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Active bees in an auger hole in an EPS hive. The temperature outside is minus twenty Celsius.
The frost mustache shows that the bees are expelling moisture from the hive through the hole.

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Sunday November 20th 2011
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Don's email reminded me and I looked back.  We went around this loop back in March 2010 on BEE-L and he even sent me a picture.  (Unfortunately, the BEE-L logs are broken into weekly logs and the thread get hard to follow at the end of the week).

Re-reading that exchange reminded me of my observations back in November 2004.  See also the chart at left, from that page.

One thing that was very clear, if not proven conclusively due to this being just one data point, was that the EPS hives had much higher mite levels in fall than wood hives.  At that time I did not have auger holes in all boxes.

These EPS hives are very warm and airtight.  That is why I have found that drilling a 1" auger hole in each box is necessary for good performance.  The bees did not do as well before I did that.  The colonies were slow building up on spring and I am now having varroa problems that I did not have in wooden hives.  See chart at left.  I suspect that closing the auger holes made the hives too warm and delayed the shutdown of brood rearing.

Note the frost mustaches on these hives this morning at minus twenty Celsius and the bees active in the auger holes.  Note that the bottom entrances are snow covered in some hives, but in others the bees have melted snow and opened the slit a bit.

Years back, when we ran thousands of hives, I always delayed wrapping in fall until mid to late November and early December due to my belief that the hives need to experience some cold weather to settle properly for winter.  Others rushed to finish since their staff were leaving or from fear of snow blocking them out of yards.  We had to use chains and 4X4s sometimes, but when I look at how the mites thrive in these hives, I see that overly warm hives can be a problem.  The advantages of insulated hives  -- and there are many -- may outweigh the disadvantages, but moving from wood to EPS gave me a surprise, I'm thinking.

Below are today's mite drop details and we can see that the treatment has pretty well worn off.  We're back down to lower drop counts again, but still see three times the background levels from before this last treatment.

On Day 10 after the first treatment we counted 675 mites.
On Day 10 after the second treatment, we counted 712.

Although this could be interpreted to mean that the total mite load in the hives increased a bit between treatments, in fact, the mite load has gone down significantly.

The reason for greater kill this second time is that virtually all the mites were phoretic at the second treatment, whereas an estimated 2/3 of them were in capped brood and thus protected during the first treatment.

The duration of capping plus the day previous is 13 days, and the effect of the treatment tapers off after a week, so all the mites in the brood missed the fogging and only half of  them (est.) would emerge while the treatment is still strong.

13 days/2=7 days, and 7 days is how long the effects are strong, so half the mites emerge after the hazard to them is greatly reduced.

Going by that reckoning, a treatment every week or so would seem optimal if there is brood, but then the question arises: how many treatments can the bees withstand before the treatment is damaging?  Word is that the fogging is not harmful to the bees, but that is hard to believe.

I'm hoping we have killed almost all the mites, but I doubt there is any chance of that. The next fogging will tell us how good our efficacy has been thus far.  If the spike is still of the same magnitude as the first fogging, as was with the second treatment spike, we are just treading water.  Hopefully not, but it all depends on the amount of brood in the hives.

Need I mention that many of the images on these pages are thumbnails and clicking on them yields a larger image?


At this point, I am on Day 38 of counting mites after a oxalic acid evaporation treatment with a repeat on day 28.

I have charted the mite drop details in an attempt to see exactly what is happening, and they are quite fascinating -- to me at least, and apparently a number of people who are following along. It seems quite clear that we can get a good idea of what is going on from examining the sticky boards.

Whether we can get good and consistent control using oxalic fogging in fall is still a good question, but hopefully we will find out in the next few weeks. One thing is certain, OA fogging is not as simple as putting in Apivar.

We have a hive or two which insist on raising brood, and that is complicating things. With brood in hives, more applications are required. Not counting labour and travel, these treatments are the next thing to free, at pennies a shot, but then we have to ask, how many times can we fog a hive with OA vapour without doing harm?

I have never seen anything to indicate that OA evaporation harms the bees, but reason insists that coating bees with acid has to have some deleterious effects.

Has anyone here any data on the effects on wintering or spring performance of colonies repeatedly dosed with OA vapour?

For those who don't want to wade through my existential ravings and imaginings, here is the info, full size and all on one page.

I plan to update that page daily, and the data file* offered there is the one I am working on at any given moment.  (* Don't click that link unless you want to download an Excel 2010 file).

Meijers came over for supper.

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Monday November 21st 2011
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I have my dissecting scope here again for a while and so took a look at some mites and plan to do quite a bit more looking, too.

