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The Geese are back


Tuesday April 10th 2012
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Today, I was feeling well enough to drive to Drum for my ultrasound appointment at 9:45.  Then I felt up to doing a little shopping and returned home.  By then the cousins had hit the road.  I sat down and soon realized that I was still ill.  Before long, I was in bed.  I slept and avoided anything strenuous for the rest of the day.  I watched an episode of Numb3rs before bed and turned in early.  Before I did that, I had to reset Netflix on the TV by calling the company and following instructions.  This the third time.

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Wednesday April 11th 2012
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I slept poorly, alternately feeling hot, then cold. I took aspirin and antihistamine and ibuprofen and managed to make it through without getting up too much.  At five, I got up made breakfast and coffee, listened to the news, then went back to bed and slept until 8:15.

The early news mentioned a major earthquake and a tsunami warning, but later I heard nothing, but was not really listening to the radio.  I was weak and achy all morning, so I napped a bit. 

After lunch I felt better and went out to tighten up fittings on the propane tank and fill some tanks by gravity.  I fixed all but a really slow leak and figured to leave well enough alone.  Who wants to break off a fitting on a tank with 1,000 litres of propane in it?  From the slow and tiny stream of soap bubbles, I figure it might lose a liter a month at worst.

Filling bottles is easy, since the big tank stays warm at night and the small tanks are cool.  Propane flows to the cooler tank and also to the lower one.  Controlling it is the problem.  The flow is typically slow enough that I go away and then remember to come back after the tank has overfilled.  That is not a huge problem with tanks used in the open air, but still not good. 

Propane expands by something like 1/4 from freezing to 100 degrees F.  That is why that tanks are designed not to be completely filled.  If a tank is completely full on a normal day, then left in the sun, it will bleed propane from the relief valve, causing a nuisance and perhaps a fire hazard.

So, I got the scale and resolved to keep close watch on the fill level.

After that, around two, I went to se the bees.  I expected they would be active, but they surprised me.  They have taken the syrup drum down a few more inches and are flying from most holes in the hives.  I took out more plugs to allow them to get more airflow and to ensure they experience the spring weather. 

Until I drilled holes in the EPS boxes, a few years ago, I had found EPS boxes to be poor for spring build-up, I assume that was simply because the temperature inside was so steady and there was no light coming in.  After I drilled auger holes, they have out-performed wood.

I'm also seeing a lot of flies in the drum and on the hives.  That is a good sign.  Anytime I see lots of flies, it is good bee weather.  We never have a good honeyflow without flies around.  Much as I hate flies, these are the slow, fat , lazy ones that don't land on my bald spot, unlike the fast-moving small stable flies we get in the house and which waken me when I am napping by ticking me on bare arms or anywhere they care to land.

I also noticed something I have seldom ever seen with Global patties, but is fairly common with some others.  There were a few bits of patty on the floor, but only on this one hive (left).  This was a hive made by stacking up two others and I had left the patties between the boxes.  The other day, I lifted the top box and I suppose some fragments of the mostly-eaten patties fell then or shortly after.  The young bees that eat patties don't venture down to the floor at this time of year, so that tiny bit will be wasted.

At right is the same doubled-up hive.  It looks to be doing very well.  I may take a box or two off when I am feeling better, but it does not hurt them to have the extra room if they can control the heat, ventilation, and moisture, and they tend to expand better if they have more room than they need -- again, only if they can control the heat, ventilation, and moisture.  That is the beauty of EPS.

Anytime I have I find weak or non-performing hives or I have doubts about, I just stack them up, two or three on one, and go away.  The bees will oftentimes make things right and soon I have a healthy hive that can be split in a month or so.  I don't combine good hives with poor ones, though.  It can be a waste of the good hive.

BTW, there is some good discussion in the Honey Bee World Forum.  Check it out.

Jean called after supper and said that Nathan took his first steps an hour ago and now is walking all over the house.

I watched Numb3rs again and an episode of Lie to Me.  That's about all the TV I can stand in one night.  As for movies, I have given up on Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus which was recommended to me by our son in law who is a vice-principal.  Actually, for a B movie, it was not nearly as bad as I expected.  Maybe that is why I quit watching it.

The propane began transferring faster at sunset since the small tanks cool quickly lowering pressure in them while the big tank stays warm longer.   I am sitting here waiting for the 100 lb tank to fill so I can go to bed.  I'm still sick.  The filling stopped at about 60 lbs during the day, but is now at 80 or so.

