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The hives are split and waiting for the queens to be released

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Wednesday June 1st 2011
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Today Increasing cloudiness. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h near noon. High 21. UV index 5 or moderate.
Tonight
Clear. Becoming cloudy periods near midnight. Low 7.
Thursday
A mix of sun and cloud. 40 percent chance of showers in the evening. Wind becoming north 30 km/h gusting to 50 in the afternoon. High 20.

Today is starting off cool and breezy, and overcast.  The blooms are opening and I'm hoping that the wind will not keep the bees cooped up too badly.  In past, with a hive scale, I have observed that weight gain dropped or stopped on windy days.  That's an idea.  I think I'll set up the scale again today.

I looked at the queen cages and some hives have eaten halfway through.  Others have not done much with it.  I'll punch a nail hole through soon to encourage the release.  I am not seeing any hostility.

I am, though seeing lots of short bees.  That suggests they were lacking nutrition when they were larvae.  They can make that up somewhat of they have good pollen in the first 18 days after emergence, apparently. 

I threw away the balance of the supplement that came with them since the bees showed no interest in the portion I softened up for them.  No matter how nutritious a supplement is, it is ineffective if the bees will not eat it.

Putting the beehives onto the scaleFinished. Four hives on the scale, weighing about 400 lbs (gross)I did it.  I set up the scale again, with four hives, but this time in a row, not on a pallet.  I just put the whole rail, hives and all on the scale.  Some are cantilevered out over the edge and I think I'll put blocks close under, but not quite touching the ends of the rails as insurance against tipping.  Besides it will look better.   Perhaps I'll put wedges in to steady them and pull the wedges when weighing.

I am thinking now that I should lift the rest of the hives up, too.  I have some old hive bodies which would make good, solid supports for the stands.  The weight on the scale (gross) is 435 pounds at 1:21 PM .  After the four bricks under the rail are subtracted, that is about 400.  The rail weighs 25 lbs. That comes to about 94 pounds, average, per hive. 

Bricks on top weigh 8 lbs, lid - 10, boxes with comb - 16x2, floor- 6, so bees and feed together weigh about 36 pounds, average.

Bees prefer to be up off the ground a bit and height also deters predators like skunks.  So far, I have not seen any skunks this year and last year there were quite a few.  We have new neighbours who like to shoot. Could be they took out all the skunks.  I wonder if they will solve our deer problem.

The hive scale is back in business.Boxes under the rails would be a good place for ant poison, too, since any ants on the way up to the hives would have to pass near it.  So far, the poison I have used does not seem to be doing much to the ants.  They are still here in considerable numbers and every time I pull out the drop board I see ten on top of the paper and as many under it. I have to find a solution which works.

Yesterday the pond inspector came by and took a look.  Today, I got a call with my fish license number.  That was fast.  I moved the aerator again, since circulating in different spots seems to speed up the pond cleaning, judging by the increased smell after each move.  I ordered a few trout and a carp or two for July when the pond should have cleared up and when I'll be home for a while.

I went to town just before four and ran a few errands, then went out and checked the hive scale at 5:33 PM.  I was surprised to see the four hives on the scale have lost a total of 4-1/2 lbs since 1:21 PM when I set the scale up  That is over a pound each in less than four hours or a rate of about six pounds a day!  It is fairly nice weather, the flowers are blooming and the bees are flying freely, but they are losing weight.  I'm glad I gave them the feed I did and am thinking I should put feeders in and fill them, perhaps.  If I do that, I'll slip a frame of foundation into the other outside position.  I have to consider the new queens, though.  I should not make a big disturbance while they are settling in.  While I was out, I also took four unnecessary bricks out from under the rails to lower the load a bit.

I cleaned up yesterday's diary post a bit and added to it.

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Thursday June 2nd 2011
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> [Re:] the first 30 may: Now that you've gone to so much trouble to make all  hives look similar to the bees, you will need to  undo that before queens go on mating flights.

I installed mated queens. Also, in my experience, queens are very good at finding their own hives, even when the hives are not particularly distinct. Nonetheless, if anything interferes with flight, like a beekeeper or vehicle in front of hives, queens can get lost until it leaves. I recall one time an employee parked in our mating yard at 2 PM for a while and I noticed little balls of bees on the ground. Each had a queen at the centre. The vehicle was moved immediately and the queens apparently returned to their nucs, since we had good success with that batch.