Out of curiosity, I simply held my Fuji Finepix XP against the ocular, then my cellphone.  The shots here are the results.  The better one is from the point and shoot camera.  The poorer one is from the cellphone.  The positioning was very touchy and both were very hard to hold in the correct place.  If I were planning to do this often, a jig would be very necessary.  My plan, though, is to get a microscope camera that puts the image on a computer screen, and eliminate the old style microscope entirely.  I find them awkward.

The drops continue to taper off and I think I really should treat ASAP to see how far we have progressed.  I suppose I could use a strip of Apivar as a check, but that would end the experiment.

Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

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Tuesday November 22nd 2011
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Today is the first time since the beginning of my daily counts that I saw no callow mites, although there were two mites which looked quite young, judging by the colour.

At right is the infamous hive three which has had brood until now.  Notice there are bees in all three holes and a few dead bees on the floor.  Among the dead bees are a few drones.  Seems this is s pretty prosperous hive and is just kicking out drones now.  We'll see how it winters.

I've been looking at varroa and bees under the microscope.  Bees look quite dry, but varroa look very moist.  I wonder if this is why oxalic acid dust affect the mites and (apparently) not the bees?  Oxalic acid powder is not particularly harmful in casual contact with bare human skin unless it encounters moisture.  When wetted by moisture, though, it burns.

Beehives should only have entrances on one side.  If there are openings on other sides, then wind can blow right through the hive.  With openings on only one side, the air pressure can cause air motion near the entrances, but not throughout. 

Looking at these hives with the screened bottoms, I can see that, due to a poor seal above the solid drop boards, they offer and exit for air blowing in the auger holes.  I suspect that this is not a good thing, especially in winter.

Meijers suggest that these leaks may also affect the efficacy of oxalic fogging due to loss of vapour through the cracks.

Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

Tonight, I installed the latest Virualbox and the latest Ubuntu.  Now that we have hooked back up to Airenet and have plenty of bandwidth, these large downloads are not a problem.

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Wednesday November 23rd 2011
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Today, I pick Jonathan up at YYC.

We've had a warm, windy 24 hours and the drops have increased.  The obvious speculation would be that the bees are more active and are loosening up the cluster, allowing mites to drop, including some that may be dislodged from top bars and screens by the activity of the bees.  Another is that the bees are venturing further from where the cluster and encountering oxalic crystals that have been sitting, waiting.

We are again seeing some callow mites in hive three, but I am not seeing any males or nymphs, so maybe these pale, soft mites were just hung up during the cold weather and are now dislodged, and not from newly emerged brood over the past 24 hours.

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Thursday November 24th 2011
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               Thanksgiving Day in the USA             
and Swalwell)

It has been my custom to spend US Thanksgiving with Jon and his family in California, but this year he is up here visiting.  Actually, although today is T-Day, we are holding off and planning to do the turkey on Saturday so that Jean and family can be here.  Our family has never been too rigid in celebrating holidays and we sometimes move them forward or back a few days to suit ourselves.

Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

I'm not seeing any males or nymphs on the drop boards, but there were several pale, soft mites under hive three again.

The lack of drop from hive five is suspicious.  I noticed that one hive (I think it was five) had quite a few dead bees on the screen, so will have to go out with a wire and clean it off and check the others.  Dead bees and debris will prevent the dropping mites from going through the screen

I really need a good way to pick up these EPS hives so that I can clean and change floors and move them around.  A hoist from the forks of the forklift is a real option, as is using the hive moving cart. 

The problem is that if the hives are heavy, care must be taken to ensure that the boxes are not crushed or damaged where the lifting pressure is applied at the handholds.

The forecast is for continued warm weather this week, with a plus sixteen degree (Celsius) (61⁰F) day coming up on Sunday if the weather guessers have it right.  Bees will be breaking cluster, flying freely, cleaning off the floors, and redistributing stores that day.  All our snow is gone.  Although we did get a bit of new snow on the windshields last night, it was gone in short order.

Our furnace was smoking a bit and that is a sign that the chimney was getting full of ash, so Jon and I pulled the cross-piece off and dumped a half-drum of ash out of it and reassembled it.  I adapted this coal stoker about forty years ago and it has served faithfully since.

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Friday November 25th 2011
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One Month Until Christmas Day

Sunday's promised 16 degrees has been lowered to an expected 14 degrees.  That is still above the temperature (10⁰C) at which bees are said to break cluster.  I wondered about that and did some searching to verify the oft-repeated statement that bees cluster at 50⁰F (10⁰C) and found the following excerpt which mentions when a colony 'begins clustering' as temperatures cool, and that figure -- 18⁰C  (64.4⁰F) is quite a bit above 10⁰C (50⁰F)*.  The article is excellent and a must-read.