It got close enough to 100 lbs, so I closed the valve and went to bed.

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Thursday April 12th 2012
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I slept fairly well, but woke up drenched with sweat.  Regardless, I'm a bit better this morning but still weak with a bit of a headache that hurts when I cough.

There is only a tiny bit of ice left in the pond.  The crows and magpies spend time on it eating something.  We're guessing flies.  The ducks came in yesterday and gobbled up duckweed from last year floating on the surface.   This morning the geese are her: four males, it seems, and they are quarreling.

I'm continuing to fill propane bottles, but as the day warms, I imagine the progress will stop and even reverse.

Synergy, a free program that allows me to run all three computers and six screens with one mouse and keyboard, has been acting up since the last Windows updates.  The cursor has been jittery and unresponsive when off the main computer screens.  Out of desperation I visited the Synergy website this morning, looking for help, and there I found a brand-new beta version which installed perfectly -- no hang-up due to files in use -- and when completed offered, for the first time, a simple setup interface which actually worked.  Now, I'm back in business.

I was still a bit ill all day and didn't do much.  Heavy rain started up and I left the tank-filling for another day.  I'm off to bed early and hoping to be a new man tomorrow.

Remember that what you believe will depend very much on what you are.
Noah Porter

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Friday April 13th 2012
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It's Friday the 13th, and, sure enough, I am a new man -- a new old man.  I'm a lot better, but am still sore and tired, so I went back to bed for an extra hour and a half of sleep.  When I woke up the first time, we had an inch of new snow, but now it is mostly gone.

My mouse problem seems to be related to which USB port I choose for plugging in my wireless sender.  Two of them have problems, so I'm guessing they are sharing intercepts with something high-priority lately.  Anyhow, I found one that that works -- for now.

Considering the rain and cold weather yesterday and for the next few days, I'm wondering if I opened too many auger holes too soon.   I doubt I have done any harm, but it does not hurt bees to be in a consistently warm hive during build-up and flow season.

I've been asked to explain my thinking on this topic, so here I go.  The following is relevant in my cold-climate beekeeping and may be less relevant in regions which do not have living memory of frost in every month of the year.

Beekeeping is a difficult matter to put into words.  To be a good beekeeper, you have to think like a bee and be a bee.  So, "waggle, waggle, waggle, head butt, head butt, head butt..."  Got it?  Didn't think so, so I guess we'll have to try this the hard way.

Just as asking a visual artist to explain what a painting is about is asking the near-impossible, or asking grandma the recipe for the cookies she just baked when she just used some of this and some of that, so asking a life-long beekeeper to explain beekeeping in words is demanding a lot.  I try, but I am bound to contradict myself at least several times, or leave out some essential ingredient so any comment and critique offered is appreciated in arriving at a final draft.  For the most part, I doubt you'll ever find this essential concept in any book.

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Too warm and tight a hive (there are limits, of course) is generally better than too cool or alternately hot and cold.  Bees can usually cool a hive, but heating is more difficult, and bees -- intelligently -- only control temperature in their cluster volume.

A 'warm' hive allows the cluster to occupy more space and have a larger cluster, when and if they are forced to cluster.  The 'ideal' hive never forces them to cluster in the active season, but that same ideal hive will lead to an early swarm unless managed because they will thrive, and one natural and necessary goal of bees is to reproduce when they have good conditions.

This is the dilemma of beekeeping.  Help your bees too well and they are gone to your neighbour's tree.  Help them not enough and they are sick or unprofitable.  My preference is to help them well, but make sure that I am in control of any splitting that is going to take place by knowing when it is likely to happen and by preempting the swarm by a week or so.

Honey bees, left to their own devices, typically chose to live in a hollow with one entrance about 1-1/2 inches across, according to Tom Seeley's recent Bee Culture article, so I think we beekeepers often give them too much air.  Only when they begin hanging out, do we get a real indication that they are finding heat to be a problem inside.  Up to that point, they are coping just fine.

Bees like it hot.  After all, they sustain 95.5 degrees F as a brood temperature and can steadily and unwaveringly maintain that target within a half-degree though widely varying ambient conditions as long as they have water and an unobstructed entrance. Heat is precious to bees in our country in spring and often in summer.  For best bee performance and health, it is IMO my goal that the entire hive interior does not fall below the temperature that initiates clustering during flow season.