> You are seeing all the advantages of the Meijers box over  the BeeMax box but the R-value (unknown) is on the other  side of the equation. The claimed R-value of the BeeMax box is 6. The  Meijers box could have an R-value close to 2 or 3 and that would be an important difference.

Any ideas how to easily measure the R-Factor. I'm not sure that R-Factor is the most important aspect of temperature management, but it is a start.

I have thought to just stack a wood box, a BeeMax and a Meijer box with a light bulb inside and measure the outside temps for comparison.

Today could be a good bee day, but today and the next few days look to be either cool or breezy or both, limiting bee flight and nectar secretion.  Sunday looks most promising, but we have often seen the good forecasts revised downwards as the forecasted day draws near.  Normals for today are Max: 20C, Min 7C.

This year, we have not had many days above normal and few, if any, more than little above the trend line.  Some years, the warmest day of the year has been in May.  That did not happen this year and June is continuing on the cool side.  All it takes is a few hot days for the bees to work miracles.

I decided to test the thermal characteristics of the three types of boxes I have on hand here: wood, BeeMax, and Meijer

A stack of bee boxes with a heater inside for testing.       A stack of bee boxes with a heater inside for testing.

Ordinary wooden bee box is hotter on the surface than an EPS bee box BeeMax box is cooler than wood.  It's better insulated. Meijer box is cooler than wood.  It's better insulated.

Above is my initial test and I am re-doing it since there is a chance I was reading a hot spot on the wood box.  I used a radiant heater last time and am using a convective one now.

Maybe I should explain my thinking.  I assume that the less insulating boxes will be warmer on the outside than the better insulating ones since the heat will leak out through the material; faster than the surface cools by radiation and convection. There are other assumptions, too, which I will not go into here now.  I did not expect this big a difference, though.

From what I see, the wood box conducts more heat to the outside surface and is much warmer than either EPS box.

Both EPS boxes seem to be equally good insulators.

Wooden bee box loses heat to the outside much more than an EPS boxAn EPS bee box conserves heat much better than wood.The two shots here are taken within 8 inches of one another vertically on the same side of the stack after heating for 15 minutes and removing the power for 5 minutes (all approx).  The Meijer box read the same temperature as the BeeMax reading shown.  Other surfaces nearby read 65 degrees. I don't know how hot it was inside, but it was softening the beeswax on the lid.  It is still 100 degrees in there now when I thought to check after writing the above text, 10 minutes or more after the previous measurements.  Wood is on the left, BeeMax on the right. Other nearby surfaces in the room measure 65 degrees F.

Any serious test would require more careful planning and longer times for heat to equalize.  Of course, the best test would be live hives in the various materials. I should also test wood boxes with my winter wraps on them.

I went out and checked the queens after lunch.  Four of the nine queens have been released. by the bees. I checked for dead queens in front and saw nothing.  Good.   I punched a nail hole in the candy for those which had not eaten through.  I was able to open all the hives without a veil or smoke, so that is a good sign.  Also, I did not see any hostile bees clinging to queen cages, another good sign.  I did see ants on two hives, though, and that can be trouble.  I don't think the bait I'm using attracts them.

After that, I resumed the cleanup of the deadouts. It occurs to me that when I split again in July, I'll need a made-up brood chamber for each half.  I have 18 hives now, but I sold one this morning for pick-up Saturday, so I have to plan on 17.  I could have several of the splits fail and not be ready for splitting, but that is not certain, so I have to figure I need 34 brood chambers made-up in BeeMax boxes and 17 floors

I'll need 4 more stands, too.  They are easy to make up since they are just two eight-foot 2X4s joined by three 16 inch pieces of 2X4.

I'll need to have 17 more lids ready and 17 pillows. It would be ideal if everything is ready and stacked up, waiting since I'll only have 9 days at that time.  I'll make two yards this time, too, so I am mowing last year's yard so it will be ready.

I'll need 17 queens, too, or 17 cells.  I'm hoping my friends will have one or the other on hand, but if I am going to raise cells myself, I have to have a plan for that, too.  I can't raise ripe cells in nine days.

It's 5 PM and I'm 1/3 done making up the brood chambers.  I have twelve ready to go.

