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My Bee Yard After Splitting


Thursday May 10th 2012
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Now that the queens are here, the weather has turned cool.  Cold weather is not the best for queen introduction, especially into large splits.  All the foragers are home and have nothing to do but bother the queen cage. I'll check the hives today, but may have to wait until tomorrow to introduce the queens.

Yesterday, I saw the first dandelions.

I went out and did some mowing, but the wind was strong from the west and blew the cuttings back on me.  I gave up and came in for a hot shower.  I was chilled and am somewhat allergic to the moulds and dusts that lurk in the dead grass and mowing sometimes makes me feel poorly after.

I caught up on the books a bit later in the day.  BEE-L has been dead lately.  Seems that it is really busy some days and then there are periods of several days with no  traffic at all.

Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question.
Albert Camus

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Friday May 11th 2012
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I left the queens on the counter yesterday.  It was just too cool and breezy to install them. We had a few calm moments, but then the wind shifted and gusted again.  I thought, looking at the forecasts, that today will be better.

I had a BSOD the other day and a system restart.  Today the computer would not awaken from sleep, and I had to do a hard reset.   That told me it is time to run chkdsk

I ran chkdsk the other day, before the BSOD, and it finished with a clean report, but I ran it again this morning and the report showed several bad clusters had to be locked out. 

The chkdsk report flashes by when running chkdsk, so one has to look in the event viewer for any detail, especially if the user is not present at the instant that chkdsk completes and the screen goes black.

The event viewer is not exactly user friendly, but here are some tips on how to find the log.  Here's another hint: in the Application log. just sort by date and time, then run down to the time the chkdsk finished and the machine booted.  The log will be one of the first entries after restart.

In my case. the file that had bad clusters was the pagefile.  That is a system file that contains the program pages, etc. and was what interfered with the wakeup, until I selected to delete the previous session at the prompt after the reset.  (Done by pressing and holding he on/off button until the activity lights go out).

It is wise to run chkdsk weekly or at least monthly on a computer that is used daily, and especially right after a hard reset, a power failure or an unusual event like a BSOD or computer freeze.  It can be run by typing chkdsk C: /f /r an elevated command prompt or from the properties box on the drive in question (My preference) More....  If using the properties box, select both boxes and schedule it to run later.  The reboot, but expect the check to take at least an hour.

I split on May 3rd and 4th.  I'm still installing queens today, on the 11th, meaning that it is one week or more since the splitting.  I'm hoping these new queens will lay within one week, but that means I only gained one week by using mated queens since just letting them raise their own usually results in laying queens 21 days after splitting.  When I consider that I timed my splitting for the expected queen arrival dates, then the fact remains that I could have split some hives earlier and waited for others.

My traditional way to decide if a double is ready to split is to tip it forward and look under.  If there are bees on six frame bottom bars, it is ready.  If not, then the hive should be checked and either requeened and/or split later.

Add to that the fact that I may or may not have good success introducing these queens, and the cost.  In addition, I had to do a lot of extra work, going through the hives to break down any cells.  The cells I broke down were excellent cells and would have made beautiful queens.  What a shame!

Looking at some of the cells, though, one must wonder if some are built on drone larvae as some are built near drone brood. 

I noticed something interesting this time that I had not noticed before: it seems that the colonies did not start cells until all the eggs had hatched!  That means they did not build until three days after splitting.

I replenished the pollen patties while I was working on the hives.  Some of the hives had eaten all the patty.  Some ate less.  See pictures.

In the process of checking for eggs, I pulled out fat and drone combs, so I did some useful work as well, but if I had just split and walked away, I could have saved myself two days of work and $675.

From my perspective, the value just is not there.  Historically, my best splits have been side-by-side walk-away splits.  One variation on that which can improve on it is to raise cells and add them to both halves of the splits at the time of splitting or any time after, allowing the hives to accept that cell and also have their own as a back-up.

This latter method allows some steering of the genetics in that the queen mother can be from a hive with good features.  Otherwise, the only selection when the hives raise their own queens is on the drone side.  Can we assume that the best hives and the ones with the least varroa will have the most drones and the fastest drones earliest?  Seems reasonable to me.

I need a solar melter in  the yard.  The wax scrapings should have a place to go, and some of the fat frames need to be shaved down.  Brood honey should not be sold or used in the kitchen, so it is just bee feed.  A good melter in the yard is handy in that old frames and scrapings are thrown in and wax and bee feed come out the bottom.

Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.
Hunter S. Thompson

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Saturday May 12th 2012
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I woke up early this morning and found my Samsung laptop, bought last September, would not wake up again.  This time it seems the hard drive won't spin and the boot-up aborts.  The bios reports that I should check the cable.  Hmmm.  I downloaded Spinrite, made a bootable USB drive, and tried running the repair program, but the HD just does not appear on the Spinrite drive list, so either it is disconnected electrically or mechanically hooped.  I had noticed some whine yesterday and wondered.  Nonetheless, if the circuitry were connected, I would have thought I could see it.

