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I'm glad I mowed as much as I did yesterday. It is overcast and raining today. I won't have an opportunity for another several days according to the forecast. By then, the grass will be too tall in some areas to cut easily.
I understand the queens will be coming today.
* * * * *
I guess not. Tomorrow night, I guess, so the original estimate of Thursday is for all practical purposes the day I have them on hand. The weather does not look too promising here, but that could change, I suppose.
The wind is from the west and the barometer is rising, so maybe I'll get outside yet today. I have a Bluewater meeting tonight in Calgary, but it is along drive there and back and I am tired today.
* * * * *
I stayed home.
I must take issue with the term 'a mere
child,' for it has been my invariable experience that the company of a
mere child is infinitely preferable to that of a mere adult.
We have rain today again and the weather does not look great for opening hives. It is not so much that it is too cold or windy, but the bees are all at home and there are intermittent showers. Any bees that get dropped in manipulations land in wet grass and are likely to be lost.
Nonetheless, I may chance it and see how it goes. Of course, waiting a week or two make the job much easier, but if there are any queens needing replacing or hives that are limited by the queen's output, splitting sooner rather than alter gives a big advantage, just as getting packages in early April, in spite of cold weather, pays off some years. If the flows are late, though, that advantage is lost.
* * * * *
I drove out to the Ghost to look at a Catalina 250 for sale. The owner was asking a premium price, but although the boat appeared sound it was not well maintained and that is a warning. I declined.
From there, I drove to Airdrie and went looking for a Nexus S which Koodo had been offering. It seems they have discontinued it and now are offering the Optimus Black, which is out of stock.
Joe called and he was at the Costco nearby and headed for home. Since he planned to stop at my place to drop off queens, I drove home and put a shepherds' pie in the oven. He showed up shortly and we had supper.
The queens are Saskatraz F1s from the US. They came with attendants and look good. I took ten. There will be more next week. We watered them with one drop on the screen, then left them sitting on a counter, waiting for their turn to be introduced into a hive.
The smaller the mind the greater the conceit.
The weather looks a bit better today and I'm hoping that I can get a few splits done. Although the daytime temperatures are not high, the nighttime temperatures will be above freezing and that helps. The weather is important when it comes to installing new mated queens. Good flying weather, with nectar coming in greatly improves results. With poor weather, release must be done carefully and often over time. Taking a week or ten days to achieve queen release greatly reduces the advantage of using mated queens over cells or virgins. In my case, though, my main reason for introducing these queens is to bring recent Saskatraz genes into the outfit.
Around four, the weather seemed okay for splitting so I got to work. It was difficult to predict which hives would have the most brood and where, since these hives are so warm. The bees really spread out in them. The fact that I have entire boxes of new comb here and there complicates the question.
Although it looks as if four patties in these two pictures are still fairly complete, in each case the scraps, if balled up, would not add up to even half a patty. The patties are pretty well gone. All that is left is traces on the paper. I did not replace them since I have to check the hives tomorrow. Then I'll load the hives up again.
I had been uncertain how I would proceed with splitting, and imagined many possibilities, but when the time came, I did side-by-side splits. I did the first two one frame at a time so that I could remove any lumps and also appraise the situation. The first hive gave three splits and I found the queen with no problem, so I marked the queenless portions. The second made two splits but I did not find the queen. The third I simply broke in two, figuring that finding the queens will be easier tomorrow when the clusters are smaller and more compact than in these monster hives.
All the splits are set up as doubles, with a box of good feed, pollen and brood comb under. In some cases, that box came from the hive being broken up, in others, from the stack.
I figure that tomorrow, I'll find the two queens and have four queens to introduce. By then, I can decide if the splits are fairly even and then introduce queens and move hives. They won't be flying tonight; I packed up at six fifteen due to the feeling that rain was coming and left the yard just as it began.
I have until tomorrow noon to decide and act. After that, there could be drifting. The side-by-side method, however, allows for some adjustment just by putting something like a lid in front of any hive that is attracting too many of the flying bees. I could, if I wished, just leave the splits in place and tinker with the flying bees, but managing a bunch of hives so tight together is a pain.
I watched The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind again tonight, but quit before the end. It is a good flick, but the running away sequences get a bit dreary. I find many movies just a bit too long for my liking.
An education isn't how much you have committed
to memory, or even how much you know.
Joe went looking for a weather station like the one I bought and could only find less complete ones for that price. The one I got was $54, but seems to be the $199 model. It seems that Costco screwed up on the pricing or the supplier shipped them the wrong product. IMO, it is worth $199. So far, I love it.
The sun is shining and I have work to do.