I came across some of the new Permadent and also the new Mann Lake one-piece frames which had been drawn out.  So far, I can't see any difference in acceptance, and the bees have raised brood in each equally.  I had put both types of foundation into some hives to see if there is a preference, and I don't see any so far.

6:15 PM I have 16 done.  That is about half.

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Friday June 3rd 2011
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Today Becoming cloudy with sunny periods this afternoon with 30 percent chance of showers later this afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm this afternoon. Wind north 20 km/h. High 19. UV index 6 or high.  Tonight Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers this evening. Low plus 4.
Saturday
Cloudy. Clearing in the afternoon. High 18.
Sunday
Sunny. Low 8. High 23.

The day is starting off windy and warm. I have outdoor work to do, but I think I'll write two articles for BEE-L first and hope the winds drops.

I have been using 10 BeeMax boxes and A Swienty box for almost ten years now. I was reasonably satisfied with them and last year I bought 100 more BeeMax boxes.

Although I was happy enough with a small number of BeeMax to order more,  when I had 100, I soon found they have big problems that make them unsuitable for anything more than careful hobby use.

First, they arrived with some tabs broken in transit. Second, the frame rests sent with them did not work. When I assembled them, the glue I chose did not hold well in service later on.

Broken BeeMax Bee BoxesWhen I stacked them 5-high for painting, the wind knocked stacks over and boxes actually fractured. This can be easily repaired with glue and screws, but is a nuisance and should not happen. The design is flawed in that very little material actually holds the corners together and gluing most of the contact surface does not seem possible. (Long drywall screws might help). Additionally, they have ugly and hard-to-paint marks embossed on all four pieces and the surface is a bit rough.

A BeeMax bee box on top of a Swienty bee boxI knew that I like Swienty boxes better than BeeMax boxes because they require no assembly and are much stronger, are denser and have smoother outer surfaces and bigger hand holds than BeeMax. I ordered the BeeMax boxes simply because they are easier to obtain in North America in the number I needed.

I had discussed purchasing a container load from Swienty or renting  their mould, since my friends had been experimenting recently with 100  commercial hives in EPS boxes and would like to increase the number of hives in EPS, but found the BeeMax boxes to be far too fragile. Unfortunately, those discussions went nowhere and the Euro went back  up from the time it looked do-able.

So, the long and short of it is my friends, the Meijer brothers, decided to bite the bullet and pay the cost of having a mould made to have the boxes made in Alberta. I have one of the first off the line and they are excellent.  I ran over  it with a forklift but that is another story. See May 25-30 diary posts for details and the repair.

This one mould can make hundreds of thousands of boxes in its lifetime. After Meijers get the several thousand they need immediately, some sort of marketing can be set up if others are interested in obtaining them. The cost is comparable to the BeeMax boxes, but there is no assembly cost and they are easier to paint and more durable by far. They are not shipped knocked down, so shipping cost may be an issue for some, though.

At any rate, we have been discussing EPS and XPS boxes and nucs on my diary site and the question was asked, if the Meijer boxes are denser than BeeMax, do they insulate less well? I did a quick-and-dirty test and they insulate almost exactly the same as BeeMax and far better than wood.

The test is illustrated in my diary.  There is also discussion of making your own EPS or XPS boxes at http://www.honeybeeworld.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=217&p=1093#p1093

Feel free to drop by and comment if the topic interests you.

>If it doesn't interfere with your other management goals, it would be  interesting if you could concentrate these frames into the broodnests  of a few hives and see if you notice anything at all.

I may do that at some point when I have enough drawn, but yesterday  I was going through some boxes from last summer. I had put some of  each foundation into hives in a manner that I could compare the acceptance. At that time, I was not conscious that the one-piece frame  cells were not 5.25.

So far, I have seen about 15 of each that have been drawn or partially  drawn, and I cannot say that I can see any difference in acceptance. I noticed that brood has been raised in each more or less equally.

All things being equal, I much prefer one-piece plastic since handling  them is much more like handling a honeycomb than handling a piece of  furniture and IMO the plastic edges are not as invasive as slabs of wood,  and, even without reduced cell size, there are far more cells per comb  due to the larger comb area per frame.

With the reduced (5.0) cell size added in, that 16% increase in area yields a 40% increase in cell count per comb over the 5.4 mm Permadent frame beside it!

That has huge management implications which are discussed further in my current diary pages.