From The Biology and Management of Colonies in Winter
(recommended reading)

"Before we go on, here are four critical temperatures you should know: 1) brood nest = 32-36°C, 2) minimum thorax temperature needed for flight = 27°C, 3) minimum temperature needed to pump flight muscles and warm up (analogous to mammal “shivering”) = 18°C and 4) below which bees go into a “chill coma” = 6°C.

"Bees begin clustering when temperatures fall below 18°C. Cluster size shrinks until -10°C at which the cluster is tightest. The cluster shrinks 5-fold between 18°C and -10°C. Below -10°C híve temperatures can only be maintained by increasing core heat production (fig2). The, core bees create this heat by “pumping” their flight muscles. This process is ultimately fueled by honey which prompted W.F. Cheshire to write in 1888: “Each bee... is a tiny furnace carrying on a process in Its tissues and fluids which is the exact chemical equivalent of oxidizing honey....

I wonder what a "five-fold" shrinkage is intended to mean. 

I have to assume it is means a 5-fold change in volume, not diameter, since a dimensional shrinkage of 5 times would mean that a 1-foot ball at -10 would become a 5-foot ball at +18 and that seems unreasonable.  I also have to assume the temperature discussed here is the temperature at the periphery of the cluster, not the ambient outside the hives.  I think the 10 degree (50 degree) figure may be referring to outside temperatures.

Expressing a 5-fold volume change as a diameter change, would mean that a spherical cluster 1-foot across at -10 would expand to 1.7 feet across at +18.  That fits my experience better.

A normal five-storey hive measures about 1.25 x 1.5 x 4 feet inside or 7.5 cubic feet inside.  35,000 bees makes a cluster about a foot across at minus 10 C. 

or 0.52 cubic feet for a 1-foot ball.  Multiplied by 5, that cluster would take up 2.5 cubic feet at +18⁰C or about 1/3 of the hive.  As the bees warm up, though, especially if there is any stimulation, they create more heat and will warm to the point where they soon fill the entire hive.

I'm expecting to hear today that the oxalic evaporators have arrived by bus.  I'll then be able to see if I can make them work in my hives or not.  My pallets have built-in floors that slope from 1/4" clearance below the frames at the back to a one-inch gap at the front.  I've heard that these Heilyser (and Varrox) 12-volt devices are not recommended for use with EPS boxes, and I assume that is due to risk of melting or fire.  We'll see.

*We know that summer nighttime temperatures in Alberta are often below 18 degrees C (64.4⁰F) (See climate chart at right), and are often far below that.  Additionally, daytime temperatures occasionally drop to near-freezing during the honey season. so, unless a hive is reasonably airtight, the bees are going to withdraw from the supers and cluster.  After that, they will be slow returning to the supers and may tend to take honey down and pack the brood area.

I have often argued against the hive ventilation schemes presented in magazines, suggesting that top ventilation during the flow season could cause the bees to abandon the supers at night and that bees to not tend to store well in areas that they find too cool to occupy continuously.

This observation is a very good argument for ensuring that, while the bees should have good, open bottom entrances so they can move air if things get to hot, top entrances of any considerable size could affect honey production adversely, especially in windy areas or in the case of weaker hives.

Anyone who does not believe that bees can easily manage to make quick air changes in warm weather as required through a bottom entrance in order to to maintain comfort should light a smoker and give a few good dense puffs into a bottom entrance.  The response is instantaneous.  Immediately, the bees exhaust the smoke in a strong draft.  If the smoker is then applied to where the bees are taking in air to drive out the smoke, the flow reverses just as quickly.

A 3/8' slit is all the entrance hives need unless the weather is oppressively hot, and the ambient is above the 35C (95F) normal brood temperature.  When temperatures are in the 30s (90s F) and above, shade is far more helpful than a larger entrance, since more hot air flowing through the hive is no help, and actually can be a hindrance, but protection from direct sun at midday is a real benefit. 

The bees cool by collecting water and evaporating it inside the hive.  The amount required depends on the amount of heat inside the hive from air entering, sunlight on the hive, and the heat generated by the bees/brood metabolism.   Protecting the hive exterior from direct sun eliminates a major source of heat inside the hive, and consequently the amount of water and effort required to air condition the hive.

Back to fall and winter.  Here is more from The biology of the honey bee By Mark L. Winston

Take a look at our climate chart (right) and note that even in our warmest month the average daily temperature is around 16⁰C, the daily minimum is around 10⁰, and the extremes are down around 0⁰!

At 14⁰, the cluster already has a defined outer edge, and 14⁰C is not very cold.  In fact, on average we hit it many days during honey season.

Of course, in a good hive without excessive ventilation, the inside temperature will be considerably above the ambient and the bees will keep working, ripening honey and building comb -- assuming the colony has a decent population of bees and there is some stimulation from flows and the season.  However, if too much ventilation is provided and the hive is open on more than one side so wind can blow through, this advantage may be lost.