That temperature is actually 18 degrees C (just below room temperature) according to Winston, not the 10 degrees most people think of.  Ten degrees is where the cluster has already formed and has defined shape.

Bees often fly from clusters and we routinely see them foraging down to 2 degrees C, but what we have to realise is that, at this point, the colony is only the size of the cluster inside the hive, not the size of the hive, and the cluster defines the size of the super-organism at that moment.

Our goal as beekeepers should be to try to keep that super-organism as big as our hive and ensure that the cluster fills the entire hive all the time.  Of course this is an impossible goal much of the time, but it is my goal during flow season.

A tall hive is a special case that allows us to use a trick, since if the upper hive is reasonably air-tight, the heat rises and the cluster extends to the walls and the lid in the upper portion.  The lower portion, regardless of volume, is of little effect, but provides expansion room since if there is a large brood hatch as is often the case three weeks after the first hot spell of the year, the hive population can double virtually overnight.

We can see from the above why vertical hives work better than horizontal hives in regions with cool nights or cold spells during the active season and why eight-frame standard hives were very productive and popular at one time, and why vertical stacked 5-frame nuc systems work better than the same number of frames spread out in one box.

Outside the eighteen degree isotherm (cooler) is where bees start to 'think' that region, while being a nice place to visit and maybe mine resources, might not be an ideal place for drawing comb or for current storage.  They will go there, just not build or fill permanently. 

Just as people will build on a flood plain if there has not been a flood in recent memory, bees will build in hive regions that have not been cool lately, and just as people will not build houses on a flood plain while a flood is fresh in mind (but do build parks), bees are reluctant to commit resources to hive regions that have been chilly recently.

In our region, bees only benefit from enhanced ventilation a relatively few days of the year, and that is when they are drying nectar.  It takes a lot of air to dry the 30 pounds of nectar they may bring in on any one day during the flow.  If the hives are dark colours and the lids are dark and un-insulated, and the hives stand in full sun, there may be other reasons for larger entrances.  My hives are insulated and so are the lids, so I don't have that concern.

The remaining question is how many bees can get through a 1" auger hole at peak flow.  Is that large enough for the full traffic of a huge hive on a good flow?  Perhaps, but I tend to open bottom entrances during flow periods to allow cleaning out and so as not to throttle traffic.  Since heat rises, a bottom entrance does not lose much warmth in a tall hive.

*    *    *    *    *     *

Today it is two weeks since I last pulled the drop boards.  I still have not entered and posted the previous count.  I'm headed out to swap boards now (5 PM).

The boards are catching more debris now that the bees are active.  One had some water, but the others were dry.  Water can be an issue with these boards and I have to be careful to align them under the hive

I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.
Oscar Wilde

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Saturday April 14th 2012
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I spent the morning writing on Honey Bee World Forum, BEE-L and answering email.   A beekeeper came by at eleven and wants a honey pump, so I'll put one together for him.  We went out and looked at the bees and I put a few plugs back in.  It's bitter outside today.   I really should have left most of the plugs in.

Beekeepers are  fooled every year by their own optimism and bit of warm weather, and often do things that damage the bees later like unwrapping, spreading brood and/or splitting.  Inevitably cooler weather returns and the bees are challenged.  Most bees are conservative and although they do expand their brood naturally in response to warmer days, beekeepers tend to overdo it and stress the bees.  Stress can increase to vulnerability to common bee diseases and/or result in spring losses.

Maybe I'll design a device which opens and closes auger holes depending on wind and temperature.

I feel better today and went to Drum for groceries.  Ellen put a roast in the oven and we had friends over for supper.  Joe Oene and Fen came by and we had a good visit.

Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
Lewis Carroll

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Sunday April 15th 2012
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I slept well and awoke to a cold house.  The temperature outside has dropped a lot since last week and the coal I had expected to last had run out.  It is cold out there, and windy.

Jean and the kids came down for lunch and the afternoon.  I have mites to count on the boards I pulled the other day.  I started on the data entry from the last batch and will have to start another series, I think.  Tax day is coming up fast and I need to get that done, too.

Jean came and we had lunch. At two Flo P. came by for a visit.  I wrote a few articles for the Honey Bee World Forum,  did some web work and then went for a walk.  I'm getting more interested in the forum lately and notice that the "WHO IS ONLINE" link on the board index page allows seeing who else is on the site, allowing real-time personal messaging and other possibilities.  I recommend taking a little while an explore the forum options.

