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Friday January 20th 2012
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I set two alarms last night, both for 3:30, and slept well.  I awoke at one point and wondered if I should look at the clock, which I recently moved across the room and is now more difficult to see than previously.  No, I thought, The alarms are set and they'll wake me if I need to get up.  A second or two later. the alarms went off. 

I am always amazed at the way my mind keeps accurate time in the background, in a manner that is not always available to my conscious, but which manifests itself in this way.  Shifting time zones does not always affect the time awareness, but can make it unreliable as an alarm clock. If I need to be sure to wake up or do something at a certain time, I set an alarm, since I am not sure.  Being on time for the early morning flight is not optional.

Since I have not been out of this time zone for over three months, my sense of time seems to be functioning 100%.  FWIW, I notice that if our dog knows that I do something at a fixed time daily, she will come to get me right at the correct moment -- and nudge me if I am not acting as she expects.

Sometimes my background, unconscious programming seems like a good thing, and having some such subroutines running in the background is indispensible to functioning normally, but sometimes I become vaguely aware of, and wonder about rogue, energy-sapping subroutines that are doubtlessly running beneath my conscious control.  They probably started in response to some old situation, but now running automatically, and so deep that they are below conscious awareness.  We all have them.

I got up and made an omelet and packed.  At 5 sharp, |I was out the door and less than an hour later I was parked at YYC.  At 8, we were airborne and at 11, I was on the ground in LA in a rental car, headed east.  I arrived at Palm Desert around 3:30, having taken the scenic route.  I had forgotten to bring my GPS since I am so used to having Internet everywhere.   I don't, however, have a US data plan and since I am here only for four days, there is no sense getting one.  I can get a connection  at any McDonalds, and we have high-speed here at the condo, too.  And it is high-speed.  I measure a speed of 24 MBps  (up) to LA on Speakeasy.

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Saturday January 21st 2012
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This place is very comfortable.  I have yet to use the pool or hot tub, but have enjoyed the patio.

Today we drove down 111 with the intention of going to the Salton Sea, but today was seriously windy and the dust storm was bad enough we turned back.  Visibility was very poor and driving through dust is bad for a car.   I have a white Nissan (see picture) with cruise and air, and drives well, but lacks the luxury features I tend to take for granted.

Dust sand-blasts the windshield and gets into the filters and working parts.  The car is rented, but why damage a nice machine?  With visibility dropping to several hundred yards during wind gusts sightseeing is not likely a good choice.  Besides, on a day like today, getting out of the car anywhere at the destination would be unpleasant. 

We went back to the house for the rest of the afternoon. dropping into The Living Desert on the way to check it out as a possible future activity.

I see it is warming up at home: minus twelve tonight.

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Sunday January 22nd 2012
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In the morning, I took a hike up the nearest hill across the golf course.  Along the way, I noticed bees working on flowers.

 After lunch, we went for a drive and spent an hour at Wal-Mart. That's about it.

 

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Monday January 23rd 2012
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Tuesday January 24th 2012
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Today, I was up at five-thirty, left at six, and after a three-hour drive, returned the car and flew back from LA.  I arrived in Calgary at three, got my van from the parking lot, bought groceries and was home for supper at five.

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Wednesday January 25th 2012
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We had a warm night and I'm guessing the uptrend in temperature has caused the bees to become more active and shift around a bit.  It should be a good day to count the mite drops.  I'll at least glance at the boards and decide this morning.

I looked at the boards and saw only three mites on Hive Four, so just left them.  There was not much debris, either.  I noticed some streaking one of the test hives that looked less than healthy, but not the others.

After that, I ran up to Red Deer to have a CT scan and then visited the local hospice to check it out.  Jean has been in Swalwell taking care of things while I was away, and was due to head home, so she came up and we had a tour together.

After that, I drove home and Meijers came by for coffee and a visit.

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Thursday January 26th 2012
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Ellen was not feeling well this morning, so we had the home care nurse drop by.  She recommended a trip to the hospital, so we drove up and she is staying there for the night.

Here is an interesting snippet from  Mark Winston, quoted here, which is a page accessed from here.  This is the education section of the Mid Bucks Beekeepers Association Blog.