I tried tapping the Samsung a bit, and holding it upside down, etc. in case the bearings are seized slightly, but have not taken the drive out to try it in a USB box or to tap more sharply in case it is stuck.   I doubt there is anything important on that drive that I don't have available elsewhere since I use Dropbox and the Internet for my important files so they appear on all my machines and devices.

Now that I have Spinrite, I figured I should try it on my netbook.  That procedure is recommended periodically to prevent and predict data loss.  Spinrite found two unrecoverable sectors right off.  I don't know if they contained data or were already locked out.  No matter, I am running the full routine on the machine.  That could take a day.  Right about now, I am really glad that I have a second machine running at the work station.  Normally, I have the two, side by side.  Files are shared using Dropbox.

I seldom use the netbook.  At one time, it was my main computer, but it got slow and I bought the Samsung.  Lately, I have been thinking of using it for the 24/7/365 weather station unit since it is power efficient.  One problem is that I installed Windows 8 on it and have not checked to see if the weather software will run it.  I see no reason that it should not.  Windows 8 seems to be just Win 7 tuned up a bit and with a horrible GUI.

It is now 7:44 AM and the temperature has risen from zero an hour ago to 9 degrees C.  Wow!  That means it is time to get outside.

Well, I went outside and it was cooler than I thought, so I got to work on fixing up my old BeeMax boxes.  I had been starting to think that they are not as bad as I had made them out to be, but after spending an hour fixing six of them, I am reverting to my original opinion.  When  I got them,. I did not glue them.  I simply knocked them together and put them into service.  No glue, no paint.

I have to say that they have lasted ten years.  Not all of them were outside all that time, but they have lasted.  However, some have split at the joints and/or cracked at the corners.  Some have held together just fine with only propolis.  All are soft enough that I can push a drywall screw in a centimetre with no effort.

I'm gluing them with Weldbond and screwing them with 3" drywall screws.  It is a lot of work, but I hope it is worth it.  Then I plan to paint them.

I opened the computer and fiddled with the hard drive connections.  It seems dead.  Next, I have to find a HD around here with an O/S on it and swap it to see if that boots.  If so, then the problem is the drive.

I hooked up a Ubuntu boot drive and it began to boot, then stalled.  Could be that the O/S is customized to the computer it was made on.  At least the computer tried to boot.  Meantime, the netbook continues to run Spinrite with no errors showing up -- yet.  Completing the task may take until tomorrow. Monday, I look into warranty on the Samsung.

From before lunch until almost suppertime, I repaired and painted the original BeeMax boxes -- 20 of them.  I glued and screwed them, using Weldbond and a box (250) of 8x3 drywall screws.  What a thankless job.  If they were Meijer boxes, I would not have wasted that time and money. 

I had a chance to examine the boxes after the ten years.  There were a few mouse chews and maybe a little ant damage, and the surface that was exposed  to sun has eroded and powdered a bit,  but all in all, they have lasted well.  They seemed to take paint well and look good.  I patched a spot or two by cutting out a chunk of EPS and gluing in another.  I'd say these boxes are good for another ten years, easily.

If I were a commercial operator, however, I would be sure to train and supervise my staff very carefully.  They are not as strong as wood.  Treated properly, these boxes will last, but careless use of a hive tool will damage one instantly.  This is particularly true when the frames of two boxes are stuck together with ladder comb.  People tend to pry hard, even to the extent of standing on the hive tool!

In such cases, prying on the boxes will ruin them and not separate the boxes.  It is important to pry the frames by creating a crack at the front and reaching in and prying on each pair of frames in succession with the hive tool.  When all frames are separated this way the boxes simply lift apart.  A wooden wedge that can hold the crack open an inch or so should be a constant companion when working these hives.  Scraping top and bottom bars to prevent such problems seems essential.

At the same time, some ladder comb, especially in the centre assists the queen in going down.  Beekeepers who scrape too well, often find the queens, particularly older queens, will not do down.  That is why.  I sometimes drop a few scrapings onto the top bars of a bottom box to assist.  A little ladder comb is no problem, but masses of wax will glue the boxes together.

I have watched a lot of beekeepers work their hives and have watched many damaging their equipment by improper hive tool use.  When separating boxes the hive tool should be pushed down, not up.  Many beekeepers pry again the the thin rabbet at the front which is half the width of the rest of the box.  Many also do not push the hive tool in far enough. resulting in dog-eared corners.  The hive tool should go in about an inch and a half -- minimum and pry on a solid, wide surface.  This particularly important with EPS boxes.

After supper, washed the van, I checked the last two hives and installed the last two queens.

Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.
Samuel Adams

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Sunday May 13th 2012
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Today is Mothers Day and Jean is coming down with her family for lunch.

Ellen is better these days and was out raking leaves in the garden the other day.

The trees are finally leaving out and I saw the first dandelions three days ago.

Right about now, I am really glad that I run two active computers and a reserve at the Command Centre, and keep all my important files in Dropbox.   When the Samsung went down suddenly, it turned out to be a minor inconvenience, not a disaster.  At least so far I have not found I am missing anything essential.  Of course, there are a  few things like a Windows 8 virtual machine and several others that were on the Samsung and not duplicated on the Acer.  There may be a few other things.

