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Finally, signs of spring and all these hives are all dead

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Sunday May 1st 2011

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Today the cleanup begins and I'll be looking for signs of flowers blooming.  The buds on the poplars were out yesterday and normally they would be full of bees, but this year, there are none.

I did some more basement cleanup, took out some ashes, then made a bit of a start on the bee yard, but got distracted washing rugs on the sidewalk.  I use  a pressure washer to clean throw rugs.  That took over an hour and then Ellen & I went looking for trailers.  I need one for hauling bees and also for taking garbage to the dump.

We went first to a neighbour's, then to Linden and finally to Crossiron, where I had looked at them before at Costco and Lowes.  We did not buy one, but pretty much decided on a compromise between size and capacity and the need to use a van to pull it.  I want either powder coat or galvanized because I can see the painted ones already rusting as they sit on the lot. 

I have to carry 10 hives and reckon therefore that I need a payload capacity of at least 1,500 lbs.  As for space, hives are usually about 18" x 24" when the lids and floors are considered, so in a single layer of ten hives, 2 across by 5 front to back, would be 48" (4') across by 90" (8-1/2').  Taking off lids would reduce that length by 10" to under 7'.

Running with top bars running forward and back is better for the bees if the frames are loose but is harder to fit.   We always ran them long ways across due to our pallets and it did not seem to matter.

Although I need a trailer large and strong enough to carry 10 double hives on the highway and into the yard, I have to remember that the van is lightweight and can probably pull 3,500 lbs max and preferably less, especially in the mountains.  Moreover these small trailers have no brakes, so lighter is better in that regard also.  Van specs at left indicate that it can pull up to 3,500 lbs.

Looking at the provincial trailer laws, it seems Alberta is the toughest.:

Alberta Trailer Brake Requirements -- If gross laden weight of trailer is 909 kg/2,004 lbs or over, or if gross trailer weight is over half that of the unit, independent braking system is required.

British Columbia Trailer Brake Requirements -- Gross trailer weight of 1,400 kg (3,080 lbs) or less - Brakes are required if the trailer and its load weigh is more than 50% of the licensed weight of the vehicle towing it. Gross trailer weight of 1,401 kg (3,081 lbs) to 2,800 kg (6,160 lbs) - Brakes are required, including a breakaway brake. Gross trailer weight of more than 2,800 kg (6,160 lbs) - Brakes are required, and the trailer brakes must be capable of being applied by the driver independently of the towing vehicle's brakes. A surge brake does NOT meet this requirement. A breakaway brake is also required. Brakes are required on all axles. The sole exemption to this rule is for a 3 axle house trailer, in which case brakes are only required on 2 of the 3 axles.

Here is Ontario, too, since I haul my boat around in Ontario.  I have no idea what it actually weighs, but assume it is over 3,000 and under 4,000 lbs depending on what is being carried in it.  I need to weigh it sometime.

Ontario -- Trailer or semi-trailer - Every trailer or semi-trailer having a gross weight of 1,360 kilograms (3,000 lbs) or more shall be equipped with brakes adequate to stop and to hold the vehicle.

We also stopped at Canadian Tire and picked up some spark plugs.  I had pulled two this morning in search of the cause of lower than expected fuel economy in the van and found that they look to be the original or very old, worn, and dirty.   I have seen worse, though.

The van has 227,000 km on the clock, so it is time for new ones.  The front plugs are easy to reach, but I'm not looking forward to changing the back ones.  They are very much out of sight and mostly out of reach,  If the front ones are not original and have been changed, I wonder about the back.  Some unscrupulous mechanics just change the ones that are easy to reach and charge full price.   (Pardon the focus. I took this with my Optimus One phone.  I hardly ever carry a real camera anymore).