From The Hive and the Honeybee, further data suggesting (too me) that too much ventilation can have an adverse effect on comb building and honey storage: "Wax can be secreted only at relatively high temperatures (stated variously by different authors at from 92° to 97 0 F.) ..."

I happen to know this from having produced tens of thousands of comb sections each year.  Bees will not build reliably comb in cool, uncrowded conditions or near entrances.  They do best in semi-crowded, warm, dark hives.

So, anyhow, I started writing about how the clusters should break on Sunday so the hives can move around and clean floors and get a flight, and wound up writing about the perils of excess ventilation. 

Ventilation requirements in summer, fall, winter and spring are all different.  In spring and summer, we want to encourage brood production, comb building and honey storage, so we try to keep the hives warm, but not stuffy.  In fall, we want brood rearing to end, so we delay wrapping and reducing entrances until that happens.  In winter, we want to ensure that there is constant, but not forced airflow up through the hive and provide small entrances on only one face of the hive so natural convection will carry water and C02 up and out, but wind cannot blow through.

Looking back, I think I should have offered more ventilation in fall to reduce or curtail the brood rearing in hive three.  EPS hives tend to be warm and brood rearing continues longer than in wood unless the hives are vented.  I had opened the auger holes early on, but put the plugs back in the auger holes because I was seeing a little robbing one day. 

If a new hole far from the cluster in tall hives is opened up top in fall after the colony settles down, the bees may not be aware of it and other hives may pilfer quite freely there.  In fact the bees in the hive being robbed may be doing the same to another hive with large stores and an unprotected entrance opened by the beekeeper intending to increase ventilation.

Some one was asking about the screened bottoms on the six experimental hives.  Here is a picture. 

As for the pallets, there are pictures of the sloping floor pallets here.

Today, I pulled a few bees out the bottom entrances with a wire to make sure the screens are clear.  It did not seem to affect the drop counts.  Hive three showed no immature mites on  the board today.

I took another try at mite watching with my Fuji pointed into my binocular 'scope (left).  The picture does not show it, but there are tiny white specs on this mite.  The focus is not as good through the camera.  Those specks could be oxalic, or just dust that the mite picked up in handling.  These mites look quite soft and sticky.

 the It now looks as if the second treatment has worn off pretty much entirely, judging by the drop counts.

Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

Jean, Mckenzie and Nathan came in time for lunch and we had a good family day.  The topic of picture albums came up and I recalled a picture from Windows Secrets which discussed the various online storage and sharing options.  I looked it all over and decide that nothing beats Dropbox and SugarSync.  These services offer a lot of cloud capacity and cost nothing unless you have enough to justify paying.  They both have nice photo albums that are pretty much automatic and the files are both in the cloud and on your own machine.  (Those links are safe, BTW.  They do give me some free storage if you sign up, and IMO, you should.  You won't regret it.  I don't)

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Saturday November 26th 2011
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Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

The Heilyser evaporators I ordered from a friend who read of my interest here arrived yesterday and Jon picked them up at the bus depot last night.  This morning, I took a look at them.  The box was open on arrival and an essential  piece of one evaporator had gotten lost along the way.   The top of the box had been well duct-taped on one end, but the bottom was only fastened with one strip of old packing tape across the middle and that had given way allowing the flaps to open.  Since the parts were loose in the box, without packing, I guess the impact of normal handling had shaken a piece loose.  It must have then fallen out the open end.  I can't blame the bus company, but I'll call and see if they have any pieces lying around. The broken unit is shown below at right.  The evaporation pan is missing.

The evaporators are rather poorly made in the first place as it turns out, and they employ a lightweight sheet steel piece for backing.  It is thin and the units bend easily in normal use, just from handling. 

The poor quality design is surprising really, since Heilyser advertises "All types of general machining Commercial, Aircraft Full Service Tool and Die Shop Design and Manufacture of Machine Components Design and Manufacture of all types of parts".

I had assumed that any firm making parts for aircraft would be using quality materials and a robust design that would stand up in service.  Apparently not.  The 'handle' and wiring is subject to damage from the flexing that is natural in moving them around and storing them and the backing plate is a gauge or two too light IMO.  Using more robust materials that stand up in service would add only pennies per unit.  As it stands, these units appear to be made for very light service or to be disposable.

I have yet to use them, so may have a better opinion of them after.  I hope so.  One thing I can see is that they are very slim and should fit into my hives.  Right now, I am learning to measure the acid by eye so that I can apply it easily outside.  I plan to use two grams per hive, and that is what fits in a heaping 1/2 teaspoon, it appears.  The postal scale does not measure 2 grams very accurately, so I put twenty such scoops onto the postal scale and see that the total is very close to 40 grams.

