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A good-looking honey bee colony, wintering nicely in an EPS insulated box. 
The insulated pillow is peeled back to show the cluster which has reached the top of the three-story hive.
There are signs of previous dampness from condensation which occurred when the auger holes were closed up earlier
in the fall, and before the bees came to the top.  Some moisture is useful to the bees, but an excess can be harmful
and also encourage mold (the black areas).  Mold is harmless, but undesirable.

 

If the bees are down a distance from the lid in sub-freezing weather and the lid is un-insulated, ice can
build up into a block on the lid above the bees and when the weather warms, the bees will be drenched and often
killed by the dripping water.  Top ventilation and good lid insulation (R7+) can prevent this from happening.

 

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Tuesday January 10th 2012
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The temperature is dropping this morning and is below freezing at dawn.  The radio reports snow and ice south of here, but here we have only a strong north wind.

The mite drops are up a bit, but not the way they used to be when the weather is warm like yesterday.  I'm guessing the varroa are pretty well suppressed.  Check out the details on the drop page.

For the varroa drop observations, I'm only updating the drop page and the Excel file now and not bothering with daily thumbnails on this page.

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Wednesday January 11th 2012
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We start at minus sixteen at dawn.  The day should warm significantly.

For the varroa drop observations, I'm only updating the drop page and the Excel file now and not bothering with daily thumbnails on this page.

I went to Three Hills in the afternoon to do a few errands.

I've been watching Netflix nightly.  With my quality set on low, watching three hours or so comes under a GB.  The selection of free, on demand TV episodes, completely without commercials is expanding.  Some shows I was watching on US Netflix while in Laguna Beach last year are now available here now.  Lately, I have been watching Bones, Life on Mars, Life, Monk, and Murder She Wrote.

These are all centred around a TV/US idea of "law enforcement'.  One has a time travel reality/unreality component.  I wonder about this and have concluded that the reason for the murder and war themes being so widespread is that they provide a simple, understandable crisis and defined social context which provide a laboratory to test the personalities outside their (or our) usual social environment. 

Conflict is central to all these plots, and the conflict is always taken to the extreme in these explorations -- with a death or two being obligatory.  Death provides a fixed anchor point on one end and the protagonist's personality provides the other.  In between those calibration marks, the episode unfolds, predictably with crises and resolutions unfolding by the clock.  Everything tied up by the 20 or 40 minute end point.  (On-air, the other 10 or 20 missing minutes in the half-hour or hour episodes would be filled out with commercials).

I wonder about watching these manufactured dreams and the effect on my personality, as I invariably find myself pondering the events of each episode afterwards. 

I can clearly see the effect of these fantasies on recent generations, and in particular, kids who were subject to unsupervised attachment to television in their formative years.  The programming is only one half of the equation, though.  The commercials are the other (larger) half. 

Constant exposure has a huge effect on what people consider 'normal', and media exposure has created a consumer society which considers possessing the homes, cars, and all the expensive accouterments shown in the hands of youngsters on the television shows to be entitlements.  One result is a population that is far, far deeper in debt than prudent, and a population which is enslaved to the banks and credit card companies.

Watching these products is fascinating and explains a lot of our current world.  I'm not sure how much the themes reflect the society itself and how much the society is a product of these fantasies. 

I can't bring myself to watch commercials.  No matter what was playing when I turn it off, my LG Smart TV always starts on a broadcast TV channel when it is turned on.  Sometimes there seems to be something interesting on, but no sooner do I watch for a few minutes than the flow is rudely interrupted by idiotic and insulting pitches for products that are of no interest to me and I switch to the Internet channels.

And now I come across this on YouTube.

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Thursday January 12th 2012
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There was only one mite on the boards today and I', thinking it may be time to change to weekly checks.  The cold weather will be accompanied by snow later this week, I hear.

We had a visit from a nurse today and I spent a few hours tidying in the basement shop.  I have not done any real shop work for years now, but I expect to be home a lot of the time in the next months, so got inspired.

In the evening, I finished off "Life on Mars".   The series ended after one season and wrapped up very nicely in the last episode.  I'm still watching the other two shows.