I am surprised that this machine lasted only a little over 6 months before the hard drive gave up.  I would have expected better of Samsung.

Jean and family came for lunch and left.  Chris and I walked over to the bees and back. 

Several bees followed me back at least 100 yards.  They ignored Chris, but he had a veil when were were in the yard.  I did not.   I had noticed that the bees I got from Bob were a trifle hot and I have added Saskatraz stock which is not selected AFAIK for gentleness.  My friends feel it is superior to the other stock on the market, but I am wondering if, since I want to raise bees, not make honey, if I might not be better of with gentle Italians.  Italians are great for splitting as they are prolific and raise brood early and in quantity.

Next time I work the hives, I'll watch for jumpy bees.  I noticed a hive or two last time, but did not mark them.  I'll have to be careful which hive I choose as a mother if I raise cells for the next split, which I am planning to do.

At right is how I even out the populations when a hive accumulators too many bees.  (yes, that is a tarp fitted loosely over the end hives in that row.  I simply mask them for a day, assuming, of course they are not mating a queen.  During a flow, the foragers are set in their ways and fly out without orienting, even if there are obstacles.   When they return, from habit, they go straight for the round hole in the blue box nearest the end, and after the foragers get used to going to the next hive, they tend to stick with that hive even after the end hives are unmasked.

Many worry about drifting, but I try to exploit it.  Successful beekeepers learn bee behaviour and find ways to  work with those tendencies.  Another favourite trick is to turn pallets around or exchange them.

I recall one spring, when we were pollinating, we have about  wintered hives at one end of the home yard and  packages at the other end.   The wintered hives were overly strong early and the packages were not going to make pollination strength.  The wintered hives were getting too big and were threatening to swarm if they were not supered, making them difficult to transport.

One morning, in early June, with good flying weather and with a light flow on, I interchanged all the package hives with wintered hives after observing the hives for entrance activity and choosing appropriate pairs.

Immediately my swarm worries for the wintered hives went away and immediately the packages looked much better.  A few weeks later, they were all about equal strength, were plenty strong, and all went to pollination.  All it had taken to equalize them was an hour or so, and no labour.  Other methods would have taken a day or days and been less even or successful.

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Monday May 14th 2012
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Today I drove to Calgary to look at a van.  It was advertised on Kijiji and looked good.  It is a 2010 and a high-miler at 158,000km on the clock.  The seller told me a story about how it belongs to him and how he drives to Edmonton twice a week, thus the accumulated miles.  He showed me clean CarProof and handed it to me.  Attached was the bill from when he bought it from Michener Allen  Auction on April the 28th.  Duh! 

He wanted $12,450 and the slip showed he paid $9,600 plus $175 admin, plus GST for a total of  $10,264 .  I talked him down to $11,500 where he claimed he was making only $700.  I wonder how he does his math?  He is obviously an unlicensed car dealer and could get into hot water if I reported him.  Should I?  He lies and then lies some more when he is found out.  I have sympathy for a guy trying to get a start and make a few bucks, but someone misrepresenting a vehicle so blatantly?

Anyhow, I drove the van a little on the back street (with no plates) and considered it, then he ran out of time, so I stopped at Costco, dropped off my dead computer at UPS, then went home to check queens and sleep on it.

The queens I introduced most recently were not yet out.  The ones from May 7th are now laying and have a patch of new brood measuring maybe 30 in2 so far.  That is not a lot of brood and let's hope they kick into high gear soon.

At right is a chart showing the number of cells per square inch.  30 in2 x 27 cells /in2  = 810 cells.  Queens often do not lay anything like what people assume.  Measuring the square inches and using a calculator tells the truth.

Only one queen seems to be missing, but I'll check again.  I ran out of daylight and when the sun goes behind the quonset, the bees tell me it is time to leave.  I worked bare handed and without smoke to test the temper.  They all seem fine.

Anyone who reads these pages often knows I have reservations about using mated queens.  I feel they reduce flexibility as to timing and introduce uncertainties as to quality and condition -- and acceptance.  They are costly, too.  The main justification IMO is for introducing new stock to a yard and that is my purpose here.  They also enable earlier splitting, but I am not a fan of making splits much before drones mature anyhow.  If cells are started when drones are in the purple-eye stage, everything should work out.  Drones mature two weeks after emergence.  It takes 20 days from egg laying for the queen to fly.  Since bees and beekeepers grafting cells choose hatched eggs around a day old for queen making, that means a queen will fly a little over 2 weeks after the queen cell building decision and lay three weeks from the date the cell is started.

If I had raised cells or just spit the strong hives and let them raise their own queens, I would not be much further behind -- maybe a week or ten days for some hives since my splitting date was dictated by queen availability, not the readiness of the hives.  

Some hives could have been split a week earlier, reducing the advantage of using a mated queen to zero.  Drones are not an issue.  I have tons of them, and speaking of drones, in all my scraping and drone uncapping  -- mostly due to correcting badly drawn foundation and cutting burr comb -- I have not yet seen one varroa.