As for the 5.0 size, I really have no idea if 5.0 cells are constrictive or not. If they are, that might offset some of the advantages of the more compact brood area and volume.

I don't know how one could ever tell.

Beekeepers spend a lot of time outdoors, so this article about sunscreens should be of interest.

I'm headed back out to make up the balance of the brood boxes for July.

I went out several times, but so far have not achieved much.  I shuffled things around and then had to come in due to rain.  The rain passed quickly, though and the wind is dying, so maybe I'll get the job done.

I finished the job and I have 36 brood boxes ready for splitting in the first week of July, and I have been thinking.  Why leave the the boxes sitting empty in a stack when I could put them under the hives now?  I was thinking of lifting the hive stands up, but if  just place two brood boxes on new stands in front and put the hives on top, that achieves the same thing, plus the bees have access to the boxes and can work on them so they are fresh and familiar for splitting in July.  I also realize now that I should leave the hives with three boxes each after splitting in July, so I should prepare another 34 now, if I have time.  I have to work through the equipment anyhow.

Once the weather warms, bees do best in large, spacious hives.  These splits are quite large and could possibly use three boxes by the time I return, and why not four?  If the boxes are placed under, then heat loss should not be an issue and the cluster will be well up off the ground.

Our son, Jonathan, thought that, instead of starting with the colony on the ground and top supering as we all do, beekeepers should just stack up the honey/brood boxes and put the colony on top.   Accumulation of honey would drive the bees down over the season and the honey could just be lifted off the top.  Of course, when producing honey these day, there is a need to keep brood and super combs separate.  I don't intend to produce honey, though.  I intend to produce just bees, so why not?.

I'm hoping my friends come up with the screened bottoms they have available before too long.  The bottoms are  reportedly hidden behind some other stuff in the warehouse. I would like to be able to check for varroa easily from time to time without doing alcohol washes.

I checked the hive scale at 1223 hrs and again at 1833.  In that time, the four hives had gained about a pound each this afternoon despite variable weather.  I wondered if some of it is just moisture on and in the hives from rain, but I don't think so.  They must be getting a flow.  They should.  There are flowers everywhere.

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Saturday June 4th 2011
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Today I have a customer coming to buy some bees after lunch.

We are looking at a dull day so far this morning.  The temperature is a mere plus at 7 AM.  Sunday still looks promising.  The hives lost a little overnight, but not more than a quarter of a pound each.  It is chilly outside this morning. 

I think I'll take the Infrared thermometer (more info) out today and see what I can see as to outer temperatures on hive bodies and also under the lids.  I have done that before in winter to examine clusters, but not in spring.  I am curious what I can learn about the size and condition of colonies by measuring temperatures around the outer surfaces and across the top bars.

I also found at the end of the day yesterday that when I put the two pallets of finished brood chambers in the same place and recounted, that I had made an error in the previous estimate.  I have 28, not the 36 I thought I had. 

So, I have at least 6 more EPS brood chambers to prepare, and after that, the rest of the deadout cleanup to complete.  The boxes have to be checked for dead bees and mice, inspected for bad comb, disease, etc., then restacked on sealed pallets in a manner that ager holes are closed and they are protected from mice and weather.

From BEE-L

Some notes on my experience with the plastic frame/foundations:

The foundation surface of the PF100s tends to be bowed to one side, which is annoying and does not allow the use of 10 combs in the brood nest. The cells on one side will be too shallow for proper brood rearing. That is, unless you face all of the bowed surfaces in the same direction.

This bowing causes a problem with the interchangeability with good brood combs in wooden frames. (Unless you use 9s for brood.)

If you lay a straightedge across one of these, undrawn, you will probably see that the distance from the straightedge to the foundation surface is quite different from one side to the other, meaning the resulting cells will not be of uniform depth.

I have also seen this quite a bit with the Pierco deeps. It is not a noticeable problem with PF120s, due to the shorter, ~ 6" span.

My own bees made a mess of some of the PF100s on the first attempt, with lots of drone and strange transition cells, but after I scraped down the errant sections of comb and re-waxed with a roller, they have done better on the second try!

J in MA

>The foundation surface of the PF100s tends to be bowed to one side, which >is annoying and does not allow the use of 10 combs in the brood nest. The cells on one side will be too shallow for proper brood rearing. That is, unless >you face all of the bowed surfaces in the same direction.