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Monday May 2nd 2011

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Hi Allen,
There has been some very high losses in pockets in MB this winter. In my case, not good, likely to be around 50% loss when all bees are unwrapped and worked through. I did not treat for Nosema last fall. Year before I did treat in the first pail of feed (Fumidil B) as well as Honey Bee Healthy and the bees wintered very well. We also have had a brutal winter whereas 09/10 winter was rather mild with a very nice March and April. Sure would be nice to have access to reasonably priced packages to restock. We'll have lots of week splits this season.  Were any of your hives treated?

I treated only with Tylosin and OTC during the season.  I added Apivar when I noticed the hives dying, but that was too late. I did not treat for nosema. The three samples I took did not show any nosema.

Finally, today, we get some more seasonal weather, and, of course it is Election Day in Canada.  "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right..."

I changed the spark plugs this morning and noticed the gap was wide compared to the new ones which are pre-gapped.  I also changed the air filter (not too dirty) and put in some of the fuel system foam cleaner that people have been recommending, then drove down to Carbon to vote.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ride seems smoother and quieter.  The engine had been a bit louder than I expected on this van, and I now guess it was working harder due to bad plugs.  Now it seems quieter and smoother.   We'll see after the computer adjusts, if the fuel economy improves.

It is warm today but the wind is up.  I should get out my windsurfing boards.  I plan to take them east this summer, but I could be sailing here in Alberta.  I do have a drysuit.

I tried adjusting the side doors in the van and found there is no adjustment possible.  I had a little wind noise, coming from behind me and thought I could fix it.  I still have to figure that out. 

I then drove to Crossiron and bought the trailer shown in yesterday's post.  When paid for it and hooked it up, I discovered that the light socket on my van is not working, so, having an hour or two of daylight left, I took a chance and hightailed it home without lights by the back highways.  I was pleased to find that it pulls easily and my gas mileage was in the high twenties, even with it behind me.

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Tuesday May 3rd 2011

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We still have a few drifts around.  The next week promises to be above freezing both day and night, so we should see the last of them disappear in the next few days.

I'm now about ready to take a trip to BC to get the 10 hives.  It is just a matter of waiting for them to be ready.  I have to pick up my deadouts first, too.

I posted this it BEE-L today.

Bump. From Thu, 23 Dec 2010 12:54:04 -0500

>Has anyone tried sterilizing old combs and boxes with ozone? You can pick up an ozone purifier for hot tubs or aquariums on eBay for $100. If you pumped the ozone into an old chest freezer, you could gas 8 or 10 boxes at once.
>Has anyone tried this? How much ozone production do you need to be effective and how long would you need to gas boxes? Or would it be better (more practical) to ozonate the water you mix the 10% bleach solution with and mist combs and boxes?

My phone rang this morning and a friend asked me about this idea again. He is considering setting up a sizeable room with a generator if they can get enough information as to dosage, potential hazards and pitfalls and efficacy. I've been compiling what I can find at http://www.honeybeeworld.com/diary/articles/ozone.htm So far that has been mostly a matter of compiling this thread, but I expect to add more as I gather responses and resources.

They have lined up a generator they can rent initially at http://www.absoluteozone.com/ and purchase later if desired. They have a large room that is reasonably well sealed, so now it is just a question of whether to proceed -- and how.

Has anyone anything to add to what we have covered here already? I'm writing several researchers in hopes of getting more specific ideas and will share what i learn. I understand that there are some commercial beekeepers in the US who have been using ozone, but have neither their contact info or word of their results.

Is ozone the best choice or should we consider phostoxin? I looked that chemical up and it is controlled up here. It can be had, but is a seriously dangerous product and there are some hoops to jump through. Of course ozone is dangerous, too, but it is not controlled and can be generated quite cheaply on demand.

Anything anybody can offer will be appreciated.

I also wrote to Frank Eischen and to Rosalind James, two US researchers who have been working in this area.

Frank replied:

In the May issue of the American Bee Journal (pages 508-509), we published an abstract of some of our work. Phostoxin was effective in killing nosema spores on stored honeycomb. We are still trying to figure out if ozone will work.