All the hives have eaten their pollen patties down to a scrap or zero -- not even paper remaining -- with few exceptions, and although they have a little pollen stored in the combs, I gave them another one or two patties. I think it is important to have a surplus over their basic requirements.

I have an open feed drum in the yard and some fat combs out for robbing, but the bees are not drawing foundation much yet. in spite of being in warm hives with plenty of feed and young bees. They are coming and going enthusiastically, but not robbing much.  Scrapings left on the hive lids are untouched.

I have seen no signs of the skunk since I raised the hives.  Leaving scrapings and comb on the ground tempts skunks since grubs are a food for them, and drone larvae are a delicacy.  I have some animal that likes pollen supplement too and if I leave a box around, it breaks in and eats what it can.  It will also reach into supers of comb with honey and pull out what it can if I leave one low enough and unprotected. 

I enjoy the wildlife and figure they have a right to live, too.  There comes a point, though where that appreciation ends and measures must be taken.  The initial measure is simply to avoid tempting them.  Next come defensive measures like raising the hives, etc. 

Do Small Cells Help Bees Cope With Varroa?

Ö as Iíve said many times the future is already here
ó itís just not very evenly distributed.
 William Gibson

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Tuesday May 15th 2012
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I'm slow off the line again today.  I got up at four for an hour and went back to bed, then slept until 9.  I guess I won't buy that van.  I see there is another auction coming up with a similar unit and I realise that there is no way to legally test drive it or easy way to get a mechanical inspection.  Besides, the guy is dishonest.

From BEE-L:

> I am curious to know what other people prefer in terms of protection - not
> just from stings but from propolis and separation of bee clothes from
> families?

I wear XXXL lightweight cotton/polyester suits I bought well over ten years ago. I have four. The bee supply was blowing them out at a huge discount as they were too big and too lightweight for most people. Most like their suits heavy and close-fitting. I don't. I wear them for sun protection as much as anything, but they do protect from dirt and honey. I like them loose so that, as my wife said once to someone, that the bees can fly around inside. A light, loose suit is much cooler and more sting-proof than a tight, heavy suit.

I wash the suit I wear every time I wear it for more than an hour. I like suits white and clean. When we had staff, we used a linen service and we all changed suits daily. Looks good when about the community. After all, this we are handling food.

I wash my own clothes and my wife is a beekeeper. We have no kids at home.

> How do the one piece hooded veils hold up? How easy are they to pull
> back in order to see when driving from bee yard to bee yard?

Yes. We gave up every other type once we tried them. The downside is the lack of sun protection from above. We had Sherriff add a shade panel in place of the top screen. A ball cap provides a sweat band, and shades the eyes, but gives no shade for the temples and is a problem when throwing back the veil or pulling it forward, a skill that has to be learned with some patience, but comes naturally after knocking the hat off a few dozen times.

I spent the morning at the keyboard, then went outside to look at the bees. It seems I am becoming fanatical lately.  I used to completely ignore them, but now I am there every day doing something. 

I finished the yard inspection, leaving only the hives with the most recent introductions alone as the queens are just getting out.   I interchanged a few pallets to equalize some of the west end hives.

I may improve my opinion of mated queens as it seems that I have been batting almost 100.  We'll see if they last or are superseded.  I'm thinking of marking them.

How long until I can split again?  I figure six weeks after the new queens are laying.  That takes me to the end of June, but the parent hives should be ready sooner since the original queens never stopped.   As the hives were split on the 3rd and 4th, the original hives should be split again before mid-June.

Nonetheless, in the past we noticed that the hives with new queens usually caught up to the hives with original queens by mid-summer.  I don't attribute that so much to the vigour of the new queens but rather the fact that there was pent-up brood rearing power in the bees and hive stores during the brood interruption.

I have to consider my equipment.  I have only 45 more empty EPS boxes in addition to the 92 on hives now, and will need another 40 for the next split, to stay consistent.  I don't want to mix wood and EPS for brood chambers.  Supers, yes, but brood chambers, no.  I have made the switch and the bees do so much better in EPS that I have trouble thinking of using wood.  I'm going to have to sell hives next spring, so maybe some wood hives would be in order for that market.  I have the wraps for them.

The problem is whether to use excluders or not.  I have not been, but may have to start as I found that the queen loves to go up into the new combs enough to make preparation for wintering difficult.  If the season is short, then reversing is easy, but if it is late, reversing the new comb down takes place in October or even November and that is late for disturbing bees.  There is varroa management to consider as well.  Note to self: count the foundation on hand.

Since I like to winter in three or four boxes, I'll definitely be short if I have 90 or 100 hives going into winter.  My current 142 EPS boxes won't be enough.  I'll need another 160.

As for frames, I have plenty, but they many are full of honey.  I have only so may boxes of foundation and may have to get more.  Last year, the splits and drew and filled a box or two each.

This is long, but it gets more interesting at the end.

I was reading "Research Reviewed" in the latest Bee Culture and noticed something of interest.

