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Looking South July 1, 2011

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Friday July 1st 2011
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Canada Day

We are expecting company today. In addition, Swalwell celebrates its centennial this weekend.

I'll have to check today to find out when the cells will be ready and how many there are.  The grass was getting ahead of us, but we are catching up.

Life is returning to the pond, but the water still looks pretty foul.  There are quite a few leeches visible and I understand that trout like to eat them.  I don't know if they attach to the trout or not. I am thinking that fish this year may not be a good ideal unless I just get a few to see how they do.

I learned the cells will hatch on Monday or Tuesday, and will receive them Sunday.  I have twenty, or more if I want them.  I'll have to count my cell protectors and decide if I want to chance hatching queens or not. If so, I can wait until Monday to split.  Every day after reversing should increase the amount of brood in the hives, and more is better IMO.  The longer I can put it off, the better.

If they hatch in the holding nuc, queens kill one another and kill the pupae in the remaining un-hatched cells also, so it is necessary to isolate all the cells with vials or to at least put cell protectors on to minimize the loss, particularly near the expected emergence date.

I like to introduce cells with protectors as well, for insurance.  That way I can put the cells in immediately after splitting without fear of having them damaged by the bees before they realize they are queenless.

I have still not decided how I will handle the drifting problem if I split in place, since the hives are close together and there is little room for splits unless I split onto four-ways. I have not obtained any 34-0-0.  I could screen the hives for a day or two, but that is less than ideal in hot weather.  I'd have to provide water.  I could also move them at least two miles, but I don't have any out-yards any more, or a good way of moving hives.

I mowed grass again in the morning, then learned our guest has had a kidney stone and rushed to hospital today.  Change of plan: we are now going to Oram's for supper.   First, though, I am going to finish reversing the hives.

I see the hives have lost a little weight over the past few days

I went out and got to work.  I found another where the US queen had not taken.  This time the newly hatched and mated queen had been laying for three days. So far, none of the hives are huge, but they are barely splitable.  A few days may make a difference, though, since some hives have lots of sealed brood.

Although the boxes are not too badly glued together, I have decided that I should Vaseline the edges of the boxes for easier separating.  I'll give it a try and see how it works.

So, I took out a big jar ad smeared top surface of each box, using my gloved fingers.  I did about five hives as a test. I can see that a brush would make the job easier.

Although some hives were just getting going, and  one even had a mouse nest beginning in the bottom box, others had brood in all four boxes. I worked them all with bare wrists and got only one sting.  I had a lit smoker, but never used it.

They are all now reversed and hopefully, with the hot weather and lots of young bees, they will get down to work before I split them tomorrow or Monday.

I watched for signs of varroa and see none at all.

I notice that the pollen supplement is still not removed (Right).  It is like cement.

Bob sourced the ingredients for Randy's Kitchen Sink and made it up.  He says the bees liked it, but any that remained on the top bars after I brought them home is either still there or was found on the floor after a while, and that was even after I softened it.

After I finished the bees, Ellen and I drove to Lacombe for supper.  We had lots of food prepared for our visitors who were unable to come up, so we took it along.  We stayed overnight.

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Saturday July 2nd 2011
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Swalwell's centennial celebration

Zippity Doo Da, Zippity Ay
My oh my what a wonderful day.
Plenty of sunshine comin' my way.
Zippity Doo Da, Zippity Ay

That is if you believe the forecast.  It neglects to mention  the daily thunder-showers inevitable in such hot weather.

Nonetheless, if the bees are going to do anything, this week will be the best opportunity in a while: hot sunny weather and canola coming in to bloom.

Today, we are in Lacombe and I'm assuming that we will drive home later this morning.  The air conditioning on the Toyota has lost its charge again and I can't find the gauges, so we'll stop in Red Deer to get a charge kit along the way and maybe a few other items.

Peter in NH writes...

I decided this year to work with the bees' habits instead of against and have had decent results this year.

I do my splits as a shook swarm. On the original stand I put one frame of brood with the queen and then fill out that hive with frames that do not contain living brood.

