flow, when any box of bees with no brood is removed from a hive and placed near the hive, all the bees in it without exception seem to fly back to the hive within minutes or hours.

I have always wondered about abandonment, since there must be some very young bees at times, and that asks another question: how soon after emergence can bees fly? I have used abandonment to remove bees from tens of thousands of supers and seen very few exceptions to the above abandoning phenomenon when conditions are right and must conclude that either I did not have the very youngest bees in those boxes, that those very young bees fly, or that they walk away. I have observed that all the bees leave and seem to fly away, but never looked closely enough to notice if any are walking (not usually unless the boxes are in contact with the parent hive), or the ages of the abandoning bees. We used excluders and that may have been a factor, too, although brood was often right up to the top bars next to those excluders.

> Allen, it begs the question, has any bad sucrose ever killed a bunch of
> colonies?

I have never heard of it in Canada, or the US for that matter.

Home-mixed syrup and heated syrup is a different question, as is syrup to which various things are added like acids, flavours, bleach, etc. I know of no harm being caused by the black mould which is common in sugar syrup tanks although it looks bad. Slight fermentation also appears to be harmless,
although all the preceding are undesirable for aesthetic reasons and prudence.

Using heat on metal tanks, though, particularly iron tanks, or heat
exchangers can cause damage to syrup by carmelization, creation of HMF or, apparently unknown catalytic chemical changes if impurities and/or additives
are present.

It seems that each idea leads to another.

Of course the observation (if correct) that the youngest bees stay *very* close to where brood is being raised under non-flow conditions explains the whole argument that swarming is related to large hatches of new bees causing congested brood chambers and explains why strategic spreading of brood, reversing, and other techniques to "open up" the brood chamber work.

The observation that during a heavy flow, young bees seem to be oriented and able to fly and that hives consume pollen supplement at the entrance would suggest that during hot weather and a strong flow that those young bees venture further.

The difference between hives being fed outside or inside the hive and bees with no income on cool (5 degree Celsius) days is quite striking. I recently have had the opportunity to compare.

In the former case, where feed is available, bees fly and forage even in the cool air and the bees in the hive are loosely clustered if at all. Any dropped on the ground fly or walk back in.

In the latter case, no income, the bees are clustered and torpid. Any dropped on the ground may not be able to warm up and get back in.

This reminds me of a comment made a long time back by Dave Green about beekeepers putting out a little syrup to stimulate bees to get active on pollination where the crop to be pollinated is not all that generous or attractive.

If you wish to comment on the above, please post on BEE-L or use the Honey Bee World Forum.  Thanks.

I mentioned previously (Sept 21) that I saw a bad case of EFB in one of my hives while wrapping.

"Today, I also saw the worst case of EFB I have seen -- ever. Interesting: I first noticed the slight smell when I opened the hive and was looking for AFB. The hive is fairly strong, though. I gave them a shot of OTC".

At the time I did not observe it closely -- I should have, but I was wrapping and just figured to hit it with OTC, and did so from the top shortly after seeing it -- but there was a black spot on many of the larvae which was curious. I really should have looked closer. I marked the hive, but have been run off my feet with inspecting and trying to bed down my bees.  Maybe I'll take a look now.

Randy says, "The black spot is likely melanization--a function of immune response. I see it commonly in pupae killed by viruses, but not in larvae".

(Later) How about that? I went out and opened that hive. Ten days ago or so I had marked it "EFB" and "MEAN" and it had a reasonable population -- sufficient to make me put on a veil after working the rest of the yard without one. Now it has a bare handful of bees and a queen -- and a frame full of eggs.

The affected cells I saw have been cleaned out for the most part, but there are some dead larvae. Starved, I assume.  It sure looks like CCD.  Medhat says it is nosema ceranae.  I don't know if I can prove that one way or the other since all the older bees are gone and the young bees have just emerged and are not likely to be infected.  Randy's suggestion makes sense to me.

