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Two Global Pollen Patties After Three Days on the Hive

Sunday April 1st 2012
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The visitors left at 9 to drive Em to the airport and to explore the new mall at Balzac.  The day started dull and windy, but promises to warm later.  I'm interested to see how the bees approach the open drum of feed and will take a look in mid-afternoon. I did not finish working all the hives.  There are 7 left to look at. 

Of course, I'll have to look for any sign of conflict in the combined hives, not that I expect any, but just to report to those who believe in newspaper.  I won't open those hives for a week or so, though.

After lunch, I re-counted the drop boards I collected and counted the other night under lamplight, and got the following in full sunlight:

In Bright Sun
with magnifier
(most accurate)
In Lamplight
with magnifier
(less accurate)
Count Percent
1 0 2 +2 Huge
2 13 18 +5 +39%
3 8 13 +5 +63
4 82 69 -13 -15%
5 18 21 +3 +17%
6 2 1 -1 -50%

As you can see, there is a correspondence, but some notable differences.  I'd say the bright sun reading is close, but there are always difficult cases where there is a lot of debris.  Note that there was over-counting as well as undercounting in the poorer lighting. There are many things on a bottom board that can look like a mite if the detail is not distinct and require guessing.  Guessing is not reliable enough if the threshold is close.  The take-home message here is don't assume your counts are correct and act on them -- unless they are.

I'll update the drop page sometime soon when it is not as nice and sunny outdoors.

I didn't do much except post to BEE-L and have an afternoon nap today.  I did walk over the the hives and verify that the bees in the hives I stacked up were not fighting, but were flying from the holes near their clusters.  The clusters will combine over time.  The drone layer's bees will migrate to support the viable queen and the drone layer will disappear.  I'm assuming a drone layer, not laying workers, but it is all the same to me.  The bees will choose the better queen.

In the other stack, the queenless bees will discover the cluster with the queen  and join it gradually, boosting the cluster with brood until there is only one cluster in the stack.  I have concerns, though that this queen is not very good and may soon disappear.  In that case, I'll have to introduce a purchased queen, and queens should be available soon without having to drive too far. 

The problem then will be introducing a new queen into a large cluster of older bees in early spring.  That is usually chancy.  Maybe by then I will add young larvae and let them raise a queen or just combine them down with a weaker hive and split again a week or so later.

Of course, I could be wrong, but these hives were borderline or goners anyhow.  Nothing lost except time by trying.

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Monday April 2nd 2012
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We've had increasing activity in the Honey Bee World Forum lately.  At one time the forum was quite busy, but I shut down the entire site some time after I retired, and after I brought it back due to public demand, the forum had some technical issues.  It seems it was locked, and it took me a few years to get around to getting it running again.  By then there were a great number of forums and the regulars had drifted off.   At any rate, it is nice to see it coming back and being used as a way to maintain dialogue with the diary.  The latest post from a regular contributor is quite provocative.  He is not the sort to take prisoners.  I always enjoy his no-holds-barred offerings.  Jump in and add your two cents if you like.  This may be your last chance since Canada is phasing out the penny soon. 

IMO the should phase out the nickel, too.  At one time these chunks of metal actually bought something.  Now all they do is waste our time and wear holes in pockets.   It is almost a century since we gave up on the half-penny, and since then currency has lost more than 90% of its value, so the nickel is comparable to the ha'penny when it was given the boot. 

One of my pet peeves is a wallet full of small bills when I visit the US.  In the same vein, the huge size of our loonie and toonie in Canada is a major annoyance.  Small change should not be bulky or heavy.  I'd love to see a five dollar coin, but if they make it bigger than the ridiculous toonie, we'll need a truck to carry our loose change.   Anything under ten dollars and maybe ten dollars is pocket change these days and should not be a bill.  We are going the route of Mexico, which every time they devalued their money minted a larger and larger coin.  Maybe children are fooled by size, but the rest of us go by face value and purchasing power.

BTW, this site is the first and original bee diary.  It pre-dates by several years the use of the word, "blog" (which I have never liked). 