I'm out splitting, but there is some activity in the Honey Bee World Forum
I got 'er done. The yard now has 45 stands. The only queens I saw all day were the ones in my pocket. The bees were spread out in these warm hives and the queens could have been anywhere. They were not in the middle of the brood nest, even when I used no smoke. I plan to check tomorrow when it is cooler and the colonies have contracted a bit. Breaking them in half the way I did should make for a more defined cluster.
After all my thinking and planning, I went with the tried and true. I suppose I could have split more drastically and frame by frame, but I fell back on what has always worked -- big splits with a box under. I really don't need more hives than I will have by fall. Maybe I can sell some. Otherwise, I will have to beg my friends to super them or do it myself and make sure the honey gets extracted. One year, I had honey to extract and the forklift broke down when It was supposed to be taken to custom extraction. I was away and the job did not get done. The honey sat and granulated. What a mess! I was depressed about it for years. I really do not want to make honey, but maybe I have no choice.
My splits will be uneven. In two of the twenty-two hives, there were three boxes with enough brood to make a complete split and one hive that did not split at all. The way I split, there was some drifting and I placed things in front of the 'collector' hives to hide them and divert the bees to needier colonies as I worked through the yard. I'll have to do some equalizing tomorrow, I think, either by closing or hiding entrances or by padgening with my trusty forklift.
The fact there was so much new comb on the hives complicated matters for me a lot since the queens have avoided laying in it, even when it was fully drawn and filled. I had full boxes of new comb and they are always a problem.
I made a mess as I worked and left some brood and scrapings on the ground. I was just too tired to clean up every last scrap and I know momma skunk will come tonight and enjoy a feast. I wish her well. I've seen her get after patties if I gave her a chance and imagine she is quite ravenous with kits on the way or already born. It is hard to work bees without creating a temptation for the local scavengers. I hope I haven't started something that could be fatal for her down the road.
I came in and had a shower, a glass of wine, then went back out. The forklift had run out of propane earlier, so I took some out and brought back a pallet of items needing work. when I was done (right).
I'm a terrible nanny, but I worry about my bees. I hate to have less than a whole box of bees during build-up and worry of I don't. That box could be a three-frame nuc in which case I'm happy if it is a little crowded, but if it is a ten frame box, I like to see it wall to wall or at least on eight frames. I don't worry about the boxes below, but the top box I like to see full of bees.
So, I checked under every lid and pillow and marked the hives with the brick. Most have a full upper box, but a few look a little sparse. The bees look great and there is that spring night feel to the bees and the air. I almost expect fireflies, but it is still early. The bugs are strong at this time of year and they are on the upswing. It is a marvel to me how they thrive and build in the fickle weather of spring and taper off in the heat of summer.
Anyhow, I plugged all the top auger holes, even though some hives were actually fanning there. We expect rain and cool tomorrow, so I don't want any chilled brood. Besides, this may help force them to notice things have changed and to reorient.
Today is the last day of my varroa drop counts and I took the screened bottoms off -- for now. Here is a shot of what was on the worst four of the five. Numbers come later. It was almost dark when I took those shots. My Tab has a flash.
I've been swapping out the old BeeMax boxes to bring them in for repair and painting. Although I have been hard on them in my reviews, in truth, they have served well, given that all I did was whack them together and use them. No paint. No glue.
Now I plan to repair where indicated and paint them. The one shown in detail at right, I repaired last year. I used WeldBond glue and long drywall screws . The square spot (which does not show up well) is a mouse chew I cut out with a box knife and replaced with a glued-in piece of wood. These boxes are reasonably sound and the bees love them. I do like the Meijer boxes better, though, since they are stronger.
There was an issue with some of the Meijer boxes recently, though. It seems that some were made too quickly or some technical error was made and they were not as tough as the first ones. When Joe got the first ones, he went out and threw them around the paved parking lot and you all saw pictures here of (little) Joe standing on a box on edge. They were bulletproof.
Apparently a recent batch was not so tough and some broke easily. I noticed that they did not drill consistently either. Growing pains, I guess. I am happy with the last twenty-two I got, though, and they are from that batch. Breakage if it happens does not bother me. A few long drywall screws and a dab of WeldBond glue, and they are like new. Weak or not, these are far stronger than BeeMax and the BeeMax have served well for ten years now.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Weather and heat retention is critical in the days immediately after splitting, as the colonies are disrupted and broodnest geometry is changed. Populations may be uneven and poorly matched to the brood to be covered.
Although yesterday was warm, even hot, and the temperature last night did not drop below 4.4 degrees C, the wind picked up and was gusting strongly all night. Fortunately for me, the gusts came from the north, a direction with good shelter for my hives.