Tonight was my 65th birthday party and we had a crowd of friends over for a wiener roast.  A good time was had by all.

During the party, I noticed four bumble bees working in a sunflower near our south steps.

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Sunday October 3rd 2010
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Jean and Chris and Mckenzie are here today until after lunch, having stayed over after the party.  I am resting up and visiting. Next, I suppose, I have to figure out how much more inspecting I will do in the coming few days before I leave for Ontario to put up my boat and close up Pine Hill for the season.

I ordered two external antennas and some coaxial cable from www.citywireless.ca a little over a week ago to boost the signal from Rocket Hubs.  The Rocket Hubs work well, but on hazy or rainy days, the signal degrades so I figured to get a 24 dB 800/850/1900/1950 yagi and a magnet mount mobile whip.  citywireless.ca had the best deal, so I took a chance.  Seems they are a small seat of the pants outfit, but the parts arrived in eight days and were as described. 

Today Chris and I tested them out and I swung the yagi 360° to see where the signals are coming from.  I have been assuming that the towers on one of the the hills north of Three Hills would be the most likely, or perhaps the one at 9 and 21 might be a source.  Before we got the yagi, had observed the strongest signal was found in our south windows and had figured the signal was coming from that latter tower, even though there is a rise of land between us

When we swung the beam, we found, surprisingly, that the best signal seemed to be coming from the south-southwest.  I consulted the cell tower map and found a TELUS tower near Beiseker about 22 kilometers away, and visible from my rooftop.  Could I be getting a signal from TELUS?  My hub is a Rogers unit.

On closer examination, though, I noticed a Rogers tower a behind the TELUS tower near Irricana, another 10km away and I am guessing that probably is the source. If it is, then no wonder I need a 24 dB directional antenna, but surprisingly, the Rocket Hub itself, with no external antenna had been able to receive an acceptable signal much of the time.  At times, though, without an antenna and especially in rain and fog, the signal was too weak for reliable  performance. 

For microwaves, unlike VHF and UHF, line of sight is very much line of sight.  If you can't see it, you can't communicate with it.  If you can, you can.  There are two other towers I had thought to be closer, but in those directions, the horizon is in the way.

I climbed again onto the roof, this time taking my binoculars and I see an amazing number of towers to the southwest in the same direction as that TELUS tower.  Some must be power poles?  I'll look again some day when it the horizon is not as hazy.  No matter, I have five bars out of five and tests show throughput up to the seven  megabits Rogers touts.  That is a vast improvement over the 200 baud dialup modem I started with 20 years ago.

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Monday October 4th 2010
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This will be a day at home to catch up on paperwork, assuming I don't get distracted.  In the meantime here are some posts from BEE-L that are worth reading IMO.

If you don't subscribe to BEE-L, you should.  Just visit the BEE-L link and figure out how to subscribe.  You'll get interesting email daily in real time.

> HFCS in a warm place does, and HMF can form quickly.

> > After killing a couple hundred nucs by feeding HFCS that was stored for 2 > years in drums at 70 deg, I can confirm that Randy. Not a pretty sight.

FWIW, some time back, I sent some samples of a tank of HFCS I bought in 2002 to a noted researcher who has researched HFCS and its suitability for bees over the past decade.

This syrup was diluted with ~10% sterile (municipal) water at the time of delivery and has been sitting in the sun, the heat and the winter cold since then. At one time, the syrup was in a 1000 gallon poly tank and a few years back, I stirred the syrup up and pumped it into the current 600-gallon poly tank.

Here is the report:

"I had a look at your syrup samples and their did appear to be a stratification through the tank. Interesting because in another sample I just did ... no such stratification was found. It smelled and looked like there was some fermentation at the top. I did not measure alcohol but the sugar content was 51% at the top, 61% in the middle ... and 64% at the bottom.