Rosalind replied: (I am only using snips from her message here).

We are working to get it to work in a bigger chamber. It can get very expensive to get a large chamber operational, and it takes a long time to fill it up with ozone. The problem is that the wood adsorbs and degrades the ozone, so when you have a large chamber, you have to produce a lot of ozone very quickly or else you never elevate the amount in the chamber to where you need it. Pesticide degradation is not working as well as I would like it to. Chalkbrood and all the insect pests can be feasibly eliminated 100%. I assume that viruses are as easy to eliminate as chalkbrood but they are very hard to measure. Viruses tend not to be especially persistent outside the host.

... Nosema just is not very stable outside the host either, and so I don’t think fumigation is all that important for Nosema. We are having trouble getting our controls to stay alive long enough to get an experiment set up! Data has shown that Nosema cerana (the main Nosema in the US) only stays viable on comb <30 days. Also, if you put the combs in the cold (we tried storing them at 4C, which is 40F [a typical refrigerator], all the Nosema died within a couple of weeks). Yes, if you take comb from an infested colony and move it directly to an uninfested colony, you will spread the disease. But if you store your honey comb over winter before it goes back on a hive, you are not going to spread the disease.

...This method requires very high concentrations of ozone. If you can walk into the fumigation chamber and live, it is not going to kill other things either! You will need to set up a well sealed chamber, get a machine that produces a large amount of ozone, and pipe the ozone into the chamber. You do not want the generator to be in the fumigation room because ozone at these concentrations is very corrosive, and it will ruin your machine. Also, ozone degrades latex and rubber, so do not use hoses, fan belts, or sealants made from these materials.

It is imperative that you also buy an ozone analyzer that will measure ozone at the desired concentrations. If you do not monitor the ozone level inside the chamber, you won’t know if you are achieving the concentrations that you desire. My general rule of thumb (poorly tested, but this is what seems to be happening):

(1) calculate the volume of your desired chamber,

(2) calculate the total number of grams of ozone you need to fill the chamber at the desired ozone concentration (when the chamber is empty),

(3) now you can calculate the rate at which you need the generator to fill the chamber (i.e. how many grams per hour of ozone do I need to fill my chamber in 12 hours). I suggest you aim for a rate that will fill the chamber within 12 hours or less.

(4) Now the general rule of thumb part: buy a machine that produces ozone at a rate that is 2.5 times that. This is the “wood degrading” factor. If you do not get a machine that produces more than the rate needed to fill an empty chamber, you will never achieve the desired concentration due to the wood and wax of the honey supers and comb—which adsorb and degrade ozone. Also, the less material you put in the chamber, the faster it will fill, and the higher the max possible concentration that can be achieved. And plan to run your machine continuously during the entire fumigation time, venting the extra out through an ozone destructor. This helps maintain the concentration inside the chamber. If you just fill the chamber with ozone, turn the machine off and then leave, the wood and time will degrade it. It really is an unstable product. That is the blessing and curse of it! Blessing because then it does not become a toxin that hangs around on the comb or in the environment.

One caution. Fumigated comb will smell badly. Some dislike it more than others, but the bees do not seem to care. The older and blacker the comb, the more badly it smells. The by products, to the best of my ability to tell (and we did analyze them chemically), are all safe. They just smell.

There is more discussion in the forum

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Wednesday May 4th 2011

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In late morning, I drove to Airdrie and met with Mike, Frank and Liz, then had lunch and did some shopping.  I picked up a spare tire for the trailer and registered it so I am ready to go anywhere with it now.

Where is all that Fukushima radiation going, and why does it matter-

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Thursday May 5th 2011

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A day spent at the desk.  Work is piling up.

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Friday May 6th 2011

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I spent the early morning writing and before lunch Ellen & I went to Olds to pick up some mugs we were having made.  We then drove to Sundre to look at some bark mulch we are ordering and returned home after shopping a bit in Olds.