"Bees begin to cluster at external temperatures of 18 C, the cluster contracts as the temperature drops below 14 C the cluster has a compact outer of relatively quiet outer bees and an inner core where bees have space to move around. Below 0C the cluster no longer contracts and the bees begin to generate heat rather than conserve heat through compacting the cluster. The bees in the shell continually exchange places with those within the core in order warm themselves prior to returning to the shell and conserving heat. In the winter there is little or no brood production so the inner core temperature can drop to 20C but not below 13C, with the shell being a minimum of 8C (below which the bees can no longer cling together). The cluster will operate at the lower temperatures in order to conserve energy and stores required to create energy/heat.

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Friday January 27th 2012
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I pulled the drop boards this morning and counted the mites.  The results are on the summary page.   I plotted the drops by taking the count and dividing by the number of days since the last count.  The average daily drops are still down around zero.  We see a little drop continuing in one of the two Apivar hives and also signs of dysentery in Hive Three.

Take a good look at the data and see what you can deduce.  Maybe you'll see something I didn't.  Also I'd appreciate having the data file checked for errors. 

MS Excel errors are extremely common and hard to avoid.  I sometimes wonder if there is even one large spreadsheet anywhere on Earth that is entirely error-free.

> ...the spreadsheet doesn't make sense for the last several days. You  might want to take a look at it.

Looks OK to me, but I am familiar with it, so please let me know what specifically is not making sense to you, if you can.   I am happy to explain it and that helps me improve the presentation, too.

Remember that the drop numbers shown for each day are the average of the count taken today divided by the eight days since the last time I counted.  That explains the fractions.  Also, be sure to look at the tabs at the bottom to see the charts for each hive.

Observations and comments are welcome in the Honey Bee World ForumI tend to reply to anything posted there, so be sure to check out the latest article.

I've been playing with the formatting of these pages and see the fonts on this page are not looking as good as previously.  Browsers are changing and some of my code is getting obsolete, so I have to make a some changes.  I'll be working on the formatting, but do not change historical entries, other than possibly editing out or fixing links to pages that are no longer on the 'net.  I'll be correcting the odd appearance soon, I hope.

I think I've fixed it.

I'm working on learning Expression Web.  I've been using FrontPage 2003, but its days are numbered and the web has progressed along way since FP was developed.

Ellen was thinking of coming home for the day, but decided that she is too tired.  Zip and I ran up to visit in the afternoon.

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Saturday January 28th 2012
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I went to Three Hills in the afternoon to visit Ellen, buy a few groceries, and look in the drug store for ways to clear my sinuses.  I've had sinus congestion intermittently over the past year and it interferes with my sleep.  Antihistamines and decongestants don't help.  I'm fine for the first four hours of sleep, but after that, I wake up because my upper sinuses are blocked.  They are hard to clear out and the solution seems to be to get up.  When I am vertical, they drain over a few hours.

I bought a saline flush bottle yesterday and used it several times since then, but that does not seem to have solved the problem.  I followed Dr Mirkin's advice for chronic stuffy nose and bought some bacitracin ointment when I  was in Palm Desert.  I applied it to my nose daily as recommended and it has helped a little, but has not (yet) solved the problem.  However, a paper cut on a finger that had been bothering me for three weeks promptly healed.  I have found Dr. Mirkin's website to be quite a treasure.

I then asked the pharmacist about other measures and he sold me the saline flush kit for $23.  Using it is  an interesting experience and perhaps it has helped a bit but I am still congested nightly after sleeping four hours, so I asked again and spent another $25 on a homeopathic nasal spray today.  I won't use the steroid sprays because, although they work, they have bad side effects ands I always get a nosebleed when using them.

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Sunday January 29th 2012
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Today is above freezing.

I went to Three Hills to spend some time with Ellen, then came home and washed the vans. 

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Monday January 30th 2012
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I awoke with clear sinuses!  My sinuses have been so plugged in previous days that even when they drained after getting up in the morning, I was not breathing freely.  Something I did must have worked, or the cold or whatever was causing the problem may have passed.  I don't know. 

The problem is that I can't know.  I used too many cures.  I flushed my sinuses, applied an antibiotic ointment to my nostrils and also sniffed some Euphorbium. 

Not only that, I took a rabeprazole tablet that a doctor prescribed last summer for the problem at that time.  That tablet is designed to reduce stomach acidity to prevent gastroesophageal reflux, which is the tendency for stomach acid to migrate up the esophagus.  Sometimes that can cause sinus congestion.  At the time, I had concluded that this was not the problem, but in desperation yesterday, I tried every tool I had available.