"In terms of "other parameters", the top was probably equivalent to the worst samples of off-spec syrup I have ever tested, the middle was also in what I would call the off-spec range and the bottom was not bad -- the bottom (which had a lot of granulation in the sample you provided) would probably be ok as a spring feed but I would not use it in winter. (From this  diary page)

> > > Have you any references handy?

Here is one

> > >harsh things like bleach and who knows what.

Animal cells naturally produce and degrade hypochlorite as a component of immune response. So I'm not sure just how "harsh" bleach actually is when diluted in the syrup. Note that bees appear to preferentially seek out "bleached" water in swimming pools and hot tubs.

Randy Oliver

> While we are on sugar....how to I get my 2:1 syrup to stop crystallizing in  the feeders

Is the syrup perfectly clear when you distribute it? If not, then letting it set for a day or two until there is no sign of haziness before filling feeders may solve your problem. If not, then you may be mixing it too thick.

You don't say how long your syrup sits in the feeders. 67% sucrose syrup will precipitate out if left for a long time at very cold temperatures, but syrup should not remain in feeders for very long. It should be removed by the bees in a matter of hours or days. If not, then they don't need syrup or there is something wrong with the bees or the feeder.

Feed consumption is a good indicator of bee health. Colonies which ignore pollen patties or syrup placed near or in the cluster in warm weather and which are short of stores are probably unhealthy and need further diagnosis and treatment.

>> > Slight fermentation also appears to be harmless

> Depends upon the organisms involved. Rob Manning in Australia documented high bee mortality from some fermented syrup.

Interesting. I was speaking of simple yeast fermentation, but I suppose there are many other possibilities. Have you any references handy?

I've started using thymol in syrup to reduce fermentation and to attract the bees. Seems to work well.

The addition of sorbates and other common food preservatives has been used to prevent fermentation. Gilles Fert mentions that in his book about raising queens and I have always found that interesting. I have tried to interest others, but somehow people prefer to use harsh things like bleach and who knows what. Even thymol. Go figure.

We hired a researcher some time back to see if the antifungal effect against common fermentation organisms extends to nosema, which is fungal, but are still waiting for the results.

> Two points arising from the recent correspondence about dissolving sucrose > in water...

Something to consider is that there is nothing magical about 2:1 syrup. Those are just numbers and a guideline as to what to expect.

67% happens to be the concentration of commercially mixed syrup, but basically we want to feed as thick a syrup as we can manage to make for winter stores. We make it thick simply to reduce the amount of moisture which the bees must evaporate.

Evaporating water uses energy and makes a bit more work, but bees are built to do the job. Most of their nectar income is in the form of very dilute sucrose. Unless the weather is really cool and the bees are confined constantly, in which case one has waited to late to feed, the bees will handle whatever concentration we can manage to make and whether the mixture is 2:1 or even 1-1/2:1 will not make much difference at all.

For those mixing their own syrup, my advise is very simple. Don't bother measuring. Just get the water as hot as you can and then stir in sugar until no more will dissolve. Then let it settle and when it is clear, feed. Make sure the syrup is warm to the touch, and splash an ounce or so on the cluster if the bees are torpid to alert them that it has arrived.

Whatever sugar has precipitated in that first batch can be used in the next batch or used to make a tiny batch to use up the 'ends'.

If you start with boiling water and stir well as you add the sugar, and have a little precipitate when settling, you are going to get something very close to 2:1. and a good thick syrup.

> Allen, it begs the question, has any bad sucrose ever killed a bunch of
> colonies?

I have never heard of it in Canada, or the US for that matter.

Home-mixed syrup and heated syrup is a different question, as is syrup to which various things are added like acids, flavours, bleach, etc. I know of no harm being caused by the black mould which is common in sugar syrup tanks although it looks bad. Slight fermentation also appears to be harmless, although all the preceding are undesirable for aesthetic reasons and prudence.