I felt a bit foolish closing the top entrances last night, but was glad I had done so when I awoke after midnight and heard the wind. Some clusters are small enough that they might have to struggle to maintain heat. I will check when the weather improves a bit. Even short periods of chilling can do brood damage and the stress on the bees from struggling to maintain brood temps can lead to problems later. I try to coddle my bees, and it pays in bee health and survival.
Above is the "Feels Like" chart for the last few days from my weather station. I took advantage of the warm day to split, but maybe, since I did side-by-side whole box splits, I could have better done it on a cooler day when the clusters were defined more obviously. Nonetheless, bee flight should be reduced today and that is good from the perspective of keeping the drifting down. I should check for queens soon, however, and the hives have little or no patties left on them and that worries me.
8:43 AM: I hear of heavy snowfall about fifty miles SW of here. What will the day bring? I glanced outside just now and it is pouring rain here, but nothing is showing on the gauge yet.
Jean and family came for lunch and to pick up their camping trailer which was in our quonset all winter. By then it had been raining for an hour and the rain continues. Mckenzie and I tried flying a kite, but the wind is too gusty and high overhead and the weight of the rain kept bringing the kite down. It is cold out there. I was running around barefoot and with only a Tee shirt and jeans, but gave up after ten minutes and having to pull the kite out of the pond. A while later, we were seeing snowflakes falling.
When Chris went to hook up the trailer, I went over to retrieve my van which I left there last night and checked the bees. Several had pushed out their plugs. Bees are incredibly strong for their size. I put the top plugs back in even though some hives were patrolling the bottom auger hole. I figure that most people don't have upper entrances in spring and summer, so I don't need to have the top one open today.
* * * * *
After supper, I took a nap and when I got up there was a message the Edmonton Journal on my machine. I checked my email and there was a message pointing to this article.
Zip and I did the one mile walk down the property and back. Along the way, I stopped and plugged the bottom auger holes, too. I figure that tomorrow I will want to judge the colony strength and if the bees have to go down to the floor to exit and enter, I'll get a clearer idea. One of the reasons to use upper entrances is that weaker colonies can maintain entrance activity and draw back more bees. Bees tend to drift to the most active entrances.
There may be some confusion with returning bees at first, though as they are trained to auger holes. I'll have to get out and check early.
If you can find something everyone agrees on,
I awoke at 9, after being up past midnight and the sun is shining. There is a strong breeze from the WNW, but the bees will be out gathering water. I have to get out there and see what is happening.
I went out and the bees are getting going. I got to work on checking the splits for queens. The job is proving difficult as the haves are full of bees and the queens are elusive. I did find one, but went to letting the bees tell me.
I open the two splits from each hive and lay a queen cage face-down on the top bars. After ten minutes, a quick shake of the two cages usually results in bees coming off one and clinging to the other. Closer examination will reveal older bees doubled up and gripping tightly on one, trying to sting the queen. On the other, if any are left on the screen, they are young bees fanning and observing the queen. Here are some shots. See if you can read what the bees are telling us.
I began splitting on Thursday and finished Friday. From Thursday evening to now is 3 full days.
Any hives split Thursday with un-hatched eggs should be queenright. By tomorrow night, any with un-hatched eggs should be queenright.
I get more queens on Wednesday and will have to go through the hives to tear down any cells, but it is much easier not to have to look for queens. This way I can use smoke.
I am having to scrape frames and cull combs. The PF-100s were, for the most part, drawn well when placed on top of the brood chambers as supers at the end of the season, but when put as outside frames they were built badly, often as not. The Permadent were much better that way. I also have some fat combs from being next to foundation which was ignored and I pull those and set them for robbing so that I can get them down to size after the honey is removed.
I removed all the upper auger hole plugs. I had decided that these hives are so warm that there is no worry, even for the smaller colonies.
This evening, I finally counted the mite drops from Friday. They look much better than the previous count and confirm my suspicions that the previous one was high due to hive cleaning. The thought remains in the back of my mind, though, that with increased brood rearing now, most of the mites are concealed in sealed brood. I've heard 2/3 to be typical, but up to 90% has also been observed.
The five test hives have been split and I have lost track of them now. I did observe that the screen floor hives were not as advanced as the solid floor hives. At least that is my current thought. I'll have to watch in future if I continue to use these floors.
These screened floors (left) worked for me, but in my opinion, they are not ideal for hives with upper entrances or auger holes as the wind can blow right through the hives -- in the holes, down through he colony and out the floor. IMO, all openings, including the opening for access to the screen should be on the same side as the auger holes so the wind can only surge against the hive, but not pass through from front to back.