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Saturday May 7th 2011

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The weather is improving.  The temperatures this coming week look promising as we see no frost predicted. 

Today we are getting rain and everything is turning green.  Yesterday we noticed that the trees are budding as we drove west.

I keep track of our vehicle mileages and I see that this 2002 3.3 litre van is doing worse than the 1998 Plymouth down east that has the larger engine and worse than our 1998 Toyota Sienna van.  I am averaging around 22 MPG on mostly highway driving.  I think it is improving, but is still poor.  I have changed spark plugs, and air filter, and am wondering about the injectors and the oxygen sensor.  I don't see the engine light and am told that it will light is there are any error codes.  I wonder...

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Sunday May 8th 2011

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We woke up to a sunny day and drove up to diamond City where we visited with Rick Cote and family.

After the trip, I see that it appears that I raised the fuel economy of the red van from 22 to 25 MPG by changing spark plugs and fuel filter, but it is still short of what the Toyota averages, at 28 MPG.

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Monday May 9th 2011

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If the forecasts bear out, we now are coming to a week above freezing at night and temperatures into the 20's during the day.  I hear pollen is coming in, but, of course, with no bees myself, I would not know.  It looks like time to bring the bees I bought home, so a trip to BC is coming up.  First, however, I have some cleanup to do. All the hives (at left) have to be picked up and stacked.  I see also that there are some mice to deal with.

I woke up early this morning and wrote the following for BEE-L.  I wrote earlier about the loss of my bees.  This is about the reasons why I had such a loss when I actually knew better. (NMD is Natural Mite Drop).

>> NMD is a non-invasive, passive method which requires little effort and
>> yields meaningful results, even beyond mite population dynamics.

> For outyards, the two necessary trips are a killer.

I guess a lot depends on the assumptions-- and the particular circumstances.

In my experience, alcohol wash is slow and requires a lot of work if the frames are hard to remove or there are heavy boxes on or if the brood has reduced to a few frames in the bottom. Although it can be very reliable in some circumstances and times of year, it can be quite unreliable in other circumstances. It requires a capable and informed operator and ideal weather. Alcohol wash is awkward -- and almost impossible when hives are huge, mean or loaded with honey.

Some of us have a strong aversion to drowning bees in alcohol and hate to see them die even if we know it is "For The Greater Good", it feels all wrong. For that reason alone, many of us are reluctant to do the necessary tests.

NMD is far less invasive and the risk of killing queens is nil, while with alcohol, there is always that very real risk.

As for practicality and time factors, I can do many more yards per day with mite drops than with alcohol wash if the yards are not too far apart and if no assistance is at hand. Granted, it takes two trips, but they are quick in-and-out visits. If I drive a Smart Car or motorcycle, the cost of fuel is low. There is not much to carry. On the other hand the supplies for alcohol wash are heavy, bulky, and toxic.

I have been stymied for weeks on end by weather and by waiting for hives to have stacks of supers removed when wanting to do alcohol wash -- most beekeepers hate to have their hives opened in foul weather -- and yet I could have done the whole job easily in almost any weather with mite drops. Snow, which we can get any month of the year, is not even an impediment, assuming one can get into the yard.

With alcohol wash, one is forced to remove frames and any beekeeper with any talent at all is likely to spot brood problems. Some of these problems -- queenlessness and the sort -- can be seen from mite drop boards by an observant operator, however.

During my years as a commercial operator, I routinely sampled yards using only mite drops and hired college kids to do the rounds. As I say, I was able to keep tabs on varroa and never had a problem as long as I practiced the drops. We had a good ongoing mite profile at all times for low cost.

Our system was not elaborate and is shown on my site. Basically, we took sheets of white plastic foundation and cut sheets of hardware cloth (less than 5-mesh) to fit and bent it so that it stood up off the foundation 1/4" and held the assembly together with two big elastics. Later on we used sheets of Coroplast the same size and added pull tabs of duct tape. We sprayed the boards with Pam cooking spray before pushing them into the entrance.