After writing yesterday's article (above), I realized that opening the top hole on  multistory hive with bees active in the lower holes was unnecessary and probably counterproductive since doing so spills heat, contrary to my thesis.  The strong winds exacerbate that effect.  If the top is sealed, then warm air and humidity are conserved and since the bees are not forced to cluster they can ventilate a bit if desired.  Otherwise, the warm space enables them to exploit their resources to the fullest.

Right now, the situation is different from a month ago.  A month ago, I wanted the bees to be on the cool side and well ventilated so they did not make a false start too early and use up their resources before they can be replenished by nature in the field and thus be set back.  I opened holes then to make sure they knew it was still early.  Now is the time for maximum effort, so I want them to have a warm nest and get going. 

In both cases, IMO, they always need at least one upper flight hole, especially in a tall, insulated hive.  A month ago the top hole made sense since moisture had to be exhaled.  Otherwise it could condense and wet the bees.  Now in warmer conditions, with brood adding to the heat inside and requiring humidity, and the bees more active, the flight hole can be a bit further down the hive.  These holes serve a dual purpose: ventilation and flight -- plus exposure to the outside world.

On my walk, I plugged all except the second hole down in accordance with my thoughts above, then carried on south. 

When drilling the auger holes in the box pieces before assembly, I had a problem I did not notice until later.  I stacked three end pieces, then drilled through the three at once with a 1" burr. 

As it turned out, the top hole was 1", but by the time the burr went through two pieces and cut the third, the hole had increased to 1-1/16" due to debris on the burr cutting into the soft material.  As a result the holes vary a bit. 

Also, the caplugs get squeezed a bit in use (left) and often fall out.  Sometime it seems the bees shove them out (it is surprising how they can push).  My solution is to stomp on the plugs to mushroom them out and it seems to work (right).

As I walked, I passed the scale and realized I forgot my tape. I want to measure the I-beams to calculate their weight since I am thinking of salvaging them for the house.  After I got back to the house, I drove down again and the dog ran the half-mile and back.  She can sustain 22-1/2 KPH.  Not bad!  The I-Beam is 14" by 6-3/4" with 7/16" flanges.  I forgot to check the length.

My recent writings have also convinced me that maybe instead of insisting on splitting into full standard boxes, I should make some into 5-frame nucs by adding a centre divider to an EPS box.  That would make the nucs smaller and also allow for stacking two to form two vertical side by side ten-frame hives.  An excluder goes on top if they get crowded and supers can be added.

There was a recent discussion  on BEE-L and that method was brought up.  As I recall, I discounted it at the time, but on thinking, I'm now wondering if it might be a good plan.  My previous methods were designed to be lazy methods with minimum demands on my time and presence.

With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

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Monday April 16th 2012
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There is ice on the pond this morning.  I intended to go walking right off as it is so nice out, but I had some emails to answer, some articles to write for the Honey Bee World Forum, and a phone call from a cousin that lasted an hour or so. Finally, around 10:30, I went out and burned some trash and went walking to the hives. 

On the way over I noticed bees collecting water aggressively anywhere they could find a non-frozen source in the sun.  That is a sign they are liquefying honey in the hive, and, by implication, raising plenty of open brood.

When I got to the hives, I discovered once again that I am not as smart I as I sometimes think.  After I blocked the top holes yesterday, I now see the bees were having problems with having their primary flight hole closed (right).  I may have warmed the top box by reducing heat loss (and increasing need for water), but I also confused the flying bees returning.  I saw one drone fly in and no pollen arriving.

It is warm today, so I pulled the top plugs.  I think I'll put a one-bee sized hole in some of the plugs with a drill or hot nail.  5/16" should be about right.  That will allow them to enter and exit without losing heat.

The grass on top of the syrup in the open feed drum had become wet from rain and water was pooled on top of the syrup, so I changed the grass (left).

I then walked on down to the scale and back.  This time I had the tape measure with me.

A geese pair trumpeted from the top of a nearby bale as I passed.  I think they have taken possession of the pond.   To think they were once almost extinct.

It is ten days now since I put on patties. Time flies when you are sick and I was somewhat out of it for five days with the flu.  I figured it is about time I took a look.  Sure enough, some were almost right out of patty (right), but most had some left and a few had quite a bit.  I loaded them up again and now have put 4-1/2 boxes of 40 patties each onto the 22 hives.