I took a set of the evaporators out and hooked it up to the van to see how it works.  It didn't, so I began troubleshooting.  First I hooked a evaporator up direct to the battery and watched.  In 75 seconds, the 2 grams of OA bubbled and disappeared very nicely. So far, so good. 

I then tried the switch on the power box with my voltmeter and found no juice flowed.  I suspected the switch might be undersize and fritzed from overload, so took everything inside to the test bench.  When I disassembled the switch box, I found it is rated at 50 Amps, 12/24 Volts.  That is fine.  Each of the four units downstream from it draw about 12.5 Amps, as I recall, so it is within rating -- barely.  It checked out OK, too. 

What I found on further examination, however, was that the return wire had burned out inside the box. Apparently in the confined space of the box, the plastic insulated wire had been pressed against the switch terminals, and I suspect the switch terminals got hot and melted through the insulation, resulting in a short and burnout.  That is easy to fix.

I ran the evaporator again direct from a charged battery and found 10.9 Volts at the unit.  That is not too bad a drop, and right on the recommended voltage for the diesel glow plugs used in the unit, so I'm thinking that with some patching the assembly may just work for me tomorrow.

*   *   *   *   *

Chris, Tracy and Andrew arrived at four, then Ritchie, and at six, we served up the turkey.  We had talked about doing the meal at noon, US-style, but somehow that did not happen.  A good time was had by all.

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Sunday November 27th 2011
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Today the temps should reach plus fifteen and it will be a good day for the bees to do some re-organizing in their hives and take a flight. 

I'm contemplating the best time for trying an oxalic treatment.  Some authorities recommend temps between plus two and plus five.   I don't know if it really matters as long as the bees are not flying.  I pick up the drop boards around nine-fifteen every day, and so that would be ideal in some ways, but the day will warm a lot after that.  We have always done it at the end of the day so far.

We can see when there is cleaning going on by the increased amount and type of debris on the floors and drop boards.  FWIW, I think that 8-mesh is a bit small for screened floors and that 6-mesh is better for letting debris through.  On the other hand, I don't know about wasps, etc. that might be small enough to take advantage of a screen that restricts the bees but allows slightly smaller insects through.

Occasionally over the past few days, I've noticed drops of honey and some large white chunks of cappings on several drop boards.  I had moved the top box down under some hives that had too much new comb in that top box for good wintering, and that action in some cases broke burr combs containing honey.  I guess it has taken this long to run down the combs.  As for the cappings, which were below outside combs, I can only guess the bees were out there cleaning up and dislodged them unless robbers from other hives had gained access on a warm day and were pilfering honey from  outside the cluster without the resident bees being aware.  That happens sometimes.

*   *   *   *   *

Today, Jean and family are still here, as is Jonathan.  They'll leave later  today and he leaves at noon tomorrow.

Here are today's counts.  For whatever reason, the drops are half the usual numbers.

Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

In preparation for treating the bees today, I am checking references and looking for suggested optimal temperatures for treating.  Here are a few references.

Only Heilyser seems to suggest a narrow range of temperature and says "Treatment 12 month the year is possible as long as the temperatures are between 3 and 5 degrees above freezing point."  Words can be tricky, though, and this could conceivably be interpreted to mean "a minimum  of 3 to 5 degrees above freezing point", which is consistent with the other literature which only stipulates a lower limit of 2 degrees C and that the bees should not be flying much on the upper end.  One reason for stipulating the lower temperature limit is that the bees are likely to be in a dense cluster at the freezing point and below.  This would prevent the vapour from reaching most of the bees.

My conclusion: Any temperature above freezing is OK and that I should disturb the hives in advance with smoke to cause them to break cluster.  Warmer temperatures are probably better since the bees will be looser and more mobile.  The last two treatments were at the end of warm days when flight was over for the day.

I'm also thinking that I should dose with 3 grams per hive since I have three boxes on the hives.

*   *   *   *   *

Jon and I went out in late afternoon to see how the equipment works and we did one hive.  The wind was so strong and gusty, though, that it almost felt like a liquid.  It pushed that hard.  The weather website said our wind was 66 KPH, but gusts have been reported well over 100 KPH today.  Yesterday cars and trucks were being blown off the highways.  The cold wind and gusts made  made the job unpleasant and since I need to tinker until I figure out the best approach, and can only do that well comfortable conditions, we quit after the one hive. 

We noticed that the gusts were from the southwest and that the quonset was flexing excessively.  That is an unusual direction for strong winds around here.   The quonset is well braced from the north, but not the south, so we took a few minutes to put a tether to brace from the south.