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Friday January 13th 2012
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Should I go out and collect the drop boards or leave them for a week.  After 90 days of daily collections, it is a hard habit to break, and I hate to disrupt the neat, daily charts I have generated.  Weekly collections will still provide the necessary data, but the fluctuations will be smoothed out.

To BEE-L today:

> In 2004 I began using the Heilyser oxalic vaporizer....He told me to vaporize three
> times, seven days apart. I spent the month of September vaporizing my bees.
> ...Mite numbers were 15-25 approx. Vaporized
> that day and twice more at seven day intervals. Then waited seven days
> and did another alcohol wash. The mite numbers stayed the same or went up.
> ... I could see no brood damage or break in brood rearing. I also didn't see any mite
> control.

Thanks for the report, Mike. I have now treated five times this fall with oxalic vapour,
twice with the Cowan blower unit and three times with the Heilyser units (*). So far, the
hives do not show any visible signs of harm from the treatments. I have peeked to verify
cluster size and condition and there are pictures in my online diary.

As for assessing control, I wonder if you compensated for the fact that during
September and October, at least in our latitudes, the phoretic varroa counts typically
can increase by a factor of four or five due to the reduction in brood rearing and the
continuing emergence of drones. Some hives continue raising brood longer than others,
but the trend is up -- drastically at that time. In such an situation, merely maintaining
the same counts could indicate a measure of control. Also, alcohol washes can yield very
different estimates of mite load between hives with brood and broodless hives even when
the mite load is the same.

Evaluating treatments can be tricky as I found this fall. I documented my experience at
http://www.honeybeeworld.com/diary/files/drop.htm and there are as many questions as
there are answers, but I think that some trends can be seen. We'll know more next spring
when we examine these hives for mite levels and survival.

Please note that my hives are in 3 EPS boxes, and it seems they raise brood a month or
more longer that hives in wood boxes. When I was using wood boxes, and running doubles,
I often found hives shut down in late September. This year, my hives kept emerging brood
into late November

What I found was that the evaporations appeared to merely hold the mite populations
steady in the fall until the brood all emerged, at which time, it appears the treatments
drove mite drops to near zero. You can form your own conclusions from the individual hive
charts at the above URL. (5 minute load time on dialup, but fast on high-speed).

Of course there are problems with my observations since they are just that, and came
as an afterthought when I had treated and are not the product of a planned experiment.
As Randy pointed out, there were no controls. I had not thought of controls since I was
merely following a recommended procedure and monitoring results, but now, at this
point of time, it would be most interesting to see what the mite levels would be in
untreated hives.

My conclusions are that the treatments worked after there was no more brood. Of
course, the mite populations will naturally diminish any time they cannot reproduce for
a period of time as the life expectancy of a phoretic mite ranges up to 90 days and
theoretically half the population would die naturally during a 45 day broodless period
(This is greatly oversimplified).

(*) I inserted two strips of Apivar into two of the six test hives in place of doing
evaporation on them when doing the fifth treatment to attempt to establish the
mite populations remaining in those hives after the previous oxalic treatments. I picked
a hive which appeared to still have a significant drop and one which seemed to be depleted.
To date, 21 days after inserting the Apivar, the total cumulative mite drops are 105 and 3 respectively.

Allen Dick, RR#1 Swalwell, Alberta, Canada T0M 1Y0
51°33'39.64"N 113°18'52.45"W
http://www.honeybeeworld.com/diary/

I decided that I'd finish the three weeks of observations following the last treatment before going to weekly counts, so I went out just after lunch to pick up the drop boards and was surprised to see the hives near the quonset flying quite freely.  The temperature is right on the freezing point and there is a breeze from the north.

I found a few mites today.  Several were quite a light tan and I would not have seen most of the mites if I had not been using glasses and a lighted magnifier.

For the varroa drop observations, I'm only updating the drop page and the Excel file now and not bothering with daily thumbnails on this page.

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Saturday January 14th 2012
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Today, for the first time in 93 days, I did not check the drop boards.  The drops have tapered off to the point where I figure a weekly check should suffice. 