Using heat on metal tanks, though, particularly iron tanks, or heat exchangers can cause damage to syrup by carmelization, creation of HMF or, apparently unknown catalytic chemical changes if impurities and/or additives are present.

> Can I somehow now reconstitute the crystallized sugar that I took out of the gallon feeders?

Assuming it is clean, it can be broken up and stirred into hot water. Since it will be harder to dissolve than fine granulated sugar, you may wish to wait until spring, when you need a thinner syrup, or use the chunks first when mixing thick syrup and then using the fine granulated product to get up to maximum concentration, since the latter dissolves more easily.

Remember to let your syrup settle and clear before pouring into feeders.

That said bees take warm syrup (95 degrees F) best because it does not cool them down. After all, they have to tank up with it and if it is chilly and they imbibe it, it will chill them and they will be fairly slow moving until they can warm up. If the feed is outside the cluster, they may ignore it if it is too cold and the ambient temps are too cool for them to manage the job.


>> > Slight fermentation also appears to be harmless

> Depends upon the organisms involved. Rob Manning in Australia documented > high bee mortality from some fermented syrup.

Interesting. I was speaking of simple yeast fermentation, but I suppose there are many other possibilities. Have you any references handy?

I've started using thymol in syrup to reduce fermentation and to attract the bees. Seems to work well.

The addition of sorbates and other common food preservatives has been used to prevent fermentation. Gilles Fert mentions that in his book about raising queens and I have always found that interesting. I have tried to interest others, but somehow people prefer to use harsh things like bleach and who knows what. Even thymol. Go figure.

We hired a researcher some time back to see if the antifungal effect against common fermentation organisms extends to nosema, which is fungal, but are still waiting for the results.

Be sure to check out the reference above or click here.

I spent the morning and early afternoon sorting inspection records and repacking the van or whatever that Ford Flex is considered to be.  I was thinking I'd run down to High River, but when I calculated the driving, I saw that I would be driving four hours for three or four hours inspecting and decided to make a whole day of it later since I would not finish by dusk and would have to go back anyhow.

Maybe that was a good thing.  After all these hours at the desk, I was really chomping at the bit to get something done and that hive crash had been nagging in the back of my mind.  I have been out inspecting others' bees and neglecting my own bees.  As my hive numbers have gone up, I have been finding the bees demand more of my time.  Three years ago, they took not time at all.  Now they keep me busy for over a month a year in total. 

I'll be giving a talk in BC advising bee-ginners, and that is one of the problems that features in the talk: problems of scale.  Running a few hives is so easy that expanding looks easy and attractive -- until you run out of hours and days.

Anyhow, not wanting to drive for hours just to do a little work, and being nagged by some things I have been seeing, I went to my own yard and picked two big hives and shook some bees in each.  One was in EPS and one in wood.  I recalled there seemed to be more varroa development in the EPS hives in the past, compared to wood.  I opened the EPS hive and found a patch of drone brood.  It was full of mites.  That does not always mean anything, so I proceeded to do a shake.

  • First, I shook the sample from the three-storey EPS hive and got 34 mites in 220 bees - 15-1/2%. (I counted the bees).

  • I then did the three-storey wood hive and got 22 mites in 190 - 12%. (I estimated the bees).

  • Last, I did a split in two wood boxes and noticed what looked like EFB, but I knew now that it is not.  It is PMS!  I shook that sample and got 44 varroa in 201 bees - 22%! (I counted the bees).

  • No point going on testing.  I know what I need to know. 

Last year, splitting seemed to hold the varroa back, and I used oxalic acid drizzle, but not this year.  Apivar, here I come!  This is getting to be an expensive hobby.  Last year I bought nothing to speak of, but this year, I've bought queens, syrup, new boxes and foundation, thymol, and now Apivar.

