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My Hives, After The Summer

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Saturday August 20th 2011
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Today, we drove to Water Valley to attend two friends' 25th anniversary party.   We spent the afternoon visiting at their campsite and returned in late evening

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Sunday August 21st 2011
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We're having company tonight, so this morning we have some shopping to do.

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We drove to Airdrie and bought several collapsible tables and some groceries., then drove home and prepared for visitors.  Around five, everyone showed up and we had a good evening sitting outside in the shade.

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Monday August 22nd 2011
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I'm resting up today and contemplating finishing my work on the bees and also looking into buying another van.  We're thinking it is time to sell the Toyota.

Screened bottom boardsMy friends brought over some screened bottoms last night, but these floors are not yet dipped in wax or painted, so I am wondering if I need to treat them or just use them as-is.  Also, my hives are mostly in four boxes now, so I have to figure out how to get the floors under them.  The obvious way is to disassemble the hive and reassemble them on the floors, but I have worked through two thirds already and don't want to repeat the job.  I may just use the floors as-is under the remaining hives and figure that the samples are representative. 

I also need to get some formic acid, since I think that I should give the hives several treatments with mite-wipes before winter.  Formic gets the varroa and also tracheal.  Tracheal is hard to detect, so it is easier to just treat.  I think I'll also consider an oxalic drizzle if I see any varroa.  So far, I have not seen one mite, but it seems that ants get into the drop trays and I'll have to overcome that problem.  I'm not seeing any ants recently, but I'll have to watch.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I spent the afternoon working on the books, getting caught up after a long time away.

Duckweed on our pondDuckweed on our pondJust after I returned, we noticed the pond was entirely covered with what looked like an algae scum, but a closer look reveals it is duckweed.  the water is clearing nicely and there is plenty of aquatic life in the pond now.


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Tuesday August 23rd 2011
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Today, Zippy goes to the vet for booster shots at 2 PM.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I was going to work on the bees, but it was too hot and other things came up.  I had some web work to do.  My friends at Global Patties have decided to incorporate Joe Latshaw's vitamin and mineral supplement into their patties and so, I had to make some changes to their site.  A new client also approached me today.  I've been very busy moving client sites to new servers lately, and that is now complete.

Customers have been very happy with Global's products, which are based on the simple formula that Meijers and I decided on years ago, but when Joe Latshaw explained his vitamin, mineral and lipids additive, and the work that went into it, it made sense to use it in the products.  For one thing there has been a lot of talk about these factors in bee nutrition, and although we have never found the current formula lacking, and the nutrient profiles seem adequate, we figure it can't hurt to add some nutrients selected by experts for bee safety and health.  For one thing, we are confident that the ration is balanced and that it will do no harm.  That does not apply to all the various things that beekeepers are inclined to try feeding to their bees on scant evidence of benefit.

At 1:30, Ellen and I drove Zip to the vet for rabies and booster shots.  Also, since Zip spent time in Ontario, she needed precautionary heart worm treatment. Apparently it is cheaper and faster to treat than to test.  (Beekeepers, where have we heard that story before?)

Bees hanging out Today's hive scale readingI went out to look at the hives after supper and see that they have gained weight.  The scale read "9" on the 13th and reads "43" now, so that means a gain of 34 lbs over 10 days for four hives, or a little over 3/4 pound a day per hive.

I'm guessing the gain for the good hives in the group is greater than what I get by just dividing by four since it looks as if two of them are potentially queenless.  tomorrow, I'll check and see.  meantime, I notice that some are hanging out. 

Therefore, it is a good thing for me an my bees that our new neighbours are not as kind-hearted to skunks as I am, or these bees would be eaten.  I think the neighbours shot anything they saw moving in their yard this past spring after they moved in.  We hear them shoot their guns quite a bit, actually.  We're not seeing any deer lately either.  Hmmm.  We had a huge deer problem.  the deer have become so tame that they just stand there destroying our trees and garden when we go outside.  We got Zippy to chase the deer, but she is short-sighted and does not even see them.

Bad capacitors are the bulged ones with brown leaks showingOne of my 20" monitors quit the other day and I looked up the problem on the Internet.  Apparently there are quite a few bad capacitors in electronic equipment in recent years and the story behind it is fascinating.  Anyhow, I pulled the unit apart and see that bad capacitors could well be the problem.  Several capacitors are domed, their vents have split open, and there is leakage showing. 

Apparently I can order a capacitor kit online for about $15.  That is cheaper than a new monitor at $150-200.  I used to do a lot of electronic work, but it has been a while since things have been this easy to fix -- if this is the real problem.  I have to find my soldering tools.