The hive number was written on the tab when they were pulled from the hive and the stack brought home by the kids. Some kids were good enough to do the analysis in the yard. Some not.

The boards stayed in from the time we placed them to whenever we got back and that timespan varied a bit, but was usually about a week. We kept track of the days, since that number was used to divide the numbers we counted, when we bothered to count. We often did not count mites unless there were very few, but often just estimated by grade -- good, bad and "holy shyte!. The details fade in my memory now, but it was dead simple and fun for the kids since all they did was drive around the country and visit beautiful picnic spots for a few minutes and then carry on.

We sampled four hives per yard of 24 to 40 hives. That is less than theoretically ideal, but was a good enough compromise.

As for alcohol wash, it is a lot of work and not always possible to do when it should be done. Drops are not always easily done either and that is a subject of another future post. For drops, the hive entrances must be sufficiently large and free of crud and the bottom frames cannot have too many was protrusions on the bottom or hives must have a special bottom like the Apinovar.

Some insist that the drop boards must be full-width, and I suppose for scientific precision, that is to be preferred, but in our case, where clusters are usually centred and we don't care about the fine details, the narrower boards did the job.

I see Bill Ruzicka reached much the same conclusions about sampling as I did. I was not as fussy about the timing, and I used different control methods, but he is probably right about that detail and apparently his method works. I never have tried it since I never figured out how it would work in my management scheme. Maybe I should have.

Bill sent me a DVD some time back and I have not gotten around to finish watching it. As a rule, I am reluctant to watch videos or TV or anything that delivers information in a serial access fashion that is difficult to skim, but I am making an exception here and so far would recommend it. He says it is 45 minutes long and there is a long lead-in. So far I'm about halfway through and into the good part Maybe he will upload it to YouTube. Maybe it is already there. Dunno. Anyhow, I think many, if not most on the list would find it worthwhile, and a better use of time than many bee movies. (I was about to name some, but thought better). At any rate, I'm sure Bill will have more to say and probably has a stack of them. He wants $15 for them and considering the bother of packaging and sending them out, not to mention production cost, that is fair.

Anyhow, Having practiced both alcohol wash and mite drop, I have to agree that each has its strengths and each its drawbacks.

Personally, though, for simple varroa estimation, I prefer the drops. For lab sample collection, archiving material, and looking for brood disease, alcohol wash is superior.

Later I added:

I wrote the previous message at 4 AM while still half-asleep.

Now that I am awake, I should add that most of our NMD sampling was done at times of year when the bees were in one, two, or three boxes and when we were making weekly rounds anyhow. The sampling added almost no effort, other than the reading of the boards on their arrival back at the shack and preparing boards to go back out.

We used the students I mentioned when the hives were 150 miles from home on pollination and our crews were not making regular visits.

And later again -- How I Screwed Up.

assume: ass-u-me

Now that we have gone over this and how I knew better, how I was rocked to sleep, and how I made made assumptions, (the most ridiculous of which was that losses would be limited and that the 'resistant' stock I had would prove its worth and show the 'ordinary' bees to be inferior), let's discuss the obstacles that kept me from doing what had served me well in the past -- routine natural mite drops and appropriate treatment as indicated.

As I said before, I ran thousands of hives commercially and never knowingly lost one commercial hive to varroa during that time. I knew what my mite profile was and responded appropriately at all times, it seems.

Why did I screw up this past season?

First, I had seen no problems in the past several years with splitting very drastically and repeatedly and then dosing with oxalic solution once in fall, so assumed that this would continue to be good enough control. I was also looking for mites in brood and seeing few and no mites -- and no riders.  That that confirmed my false confidence that all was well. I have no beekeeping neighbours.   Additionally, I had been corresponding with beekeepers who told tales of 'survivor bees' and resistance, so figured that having higher levels than I would commercially tolerate would not be a concern if they occurred.