When  I began this site, there were only a handful of bee-related sites on the web.  Of course, when I first used the web, a few years before I started this site -- I had other sites   on the UNIX users server before I began honeybeeworld.com -- the web was brand new and the browser of choice was "Lynx", a text browser.  If a picture was found, it had to be loaded separately and viewed, not viewed inline.  Of course, there were only a few websites at the time.  Tens, then hundreds, as I recall, not millions.

An adapted version of Lynx is still around.  This site says "Lynx became publicly available in 1993, around the same time browsers such as Mosiac and Cello were released."  That is definitely not the case, as Lynx was available on UNIX systems well in advance of the others.  I suppose that from the vantage point of present day, a year or two between historical events seems to be hardly anything, but at the time, the lag was significant and if you lived through it, the events were hardly simultaneous.

I recall the first graphical browser I used, Cello.  It was followed by Mosaic and Netscape, then M$ stepped in with Microsoft Internet Exploder and the rest is history.

I recall first installing Cello and finding that there were only a few websites to view with it.  Mosaic came -- to us -- a long time after (months) and was pretty rudimentary, but still a quantum leap forward.

Bill and I looked for my wiring diagram for the gym, but it seems to be lost, so the wiring has to be traced again.  That is a job.  We then took a walk and I examined my railway strip (right) as a possible airstrip.  I'm thinking of buying another ultralight. I used the neighbouring field when I flew before, but it is now in alfalfa and would be unusable in summer. The scale house and its pad are halfway down the strip, but the strip looks usable.  I should remove the scale, though, anyhow.

After that, the Meijers called and came over to work with me to examine our bees for nosema.  They brought samples and took some from outside frames on two of my weaker hives.  We then mashed 25 abdomens in a baggie with 12.5 mL of water and placed a drop on a slide and other drops into the hemacytometer.

As previously in my past attempts (example), we had problems finding any spores at first.  It is always difficult to get a calibration if no nosema is found right off, since there is bigger junk and pollen that can be mistaken for nosema unless you know what you are looking for, and the size the spores will be.  A lag of a year or years between sampling makes for forgetfulness -- and doubt -- until an obvious case of nosema shows up.  In our case the first slide was almost entirely free of spores.

Because we were looking at samples that were free of spores, we checked several web sites to confirm our results and found a good one hereIt's only weakness is that the site shows an example of spores on an hemacytometer, then fails to state what the example means in terms of results. In fact, it appears that there are about 100 spores in just one of the large squares, implying around a 500 total for the 5 (4 are not shown, yet they use a total of 100 in a sample calculation).   That is confusing and annoying -- if you ask me, and nobody does.

Here is a better website with videos.  And another.

At any rate, it seems that, as usual, I have virtually no nosema in the several weaker hives we sampled.  To me, nosema has never been an issue I could identify as any time I have checked, there has been little or none.  We did see some in another sample we checked after the first ones.

My take on nosema is that it is a disease that results -- at least in my environment -- mostly from stressing and mashing b ees, and that if colonies are kept strong and well-fed, and colonies are handled carefully so as not to chill or crush bees or brood excessively, the disease recedes to the background.

I don't use fumagillin and I don't disinfect combs, but I do take care of my bees.

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Tuesday April 3rd 2012
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At left is a shot from Randy's site showing spores under microscopes. The shot at right was taken with my Galaxy Tab by simply holding it up to the ocular on the microscope at 400X.  I'm sure it could be much better; a jig of some sort, especially with thumbscrews would have helped a lot, as positioning was very critical and the unit was hard to hold still while pressing the shutter button.


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Wednesday April 4th 2012
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Things have gotten busy the last few days.  This morning I got a call from a fellow who wanted some bee items I have listed for sale, so he and a friend came by and got what they wanted, then drove over to Meijers to get some of the EPS boxes. 

As they were leaving the local scrap guy came for an old car that I have been trying to get rid of for a while, and we loaded him.  Then  the girls got back from Drum where they had gone to get Ellen's hair done.

After lunch, Bill and I did some research on how to rewire a power panel and cleaned up the area in preparation for changing the box.

When arguing with an idiot make sure they are not doing the same.