Interesting. I have heard this said before, and we have discussed the warping inherent in Pierco frames here before, but have not personally observed problems with brood being raised in them very often. Maybe I'm just not observant? On occasion, I have seen one or another of two facing combs -- not necessarily with either being plastic one-piece -- with shallow cells and no brood, due to bad spacing, but most of the time, I don't see it. Most often when I see it, it is from frames with broken shoulders crowding a neighbour or frames otherwise crowded closer than intended.

That makes me wonder: how critical is the depth of a capped worker cell and how much tolerance is there in this dimension? If two combs are close together, do the bees make shallower worker cells unless there is simply too little room and then only raise brood on one of the two combs? Do they leave a smaller bee space between the combs?

If the cells are shallower, are the resulting bees deformed in any way? I did some looking through my books, but this does not seem to have been addressed in what I have on hand.

I know some beekeepers actually shave their Hoffman frame shoulders to fit eleven frames into a standard box, so it would seem that there is quite a bit of wiggle room in the 'normal' ten-frame spacing.

>If you lay a straightedge across one of these, undrawn, you will probably see that the distance from the straightedge to the foundation surface is quite different from one side to the other ..I have also >seen this quite a bit with the Pierco deeps. It is not a noticeable problem with PF120s, due to the shorter, ~ 6" span.

Are the PF120s not also different in the size of cells?

>My own bees made a mess of some of the PF100s on the first attempt, with lots of drone and strange transition cells, but after I scraped down the errant sections of comb and re-waxed with a roller, they have done better on the second try!

That is interesting in that when I reported that the bees had drawn the 5.0 mm comb well as the Permadent, I was typically looking at solid frames of honey and I did think I may have noticed some larger cells in the corner areas of some, but the combs were capped and the capping were flat, so I assumed that I was imagining it and made a note to look further later.

The open 5.0 drawn comb I saw where brood was raised looks to be pretty well all worker size.

I went out and restacked some boxes, taking time to look at the Permadent and the Mann Lake 5.0 mm frames I had inserted last summer.  I confirmed that although the bees drew both out more or less equally, I saw more odd cells, comb parallel off the sheet, areas of drone comb, and tangential comb on the smaller cell product.

At right is a shot of a problem with BeeMax corners. This was the box I had to make out of pieces which arrived broken.

I took the thermometer out and started at ground level and moved up hive taking readings as I went.  The floor was coolest, and the top of the insulated lid was about the same.  Heat leakage is apparent on the hive sides and the handholds, being thinner, lose more per square inch than the rest of the surface.  being small, though, the actual loss from handholds is small. 

The assumption is that the cluster heat is concentrated in the centre of the top box, but the temperature is likely around 90 degrees inside the upper hive walls.  I should measure some inside temperatures, but we already know that the brood area is 95 degrees F, and unheated outside surfaces, represented by the floor, are at 39 degrees.  The greatest temperature rise, ignoring the small area of the handholds is 6 degrees F.  That is not too bad.

                  
The Floor The Bottom Box The Upper Box
                 
The Rim of the Lid The Top of the Insulated Lid The Handhold - Upper Box

Sure enough, the day turned hot after lunch and the buyers arrived an hour late.  By then, I was putting the extra brood chambers beneath the hives, making them all 4 boxes high. I was about 3/4 done when they arrived.

They had only brought one box to receive their bees and one glance at it showed they lost their bees to mites last fall.  I advised that they join the Calgary Beekeepers to share in testing and treatment advice, etc..  Actually, I should, too.

Anyhow, I went from hive to hive, pulling frames of brood to make up 6 frames with some brood -- several with large patches in the middle --and a few shakes of young bees.  At one point, I found a nice frame with young bees to shake and took it over to shake.  On my second scan, double-checking before shaking, I spotted the queen.  She was young, yellow, fat and a runner.  I picked her off and shook the frame, then placed her back on the frame.  (I really do know better, honest!) but was overconfident.

Anyhow, she jumped ship and was not on the frame next I looked.  We looked in the grass, but no luck and I put the frame back and marked the hive.  As I had just reconciled myself to having just lost a nice queen, the husband called and said, "Is this her?"  It was, and I put her back in her home and unmarked the hive. 

Now I just have one queenless hive, and, in my search for brood, I came across an open queen cell with an older larva.  I put it in the queenless hive.  Unfortunately, I found it in the nastiest hive of the lot, the only one which made me light a smoker (I was working barehanded).  I am going to see if I can get a mated queen to replace the cell.