All the rest of the brood frames go on another stand in the apiary and the new hive is given a new queen (or cell in your case). The field bees return to the original stand. The original behaves like a swarm and works extra hard.

That is one way to ensure that there are mostly young bees in the splits and that any queen introduced will be accepted.

Generally, I don't think much of shook swarming for no good reason, but I'll think about this idea.

One concern I have is that if I do this, the original stand might make honey and I don't want that.  I plan to be away for the rest of the summer.  All my brood comb is full of honey as it is, since my bees took lots of feed, then died last fall and winter.

Another concern is that if there are no flying bees in the split, as sometimes happens when splitting during a strong flow, they will not do well.  I've seen that before.  Could be due to lack of fresh pollen, lack of water, chilling of brood or other unknown factors.  Nonetheless, it is an interesting idea and congruent with some thoughts I had of splitting onto four-way pallets.

I suppose we should attend some of the Swalwell celebrations, too, and there is still grass to cut.  I also have to prepare for splitting the hives tomorrow.

We returned just after lunch, having recharged the Toyota air conditioning along the way.  In the process, I discovered the whining I have heard was the A/C pump and probably not the transmission.

Mckenzie came with us and spent the afternoon climbing our trees, reading in a tree, and helping Ellen garden  She lives in a new neighbourhood and there are no good climbing trees.. I was exhausted and slept an hour and a half.  Ellen says I have jetlag.  I have never considered the possibility.  I travel by plane across the continent and back fairly often and have never noticed a definite effect, but apparently there are rules of thumb for what to expect.  She definitely experienced it returning from Finland recently.

I dropped out to look at the hives in the afternoon and see they have lost a bit more weight.  They are very active today.  The lawn mowing is finally almost caught up. there was a lapse of ten days while Ellen and I were both away and with all the rain this year, the grass got away on us, even though I stayed here an extra day to make sure it was all cut before leaving.

In the evening, I started getting the books caught up, while Ellen and Mckenzie wandered downtown to see what was going on.  By then the crowd was thinning out.

At eleven, the fireworks started and we watched from our living room window and on the deck.

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Sunday July 3rd 2011
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Today, I have to get ready for splitting.  Mckenzie wants to go horseback riding, so maybe I'll line something up for tomorrow.  We'll see how the splitting goes.

I see some rain predicted.  We'll need it after the hot days predicted between now and then. I'm hearing a spray plane this morning and it is closer than I like.

Elijah came to work at ten and is helping Ellen spread mulch.  I got out fairly early and found nine good pallets, then scraped them to be ready for splitting hives this afternoon.  I'm back to four-ways since they are easy to move with the forklift. 

I had to wear a veil, when working near the bees since these bees don't like me in the yard.  I worked in the hives with no smoke and no problem the other day (wearing a veil), but it seems that they are defensive for a circle of 50 feet around the hives. They seem to be mostly interested in my face.

I scraped the floors well before setting them out, since one of the reasons I was unable to slip a drop board in last year as intended, was that the bottom boards had clumps of wax on them.  It was one of those "for lack of a nail... the kingdom was lost" situations that is so common in beekeeping.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

I see the hives have gained a little weight again.  I keep looking for varroa and so far have seen none.  I'll have to check and see what Bob is using.  I like it this way.

After lunch, I made 5-1/2 splits and then a thunderstorm moved in with strong wind and heavy rain.  I ran for the house, fearing hail.  I imagine it will blow over in a half-hour, but in the meantime, it brought my project to a halt.  I'd like to finish splitting this afternoon so I can introduce the cells right away when they arrive. According the rain gauge we got 1/4" in a matter of fifteen minutes.

Then the hives are on their own until I return and I have not scheduled my return yet,.  I suppose I should start looking into that.

After today, I have four more days to get things in order before I fly east again.  I leave early Friday morning, arriving in Sudbury around three in the afternoon.

Ellen and Mckenzie went to Carbon for an 'art' show opening this afternoon.  After that, we have a guest for supper.

I got out and had ten splits finished when company arrived with the cells and cut the job short.  One split had taken quite a while since I could not find the queen, but otherwise the job went well.  I placed two or three frames with brood into the front hives and six into the back one and shook in some extra bees as I expect some drift.  At this point, most of the bees are young and the drifting should not be too bad.