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Wednesday August 24th 2011
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I ordered the capacitors for the monitor this morning, and noted that the order was shipped within an hour via USPS.  That is impressive.  We sold honey be mail and people were lucky if we shipped within a week after receiving the order.  Of course, in those days the orders came by mail, and our fulfillment department consisted of our daughter and my wife, plus myself.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Then I got out and worked through the rest of the hives before the heat of the day  Sure enough, one of the four hives on the scale was queenless, and, all told, 11 of the 38 hives I had last month when I left for Ontario are queenless and have had to be shaken out or combined down.  That leaves 27 of the original 38 which were made from an overwinter 9, which I had purchased.

That is a pretty poor yield IMO, Back when we just did side-by-side walk-away splits, we usually had a 80% success rate, and that was when we let the bees raise their own queens.  80% of 18 splits is 14 or 15, and even allowing for one or two original queens going missing, that would have yielded 30 or more hives, with a great deal less work.

I had split 18 hives into two and made two extra splits as well in early July, yielding 38 stands.  Now I have 27.  Those 27 are pretty good looking, though, and I have yet to see one varroa mite.  I did see a cell of AFB, though, so I'll give the whole yard a shot of Tylosin.  I can do that because I don't take honey for human consumption. All the honey is for the bees.

Screened hive bottoms with drop boards placed on four-way palletsI placed several of the screened floors under hives and they fit my four-way pallets quite nicely.  They are not designed for the large EPS boxes, but I am able to make them work.  I'll be watching for the first varroa.

When I began today, I noted that the scale reading had dropped two pounds.  That was a bit surprising.  I had expected it to keep incrementing since we have an annoying number of flies in the house, and that is usually a reliable sign that a good honey flow is on.  This time, though, it might just be a sign we left the doors open a lot when we had company the other night.

At left is the scale reading after I worked through the hives and replaced the loser.

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Thursday August 25th 2011
Four More Months until Christmas

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The weather looks to be a bit cooler today and that suits me fine.  The past few days have been overly hot in the afternoon and evening.  So far, I have nothing planned.

North-facing beehivesI went out first thing and checked the drop boards I had put under six of the hives yesterday.  There was some debris, but no varroa yet. That is impressive.  I notice that the drop boards look different enough from the normal entrances that they may have caused some drifting.  It is also possible that the newness of the wood is keeping the bees from clustering on the entrances the way they do on the older wood.  I don't know.

South-facing beehivesHives with the new screened bottoms addedI also notice that the hives on the north side are not as tall as the ones on the south and also that they have fewer bees on the entrances.  I've turned the pallets 180 degrees several times, exchanging the north hives for the south hives, but the field bees seem to like the south side better.  The north hives were originally the splits, with more brood and new queen cells.  The south hives were the original queens with several frames of brood.  There was quite a bit of failure in the north-facing splits.  Was it the fact that they faced north, or was that due to the cells.

Could it have been that all the original hives faced south in a line and that the bees somehow retained a memory of that after they were placed on pallets? There have been studies which showed that south-facing hives on four-way pallets do just as well summer and winter and the north-facing ones, and we never noticed any difference when we ran thousands commercially, but this yard seems to be different.

I have known for a long time that an entrance with a lot of flying bees will attract bees from less active hives and maybe that is what happened here since the flying bees all were trained to south entrances.  still, I have never seen this drifting so pronounced before. Of course there is a lot of Italian in these bees and Italians are known for drifting.

Today's hive scale readingOddly, as of this morning, the hive scale has gained four pounds since late yesterday afternoon and now reads "32".  It was"28" when I left it yesterday. 

I can't see how that came about unless four pounds of bees found their hives again after the disruption of replacing the dud hive and moving the scale a bit.  I had moved the pallet with bees away when moving the scale onto new grass and mowing under it, then replaced the pallet of hives.  My scale reading was taken immediately thereafter.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I'm thinking now that it is the weight of field bees going out during  the day that throws of the weights if the scale is read at different times of day.  I notice it is down about two pounds again at mid-day today.

I went out around noon and medicated the hives against AFB and checked the trays under the six screen bottoms.  There is lots of junk and tiny red spiders running around in the trays, but I have yet to see one single mite. 

I'm also not seeing any of the ants which were troubling me earlier. Maybe they found something better than my hives.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

In the evening, Zip and I took a 0.7 mile stroll down the property, as recorded by Cardiotrainer on my Android phone.  I've had the app for a while and find it entertaining.