When evaporating, we left the entrance open to watch what happens and we saw that all the acid did evaporate ad also that very little came out the entrance.  I had plugged the auger holes to contain the fog, but plan to try later with them open to see if there is much loss.  It could be that the main reason for the recommendation to close holes is to protect the operator. 

In our test run, we discovered, however, that if there is not a lot of clearance to the frames above, the wax and propolis could melt and drip into the evaporator.  I'm not sure if that happened or not.  I need to use a timer and calibrate the timing before doing many more.  I'll also do a dummy run with an empty box at eye level and observe.

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Monday November 28th 2011
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Calgary CBC radio is talking about wind damage yesterday.  With 150 KPH gusts, windows were blown out of some of the office buildings, showering the streets with glass and debris.   Calgary light rail transit is shut down in the downtown core this morning.

I pulled the drop boards and the counts are back up to trend today, and above.  I assume that the warm weather allowed the bees to get active and knock down mites which were hung up on the top bars and floors when the bees were tightly clustered in the cold weather last week.  They may have done some grooming, too. 

It appears that the all hives are now broodless.  I'm not seeing any signs of callow mites or immatures.

Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

I contemplated treating this morning, but decided that since my prior treatments were both at 5 PM, resulting in a shortened first drop period (until 9:15 AM the next day), that I should treat at 5 PM today so the charts are consistent. 

I also realise that I only have to treat the test hives at a definite time and can do the rest at leisure.  I can see that using these Heilyser units will not be as easy and quick as having Meijers come by with their apparatus.  Nonetheless, I do want to try these devices out, and they do allow me to treat at any time I like -- if they work out.

*   *   *   *   *

As often is the case, after an initial quick test and a period to reflect on what I saw, I have some thoughts that will modify my intended methods.

  • I can treat through the screens from the drop board surface.  There is a crack big enough.  I wonder if I'll corrode the screens, though.

  • The clearance from floor to the bottom of the frames is a problem in my hives as they stand now, but  except during flows, an increased space under the hives is a good thing.  In fact, some beekeepers put a spacer under in fall to allow the dead bees to accumulate without touching frames.  This minimized mold and also seems to improve wintering. 

  • I could insert spacers in fall before treating.  Slatted racks are another solution to keep the bees from building comb below the bottom frames, but the best solution, of course, is not to let the hives get so crowded that they build down.  Bees prefer to move up.

  • I may not have to close the entrances, judging by what I saw yesterday.  If there is little wind, the vapour seems to go straight up in the hive and only a wisp comes out.

*   *   *   *   *

At eleven, I drove Jon to YYC and then went shopping.  I got some things on my list at Wal-Mart, then went monitor hunting. 

I had two 20" Acers, but one bit the dust and I bought a capacitor kit for it, and installed it, with no success.  Since the monitor quit, I have only had three screens.  I bought an LG 42" LED Smart TV a while back and tried using it as a monitor, but can see that is not my style.  I can't see myself sitting on a couch and working with only one monitor, no matter how huge.

 Jon was amazed, however, at how that TV browses the Internet and runs apps.

My Nav app took me right across town, but when I arrived, I first found Future Shop.  That confused me, since I had programmed in "BestBuy", but then I found BestBuy, the store I was looking for.

This was a surprise, since both stores belong to the same company and I did not expect to find them side by side, but I did.

I had looked at monitors at Future Shop, then Wal-Mart in that location and others, but when I went into BestBuy I immediately found the monitors I had been looking at online, the ViewSonic VX2453mh-LED -- on sale!  Not only that, they had two of them.  So, I bought them both, and here I am at home, looking at some very bright, very big screens.

With these large, wide monitors, Windows  can be what Windows was always intended to be -- an O/S which runs applications in separate windows, with several visible.  With small or nearly-square screens, most users maximized every application (app) just to be able to see it, but with these large, wide-screen monitors, maximized apps look silly, and the obvious thing to do is run the windows in a restored window, sized to best show the data in that application.  Spreadsheets benefit from wide windows, but other apps look better in narrower ones.  With a large screen, it is easy to have several visible at once.  With my two computer/four-monitor set-up, it is possible to have ten or more in view.

When I got home, it was 5 PM.  My plan had been to treat the hives at five, but darkness was not in the plan.  Nonetheless, out I went and I did the job.  I worked in the beam of the van headlights in an inch of snow, but it went reasonably well. The bees did not seem to be clustered.  Bees patrolled the entrances, even with the mercury down near the freezing point.  These hives are warm, even with open auger holes.

The daily temperatures are not yet posted as I write.

I'll write more later.  Meantime, there is chatter in the Honey Bee World Forum.