Second, I had expanded my hive numbers to where what was normally a small job became a large job and required preparation and endurance.

Thirdly, I in recent years, had developed large, heavy (three to five storey) hives in ponderous and fragile EPS boxes and they were seldom shorter than three. Since the floors were not all perfectly scraped and some brood frames had wax protrusions on the bottom, shoving the drop boards in was not easy -- and prying up these large, heavy hives placed back-to-back on four-way pallets was not do-able. In the past, we just pried up on wood boxes and hives were only two or three high, so they did not press against one another, preventing tipping. EPS does not stand up well to pressure from pry bars.

Fourthly, I did not do alcohol washes due to the difficulty of reaching the brood down in these tall hives and my reluctance to kill the necessary number bees. Also, since the hives were of many strains and differing ages, I figured that I would have to do more than a sample to get a profile of the yard.  Normally most hives in a commercial yard are similar in history and stock, so sampling any hive is as good as sampling any other, assuming it is not queenless. If you sample 10-15% of the hives in a yard, you have a good idea if there are hot spots.  Not so with a varied yard like this.

So, since I was not seeing mites, I assumed that things would be fine until I treated and the first warning was some PMS, followed within weeks by total collapse of many strong hives and severe dwindling of the rest.

That is how I screwed up.

No matter how carefully I write, someone always misunderstands...
This guy makes some unusual claims which most people discount, but I give him some credence.  Unfortunately nobody  has tested any of his ideas except him.

>>Why did I screw up this past season?

>You are still "screwing up" in that you are principally blaming the mites rather than what they carried

That is an interesting assumption. Actually, as I mentioned previously, I do in fact assume it is what they carried, and also that there is nothing I can do about that except limit the vectors, namely the mites. Both types of mites.

Varroa mites alone do not kill at the levels I observed, but we have found that lowering mite thresholds below what used to acceptable when mites alone were the issue has seemed -- thus far -- to reduce losses to the normal range.

>>since the hives were of many strains From several sources I assume?

Yes, and I assume that something new came in this year with them.

>In this case, the problem is Globalization, and it is almost impossible to avoid these effects, unless you want to live like the uni-bomber, back in the deep woods and be a hermit

Yes, we get the good and the bad. Seemingly, the immediate good outweighs the immediate bad, but nobody ever knows.

>Previous outbreaks were probably self limiting and it did not become wide-spread.

I've had whole yards die before and so have most commercial beekeepers, so this may or may not be unique. Most of these events seem to die out of their own accord, but there is always a first time.

>If you (or Dennis) wish to prove that it is something "new", then take the worst contaminated box and put it close (1 m) to a thriving ANT colony Observe for 4-5 months. That will "blow your mind"

You are assuming that whatever I have is whatever you have, and who knows?

I'll have to watch for your 'leg rub', and if I see any thriving ant colonies, I'll keep your suggestion in mind. Thriving ant colonies are in short supply around here right now.

Well, we'll see what happens when I use some of this equipment on supposedly healthy hives I am bringing in from outside.

Who knows? Maybe I'll be dosing with vitamin C before long and doing ramp tests.

We'll C.

My intention today was to work outside and I did get out in the morning, but then Ellen noticed that the dishwasher has been acting up.  We ran it a few times and determined that it was not filling completely. I pulled it out, inverted it and removed the fill valve.  After several attempts to understand the problem, I discovered that some fine holes were partially plugged.  Those holes allowed the pressure to be sensed behind a rubber valve and to force it open. As a result it was not fully open.  I blew out the holes and reassembled the valve and measured the fill.  It was within specs, so we put everything back together and we'll see tomorrow if we fixed it.

By then the afternoon was about shot. I went out and began again.  I got a bit done, but supper time came.  We ate at seven and afterwards I lay down and slept until nine.  The weather change and fresh air have me exhausted.  Spring fever.

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