That means the screen access has to be pulled in and out from the front. These floors have side access. People don't like working on drop boards from the front since there is bee traffic there, but what is, is. I'm thinking of adapting my pallets to take a slide-in board with a screen on top -- basically a tray an inch or so deep with a screened top and four enclosed sides. I hear those varroa can jump out of anything shallower, though I never do see live varroa and have learned to grease the boards well. Others report live varroa on the boards. I wonder why I do not.
The reason I think that the screens should come out with the tray is that I can see that the screens have to be cleaned regularly. (See above left). Also, any varroa hung up on the screens will be obvious at each inspection.
Our old system (right) had the board and screen attached together with elastics. Crude, but very cheap and effective. I still have them around, but the major problem right now is the clearance under the frames on my pallets. I'm also spoiled by the elegance of these factory-made floors.
The design I am imagining now also adds height for oxalic fumigation when the drop board cassettes are pulled out.
It is by universal
misunderstanding that all agree.
I see we had another cool night, dipping just below freezing, but with no wind. We're now expecting a warm day with two warmer days after that. This weather is great for build-up.
I plan to work through the rest of the hives today to get them ready for the queens Wednesday night. I have lots more on my list, too. We'll see how my ambition holds out.
I hope everyone is reading BEE-L these days.
It's now 8AM and I'm itching to get outside.
* * * * *
I've had a chance to see lots of the drawn foundation and although there are a few Permadent that were mucked up like in the picture at left, there are far more of the PL100s. Although I did not have as much trouble with the PL100s as I feared, I really wonder about them.
I finished the yard again and now have 46 hives with 16 queenless. I plan to introduce Saskatraz queens into them and now I am wondering. I plan to sell them to hobbyists and Saskatraz bees are not the most docile. I have a customer for four hives one of these days and am thinking I should advertise.
The bee work took me all day. A whole day to look through 46 hives? A bit slow I'd say. Nonetheless, I had some scraping and frame moving to do. I have not been maintaining the combs particularly and also introducing foundation has resulted in some fat combs when the bees decide to extend the drawn comb rather than draw the foundation. There were a number of the PF100s with wild comb to scrape, too.
All in all, the yard looks good and this it the time to get things rolling. The build-up period runs until July and then things get less reliable. Any new colonies need to be established by mid-June for best results. Some years later splits work out, but it is a gamble, especially if the year turns out to be one with a killer frost in mid-August.
Splitting now and assuming queens get laying by mid next week, six weeks from then takes me to the end of June. I can split again then, but that is it. What will my success be with these splits? Some years we had 100% queen acceptance, but there have been times we hit 50%. Today a few of the queenless hives had beautiful cells and I hesitated before breaking them down. These hives would have laying queens in three weeks at most. If the purchased queens don't work out, I'll have lost that chance.
The difference between laying queens this week and cells is two weeks and cells generally have a 20% failure rate. These queens cost me $25 or so and cells are free. A double hive is worth what? $200? $300? If the queens work out, they should pay. If not, then I am behind in time and money.
One of my reasons for buying queens rather than raising my own, which is quite easy at this time of year, was to incorporate more Saskatraz stock. Why exactly I am doing that, I don't know, as I am not a commercial beekeeper and Saskatraz bees are primarily commercial stock. If I plan to sell to hobbyists, maybe I should be buying the gentlest stock I can find.
I am not seeing any trace of varroa in drone cells that are opened as I work.
The enemy is
anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on.
Now that I am caught up with the bees, I have to decide what to do next. There is no shortage of things needing doing, from yard cleanup to the bathroom floor and wiring. I see that the fridge is getting empty, too. We are expecting 27 degrees today, so it will be hot at mid-day, and now (8 AM) is the time to be outdoors. The grass is getting long again.
I went out and mowed until I ran out of gas. Now I have to go to town. That means I have to do a lot of little jobs to get ready, like find the recycle stuff etc...
I got all that done and mowed some until I got tired of it. Tomorrow, we go to the dinner theatre at Rosebud and the queens arrive, if all goes according to plan.
Good manners will open doors that the best
I mowed grass for a little over an hour to get ahead of the fast-growing lawns and then got ready to go. Fen arrived at 11 and Ellen and She, Ellen and I drove to Rosebud for lunch. We met Joe and Oene and John and Mavis there for lunch and the matinee. We were there to see "$38,000 for a Friendly Face" on the Opera House Stage.
Oene, Fen, Ellen and I returned to Swalwell. Joe went to get the queens at the airport. John and Mavis went home. Joe showed up at seven with he queens and we had burgers. At eight, Ruth came by and dropped off some eggs and then everyone went home.
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