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Tuesday November 29th 2011
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The temperature is at freezing this morning.  I plan to go out at 9:15 to collect the drop boards and retrieve the evaporators from the hives I treated.  I left the evaporators in place in the last several hives I treated.  It seemed like a good idea at the time since it was dark and cool, and I figured I can see details better in daylight, but now that I think about it, these hives are the ones where I count the mites and the evaporators are going to catch some of the drop and potentially affect the count.  I'm assuming that I can just dump the mites onto the board and that they will not be stuck to the evaporators.  We'll see.

*   *   *   *   *

I went out and got the boards.  Right away, I could see that the results were not what I had expected.  There were few mites on the boards, and lots of oxalic acid that had come out of the devices without evaporating.  The heat shields had not protected my drop boards from scorching either.

In my dry run the other day, I had evaporated 2g of OA and it took three minutes from a cold start.  Last night, I added 3g to the pans and ran for 4 minutes.  I see now that while 2g makes a heap in the middle of the pan and stays in the pan as it boils off, 3g fills the pan level with he top, and when the bottom and side heat up, the gases blow some of the powder out of the pan!  If I want to use 3g, I'm going to need to use 2 evaporators per hive.

I had expected to see mite drops today at about five times the previous levels and that has not happened.  In fact, the drop count is down from the trend.

It appears that I did not get an effective treatment.  I'm liking the units with blowers more and more.

Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

We went to Calgary for an appointment mid-day and I picked up a heat gun while there.  I had seen reference to a unit from Italy (right) that employs a heat gun and am thinking this might be something that I could adapt, possibly in conjunction with the next idea further down this page.

The literature says, "60 to 80 beehives per hour can be quickly treated with a small quantity of acid (0.25 g per hive). Non toxic for the bees, it also does not hinder the queen in her egg-laying and shows to be highly effective against varroa. Provided the right amount of substance is used, the treatment can be repeated more frequently. There is no need to close the entrance."

The kit appears to be an an ordinary heat gun, a red evaporation chamber, and an entrance reducer with a hole for the evaporation chamber.

The heat gun I bought can blow air at temperatures from 250⁰ to 1350⁰F at low or high volume .  The red part in the picture from Italy looks to be just a plastic reducer with a compartment for the OA located in the direct blast from the heater and with a screw off lid for filling. 

The reduction in diameter from inlet to outlet, in addition to allowing the nozzle to fit into the hive, should result in cooler air expanding out of the end.  Hot air and vapour cannot be good for any bees in the direct blast from any of these units, and even if the bees are not harmed, melted wax and fire could be a risk with excessive heat.

Then there is this idea (below) I found here.  Why inject the vapour at the hive bottom, anyhow?  It is a nuisance to lean over repeatedly, and besides, being hunched over makes it more difficult to dodge any vapours escaping the hives.  Standing up is much better IMO. 

I've started putting clips from other sites into pages and not just linking to the original because I'm noticing that many sites disappear or rearrange the material and it is lost.  I always give a link to the source as well, though, and only show small excerpts.

*   *   *   *   *

I was tired when I got home, but after supper and some rest, I went out and re-treated the test hives.  This time, I used 2g and left the OA loose in the cups -- and timed the evaporation.  When  I did the the first set, I kept one evaporator out in the open where I could see it working.  After 30 seconds, there was fog coming off and boiling in the cup.  After a minute, there was lots of fog and by the two-minute mark, all the acid had evaporated.  I did the whole six hives and it went off without a hitch.   Tomorrow I'll see if it worked.

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Wednesday November 30th 2011
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It's minus two at 5AM and there is new snow coming down.  So far there is not much, but the forecast says:

"Blowing snow warning in effect. Today Snow ending late this morning then cloudy. Amount 2 to 4 cm. Blowing snow with visibility less than 1 kilometre this afternoon. Wind northeast 20 km/h becoming northwest 20 gusting to 40 early this morning then north 50 gusting to 70 early this afternoon. High minus 2."

These are not good driving conditions, and we have to go to Calgary again today, after lunch.

*   *   *   *   *

I can't really see that the latest treatments are doing much.  In previous trials, the mite drops went up by  about a factor of five or ten over the first three days afterwards.  This time, there is no noticeable spike, yet at least.

Hive three is the exception again.  Number three dropped 109 today, and if that continues tomorrow, it will have shown some response.  People have said to me that maybe I am not seeing mites drop because there are few mites left.  I'll be surprised if that is true across the board, but could be true for hives one and five, though.

Number three (right) did not show much response to the first treatment 46 days ago.  That could have been due to a large amount of brood, but also suggests a problem with the application (no spike).  Something may have gone wrong.

Click on each image to enlarge, or here for all the data on one page

I talked to Oene and he says they will be happy to come by this weekend and give the hives another shot.  By then we should know if there was a delayed response to this treatment.  After all, I did the last application redo at 8:30 last night.