The article synopsized this article:

--- begin abstract ---

The effects of different levels of dietary crude protein on the development, antioxidant enzymatic activity, and total midgut protease activity of honey bees were investigated in the study. A total of 30 colonies of bees with sister queens were used in the test. Dietary treatments were pure rape pollen (Control) and pollen substitutes (PS) with crude protein (CP) levels at 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, and 35% (designated as PS15, PS20, PS25, PS30, and PS35), respectively. We compared the effects of these diets on honey bees by measuring diet consumption, bee development (egg hatch, pupation success, and pupal weight), and the protein content of emergent adult bees, their antioxidant status and the activity of their midgut digestive proteases. Bees consumed significantly more (P < 0.001) natural pollen than any PS, and bees fed PS had similar diet consumption over the entire experimental period. However, the total protein intake was varied (P < 0.05). PS with a protein level about 30% was recognized as excellent quality diet for maximum body weight, highest protein content and antioxidant enzymatic activity, and PS with a protein rate about 35% exerted the greatest effect on increasing percentage of hatch and percentage of pupation. All these results indicate that PS appeared to be a valuable proteinaceous food approximated to the pollen, and 30?35% of dietary protein level was optimal to maintain the colony development.

-- end abstract ---

The Sheppard article states:

---begin excerpt ---

The control group received pollen of oilseed rape only and the other five were fed pollen substitute diets containing 15%, 20%, 25%, 30% or 35% crude protein. The pollen substitutes contained corn meal, soybean meal and corn gluten meal and, aside from the crude protein levels, were considered by the researchers to have "nutrient levels.. . similar to that of rape pollen."

AND most importantly,

The materials were fed in 500 gram patties (replaced as needed) that consisted of 40% of the various dry PS or pollen materials, 50% sucrose and 10% honey.  (emphasis added)


The researchers also found that the antioxidant status of bees was improved in the groups of colonies fed protein above the PS 15% level. The two groups of bees fed patties with dietary protein levels of 30% and 35% had significantly more midgut protease activity than the groups fed less crude protein (including the pollen fed group). Li and colleagues interpreted these results to suggest that the bees fed PS3O% and PS35% not only "ate more protein but also digested and absorbed more protein than others." In conclusion the researchers noted, "PS with a protein level of about 30 to 35% were recognized as an excellent diet for promoting bee

--- end excerpt ---

What is not emphasized is that the effective diets fed were NOT actually 30% and 35%, but actually, 40/100 x 30 or 35%. i.e. 12% and 14% based on actual patty composition.

As far as I know, most patty material on th ,market is right in that range, so this seems to be much ado about nothing.

We talk about false impressions that people get from articles in the press. Right now, there are beekeepers thinking that they should be seeking patties with 30 and 35% protein.

That would require a supplement with 87.5% protein! Normal ingredients run in the 40% range.

*** In fact, it seems that they did NOT test a feed with 35% protein, but rather _patties_ with 12 and 14% protein made from 30% and 35% protein feeds ***

There is a difference.

Don't you think it would have been nice if someone -- the researchers, the writer of the article or the editor -- had noticed that and mentioned it prominently?

Or maybe I am mistaken?

>I see your point. However we know from work done here that pollens with 30% protein are most desirable to have good robust, long lived bees, providing the amino acid profile is OK.

> Agreed, although my understanding is that bees will do just as well on lower protein pollens provided that the other, non-protein, components do not interfere, counter the benefit or make the feed unattractive.

> So a substitute with the same would work the same.

I don't see how that follows with any certainty. Read on...

> The sugar and honey will be consumed as carbohydrate, the same as happens naturally with nectar or honey.

I think we can assume that, although we must reserve some doubt in that all the constituents are necessarily consumed as a mixture AFAIK, and that could conceivably be of some importance, as discussed here previously.

At any rate, those constituents -- sugar and honey -- are not a real issue even if they do affect metabolization or utilization of the protein. They, along with water, are not indigestible or anti-nutrients, as may be the non-protein components of the supplements (and pollens) under consideration.

Water content of the patties was not mentioned in the study, BTW, unless "sucrose" means sucrose _syrup_. If water was an additional dilution, that further reduces the protein level of their patties. Patties on the market are analyzed by wet weight AFAIK.

Unfortunately, the study is behind a pay wall and I have not read the entire piece, but merely the abstract and the Bee Culture article describing it, so I do not have all the details. My issue here is mainly with the article, which I have read in its entirety. I may have further comments later if/when I do see the study in full. I apologize for not having yet read the study. I'm hoping my usual sources will slip me a copy. After reading the study I may have to eat some crow, but I doubt it.

Back to the issues: FWIW, IMO, a supplement with 30 to 35% crude protein to me seems a bit on the poor side, as both yeast and soy flour run around 40%.

Also -- to bring out one of my hobby horses -- crude protein level is a distraction from the real problem in supplementation: the non-nutrients and anti-nutrients which occur in both natural pollens and artificial diets. I think the focus on crude protein is a mistake and all the research focusing on that aspect is misguided.

As I pay more attention, I am increasingly appalled at how the media and we, the public, seem to accept any study that comes along without a critical examination of its actual worth or meaning. Many of these studies are designed to look at just one aspect of a topic, but are interpreted as having wider meaning. We are seeing far too much of that lately.