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Thursday April 5th 2012
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First thing a rep from the local power company came by to arrange to use one of our lots for storage of power poles while they upgrade the lines into town.

At eleven-thirty, Ellen and I drove to Calgary for appointments with doctors at the Foothills, then returned home.  Along the way, I stopped at Global Patties to pick up more patties.  My plan is to feed my 22 hives as much supplement as they will eat from now until June and record the consumption.  I won't be too fussy, and I'll just count the number of boxes they eat.

So far I have used almost two boxes since I began on Tuesday March 27th.  That is just over a week ago.  Of course, the bees have not eaten all that feed since I try to keep at least one pound of supplement immediately above the brood at all times and never drop below that, but it will be time to replenish the patties on top of the hives shortly. 

Some beekeepers only feed one patty, and IMO, they are doing no good at all, and maybe even some harm by encouraging the bees, then leaving them without protein.  IMO, one should expect to feed at least five patties per good hive and that is skimpy.  While beekeepers will happily pay $125 for a package of bees, many will not pay ten dollars to take care of the hives they already have and to keep them strong and healthy enough to make large crops, to split and to winter well.  In my experience wintering success is directly related to how well the bees were nourished the previous spring, summer, and early fall.

I was reading the most recent Bee Culture and at the back there was a study indicating that under the test conditions, patties with pollen fed continuously made a huge difference in brood and bees, while feed without pollen or non-continuous feeding was less effective or ineffective.  I have not felt that pollen in patties is necessary, but have always insisted that feeding must be generous -- and continuous during build-up.  These patties are 15% pollen because that is what seems to sell best.

Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.
--Mark Twain

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Friday April 6th 2012
Good Friday

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This afternoon, Bill and I went out and put on more patties.  The cool breeze and a little smoke helped drive the bees down so it was easy to avoid crushing them when adding the new patties. 

Many, if not most beekeepers are quite careless when adding patties, but I am quite careful not to crush more than the occasional bee.

If a bee is crushed, the others have to clean up, and they do so with their mouthparts.  These are the same mouthparts they use to feed the larvae and one another so one crushed bee with a full load of nosema can infect a whole hive.

I am quite certain that the reason I have no obvious trouble with nosema is that I don't work my bees a lot, and when I do I don't crush them carelessly.

Some bees are always injured when moving boxes regardless of the amount of care, especially under the box edges.  IMO, these few are less harmful than bees crushed in the cluster, especially when patties are just thrown on with no attempt to smoke or brush the bees down.

As previously mentioned, I plan to see how much supplement my bees will eat this spring if I keep piling them on.  I have 22 hives and I now have put on a little over three boxes of 40 patties since March 27th.  Not all of those 125 patties are eaten yet, and that 125 includes the patties I put on today.

125 patties divided by 22 hives gives 5.7 per hive.  So, I have now fed almost 6 patties per hive and only ten days have passed.  The pictures below should give some idea of the amount consumed.  As can be seen, some hives ate most of two patties already and would have eaten more if it had been there.

Feeding protein properly is too simple for most beekeepers.  Just pile the patties onto the hive.  Many if not most complicate the job put on patties one or two a a time and wait until the bees have consumed most of what was fed previously.  The problem with that approach is that smaller hives eat the middle of a patty, but are often slow to eat the corners since those scraps are too far from the heat and the brood.  Large hives will eat patties just about anywhere on the top bars above the brood.

Bees cannot eat patties that are in the storage shed in boxes or at the dealer's shop, and the best hives run out of feed first.  I put all the patties I can onto the hives, and if they are not consumed after a while, I move uneaten patties to hives that have eaten all their feed.   I don't worry about moving boxes or feed between hives.  My hives are healthy.

Below are some pictures taken more or less in sequence as Bill and I went around the yard putting on patties.  I did not bother photographing some of the hives, but did shoot those which showed that two or three patties had disappeared in less than two weeks and there are some shots showing how I load the hives with patties.

I also took shots showing how, if the patties are located to one side of the brood area, that the portions outside the cluster are sometimes untouched. The pictures show that some hives still had quite a bit left, but a few were running out already or had eaten all the patty that was within the warmth of the cluster.