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Monday July 4th 2011
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Today, I have to split.  The job is taking longer than expected. When the cells arrived, I looked at them and found homes for the ones where I could see the queen wiggling through the JayZee BeeZee cell cup wall.


This morning when I opened the hives and looked at the cells, I found that they had all emerged.  The rest, which are in storage above a hive, have not emerged, but two showed signs of life and I put them immediately into hives.  One queen had cut the end out of the cell while I was working and I found her a home PDQ. The rest are above a screen in a hive and I have to rush to get homes ready for them before they mature

*    *    *    *    *   

I worked all day from 8 AM to 8:30 PM, with a few breaks of an hour or so, and when finished, have 38 hives.  Jean and Chris came down to give Mckenzie a ride home since she has activities lined up for tomorrow, so we had a pleasant, short visit in mid-afternoon

I had worried that the hives would not be strong enough for splitting, but had no problem giving the splits as much as eight frames with brood and three to the split on the original stand with the existing queen.  Some hives were beginning swarm cups and some had begun drawing foundation. One had four full combs of fresh honey. I could actually have split all hives into an average of three per original hive.  As it stands, I made two extra beyond doubling.

The method I used involved pulling and examining every frame.  This is not the quickest method.  At one time, I figured one man could make 20 splits a day with this method, but that was not from four-storey hives.  All told, I spent about 20 hours, including breaks on this task.  That is about an hour per resulting increase.  That includes the time to find and prepare supplies like lids, bricks, foundation, brood comb, etc..

I removed all feeders and inserted a frame of foundation in the two outside positions in each box.  That has been my habit.  It works well in that it provides a "follower board" and also a space for bees to cluster if they become crowded.   ideally, if properly supered, the bees do not use the outside combs much, but there are always a few hives that have drawn their foundation and if a feeder was left in it would be full of comb.

I've noticed that with these EPS boxes, the bees work right to the walls and often brood is found in the outside combs.

When we consider that the extra boxes were already on the hives and that I simply removed, sorted frames, looked for queens and set up the new hives today and that some of the work had been done previously making up the brood chambers, it is obvious this job was very time consuming.

What are the economics?  If each additional colony is worth $200 (bees alone) next spring and survival is 70% between now and then, each split I make is worth about $140 now, assuming that I have no more expense in time or material between now and next spring. 

$140 x 20 colonies equals $2800.  $2800/30 hours total gives $93.33 per hour for time spent and no consideration of risk and capital cost.  Seems worthwhile.

The splits with cells face north at the same location.  I'm not worried about drifting, since the hives are busting with young bees which have not yet flown, and I put less brood into the splits where I expect the bees to accumulate and more into the hives which I expect will lose some.

The hives are pretty hot inside with all the bees and good insulation, so I found the queens sometimes on the first frame I pulled from the fourth (top) box, and sometimes on the last frame I pulled in the bottom box.  The bees were spread out nicely on the frames, so spotting the queen was usually easy, but in three hives I had to go through twice.

All the cells except one hatched and in some cases, I had to chase the new virgin into a hive. She had chewed the end out of the cell, but was still inside.  The cell which did not hatch was the last one left, since I installed the cells as they showed signs of life.  When it did not show activity after all the others were active, I pulled it apart and found only a small dry mummy. The cells only got ahead of me once, when I stopped for supper.  After supper, I found two pale, groggy new queens walking away from their cells when I went to get the next cell.

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Tuesday July 5th 2011
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Thinking about how the splitting went, I realise now that I should have prepared the splits at least one day ahead of inserting cells, so the queenless bees would be building their own cells and be more certain to accept the ones I put in. 

Additionally, I chose the hard way to split.  If I had obtained enough cells for all splits, I could have just split without checking for queens and dropped a cell into all splits.  There is a cost to raising cells, but there is a cost to working through heavy hives frame by frame. 

I prefer to split box by box, but in order to use that method, brood must be approximately equal in each box.  That means that either the queen must have gone down or that preferably, the hives have been reversed at least a week and, ideally longer, before the splits are made. 