I'd like to see magazines offer articles that offer critical analysis of studies, and which put the studies into _context_, rather than merely paraphrasing them uncritically.

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Wednesday May 16th 2012
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These are the days when our bees really start to build and brood areas expand to the maximum.  If a queen is weak, we see it now.  Up until now, the bees and other factors have been limiting build-up, but now there is nothing limiting good colonies other than the egg-laying ability of the queen.  Brood patterns should improve and the square inches of brood in all hives should increase to a uniform maximum.

How can we compare colonies?  The easiest metric is measuring square inches of sealed brood.  Since worker brood is sealed for 12 days (See table below from Wikipedia), simply taking the square inches of sealed brood and dividing by twelve, then multiplying the result by the number of cells per square inch gives the daily egg laying rate of the queen over those twelve days.

For example, if there are 500 square inches of sealed brood, then, using the table on this page, and assuming a cell size of 5.3 mm, we get 26.5 cells per square inch or 13,250 total.  Divide by 12 days and we see our queen average 1,100 viable eggs per day over that period.  That is quite respectable.

A 6" by 12" oval has an area of  π x 6/2 x 12/2 = 56 in2.  500 in2/56 in2 = 9 such ovals or 4 frames with 6x12 ovals on each side and one with an oval on one side.

This is an approximation and simplification, but it suffices.  Using a piece of 1" wire mesh simplifies estimation if square inches are desired for calculation.

Larry Connor recommends to just estimate the fraction of each brood frame covered with sealed brood. and know what a full frame of brood -- top to bottom and side to side --would contain, and to add in your head as you go.  That method is quick and dirty and close enough for most purposes.

  • For example, a standard frame with a comb area of 17" x 8" and 5.3mm cells has 17 x 8 x  26.52 cells/in2= 3,600 cells per side. 

  • A Pierco standard would have 20% more, or 4,325 cells and

  • a PL100 should have about 4325 x 29.80/27.03 or about 4770 cells per side. 

BTW, that means a Permadent sheet in a wood frame has only 3/4 the cells that a PL100 has.  This would complicate estimating in a hive with mixed comb types (like some of mine).  Fortunately, all this estimating is just an approximation.

What it does mean, though, is that if your bees like the PL100s, you can run singles much better than if you use all 5.3 comb.  10 frames of PL100 give the same cell count as 13 Permadent or Ritecell.

Note that a frame with a one inch border of empty or otherwise unsealed cells around the sealed brood has only 2/3 of the sealed area there would be if all cells were sealed.

After an initial learning period, estimating sealed brood becomes simple and automatic and is the best way to compare queens.   One must remember though, that this method does not work until a queen has been laying long enough that some brood is emerging.  For new queens, estimating the open brood is the way to go.  Brood is in the open larva stage for 6 days (after hatching) so the same math applies.  The problem is that the open brood from a new queen is often scattered and hard to estimate since it is not always in an oval.

Any colony with a brood area much below the yard average indicates a deficiency in that queen or colony, so making an estimation of each colony can be worthwhile.  A carpenter's crayon marking on the lid can record the performance.  Crayon washes off easily with varsol later.

*   *   *   *   *

I got a call that my Optimus Black has arrived at Crossiron Mills, so I think I'll pick it up today.  I also need some more patties.

I drove to Airdrie and got another 5 boxes of patties of the 15% pollen variety.  I've lost track of how much I've fed so far.  I'll have to tally it again.  I think, six.  That is on the 22 original hives and just this spring.  There are now 46 hives and each has one or two patties on it and there are maybe 10 patties left in the sixth box.

From there, I went o the Dodge dealer, where Jason tried to sell me a 2008 Town and Country for $19,000.  It is fully loaded with leather, etc. and 98,000 km on the clock.  Tempting, but I passed -- for now.  I continued on to Crossiron Mills, where I went to the Koodo stand.  We began the purchase, but their system went down and I killed an hour at Lowes before Justin called to say it was ready to go.

I bought the Optimus Black, paid $157,  and we set it up.  I put a cheap talk and data plan on my old Optimus One for $25/month.  I use Koodo, so everything is month-to-month with no contract.  I hate phone companies, but so far Koodo has been excellent.

As I was finished there, the curber trying to sell me the black van called me and said he would sell for $11, 300.  (The other day, I had asked if he would sell for $11,300 after he said $11,500 was his bottom dollar, then we ran out of time).  I had intended to see him today, but things were running slow.  I told him that I have been thinking and that I had suggested too much. and that $11,000 was as high as I would go.

He bought the van in an auction, had a friend do some quick and dirty painting on the bumper and a minor ding, then advertised it for sale with a false description, pretending he had owned it since new.  It was actually a lease vehicle.  He lied about everything.

There are a lot of things wrong with this picture.  For one thing, what he is doing, or trying to do, is illegal and makes him an unlicensed dealer and subject to -- for one thing -- a fine of $100,000 and possible jail under the Fair Trade Act.

If he had at least licensed and insured it and driven it for a week, he would be in the clear, as he could claim he bought it and then decided to sell it after finding it did not suit him.  As for the false advertising, I doubt that he could wiggle out of that part.  If anyone reports him he is in big trouble.