Before bed, I watched an episode of Monk.  I've been working my way through the series through Netflix on my computer and the iPad over the past few months.  Unfortunately my Galaxy Tab cannot run Netflix due to DRM issues. The show is dumb and not always well-acted -- after all, it is hard to write a weekly script about, -- or consistently imitate -- an obsessive-compulsive person with multiple phobias, but the show is harmless and fun, and each episode makes me laugh out loud several times   I don't particularly enjoy the hard-edged, nasty and destructive entertainment that has become increasingly popular.

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Friday August 26th 2011
Four More Months until Christmas

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I leave for the east again Monday, so it is time to clean up and get ready to go.

I have noticed lately that each morning ,or any time I have been lying down for a while, my left heel is painful to stand on when I get up   It was worse than usual this morning and I am starting to think I should see a doctor about it.  I wonder if the walk last night exacerbated the condition.  Usually the pain diminishes and disappears after I walk a bit.  A web search has turned Plantar fasciitis (More) and the description seems to fit.  I'll have to work on this, it seems.

Adropboard for detecting varroa mites in bee hivesAround ten this morning, I checked the six drop boards and the scale.  Click the image (left) to enlarge the drop board shot.  There are no varroa apparent, but I see I should have run the OTC/sugar mixture through the blender again since there are chunks showing on the board.  Blending the OTC and the sugar is very important to getting uniform results since the fine particles are better managed by the bees.  Large chunks just drop down and are lost.

For varroa monitoring, six drop boards is a sufficient number to use in a yard of twenty-seven hives if all that is wanted is an indication of varroa presence and a rough idea of the number and distribution.  This information is sufficiently precise, without going to great cost, if the intent is to treat the entire yard if a threshold is passed on any one observation.  Of course with less than 100% sampling the precision and certainty drops, so less tolerant thresholds are advisable than where greater precision is obtained by using more boards and more frequent counts..

In the case where hives are to be managed individually, though, a drop board must be used under each and every hive so that each hive is monitored and treated individually according to the observations.

This morning's hive scale readingThe scale was up two pounds from yesterday afternoon and the bees are robbing around the equipment stacks, so I assume there is little or no flow.  They were robbing in the afternoon also the other day.  I'll have to look later today.  The weight increase I see this AM is mostly bees waiting to go foraging later.

There is lots of bloom and lots of moisture and warm sunny days with little wind, so it seems odd that there is no flow.  I've seen this many times before, though.  In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, we often saw little honey after the middle of August, even with fields in full bloom until October.  An alfalfa field in full bloom (at duskfrom my cell phone)

Some years, though, we got a good August flow, and occasionally a September flow, but the odds were against getting anything much after the third week of August. I always left a third on until the end of September just in case, and to give the bees room.  Often enough we'd get them filled at least partially and sometime completely, but I suspect some of it was honey brought up from below.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

> I have been reading with interest your different methods of spring re-queening. Thanks for all the great information on your website.

You are welcome.

> Given my scant experience with grafting and patchy results achieved last year, I am keen on your 'Progressive' splitting. However, I run only one brood box and was interested in whether you thought it could be as successful with a two-high hive.

Yes, particularly if you have lots of brood in your hives and they can each spare a frame or two. A caveat: don't do this too late in the season. Bees can stand a lot of management on the upswing part of the season, but should be disturbed less as the season ends.

> keeping weight down prior to moving into pollination is also a factor for me.

That is always a factor, but singles with lots of brood can swarm or starve in a heartbeat. All it takes is a week or two of rain, a breakdown, illness on the part of the beekeeper or simple bad luck.

> I will probably increase numbers to 500 this year. (From 450)

Sounds good. This may be the way to do it.

Using this method, you can actually increase by 10% just by taking a frame from every colony (two from some and none from others) during regular inspections during the build-up period and making splits the same size as the parent colonies. You may also find good ripe queen cells as you go and use them as long as they are not supersedure cells, and taking them could render the colony queenless.


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After lunch I went out and "forklift equalized" two pallets of bees where I could see far too many bees on the south doorsteps and too few on the north side.  The technique is simply a variation on "padgening" by picking up the pallet, making a U-turn and putting it down in the same spot, facing the opposite direction. This exchanges the north-facing hives with the south-facing hives. More

In stepping off the forklift today, I noticed once again that my left foot is the one which hits the ground first.  I had been aware of this and the repeated impact from doing so in the past, so I have been fairly careful not to land too hard.  I step off quite a few times in a working day.  I may have to make dismounting into a two-step maneuver.

For snowboarding, I'm Goofy, which means right foot forward and takes the impacts, but the way this forklift is built, my less dominant foot gets the punishment.