We taped the entrance and screened the top, then they were off, back to Calgary.  By then I was hot and went in to sit here and write about it.  I'm going back out to finish the job shortly.

The apple trees are in full bloomMy plan has been to sell bees and avoid honey-making.  It seems, though that when you don't want to make honey, the boxes keep filling up.  These brood boxes are heavy.  The hives i bought were very light.  It runs against my nature to have light hives.  Also, I find it hard to sell bees.  I find it easy to buy them, but hard to sell them.  Even if I have too many, I hate to let them go and I have no idea what to charge.  I did a classically good job of selling them when we retired, though.

Actually, I would have to sell a lot of bees and just not one by one to make any amount of money.

It was hot and I never did go back out to finish.  We got to talking about having a barbeque tomorrow and I wound up driving to Three Hills for groceries.  When I got there, I realized it is Cruise Night, but at 7:30 there was no cruising going on.  Looking now on their website, I see it was over at 7.  What surprised me was that in years past, the activities went on until dark.  This year, there weren't even the usual old vehicles hanging around or pulling out of town.  I wonder if it is dying out.

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Sunday June 5th 2011
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I'm noticing quite a bit of chalk-brood on a few of these hives.  The others seem OK.  I also seem to have one or two which are a bit hotter than the rest.

We spent the day getting ready for a barbeque this evening.   All the fruit and ornamental trees are in bloom and the day was hot.  The usual gang arrived and the weather was perfect.

If we are going to have one day when the bees can go flat out working on the blooms, this is it.  The next while looks cooler and rainy.

I went out around noon and checked the scale and it had not moved from the previous reading.  When I went out around suppertime to put a queen that my friends brought along into  the queenless hive, I noticed the weight had increased, but the upper sliding weight was at the very end of the top scale and I didn't have a wrench with me to move the lower slider, so I'll take a reading  tomorrow.

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Monday June 6th 2011
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It rained during the night and the rain continues this morning. I have some outdoor work to do and today does not look good for that, so far, at least.

Detail of the current hive scale readingI spent pretty well the whole day catching up on the books.  In late afternoon went out to release the queen and check the scale hive.   The queen seemed to be well accepted, so I pulled the screen off the cage and let her run down a frame into the hive. The hives have gained about three pounds each since the last measurement.

After supper, I went out and worked on enough boxes to get all 18 hives up to four-high and put them on.  The bees were not very happy with me.  I'm finding these bees to be crankier than what I have had in the recent past.  The weather does not help, though, as I has been rainy today.

So, I am almost finished with the bees until July.  I just have to deal with the ants and put blocks under the hives cantilevered off the scale. The hives were up a half-pound each by 4:15 PM

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Tuesday June 7th 2011
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Looks like three good bee days are coming up.  I'm finished working my bees today and will be taking three weeks or so off from posting much in this diary.  I may surprise myself, but this is my plan.  We'll see.

I checked the scale hives and they have lost a pound each since I put the two extra boxes on them last night. I'm not surprised, since the boxes were a bit damp and there was quite a bit of cleanup to do in them.  I'm not seeing much junk out front, though and imagine most of the weight loss was overnight drying of nectar gathered  yesterday and generally raised metabolism due the flow and my disturbance.

I saw only one ant on the drop board, so maybe my control measures are finally working. The bees are still a bit testy, though and I need a veil if I do much in the yard.

I spent an hour or two working on the pond air pump.  I had noticed that it cannot start after the power fails for whatever reason, due to the fact that the aerator is 20 feet deep in the pond and there is pressure in the line.  The pressure remaining in the line is too much for the weak starting force.  I'm afraid the pump will burn out sometime when I am not around.  There is a relief valve, but if I set low enough that the pump can start, there is not enough pressure to drive air to the bottom of the pond.  After thinking it over, I drilled a pinhole in the the outlet fitting to let the pressure to slowly bleed off when the pump is off or stalled.  When the pressure drops, the pump is able to start.

I have been in the process of checking, scraping and stacking up the deadouts so that they are secure from mice and other pests.  Today was a big day and I almost finished the job.  After that, there is still quite a bit more tidying to do in the quonset.