I've been worrying about heat loss, but when I looked at one four-storey hive and saw bees coming and going from all boxes and the floor, I removed the entrance reducer and put my hand inside.  It was about body temperature in there, on the floor.  I think I'll quit worrying so much.

I did try the plugs with little holes drilled and it was fun to watch the bees negotiate for ingress and egress for a while.  Not sure if the idea has merit.  The colonies have been doing fine with 1" auger holes open year 'round until now and they look just fine.

I put patties on all the hives and there were a few hives which had eaten less, so I took them apart to check them.  I found frames of good brood and lots of drone brood.  I saw no mites, even though I did pull out some drones.

Some hives had brood in three boxes.  The hive with the full box of new PF 100s on top (Test Hive Three) was struggling so I reversed it and rearranged the brood frames.  I still think bees don't do well wintering on white comb.  This was the one example and I figure it proved the point one more time.

Since I had to reverse that hive, I got to see the screened bottom.  Here at right is a shot.  It is not entirely blocked, but the mite fall is not unrestricted.  I suspect that most mites eventually made it through since whenever a bee disturbed the debris, any small specks would fall.  It seems that there just have not been many mites lately.

The PF 200s seem to be drawn well, filled and capped, but there are at least a few strange cells on almost every face.  In contrast, the Permadent was usually drawn perfectly.  Just the same, the PF 200s are much better than I expected and I have not reached a final conclusion at this point since the frames are still full of honey and capped, making them hard to examine.  If the PF 200s are reasonably well drawn and are corrected in brood usage, then all is well and the brood density in a colony will be higher.

I had to reverse three hives against my expectations.  Several hives had extra boxes that needed removing, just so I could see into the top brood chamber.  Some had a lot of honey on top and the cluster needed to be higher in the hive, so I adjusted things in those few cases.  I'm careful not to split up the brood area, though.

The hives with screened bottoms were not quite a s good as the rest,  My explanation is that wind can blow through due to no seal on the bottom and when the wind is on a hive face, it just comes right in because it has an exit at the rear bottom.  Without that escape, in other hives with solid bottoms, it just pushes and surges, but has little flow, having nowhere to go that is at lower pressure.

I finished the yard and can see I will be splitting in two or three weeks -- or wish I had.

Elijah, a neighborhood lad and grandson of good friends, has been hired after school to get some things done around here.  I work better with some help.  He came by at four-ten and got working on cleanup.

After supper, Rich came by for some help figuring out his GPS and satellite setup for his forthcoming 2663-mile trek up the Pacific Crest Trail.  He has a Delorme GPS and a transceiver that works like Spot, which I have and have not been using. 

We figured it out and he headed home.  Although he has planned for years, and already hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, I think the enormity of the trip is starting to intimidate him.

Fortunately our son who happens to be his former classmate and close friend, lives right near where he starts the hike at the Mexican boarder and can pick him up at LAX and drive him to the starting point.  Jon can also be available for emergencies during the first weeks as Rich expects to make 20 miles a day and will always be within an hour or two's drive of Jon's place for the first two weeks, even though he may not be near the roads.

I checked out the trail on Google Earth and see he will be walking only ten kilometers from the Bear Mountain Resort where Jon and the kids and I were skiing in winter 2010/11.  Driving there was difficult, Walking will be a challenge.  He also goes by Mount Baldy and that is even more rugged.

Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child.
She must be found and stopped.
Sam Levenson

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Tuesday April 17th 2012
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What a difference a day makes.  This wasn't supposed to happen.  Every morning, I post the forecast for the coming week.  Yesterday did not promise snow, but we have snow.  The dog went out and wanted right back in.  It's only minus two, a little below freezing, but damp and a strong breeze from the north has Caroline's flag standing straight out.

I'm glad that I was conservative in my manipulations yesterday and that heat conservation and enhancement of cluster comfort and convenience were paramount in my mind.  I'm also glad my bees have a lot of patty right where they can reach it even if the cluster contracts due to cold.

If I had split or spread brood yesterday, counting on continuing warmth, I'd be kicking myself.  The splits might survive just fine, but subtle effects of stress could haunt those splits all year.  Anything that aids diseases or weakens my bees is trouble down the road.

I saw some chalkbrood (CB) in the drone brood in one hive yesterday.  CB can be related to cool tamps, but not always.  This patch was in the middle of some okay-looking worker brood, so I wondered...

The worker brood is solid now.  I was patchy last time I looked.  Since the re seems to be no pollen coming in, I have the patties to thank, I guess.