As well, the Apivar treatment is half complete.  One hive has dropped 105 mites in 21 days and the other had dropped 5.  What is interesting is how the drop is scattered over time.  Some studies insert Apivar or Apistan as a finishing treatment and assume that all the remaining mites are dropped by seven days after insertion.  Perhaps the drop I am seeing is delayed due to mites having been hung up on the frames above for a few days or weeks, but I wonder...

 Jean and family arrived in time for lunch and we had lasagna I had picked up at Extra Foods a few days ago.  It turned out to be pretty good.  I had wondered since they had two lasagnas: one which cost twice the price of the other.  This was the cheap one.  We'll try the other later.  We then had a shepherd's pie I had made up just for fun for supper.  It was a success! 

We ate early and they hit the road early, hoping to beat the storm which was in the skies around us and the forecasts.  They phoned later to say that they had been caught by just the edge of it as they arrived home.

I've been home since October 7th.  That adds up to 100 days, and has to be a record for recent years.  I left everything in Ontario unfinished, as I expected to return shortly, but have been busy since, driving Ellen to treatment and taking care of the home front. 

Now that things have settled down, this afternoon, I was able to reserve a ticket to fly to LA for a few days.  The plan is to visit my Mom who is spending the month in Palm Desert and maybe do a few other things, then return.  Jean will hold the fort while I am gone.

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Sunday January 15th 2012
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It's a bleak and cold day today.  The wind is strong from the north and snow is blowing.  It's a good day not to be going out for mite drop boards.

I played with the Excel file a bit this morning.  One thing I wondered about was the best graphical representation of the drops.  Here are two samples.  One uses a line graph for drop and the other uses bars.

 

To me, there is a subtle difference in what is conveyed to the casual viewer.  The bar charts show the area under the curve as semi-solid, whereas the line charts I have been using merely show the locus of the daily drop line.   The area shaded by the bars represents the accumulated mite drop, but that area under the line appears empty on the line chart.  The red line represents the accumulated count on all the charts, but the having a shaded area helps emphasize the progress of mites dropping.

I wonder if I can somehow shade it.  Help, Google...  OK.  It is simple: just change the chart to an area chart.  Done.  

For easy comparison here are the three versions of the same chart on one page.  What do you think?  It's a good topic for the Honey Bee World Forum

When scientists and other presenters make up presentations for differing audiences, they have to decide what visual aids to use.  Their choice will in part determine what the audience understands from the data.

Charts are very helpful to convey what would otherwise be a jumble of data.  However, as always, the medium sends its own message along with the data.  Which axes are chosen, whether they are linear or logarithmic, whether they are truncated, whether 2D or 3D is used, and how the data is selected will impact the effect of the data on viewers.  Even the choice of line, bar or scatter charts can send a message about the nature of the data. This can be a good thing, or it can lead to unjustified conclusions. 

As we have already discussed, regressions are often used and they can be very subjective or arbitrary.  Regressions can conceal bias or defective data, or imply unproven conclusions, unconsciously or deliberately.   As one example, I have allowed Excel to impose trend lines on two versions of the same chart.  Interestingly, the linear trend lines on the linear and logarithmic charts doe not agree, but almost nobody questions them.

BEE-L and the forum are dead quiet these days.  The US national conventions just ended and it is January, so maybe that is it.  Are the other forums quiet, too? 

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Monday January 16th 2012
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It's minus twenty-four this morning at 5 AM.  After a mild fall and warmer than normal beginning, winter is here.

I fasted last night and this morning for a blood test and Ellen had some tests pending, so we drove to Three Hills to get that over with.  The van started easily, even though I have not plugged it in.  On that topic, the AMA says:

Cold weather warning
The forecast for Alberta this week is set to have temperatures dip well below -15C.
Make sure you’ll be ready to go when YOU want to. Plug in your vehicle.

They choose minus fifteen as the plug in point because they say they notice a lot more calls for assistance starting vehicles when temperatures drop below that threshold.

I haven't plugged in a vehicle more than occasionally since I upgraded to post-1990 vehicles.  They don't seem to need it, but I suspect that it is easier on the engine to do so when it is extremely cold.  I notice that the accessories like the alternator tend to squeal a bit on starting in extreme cold and, being external to the engine, they are not protected by plugging in.  They complain, but usually quiet down fairly quickly.