*   *   *   *   *

We drove to Calgary and back.  The round trip took 4 hours.  The roads were bare and centre-packed, but we saw enough water that we figure tonight will be bad for black ice and did not tarry.

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Thursday December 1st 2011
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First thing today, I looked at yesterday's post and noticed that there was an error in the hive six record.  I had somehow over-written the last several weeks of data for that hive with "26".  That is a problem since I had saved the accidental changes on top of the previous version of the file. 

Fortunately, Dropbox saved me.  I keep the working file in my Dropbox and share it at this link.  So, I just right clicked the file and looked at the previous versions that Dropbox automatically makes each time I save the file.  I found a previous version with the original, correct data and pasted those data into the latest version and am back on the rails.  I updated and corrected the diary post. 

I always look back to check for and correct errors in recent posts, but don't edit older posts in any material way since I don't want to alter the record.

Back in May, I wrote about Dropbox and I am quoting that post below.  I highly recommend Dropbox as a way to back up, access and share your files and pictures securely in the cloud.  If you use the Dropbox links here, I get a small reward -- some additional free space.

Dropbox - Free file sync and off-site backupI use the Dropbox free storage and synchronization service many times a day and have for years now, without a hitch. 

My Dropbox folder is a normal documents folder I create once on each computer that I own and use for important files I need to access everywhere.  Any time I am connected to the Internet, Dropbox automatically and silently syncs my important files between all my various computers.  Any file I create or change on any of my four active computers appears also on my other computers -- and my phone as well as my Galaxy Tab -- assuming I do put that particular file into my Dropbox folder.  Since I have limited bandwidth and limited Dropbox storage, I don't do that with all my files, but I do that with all the files I use often and my photos.

Putting files into Dropbox also provides me with a free automatic, secure off-site backup.  In addition, I can access my files from any computer if I know my username and password.

I started with 2 GB free storage, but recommended Dropbox to a few people and received additional free storage from Dropbox for doing so.  I'm have3GB at present and have used 2.72 GB, so I am now reaching my free limit. and it occurs to me to recommend it here to get some more.  I could pay the $9.99 per month for paid service, but that gives me 50 GB and that is far more than I could ever use since my ISP charges  me $5 per GB  beyond my basic quota of bandwidth.  A few more free GB would keep me happy for quite a while.  My present allotment has been fine for the last several years.

Synching files between machines on a local wired or wi-fi network does not use much bandwidth, though, since Dropbox used the local network for most of the transfer, but each file added uses the Internet for upload once.  Changes to files are accomplished by a 'patch' method and only the changes are transferred in updating large files.

You might find Dropbox essential, too, if you have not already discovered it.   Check Dropbox out and sign up if you like by clicking here.  Try it out with a few files to see what you think.  If you do sign up, at no risk or obligation, you get a free 2GB account to experiment with and when you use any of the links here, I should automatically get another free 1/4 GB added to my quota, regardless whether you decide to keep using Dropbox

I'm sure you will find Dropbox indispensible, though, and everybody wins.

Dropbox is also a superior way to share photos.  Forget about PhotoBucket and all those other photo sites.  This is far better.  You have full control, easy access on your own computer and no special uploads.  Everything is automatic.

The thumbnail at left shows a screenshot of a public shared example of some random pictures I took last month.

To create that excellent example gallery, I simply dragged a folder on my computer into the Public Photos folder in my Dropbox folder and published the link here.  The files in my Dropbox folder are also in the same folder on all my devices, including my phone.

Evaluation of Small-Cell Combs for Control of Varroa Mites in New York Honey Bees - CORNELL UNIVERSITY -- http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/211868.html

"IMPACT: 2008-10-01 TO 2009-09-30 The work supported by the grant has now shown conclusively that providing honey bee colonies with frames of small-cell (4.9 mm) combs does not depress the reproduction of Varroa mites relative to giving colonies frames of standard-cell (5.4 mm) combs. These results match those of parallel investigations on this topic that were conducted independently in Georgia and Florida. It seems clear, therefore, that despite much interest by and discussion among beekeepers in using small-cell combs to control the nites without chemical, this approach is ineffective. The studies that have been supported by this grant will be reported through a publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal (Apidologie) and a beekeepers' magazine (Bee Culture).

I am starting to see increased drops again.  It could be that it takes time for the oxalic acid to act.  Yesterday's count was made only about 12 hours after the application, so for a 24-hour number one would have to double it.  I do the counts just after 9AM and the application was done at around 9PM the night before..

Looking at the individual charts above, it appears that the applications were not uniformly successful.  Some hives did not spike after the first application and some did not respond much to the second.  I am thinking that this could be due to how the evaporator was operated, and that some investigation is required to understand how to ensure uniform dosing.

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Thursday December 2nd 2011
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