As I was thinking this through, I had phoned AMVIC to enquire about the rules, out of curiosity and there is no doubt that he would be in trouble if reported.  I'm not inclined to do so, but I am also not about to pay him a profit for his foray into dishonest car dealing, either.

I figure the risks of buying this machine are about the same as if I bought it at the auction myself.  He paid $9,600 + $175+ $468 Tax, or $10,263, which is probably a  fair value.  He claims he paid $1,000 for the bad paint work -- it has two slight sags and who knows if the proper prep was done.  If he did, he is crazy.  He lied about everything else, so why would he not lie about that?  I'm guessing he may have paid about $200 for that paint job.

For another thing, since the vehicle is not licensed and insured, a buyer cannot test drive it or take it for a safety check.  That makes buying it like buying a pig in a poke.

One the other hand, a dealer has plates and insurance and will allow the vehicle to be driven before sale, plus a dealer is compelled to provide an honest history, to have a safety on all vehicles sold, and to remedy any issues before sale.  A dealer also usually adds a warranty of sorts and stands behind a sale.  Things have changed a lot in recent decades, and selling used cars is no longer a shady business.

I told him that I am still interested but at that lower price.  I have thought a lot and there are risks.

From there, I went to Costco, and as I walked in, I ran into Joe.  He had just picked up another batch of queens and was heading home, but doing some shopping along the way.  We had a visit and a hot dog.  I decided not to take any more queens, although the opportunity was in front of me and I could conceivably use a few.

I got home around six and did more setup on the new phone and other odds and ends.

He that fights and runs away, may turn and fight another day;
but he that is in battle slain, will never rise to fight again.

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Thursday May 17th 2012
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The weather has changed again and we have an overcast day with promise of rain. I spent the morning at my desk, then decided to go to Calgary to buy that van.  I stopped in Airdrie and looked at the 2008 Town and Country and wondered if I really want leather seats, now that I think about it.  They could be hot in the summer.  I like the other features, but am not crazy about the colour of the van, even that was my choice for my first and only new car purchase to date: a 1966 Ford Custom.

I realized that I was very tired and went to Wendy's for a coffee and sat and thought about things.  I got to thinking that I am bored and starting to obsess about things and wonder if I really want a newer van or am just using that for something to do.  Maybe I should just fix the bearing on the one I'm driving.

My perception of money is a funny thing.  Right off, I can afford to buy either van, so that is not an issue.  What is an issue is that I have trouble comprehending value for money.  I hate to spend money and that is why I have some.  Once it is spent, no matter for what reason, it is gone.

Here is the problem.  The van I have cost me $3,500 and I like it.  It has a trailer hitch.  It also has a bit of rust that is starting to show, a bad wheel bearing and a windshield with a bull's-eye where it does not matter.  There is some wind noise on the drivers side I have not been able to eliminate.  It does not have power tailgate, so I get my hands dirty opening it in winter.  Otherwise it is fine.  Oh, yes, the gas mileage is not quite what it should be and runs around 11.7 L/100 km.

My current choice is between a fully loaded 2008 Town and Country at $19,000 and a loaded 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan at $11,300.  One costs $7,700 more than the other and the cheaper one costs 3x the one I'm driving.  Neither has a trailer hitch.  The cheaper one does not have a power seat and I find I need one on long trips so I can change positions.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
 Winston Churchill

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Friday May 18th 2012
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I'm glad I have pollen patties on the hives today.  The weather is cool and wet and the bees are confined.  They won't be able to get out for a while and the pollen they have stored will be gone in a day.

The trees are now about 50% leafed out and the dandelions are finally appearing in greater numbers.  The flow should start next week.  My friends are supering their singles already.

I've quit worrying about chilling brood.  The hives are big enough to stand having their auger holes open.  Some could even be split again soon or reversed.  I still have the bottom entrances reduced to 3/8 x 2". 

I can can check the queens installed on the 11th today if it is warm enough.  They should be laying by now.  I intend to take my IR thermometer out with me to measure the internal hive temperatures at various points in  the hives.  I like to have the entire hive interior at as near as I can to 90 degrees F and it should be interesting to see how ell they are regulating in the cool weather. The adult bees are active and wall-to-wall in most of the upper boxes.  As the brood area increases, the brood provides some heat, but AFAIK is not able to increase metabolism like adult bees to control cluster temperature.

I notice that the bees in new EPS boxes with freshly drilled auger holes do not find the new white holes as attractive as holes which were drilled a year or more ago.  I have often wondered if new EPS gives off gases.  I know that I noticed a chemical smell when I stacked the newest boxes in the basement before painting them.  I try to leave new boxes out in the weather a few days before installing bees in them, so it is best to get the boxes delivered and ready a while before they are needed.  These ones did not get weathered as much as I like, but the bees are doing just fine.

I do not recommend waiting until fall to buy EPS boxes for wintering.  I have found the bees do much better if they have been in EPS for a while before winter.

The first year -- 2002 -- I used the EPS boxes, I lost a lot of hives, but I also used the EPS floors and lids and did not drill holes.  Moreover, I put the hivers into the new boxers just before winter. 