I'm also aware that beekeepers have package bees out there.  They'll do fine, I'm sure, but this weather is hard on small colonies.  A few beekeepers have split by now, too and those splits may be okay if they are big enough and well protected from chill.  Beginners are often told to start on foundation, and those colonies are very much at risk as they have no comb and no stores to cluster on, on days like this.  Sheltered yards pay off, too, on days like this.

We are on the main CN Rail line from north to south in Alberta and thus have a finger on the pulse the economy.  The traffic on our line rises and falls with economic activity.  I have no idea of the exact relationship, but at times, we have long, heavy trains at all hours of day and night and at other times, fewer, shorter, and lighter trains.  We're near the top of the hill for northbound trains, so we can tell the payload by the straining of the engine or engines.  Although we see resource traffic, most of the cargo seems to be intermodal -- consumer goods in containers, I assume -- and that cargo depends on consumer activity, either real or anticipated by merchants.

A while back, I was noticing a lot of rail traffic and heavy trains running north, but lately, I'm noticing they are fewer and quieter.  A harbinger?

Maybe I'll take up trainspotting.

FWIW, I used to work for the railway.  Not CN Rail, but CP Rail, the competitor.  I was on Tom Donnelly's Bridging and Building crew. It was my second real job as a summer student and I travelled the trains  -- passenger or freight -- to the location and my home in Sudbury weekly.  We -- the whole crew, cook and all - lived in crew cars on sidings in various small Northern Ontario towns during the week.   Our work was out in the hot sun and sometimes rain up high on trestles chipping paint and welding or below them flagging traffic.  We ran from our siding out to the job sitting facing out, four on a side, exposed, on a little yellow open Sylvester speeder that we had to haul of the tracks quickly if a train was coming.  The guys, railway lifers, were great.  I was sixteen.  loved it.

The land man for the power company came by this afternoon to sign papers for the lease of or lot across the road.  They already have some parts and poles stored there.  I hope they are not too messy, but they are paying even better than I had hoped.  Moreover, if their current project on the way to Drum is an indication, the 9 months contracted could extend into years.

I'm supposed to be getting the books ready for the accountant and am procrastinating.  Elijah comes at four and we'll be working on odd jobs until suppertime.

*   *   *   *   *   *

We burned up some trash from the garden and raked up, then spread some mulch.

Ruth came over with a chicken pie so we called Fen and she joined Ellen, Ruth and myself for supper.

He not busy being born is busy dying.
Bob Dylan

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Wednesday April 18th 2012
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At night, I turn down the heat  to 60 degrees.  In the morning, I turn it up.  Today, at 4 AM I got up and had breakfast and turned up the heat.  After a while, I noticed that nothing was happening, so I went down to check.

Our system is a half-million BTU coal stoker built by Kirks and modified and enhanced by Allen.  It has worked reliably for about 40 years, with only a few glitches.  One modification I made was to extend the auger into the bin and that adds extra load, so I have had to rebuild the transmission several times.   I was wondering if transmission problems were showing up now, so I did a quick troubleshoot.  Seems that the last time I worked on it, I may not have engaged the driveshaft all the way and with the added load of all the coal Elijah shoveled on yesterday and the day before, and normal wear, that it has slipped off.  I'm working on it.

There is something enjoyable about clunking around in the shop at 5 AM.  I should do it more often instead of sitting here at the Command Centre reading stuff that is not of Great Importance.

Mention was made in the Honey Bee World Forum of climate, so I am repeating this table from March 23, 2010 at right.

*   *   *   *   *   *

The problem was that simple.  This machine is made of large, heavy parts that carry dirty, gritty chunks of hard fuel 14 feet, then thrust then up into tha hot fire and rotate the grate to knock of clinkers.  It is subjected to abrasive ash and cinder, and temperatures cycling from cool to white hot.  Over time, parts wear and the relative pieces change position marginally.  Loading the auger causes it to pull back a bit and that is what happened here, pulling the drive pin out of the square socket that turns it.  Fixing the problem took a few minutes, and further adjustment is probably in order once the place warms up for the day.

The time for splitting is coming up fast.  I have to decide whether to raise queens, which I can begin soon, or to get some queens from Meijers if they can spare them.  They are getting quite a whack of Saskatraz queens raised for Albert down in California and shipped north.  I'm guessing that they will be well over $20 each and that adds quite a lot to the cost of a split compared to home-raised queens which are free -- minus the value of the effort and bees required to raise them.