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Wednesday June 8th 2011
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Now that we have had the Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida) (SHB) (more...) in northern states and in parts of Canada, I'm looking for personal reports as to the the impact and what can be expected as it spreads -- or doesn't.

Projections were that SHB would not get much traction in northern areas with hard freezes. The belief was that the adults could arrive and even winter in beehives with the bees, but that they would not be able to increase significantly.

Is this true? What are people seeing with comb in storage, particularly unused brood com? Even if they cannot multiply much, how much damage can a few beetles do?

Queens arriving in Canada from the USA are being carefully screened for SHB, larvae and eggs. The screening process has turned up instances where SHB was, indeed, in the shipments. For extra safety, recipients are advised to re-cage the queens and to destroy the original packaging and attendants.

Are people doing that?

*   *   *   *   *

>What are people seeing with comb in storage, particularly unused brood com? Even if they cannot multiply much, how much damage can a few beetles do?

Thanks for the excellent responses, both off list and on. I hope those who wrote me off-list will also post to the list so all can benefit.

I think I should explain more clearly why I am wondering.

I think most will recall that I lost 75 strong, heavy colonies in 2 to 5 boxes last fall. After I use what I need, that leaves me with about 125 brood chambers which are not going to be needed this year.

These boxes weigh around 60 pounds each, minimum, and have pollen and capped honey in light and dark comb. Some frames have a few dead pupae, as the bees abandoned, and all that was left was hatching brood in may of them. Those with the remains of clusters had only about a three or four inch circle of bees in the comb.

I have scraped and stacked this equipment on solid mouse-proof pallets. The lower auger holes are plugged against mice and each stack has a lid. My intent is to store them in an open shed.

I have no beekeeping neighbours, but migratory trucks pass within 3.2 miles.

There is officially no SHB in Alberta, but bees from the lower mainland come to Alberta to pollinate from locations a stone's throw from bee yards in Washington State, and Alberta beekeepers take their bees to winter near the US border. I have been told personally that an acquaintance has seen SHB in hives in Alberta. I have not seen them in my (Canadian) travels, however.

Wax moth is never a problem. We see one now and then, but our winter finishes them off if the bees don't.

Am I likely to have a problem if SHB somehow appears here?

The next few days look to be good bee days.  I took out the auger hole plugs on the hives last night when I checked the scale

I received an email this morning.  Jonathan and Ellen are in Helsinki.  I gather all went well.  He flew from LA and she from Calgary, meeting up there.  It is 8:30 PM in Scandinavia as I write this at 11:30 AM here, so they have already spent a day there. They'll be visiting family for the next few weeks.

This morning, I wrote to BEE-L asking what happens if SHB comes to my town.  I have 125 very nice, pollen and honey-filled brood chambers with dark comb sitting unused this year. 

I was wondering because, after I installed the queens in their original cages, BeeNews came, and in it was an article explaining that we should be  re-caging the queens and burning or freezing everything that was involved in the original packaging, so that we are sure not to have any SHB get into our environment.

We are a long ways north for the beetle to flourish, but I would hate to have all that equipment slimed because I was not thinking.

*   *   *   *   *

I still have the rest of the cleanup and other tasks to do.  It was sunny when I awoke, but by the time I was ready to go out, it was raining, so my first job of the day was the kitchen.  We had let things slide bit as Ellen made her final preparations for the trip.  I enjoy cleaning up the kitchen.  It is mindless, routine work.

I drove to Three Hills to get Zippy a dog license and noticed the Post Office is on strike today.  I returned home and finished cleaning up and restacking the deadouts. It seems the deer are getting really tame. this one stood and looked at me in broad daylight.  Ellen will not be pleased.

I wash my bee suits almost every time I wear one.  I have three XXXL very thin white suits.  I keep looking for more for when I want replacements, but they are difficult to find.  Loose, thin white jumpsuits are very cool to work in.  I wear them more to protect from sun and dirt and stickiness than for protection from bees, and often wear only undershorts beneath them on hot days. 

For some reason people seem to want thick suits.  I figure if you need that much protection either you are abusing your bees and deserve to be stung or have a vicious hive and should deal with it. Who wants to have to work in hot clothes on hot days?

Regular washing with bleach and soaking keeps our suits sparking white and clean.  When we were commercial beekeepers, we washed all the employees' suits daily.  We had a large inventory and kept rotating them.  We did not want our landowners and townspeople thinking that we we ran a dirty business, especially since we produced food.