In this case, I had added my heavy boxes to the original frames that came from Bob. Bob's frames are flat, perfect, totally devoid of feed -- and have all had recent brood.  Many of my frames are fat and full of honey from the hives lost over winter and require bee effort to prepare them for brood.  That activity requires hot weather and/or lots of bees to get the wax and honey up to temperatures where they become soft and pliable.  As a result, most of my brood was in one box, even after the recent reversing.  I suppose I could have planned better, reversing the hives on the day of my return and splitting the last days of my visit here, but that assumes that weather co-operates and one thing a long-time beekeeper knows is that weather can throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans.

Now, I have to decide whether to add a third to all the hives since I don't know when I will be back and some hives were hanging out until I pulled the entrance reducer which I had placed on all splits.  I have lots of boxes and lots of foundation.  I think I should add a box to each hive, just in case. Foundation is ideal for providing space, since one box of foundation provides room for a lot of young bees until it is drawn.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *   

The belt on the mower broke yesterday and I have spent the essentially the entire day looking for a replacement nearby since I need to install it before I leave.  No luck.  I did find a slightly longer standard belt and maybe it will last until the proper one arrives.  At any rate, the grass must be cut often until the hot weather slows the growth.

The belt is 162.9 inches long and Kevlar reinforced: hardly something that is in every store.  Dealers don't stock it.  Thank goodness for the Internet.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *   

The bees look good.  I have not opened them, but they seem fairly even, judging by the entrances.  the north-facing splits -- the ones with the cells and more brood -- are less active, but that should change.  Now I have to get some supers ready and see if they want to draw a box of foundation.  By supering, I can be fairly certain that they will not plug by late August. I am wondering whether to use newspaper or not.

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Wednesday July 6th 2011
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Garbage Day

The mower is still out of action.  I decided to research all the  possible sources in the Province and found two in Stoney Plain, so I ordered one to be sent by bus.  I also ordered one for much less money from the US as a spare.

It just goes to show that the secret of this, like many other things in life is to just keep trying.  I recall, when I was first hired in sales, I mentioned that I had won a sales contest in high school.  When asked my secret by the VP of Sales who was interviewing me, I said that I guessed that I just knocked on more doors than the other kids.  I did not know it at the time, but for those who don't know what a sales manager wants to hear, that is the best possible answer.  Many years later as VP of Sales myself, I seldom heard that answer.  The hardest job a sales manager has is to get salespeople to approach potential customers.

I've spent days now looking for a belt since it is very important to keep the grass down. The fact it got ahead of us is most likely responsible in part for the belt failure.  We try to keep spares on hand, since the belts are not easy to find and take time to arrive, but the belt we have on hand turned out to be the drive belt, not the deck belt. We'll be sure have a spare after this.

In late afternoon, one of my computers went dark.  I suspected overheating from the sun and fiddled around.  What I discovered was that one of my 20" monitors has quit working.  I'm still in business, but with only 75% of the screen area I am accustomed to.

My computer equipment always acts up in summer.  Computers that work just fine all year shut down, make warning beeps or sometimes just quit when the temperatures get above 85 degrees F.  My rocket hubs don't like heat and will go offline by themselves if they get too warm.  Sitting in direct sunlight from a window is sometimes all it takes to make equipment go strange. I don't know what people in the South do since they encounter this weather for4 months on end, not just for days or weeks.

By 3 PM, the scale hives had gained a pound each since last reading.   On examining the entrance activity of the hives, I decided that many of the hives definitely will need supers before I return, so I rustled up 38 EPS boxes of foundation and put them on all the hives.  I can't guess which ones will need them.

I used newspaper under the supers for the weaker splits.  I may be back in a few weeks, but also may not be back here for six weeks.  Ellen will be here, but I don't want to leave her a lot of heavy work.