I got there just in time for some hives and could have been earlier for that one with only small patches left.  Judging by consumption, that is probably my best hive and I came very close to starving it for protein.

Before these pictures were taken, the bees were smoked and brushed down in some hives, and the breeze kept them from boiling back up.  There are more bees than it appears.  The second picture shows a frame feeder and the syrup level after a few days on the hive.  I only put feeders into a few of the lighter ones.  When the weather warms up, I'll probably put feeders into all the hives.  Continuous feeding helps with build-up.

Click any thumbnail to enlarge the image.





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Saturday April 7th 2012
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Bill and I went to town to pick up a few things.  While there, we got oil filters for our vans and changed the oil on returning home.  My oil was pretty dirty.  I have not changed it since November.  That was 6,000 km ago.  When  I research, I get various numbers for the appropriate change interval -- anywhere from 3,500 km to 10,000 km, but I think I ran over this time in spite of using semi-synthetic oil, judging by the colour.  The oil was not gritty, though.  I bought a "Platinum" filter for $15 this time.  It is recommended for extended changes, but I think it is overpriced.   I'm going to shop a bit before next oil change.

When we got home, we drove through the yard and see that the bees have taken down the level in the open feed drum a few inches.

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Sunday April 8th 2012
Easter Sunday

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My phone has been refusing to mount the SD card, causing all sorts of problems, so I decided to troubleshoot it with one of my Windows machines.  First thing, I tried copying the files as a backup, and got a corrupted file message.  I deleted the guilty file and ran an integrity check, put it back into the phone and all is well.  That was easy.

Bill has been running out of room on the C drive of his laptop.  Some friend had partitioned his one physical drive into two logical drives and while that may be a good idea on some operating systems, on Windows it is a bad idea because there is no clear distinction between system and data.  Moreover, many programs assume that user data is on C and create duplicate user folders there, confusing matters.

Anyhow, he had lots of room on D, but C was running short.  He also has a recovery partition he will never use, so I downloaded the EaseUS free partition manager and started moving things around.  This job is always a little hairy. The software promises to do the task non-destructively and just move the files and update links.  I do a disk check and a defrag in advance, but there is always the potential for data loss.  I can't delete the D drive since the system has some links to it, but I can shrink it and give that space to C.

That all went smoothly and the computer works much better.  Windows does not run well without lots of free space on the system disk.

Jean and family arrived for lunch and everyone went for a walk, then the guests cooked supper.  We had Easter dinner, then the Orams left for home.

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Monday April 9th 2012
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Bill and the rest are leaving tomorrow and we had intended to change some wiring in the building, so today we got down to it.  We also did a little work on the propane tank, as I am expecting a delivery shortly.

Bill and I worked on the north end wiring and found myself up in the attic.   Years ago, I had stored a lot of old ham radio gear and various sheets of plywood and trim, up there, plus drums of insulation that had been used on top of bee hives back when we used the bulky old-style wraps.  It was crowded and dusty, but we needed to trace the circuits.  I emerged covered with dust and fibreglas.

A while later, I felt quite out of sorts, so took some antihistamines and some aspirin.  I was finished for the day.  Bill finished up.  I had slept very poorly the previous night, so I don't know if I was coming down with something already or if the dust got to me.

Tomorrow looks warm and sunny as does the next day.  There is wind forecast and that keeps bees in a bit, but I'm expecting they should get working on the drum of feed.  I should actually put feeders in all hives and work through them soon. 

Right about now is the ideal time to start package bees in this country, so it is about time to begin work on the overwintered hives, too.  I'll move feed frames, remove extra boxes and crooked frames, centre the clusters and scrape floors.  Hopefully, I'll get a good glance at the brood and check for disease, cursorily at least.

The hives would be OK for another two weeks without disturbance, but there are always a few that need a little help.  I'll try to keep the disruption to a minimum.

All I need is round tuit.  In the morning I have to go to Drum for an ultrasound and the visitors will be leaving, so if anything happens with the bees, it will be later in the day -- if I am better.

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