The scale hives dropped a pound each between last evening and noon today, then gained a half-pound by seven this evening.  

I checked the drop board and saw only one ant.  I also saw no varroa at all.  We have had quite a rain and I can see that where I placed the yard of bees is rife with ant hills.  I had bees here before and do not remember that problem.  That ants have selected a location is a sign of a good spot, though.  We just can't have bees harassed by them.  Right now, several hives are very nasty and within a minute of arriving, I have bees around my face demonstrating an intent to sting.

At right is the line-up, good until July 1st, I hope.  I still need to block up the scale hives.

I have another day yet of yard cleaning before I am done for now.

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Thursday June 9th 2011
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I had planned to wash the underside of the mower this morning, so I got that done, then noticed the grass needs cutting again, so I cut it.  The entire job takes around seven hours.  I did what needed doing and put up some "No Trespassing" signs in about 3-1/2 hours.  We have sometimes see people coming onto the place without permission.  One day, I saw a van drive up and the driver started to wander into my quonset.  Other times, people drive down the dead end trail that goes a 1/2 mile to the end of our property and terminates.  I figure that posting makes it clear that the property is private and that driving up to my quonset without coming to the house first is not a good idea and that the road is not for public use.

After getting all that done, and being on a roll, I tidied up the quonset. By then it was supper time and I checked the hive scale on the way in.  There appears to be no change since this morning although he bees are coming and going from the flight holes at a heavy rate and pollen is coming in.  It seems like a perfect day for bees. 

There is a vicious hive somewhere in the bunch.  Even with beautiful, warm weather, any time I go into the yard, a bee either tries to sting or does, and when I leave, sometimes I am followed 100 yards.  That indicates that a hive needs requeening.  I just don't know which one.  They were not bad when I brought them home, but I worked on them just about every day for about ten days and there are ants still in the yard, so there is some justification for bad temper.  Nonetheless, I'll be looking for the offender and taking some measures next time I work on them.  That won't be for a while, now, since I have no other reason to open them.

I went out again at around 8 PM and noted that the scale had gained almost 4 pounds, meaning each hive has gained a pound since last time I looked a few hours ago.  That is interesting and demonstrates that although bees seem to be working all day, that right now, the actual nectar flow is heaviest sometime between 5 and 8 PM.

One writer suggested that the reason for the weight gain showing up late in the day is not so much that they flow happens then, but because all the bees return home by dark and then the added weight becomes apparent.  While the field force is out, their weight is not present.  Thus the time to measure is when the bees are sure to be in the hive.  Otherwise, on non-flying days, the field force may add a pound or two to the hive weight at mid-day, while normally they would be out.

It seems that using a hive scale is trickier than it might seem at first glance.  Bees coming and going and the weight of moisture gained on rainy days and ice in the winter can offset the small changes that we are trying to observe.  Of course, on the 20 and 30 pound days, these factors are insignificant, but there are only a few of those days in a year, if any.

Bees are flying from the auger holes and the bottom entrances. Some appear to have a bit more activity than others, but that is to be expected after splitting and until the hives even up, which they do over time.

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Friday June 10th 2011
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Another beautiful day, and a great bee day coming up, from the looks of things.  I took a last look at the bees, loaded the red van and by 1045, I had everything ready and was on Range Road 302, eastbound.  I had planned to pull Jean and Chris' little trailer east, since it would be handy there, but I did not manage to get the papers from them and also, I looked at the tires and decided they need replacing before a 1850-mile trip.  My plan to take the sailboards did not work out either, since I had not organized them and at the last minute could not find the parts I needed.

*   *   *   *   *

Around 2200 hrs CDST, Zippy and I checked into the Midway Motel in Brandon, about 12 hours and 750 miles from home. 

The Trans-Canada in parts of Saskatchewan was pretty rough, and, after stopping in Regina at Regina Cabs for some cheap gas, a noticed the van surging a bit.  The transmission lock-up cut in and out.  At first I thought that I was experiencing transmission failure, but decided that it might be the cruise control trying to deal with the rough and irregular surface.  At any rate, the problem went away and I never did find the cause.  I now know what a "Sport" model is.  It has a harder suspension and more road feel than I really like.  On bad road, it is noisy and rough, even with a 100 pound outboard in the back.

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