I turn 66 in a little over a month.  Maybe I'm going to have to make allowances for age?

Meijers came for supper.

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Saturday August 27th 2011
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Ellen and I left the dog at home and drove to Airdrie to meet Jean and family for a trip to the Zoo.  It is a long time since I've been to the Calgary Zoo.  My opinion of it had diminished since early days when I was a member.  The redesign and rebuilding in the last decade had resulted in an ugly, messy place that I did not enjoy, and I visted the San Diego Zoo much more ofteh than the local facility.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the Zoo has become and am of the opinion that the changes are actually for the good.  We stayed from around noon until four, then all drove to Swalwell for a supper of hot dogs and wings in the back yard.

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Sunday August 28th 2011
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Today is my last day home before I fly east again for a while.  Tomorrow evening, I should be in Sudbury.  There are things to do before I go, so that should keep me busy today. 

Four-high, before I plugged the top entrances.  The entrance activity is more even now.My bees are pretty well ready for a few weeks on their own.  I see the entrance activity has evened out after the last padgening. I have boxes of foundation on top of some hives, but my plan is to simply reverse those colonies when we get the first frost.  That should allow the bees enough time to settle on the mature combs before winter sets in. 

I'll take the unfinished boxes and place them aside, or on the bottom board, depending on how well drawn they are and how high the colonies are.  I like to winter in three or four. I think it is very important to have good brood chambers which have been used for several years up where the bees will spend winter and spring

 When boxes with combs of feed  are placed below the cluster in fall, bees typically move the feed up out of them.  That, incidentally, is a good way to get granulation out of frames.

I plugged all the auger holes above the second boxes.  There is foundation to draw up there and bees do not draw as well near openings in the hive bodies.  I also pulled the drop boards and left the open meshes on the six hives with special floors.  I expect that will cause the queens to move up in those hives, away form the cooler air entering there.  I doubt open bottoms make much difference with varroa -- if there were any varroa in the hives.  I have to wonder.  I still have not seen even one.

Today's beginning hive scale readingThe hive scale reading after balancing the scale.The scale has gained weight over the past few days -- twenty pounds for the four hives in about two days!  That comes to 20/4/2 = 2-1/2 lbs per day per hive.  That is the best gain of the season.

Some of it is from robbing, I am sure, but I'm thinking there must be a flow on, too, so I went for a one-mile walk and checked the equipment stacks along the way.  I see a few scouts and some wasps, but the forager honey bees are somewhere else today.

I've been watching Hurricane Irene on the off-chance that it might get as far as Toronto and disrupt my flight plans.  That is looking increasingly unlikely, but I still remember Hurricane Hazel and the aftermath.

News Flash!  Big flow in Swalwell today!
       A 26 lb gain between 10:15 AM and 7:15 PM.
       That is 26/4 = 6+ lbs per hive

Huge weight gain today!North-facing hivesSouth-facing hivesThe hives are bearded up after the day (at right).

The south facing hives (left) still gather more flyers than the north-facing hives (right) no matter what I have done all season to try to equalize them.

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Monday August 29th 2011
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I'm off to Sudbury today.  First, though, Ellen has an eye appointment in Calgary.

Look at that weather forecast! It appears the flow will be short-lived.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I drove Ellen to her appointment, waited for her to be done, then we went to Deerfoot to kill some time while her eyes recovered.  Then she dropped me at the airport just before noon for my  PM flight and left, headed for Swalwell.

I went inside and looked at the departures screen and could not find my flight.  I checked my boarding passes and discovered my flight had left eleven hours earlier.  I had not looked at the passes after I checked in and printed them last evening, I would have noticed the 0025 boarding time.  I has reserved the flight weeks before and forgotten that I reserved the red-eye.

As the flight time was 0100, and I had converted that to 1 o'clock in my mind, I had mistaken the  AM fight for a  PM flight.  I always have to think about the military time  that airlines use these days. Anyhow, Ellen had already gone and since she has no phone, I called friends to try to intercept her in Airdrie where I knew she would be buying gas, and went the the ticket counter.  I was relieved to find that I was able to get a flight at for just a change fee and called my friends to call off the hunt. 

I arrived at 1207 just before midnight.  That was three hours later than I had expected, but it all worked out.

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Tuesday August 30th 2011
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I slept eight hours, then Mom and I went to see Linda.  After that, we went to Perkins for lunch.   I like their omelets. 

At the restaurant, I was quite shocked at the size of many of the people eating nearby.   Perkins serves good food in large portions for a decent price and I notice that such restaurants and buffets seem to attract large numbers of amazingly fat people.