I had also used an antihistamine and a decongestant the night before last with no apparent success at that time.  With so many 'cures' being applied, and the passage of time, I have no way of knowing which one, if any did the trick.

In addition, I spent an hour outdoors yesterday washing the vans and servicing the brakes on the forklift.  Cold air outdoors often clears the sinuses.

This is analogous to what many beekeepers do, namely applying multiple treatments or manipulations, then not knowing whether one or all of them worked.  With no 'controls' (untreated hives) to compare to, there is no way to be certain even whether the condition might have cleared up on its own.

It is around the freezing point right now, at dawn and today promises to be warm again, so I plan to get outside and spread the pile of mulch that has been sitting on the 4X4 since last summer. I also may glance into the test hives to verify cluster condition.  The yard has been repeatedly fogged with oxalic vapour, and one month of winter has passed.  Only two months now remain until spring.

Some loss is to be expected, and since there are six test hives, with a 20% loss, which is typical, I should expect to lose one or possibly two to normal winter loss. 

20% of 6 gives a number between 1 and 2, so, since the death count has to be an integer, either is probable, with 1 being a bit more likely.   (20/100 X 6 = 1.2). 

However, with such a small number of test hives any loss from 0 to 4 or even 5 would not prove anything unusual, even if the rest of the yard does well.  The only difference between the test hives and the rest of the yard is the type of floor under the hives.  The screened floors, even with the solid boards inserted, are leaky and air can blow through the bottom area relatively freely compared to the normal bottoms on the remaining hives.

If the hive bottom is not sealed on three sides, then when wind blows against the side of the hive with auger holes, the air can enter there and exit on the back side of the hive (at the bottom).  If the base is sealed on all sides except the front, the air has no exit on the back side and the air flow is much less.

Below is a side view of a hive facing into a wind.

Air flows from high pressure areas to low pressure areas and does not move much between areas of similar pressure.  If there is no way for air to exit on the low pressure side of the hive, there is little airflow through the hive due to wind gusts.  If, however there is an opening at the back where the pressure is lower, airflow through the hive can be extreme if the hives are exposed to strong winds.  This can kill weak hives, especially if they have a lot of brood.

Slow, steady air exchange through the hive is our goal, so these screened floors may not be a good match for my auger hole system.

Indiscriminately mixing features of one system with another can often nullify the benefits of both systems, rather than provide the best of both.  Screened floors work best with hives which do not have upper entrances.  Upper entrances work best with floors which are only open on one side.

Right off, I found some hives doing orientation and cleaning flights.  I also noticed one with streaks which do not look good. 

With some trepidation, I peeled back the pillows on each test hive and took photos with my cellphone.  In order, below, the pictures are Hives One (the streaked hive at right), through Hive Six.  Hive Six was not all the way up to the top, so I cracked the top box up for a glance in the last photo.  Hive Three was only up to the top on the one side ans is on new comb.

They all look fine, but Hive One does look a little small.

I went out again around 3 PM and found that all hives were flying freely.  I looked under the top box on Hive One and see there are no bees down there, so I'm judging by the small size of the cluster in the top box that this hive is dwindling.  It may not make it through the winter.  There are 3 more months to go until good bee weather, although there will be some willows, other trees, and maybe crocus before then.

I did not pull any frames.  I could have, since the bees were flying freely, but figured that there is no point since there is nothing I can do.  If the bees were short of feed or stuck on one side, I would consider doing so, but as it is, all hives have plenty of feed and are reasonably well located in the hive.  I might pull a frame or two another day if the weather continues warm, just to see how much brood there is.

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Tuesday January 31st 2012
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Ellen is home again.  I picked her up at 10:30.

There is new discussion in the forum.

At 3:30 I went out to the bees again.  In spite of warm temperatures, the breeze was cool.  Nonetheless, I did pull a frame from Hive One and quickly took a picture.  The shot taken with my cellphone could be better, but does show a 3-inch patch of sealed brood.  I also saw a larva, but did not tarry.

Meijers dropped over for a visit and we enjoyed the longer daylight.  A month ago, it was long since dark at 5, but today, sunset was at 5:18.  Sunrise is much earlier, too, at 8:15.

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