Also, below minus thirty, vehicle batteries, especially older batteries,  deliver much less power to the starter and sometimes don't crank the engine quickly enough for a clean start, so I'll plug in if I expect to go somewhere in the next few hours.  It is on really cold days that we discover a battery that has reached the end of its life and such moments are not the most pleasant time to have to switch batteries, even if I do always keep a charged spare on hand.

Friday morning, for example, I'll need to be sure to get to the airport, so I'll plug in Thursday night.  I have to remember to park close enough that one extension will be long enough.   Maybe I'll test the batteries, too.  It only takes a moment.

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Tuesday January 17th 2012
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Today, it is minus thirty-one outside, according to the Environment Canada website, but my own thermometer reads minus 28.5° C at 4:30 AM.  This is seriously cold.  Some years, we get down to minus forty , and sometimes for a week or more on end.  Minus forty is the same -- minus forty -- in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. 

That temperature -- minus forty -- is about where propane no longer vapourizes naturally.  That makes starting of propane vehicles difficult in extreme cold. 

I had converted my motorhome to propane years ago and had several instances of problems with the cold.  One was in Idaho Falls.  US LPG often contains butane which has a lower octane and also a much higher vapourization temperature.  Another was at Nakiska one night after a day of skiing.  In both cases, I had to obtain some gasoline and introduce it down the carb to get some signs of life out of the machine.  Once started, the engine heat vapourizes the propane in the system.

I've mentioned this article before, but it is worth pointing out again: THE TRUTH WEARS OFF - Is there something wrong with the scientific method

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Wednesday January 18th 2012
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Today it is minus thirty-three and we have to run to Three Hills by ten.  The red van started easily, but the hydraulics sound complained loudly.  I wonder how hard this cold weather starting is on them.

We drove to town, saw the doctor, then Ellen went to the library while got a few groceries.

Tomorrow, I'll count the mites again, I think, before I go away for a few days.  We'll see, though, since the weather has been extremely cold and I doubt there is much to count.  Last check was on the 13th.

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Thursday January 19th 2012
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Tomorrow morning at this hour, I'll be at YYC on my way to LAX and then Palm Desert to see my Mom.

The thermometer reads minus twenty-six this morning and I'm thinking of doing a mite check.  It is either today or next Wednesday and it is now six days since the last count.  By then it would be almost two weeks.  I'd prefer an entire week between counts, now that drops have diminished to near zero, but this is close enough.  I'll just plot the average drop daily over the six days to maintain the visual integrity of the charts.

At minus twenty-six, I still see bees patrolling entrances and even a bee with her back facing out, fanning, in one auger hole.  Other auger holes are frosted over.  It seems that the frost does not impede the flow of air, though.

I updated the drop page today after counting mites.  For the six hives over six days, I got 8 mites, total. 

Extreme cold temperatures undoubtedly affected the drops and we'll see what happens when it warms up and the bees get more active.  According to Mark Winston, the cluster reaches maximum density at minus ten, so perhaps the excursion to minus thirty will not have a huge effect.  We'll see.

This recent onset of frigid weather coincides with the treatments wearing off, and natural drops tapering to zero, so weather effects may be dominating the results at this point.  Over the observation period, the chart has shown a reduction in mite drop any time the ambient went much below freezing. Click chart thumbnail at right to enlarge. 

Note that although the previous cold spells appear to have reduced the drops, it is hard to tell how much.

The Apivar finishing treatments brought down only two mites in total this week, so it looks as if the oxalic may have killed most of the mites.  I thought I noticed a cutoff in Apivar action around freezing temps in earlier observations, though, so maybe when it warms up, we'll see increased drops -- if it warms up during the remainder of the 42-day treatment.  We're now at Day 27.  The weekend should bring thawing temps in daytime, but the nighttime temps are predicted to be cold and I have no yet decided whether the highs, the lows, the mean, or maybe the wind chill (not plotted) drives the weather effect on mite drops.

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