I saw quite a bit of honey in the strong hives and also some swarm cells, too.  Come evening, the splits on the scale were so strong they were hanging out, so . I checked the weights and see another pound per hive gained on the scale hives.  These hives had accumulated some drifting and are overly strong.  They will swarm without doubt unless weakened or supered higher than I intend.  I did a quick forklift equalization

The equalizing process is simple.  On a day like today when the bees have been flying freely and there is a flow, I simply find two pallets of bees on which each hive is the the opposite strength-wise of the corresponding one on the other pallet, then switch the two pallets.  After the switch, the flying bees return to their customary stand, depleting the strong hives and boosting the weak ones.  The effect is most impressive and can turn a weak hive into a normal-looking hive in a day, and prevent swarming in the strong hives.

At this point all my EPS boxes are on hives, except four.

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Thursday July 7th 2011
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The weather forecast has changed again and there is more rain now expected than in previous prognostications and some cooler weather.  I can recall years when we wore ski clothes to Stampede and years when the heat was unbearable.  There is a wide range of possibilities, and that is one reason I don't open the hive entrances more than a bit on splits.

I hear spray planes every morning, but when I go out to look, it seems they are spraying cereal crops, so I am not particularly concerned.

I leave early tomorrow morning, so have to sew everything up today and get packed.

At 7:30, I called the bus depot and they had my belt.  I drove the 70 miles and picked it up, then met Jean and Chris at Best Buy to return Mckenzie's booster seat which had been left in our van.  I spent some time in the store, then decided not to buy anything right now.  I need to do more research first and I will be away for a while.  When I return there will be newer and better products.  I could use a new laptop, but need to do some research first.

Next, I went to Canadian Tire, then drove home via Linden.  In Linden I picked up 25 kg of ammonium nitrate for smoking bees.  It cost $30 and is a lifetime supply.  I could have used it when I did the splits to minimize drifting, but it is hard to get.  the supplier now has only one bag left.  When I was in the fertilizer business, we bought and sold it by the boxcar.

The belt fit the mower and I did a few rounds, then decided the blades needed sharpening.  They are quite sharp, but one had had a stone hit on one end and I have noticed a pattern in the cut grass that might be explained by the dull spot.  I lifted the front of the mower with the forklift and took an angle grinder to the blades.  it did not take much, and I did not attempt to make the blades knife-sharp but after I set it back down and went for a test run, the mower seemed to cut better.

Getting that done was a huge relief and I relaxed for the rest of the day.  When I checked on the bees, I saw they are gaining weight a bit and the hives have evened out.  the north-facing hives have less flight, though.

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Friday July 8th 2011
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Ellen and I arose at 4 AM and left for YYC at 4:45.  At 7 I lifted off for YYZ and watched "The Lincoln Lawyer" and about half of "Cedar Rapids" before landing.  I barely had time for an omelet at the Exchange Cafe before boarding flight 7809 for Sudbury.  The flight up is always a pleasure since we fly low and see the scenery if the sky is clear.  Mom and Zip met me at the airport and we returned to 1207.  I slept the rest of the day.

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Saturday July 9th 2011
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I have lots to do today, but am still tired and my policy is to sleep anytime I have the opportunity.  So, I slept much of the morning and pan to sleep this afternoon too.  At some point, though, I am assuming that ambition will return and I'll get around to my projects.

The Alberta forecast again illustrates the trouble the weather guessers have with predicting Alberta weather.  The forecast has changed materially -- again!

After lunch I was more energetic and pulled the boat out from beside the garage.  I have some cleaning to do since it is pretty dirty.  The day is hot and sticky.  I changed into my bathing suit and figure on having a swim.

I spent an hour or two cleaning the boat with boat soap and a sponge and also used the pressure washer on the non-skid surface of the decks and cockpit sole. 

The boat  had an Indian River smile that took a bit of scrubbing to remove, but it came clean.  I'll have to apply  another coat of Poly-Glow one of these days, but for now, I think this will do.  I want to clean the surfaces more carefully before applying another coat so I don't trap dirt in.  I have more cleaning work to do inside and on the decks.  Before and after pictures, left and right.  Click to enlarge.

This hull has not been washed more than superficially in three years since being Poly-Glowed and it has spent at least three months each year sitting in a dirty river. I'm impressed.

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