What do these results mean?  Well, I sampled bees right on the brood frame, and right on the brood.  The hives are down to one or two patches of brood, so more of the mites will be out on the bees instead of in the brood.  The mite numbers typically balloon at this time of year.  That being said, I only saw a few yards in the commercial operations I sampled with levels this high, and I did not see any sick brood like I have seen in several of my hives recently.  I'm going to be lucky not to have big winter loss.

People think that varroa should be visible, but often it is not.  At left is a shot of the bees on the brood comb.  The hive has an over 20% infestation as measured by shaking bees on the brood (44/200) and I can't spot a single rider.

Click image to enlarge.

Shaking bees from the brood area in alcohol is a good test of the varroa levels.  The sample size recommended for this shaker developed by John Williamson and Medhat Nasr is 300 bees.  Some people like to shake more bees, thinking that this will give better accuracy.  It won't. 

Even at 300 bees, there is a filtering effect as bees accumulate on the screen while the alcohol and mites drain down.  When more bees are taken in a sample, that pile of bees on the screen is thicker and denser and a larger percentage of the total mites is hung up in the pile of bees on the screen. (Must be the engineer in me that sees this).  Personally, I shake and drain multiple times and take the largest number.  Sometimes the difference between the counts is quite drastic.  If you have to shake more than 250 bees, my suggestion is to do the same hive twice.  Frankly, I doubt there will be much difference, between two tests of the same hive but what do I know?  This diary is mostly about revealing how I learn by saying something and then being proven wrong.

In my experience this shaker is most accurate with a little over 200 bees.  200 bees may be a sample that is under the ideal number statistically, but there is a trade-off between statistical and physical accuracy IMO and the sweet spot is at around 200-250 bees.  For 300 bees, a slightly bigger screen would be required if the filter effect is to be avoided.  Count the bees from time to time to make sure you know what you are doing (an example is shown at right).

At above left (click to enlarge) is a bee sample piled up on the screen after the alcohol has drained.  What you see here is 200 bees +/-.   300 bees of average size will level off at a line drawn across the top of the beveled part of the jar, but not protruding above that line.  If the bees are over that and into the rounded section, then there are more than 300.  Bees do vary in size considerably, though, so this is just an estimate.

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Tuesday October 5th 2010
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Well, I've proven quite conclusively that the ideas that dominate the BeeSource.com forums do not work for me.  I stopped treating for AFB and got AFB.  I used minimal mite treatments and am seeing colonies crash.  As for nosema and tracheal mites, I have no idea, but I am starting to wonder.

Maybe I should take out the microscope and take a look for nosema.  This afternoon, I am going inspecting bees, but I have some time this morning and the samples I took yesterday for varroa are right here.  Young bees are not ideal for nosema tests, though, so maybe I need to get some fresh samples of older bees.  There are bees in the feed drum that can't make it back home.  If there is nosema anywhere, it should be obvious in those bees.  I think I'll refresh my memory at Randy's site.

OK.  I got a few bees off a feed drum in the bee yard.  The drum now empty, but the bees still visit it.  I used "The Gut Squash Method" Randy describes here.   I smeared two guts so far, and saw a total of two spores in one, so these two bees were not infected with nosema.

At left is a shot from Randy's page showing what to expect where nosema is present.  When I found a spore, I took a chance and held my camera up to the eyepiece of the 400x microscope I use and clicked.  My picture is at the right.  Can you spot the spore?

He also offers the following quote as well: "Topolska and Hartwig considered seeing one to a few spores in some fields of view (as you moved the slide around) to indicate a “slight infection.” They termed a single to few spores in every field of vision as “moderate”, and numerous spores in every field as “heavily infested.”

I scoped another sample, five bees this time and found zero spores.  That was my experience the last time I looked for nosema.  I'll have to do a larger sample later.

Meijers and I went out and looked at some yards and did a quick and dirty nosema test on a yard which had some problems, but it was negative, so I'm guessing that spray or other poisoning was the issue.  They dropped off some more syrup.