I really wonder how their bones can carry the weight.  I'm overweight and my frame is complaining at times, but for people who are carrying 100 pounds more than I, how do they do it? 

I notice my ankles hurt when I load up with SCUBA tanks and simply have to walk 100 feet or so to the water.  Carrying full honey boxes does not bother me much,, but I generally avoid carrying them more than several steps to a pallet. 

I also wonder what years of carrying honey boxes to the truck may have done to my frame.  I know my lower back shows some degeneration in X-rays, but it does not bother me often  My fingers get stiff sometimes, especially after lifting boxes by the handholds.  Smart beekeepers carry heavy boxes by their lower edges after getting them up, not by the handholds -- IMO, anyhow -- and avoid carrying full boxes any distance, or too often.

I recall being surprised when Meijers decided to go with medium depth supers for their hives and gladly sold them all of mine at the time, but, looking back, I think they were very smart.  There are numerous advantages that offset the need for to handle many more frames in extracting and the lack of interchangeability between broods and supers.

  • lighter boxes to carry -- smaller people can do the work and it is easier
    on the larger people, too

  • easy to tell supers from broods

  • less breakage of frames in handling and extracting

  • less bowing in the frames

  • faster extracting due to smaller, stronger frames and less distance for
    the honey to run off the frame.  Higher RPMs can be used.

  • better control of empty space in hive

  • boxes are either full or empty when extracting

  • queens may avoid them for egg-laying

  • bees are driven out more easily by repellants or blowers for honey-pulling
    and leave more readily in abandonment

  • boxes can be tapped up and down on a lid or other box to shake bees
    out without breaking frames

In early years, I had a hive loader and used it to move hives and also pull honey, as described elsewhere on this site.  I seldom lifted full boxes.  The hive loader lifted them off the hive and onto the truck, then a hive cart rolled them into the shop.  From there a super elevator raised them to the uncapping level.

BTW, speaking of the effects of weight carrying on feet and ankles, my heel is much better today. 

Since I read up on Plantar fasciitis and learned that one of the recommendations is to keep the feet at ninety degrees to the leg when sleeping, I have been making a point of doing so when I am aware of it.  Doing so is not hard, and I find that I do maintain the same posture for hours at a time while asleep.  In some beds, especially with restrictive covers, the tendency is to point the toes away from the body.  Apparently that is bad for the condition, so I have to find a position where the toes are not constricted.

Now, when falling asleep, I make sure I keep my head tilted up, away from my neck (as in the 'recovery' position) to avoid snoring, and avoid pointing my toes down when sleeping to accommodate my heel problem.  Both work! 

Ellen sent me a scale photo and I see that the four hives gained a total of 9 pounds in a day, or a bit over 2 lbs each.

At four, I went for a walk around Minnow Lake.  It is about a two-mile hike and includes my walk to grade school and other places I used to walk when I was a child.

After supper, I visited Harri, then returned to 1207 where I worked on a website for a client until midnight

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Wednesday August 31st 2011
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I slept 9 hours and woke up too late to take out the garbage.  No problem.  I guess the exercise yesterday had a positive impact on my sleep.

I also notice my foot has recovered almost completely today.  I think the combination of changing my sleep position and the exercise has done the trick -- plus time.  In my experience, these sorts of things come and go.

The day was mostly spent at the keyboard, with a few hours in the afternoon spent at the Source and Best Buy looking at phones and computers.  It is amazing how plans have improved on phones.  Koodo has introduced new plans with unlimited talk time in Canada for $45 and data plans with 2 GB for $25.  Rogers has now a plan for $65 with 6 GB of data and lots of talk. 

My netbook is getting slow, so I am on the lookout for a new small laptop.  The cost is no issue, but I dread the job of moving all my applications to the new machine.

I finished off the new website I took on.  As is often the case, I spent far more time than I can bill, playing around, perfecting things.   Then I decided to update the O/S on the Galaxy Tab.  That meant downloading Kies, a poorly named application for the laptop that does much of what iTunes does.  Why do they choose such bad names for software that is basically mobile/tablet management software? 

Anyhow, the software took forever to install, then immediately started cataloging all my media.  On this slow machine, that hogged a lot of resources.  I found I had to reinstall the drivers and that took a half-hour. Additionally, I had to back up my 100 or so Tab apps so I don't have to install them again, so that meant rooting the tab and running Titanium backup.  That took a while, too.

By midnight, I was still not done, since the upgrade process died twice at 2%.  I was using the phone for an Internet connection, since I was not sure what would happen if I tried to use the Tab while it was being updated.

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