Buying queens would bring in new stock with good qualities. If I raise my own queens, I have to pick a mother or mothers and that is work.  It is also chancy, and I have to assume I have stock worth propagating.  Maybe I don't although these bees have done well.  I'm assuming that Albert and his rep down south have done a careful selection of mothers.

At this point, I'm inclined to buy some Saskatraz queens in a week or so and do some splits into standard EPS boxes divided in two with entrance auger holes facing opposite directions.   In each half, I'd use two frames with good patches of brood in all stages covering 50% or more of the frame and adhering bees, plus two frames with bees and feed from the parent hive and a sheet of foundation. 

Young larvae and eggs should be avoided as I don't want cell building competing with the new queen.  I might shake in extra bees and leave the splits in the yard for a few hours so the old bees drift home.  Young bees accept queens best.

I'd screen the splits then, add a caged queen immediately or on the next day and keep them indoors in the dark for three or more days before moving them outside, where they can be placed anywhere on my property without fear of drifting back.

That will give me twenty more early hives that should be splittable again later, supered, or used for 'queens with brood' three-frame units that can be inserted into the centre of any failing hives that are found later.

This afternoon, I counted the drop boards I picked up on the 13th.  Hive One has been removed from the test, so the counts are: #2-12, #3-4, #4-77, #5-26, and #6-1 for the two-week period.  Hives #4 and #5 had a lot of debris. and #5 had some mouse droppings. 

The test hives had a wide-open bottom entrance all winter.  Hive #4 had  a lot of sugary granulated honey chunks on the board (right).  I saw a small amount of patty crumbs -- a tablespoon or so -- on that floor.  I wonder what that is all about?


March 29

April 13

28 days

Per day 15 days Per day































I have yet to tabulate the last six weeks of data, but the counts are at left.  Note that the number of mites dropping in these hives could be from previous periods since bees were not moving through the hives in cold weather.  Now they are and they could be dislodging mites that died weeks or months ago.

If these drops are from current mite deaths, then I have to be concerned. 77 mites over 15 days is three mites a day and that is too high for this time of year IMO.  I figure one per day is plenty, and maybe too high.  Medhat's recommendations say 10 mites a day is the threshold in spring and early summer, but I would say that is the upper limit and will result in heavy loads by fall treatment time.

If each varroa manages a 1.2x multiplication per 12-day cycle in worker brood, then in 5 months of worker brood rearing, they population will increase by a factor of almost ten.  That is in worker brood.  Drone brood increases that multiple..

Hives #4 and #5 had the most debris on the boards, so it is likely that the were the most active in cleaning out the hive recently.  We'll have to watch and see how things develop and if the high drops continue.

Jean-Pierre Chapleau says (right) that a 1/2 to 1 mite maximum is recommended to ensure that the hives will be under below threshold until treatment in fall.

I hope to get around to working on the summary page and the charts soon.  Of course I have been saying that for weeks.

Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.
Barry Switzer

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Thursday April 19th 2012
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This morning is dull, but we're expecting twelve degrees and sun later.

It is time for crocus about now, and my friends report they are seeing pollen, but we are seeing nothing here.

Went to Three Hills around noon and saw the doctor, then renewed licenses, got a prescription and some weights for the air line for the bubbler.

In the afternoon, I put the bubbler out, withy two decoy ducks as floats and went to look at the bees.  The bees are very active.  I rotated one pallet with the forklift to even out the populations and moved a singleton closer to a pallet, intending to move it again a time or tow until it is close enough to place it on the pallet.

I'm considering several possible trips away and contemplating my options.  One is to split, another is to simply reverse everything and go away.  I can't just leave them as-is for three weeks because they'll swarm.  Reversing would put off swarming conditions for a week or two longer and also spread brood through the hive making splitting easier. when the time comes.

Meijers brought me over 22 of their new boxes and I'm, planning to put dividers in  them so I can make smaller splits, but have not decided definitely.  A lot depends on what I decide about sailing from the Bahamas to the Great Lakes early next month.  I'm also considering buying a boat to put into charter on the West Coast.  Decisions, decisions.

The EPS boxes are now up $2 in price due to the increase in oil prices.  Will they go down again when oil prices do?  I wonder...

We unloaded the boxes onto pallets, looked again at the bees, then had a pork roast for supper.

Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that
there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
John Kenneth Galbraith --

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