I have been adding thymol to my syrup and the bees like it, but I see now that it separates out.  There are crystals in the tank.  Moreover, I had dissolved thymol for this new batch in alcohol Saturday, expecting the syrup to arrive that day, but it was delayed.  I had taken the thymol/alcohol mixture and added it to a pail of water to ensure wider dispersion and the result was a pail of apparently homogenous clear solution at the time.

When I picked the pail up today to use it, there was a clear, oily layer on top and when I agitated it he pail contents turned milky, then separated again.  I assume that is the thymol? Some beekeepers use lecithin as an emulsifier.  I wonder how well that works.

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Wednesday October 6th 2010
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I realised today that I will not get all the inspection quite done.  Along the way, I picked up a few extra beekeepers to do, and the time I set aside for the job, beginning the second week of September, began with some cold weather which held me back. 

As it turned out, the beekeepers were not ready anyhow, since they were waiting to pull the last supers and I could not have done the job even if the weather had been better.  I also have been fighting a recurrent ear infection which has made me tired.

Add to that the fact that I expanded my hive count ambitiously this year and what had been a few days work became weeks of work.  Noticing a hive collapse and unexpected high varroa counts the other day meant that I spent hours, yesterday and today, putting in Apivar and doing a final feed instead of the inspections I had planned.

The papers piling up on my desk also got my attention and I realise that I can't put them off any longer.  I have not even claimed my inspecting expenses and wages from last spring! 

Unfortunately, there is more to inspecting than just driving around and opening hives.  Meetings to discuss the assignment take time as do phone calls to consult.  Appointments must be scheduled and rescheduled.  Critical paths must be figured out.  Weather may abort plans requiring all the planning to be redone.  Supplies must be sorted and labeled.  Vehicles must be picked up and delivered.  Expenses and hours must be figured out and submitted.  In addition to finishing the Apivar job and the trip to my eye specialist today, I spent 8 hours on paperwork -- and I see I have at least that much ahead of me tomorrow.

While installing the Apivar, I noticed that pollen patties make it easy to tell where the young bees are.  The Apivar must be in contact with the young bees in the brood area to do the most good, since that is where the majority of the varroa will be found.

Apivar Day Zero
Apivar must be removed after 42 days unless the strips are moved to improve contact with the bees, in which case add fourteen days.

I am noticing that the populations are reducing somewhat, and in some cases alarmingly as the old bees die off.  Many of the hives are looking good, but there are 5 about which I have grave doubts.   I am noticing, too that the sucrose/HFCS mixture wets the bees in the frame feeders more than sucrose does and that there is more drowning than I expected.

I filled the feed drums, too, in the morning,  When I looked in the afternoon, the bees were there, but the levels had hardly dropped.  I think the bees are pretty well fed now.  They have eaten he eight boxes of patties I had and some could use more, but I think it is time to quit.  I'll be gone for the next two week and after that, things are shut right down.  I've done about all I can.

Thursday October 7th 2010
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I worked at the desk until midnight and was up at six this morning.  I always do a little in the diary until I am sure I am awake, but will cut it short today.  The weather in the coming week looks good for feeding., but I think my hives are now well fed and I'll just let them empty the feeders and clean up the patties they have.  There is also some feed out in drums to give the hungry ones something to do and to let the4m fill in as the last of the brood hatches out.  Many are still raising several frames though, catching up.

Today, I have pile of little jobs to do so I'll be ready to leave Saturday early.  I have to line up some coal so Ellen and the dog and cat will not have to worry while I am gone.  I have to finish up some paperwork and fill in some important forms and get ready to run up to Edmonton tomorrow.  My ears and jaw are bothering me a bit and I really should run off to see a doctor, but that would take a few hours I cannot spare right now.

In the afternoon, I ran out to see how the Apivar is working.  I figured I should see mites on the doorsteps and I did.  The shot on left is of an EPS hive without an entrance reducer.  The shot at right is the doorstep of a wood hive that had a reducer.  I pulled it off for a moment to reveal the debris -- and mites.  You can see the bits of paper from Global Patties as well as varroa mites among the debris.

I found the bees were quite crabby.  Normally I can walk around the yard without a veil, but this time I got several stings.

I worked at various small jobs and paperwork all day, but in the afternoon was so tired that I lay down and took a nap -- for an hour and half.  It was hot enough that I was in shorts with no shirt.  I guess I've worn myself out.  I hope that some rest will help me overcome this infection.  Just when I think it is beat, it comes back.  I used to take an afternoon nap in the past, but lately I've been too busy.  A nap is a good idea because I typically only sleep six hours a night.

Friday October 8th 2010
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2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

This morning I am up at 5:30. Once the sun comes up, I'm off to Edmonton, then back home again.  I still have a lot to do before I go East.  I'm also think about how to see a doctor without wasting a few hours sitting in a waiting room.  My ears still are bothering me.  I am starting to think there is no choice; this does not seem likely to clear up on its own.

Our Internet signal strength continues to be great with the Rocket Hub and the yagi from www.citywireless.ca.  For the first time in years, after putting up with Airenet and its terrible customer service and repeated random outages, we finally have reliable Internet with Rogers Rocket Hub.

We'll see, though, how the signal holds up in heavy rain and snow since the tower is 32 km away (cell tower map).  I see, so far, only a slight drop from five bars to four and some jitter.  The Airenet tower is 11 miles (18 km) away and had problems with precipitation degrading the signal -- that in addition to their regular equipment failures and/or other unexplained sudden and prolonged outages.  There is a tower closer to the north, but if I need to use it, I'll have to put up my own tower again to peek over the horizon to the north.

I drove the van to Edmonton and returned home.  Now I'm done with inspecting.  I did not get it quite all done, but it's a relief.  I'm highly motivated and have found the delays and the recurring head infection stressful.  Actually I got a lot done and a few extra tasks came up during the duration.

I stopped to see jean on the way up and she suggested a walk-in clinic with a short wait and I went by.  She was right.  the wait was short and the doctor concurred with the diagnosis and prescribed and anti-biotic  This is my third try at getting this cleared up.  He also booked an ECG, just to be sure the heart is not involved.  I had that done on the way home and it came out normal.

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Saturday October 9th 2010
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2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

It's 1:15 in the afternoon, and I'm here in the Exchange Cafe here at YYC, waiting for my Sudbury flight.  It leaves shortly and I should be in Sudbury by 3:05.

I watched Knight and Day on the plane and laughed out loud.  It was a hilarious straight-faced send up of the guy/gal spy action movies.

Looking at the weather, Sudbury looks cool compared to Swalwell.  At home the days should stay warm and sunny, while here the outlook is for cooler, cloudy days.  Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday look quite damp as well.  I'm here to close the cottage and was hoping for better weather than this.  I have ten days and would like to spend two or three at Pine Hill since I have the boats to do as well as the plumbing and all the other stuff.

On BEE-L, the discussion resulting from Jerry's paper continues.   In short it confirms that a virus and nosema seem to cooperate to cause CCD.  His work is peer reviewed and quite well done.  Except for the identification of several new viruses, it confirms what many had already concluded: control nosema and varroa (a major virus vector) and CCD problems are likely to be much reduced.

I arrived in Sudbury and Mom was waiting at the airport.  We drove home and I immediately went to the basement for some reason, and heard dripping.  I followed the sound and discovered the sewer was blocked and water was leaking from the top of the backup valve on the exit line.  The drip was not very fast, but I realized that with more water use, there would be a backup within hours and water would be rising in the lowest fixtures.  The family is coming tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner and that would be a bad time to have it happen.  We called the roto rooter guy and although it was a Saturday night on holiday weekend, a man showed up shortly and cleared the blockage.  Tree roots were the cause.   We paid a little extra due to the overtime, but it was worth every penny.

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