I have learned over time that wood floors and pillows with telescoping lids work best with these EPS brood boxes and that an auger hole in each brood box is essential for best performance.  I use my ordinary telescoping lids.  They do not fit down over the EPS boxes, but perch on top and pin down the edges of the pillow, allowing the pillow to loft enough to accommodate lots of patties.

I updated Selected Topics a bit.  I have neglected this site, other than the diary part, for a few years.

*   *   *   *   *

I had an eye appointment at 3 in Calgary, and decided to stop along the way to shop for vans again.  I drove a new Dodge Grand Caravan and must say it was pretty nice.  The price after, all was said and done, tax in came to about $31,000, but without navigation.  I did not realize that they still sell cars without.  It did have a power seat and lots of other goodies, but I want the full load if I am going to spend money.  I drove by the T&C dealer and he was in, but busy and I was running out of time.  I still find it hard to spend money on a vehicle.  I should change that wheel bearing and be done with it.  I'll be happy with my old red van again.

I had my eye test and was wondering what to do next when the phone rang.  It was Joe and they were wondering if I was home since he and Oene would be going by shortly.  They were also just leaving Calgary.   I said, no, I wasn't home, but Ellen would be glad to entertain until I could catch up if they went to Swalwell.

I was in southwest Calgary and 45 minutes behind them, so I got home around 6.  Ellen had put a shepherds' pie in the oven, so we had supper.  I went out after they left to see if I could check for queens, but by then it was too cool.

I did finally use the thermometer and noticed that the temperature on the top bars is around 65 to 75 degrees F in the morning.  I had expected higher temps in the centre at least, but the patties also were only around 75.  I also noticed that I need to improve the seal around the lids.  The pillow was not entirely pinned down on all sides on some hives because some of the lids I am using are a bit big.  I can screw a strip onto the the inner edge, I suppose, or pick other lids or use a rim of some sort, but keeping heat in would be helpful, I think.

Swarm Of Bees Delays
Rockies-Diamondbacks Game

It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.
Alec Bourne

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Saturday May 19th 2012
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It's almost 8 and I'm sitting here waiting for it to warm up a bit so I can change the wheel bearing and look at the bees.  The grass is growing, too and I can see six hours of lawn-mowing in my near future.

Everything is greening up.  The trees are leafing out, the dandelions are blooming, and ducks are enjoying the duckweed on the pond.


When we want something, we imagine that it is much better than what we have.  After we get it, we often find that our expectations were overly optimistic.  My new LG Optimus Black is, indeed, better than the Optimus One in many ways.  The processor is a little faster and the phone memory is much larger.  The Optimus One ran out of phone memory often and the offending processes could not use the microSD card, even though it was almost empty. 

The new phone has a larger and much brighter screen, but the phone is is harder to hold in one hand and harder to run with one hand.  It is slimmer, but taller and slippery and I worry about it falling out of my shirt pocket.  The One is rubbery and chubby, and stays put in pockets and the dashboard better. 

After using the new phone, I realise that the Optimus One is still a  pretty good phone.  I kept it active and Ellen is using it.  Surprisingly, she has taken to it, and actually likes it and uses it.  She is not a techie, but has been using the iPad a lot, so I guess the smartphone is not a big leap.  They are very similar.

I took a look at the bathroom floor again. I'd half-finished it when we had the cousins visit for a week  or two, so covered it with a rug and now want to finish it.  I see some tiles have shifted and I had to vacuum dust out of the cracks so I can shift tiles and grout them.  It'll take a few hours.  Maybe later.  I was in the groove when I quit and it takes a while to get back to where I the job is easy again.

*   *   *   *   *

I went out and mowed grass for two hours, then, when it warmed up, checked the splits.  Seven of the twenty-four are apparently queenless.  Two of those have queen cells.  One has recently emerged.

All the failures are from the second batch of queens.  They had waited a week after splitting, then had some poor weather after introduction.  I had gone through and broken down cells, but seem to have missed a few. 

In one case, the cells could have been started after I checked and added the queen.  I split on the 3rd and 4th and the cells of any eggs in these hives were not all sealed until nine days after, on the 12th or 13th.  I checked the hives and added the new queens on the 11th, so I wonder if the cells in that hive were from old larvae??  

The other day, It seems that I got enthused prematurely about mated queens.  Today's discovery mirrors my experience in the past when I was running bees commercially.  One time we would have 100% acceptance, and then the next time, we'd have poor acceptance and then the 'misses" would be a management problem.

Seven out of sixteen is a 44% failure rate and raises the cost of a successful queen in that batch to queen to over $45 -- and that is if the new queens laying now are not superseded.

Maybe I'm just really bad or unlucky when it comes to introducing queens or maybe a lot of commercial beekeepers just assume success and don't check their introduced queens?  I don't know, but I had 100% luck with the first ten and 44% failure with the last sixteen.   I'll give them a few more days and then check and re-combine the failures with queenright hives or give them a frame of larvae.  If I do recombine some, then the resulting hive can be split in a week or two, as soon as the queen in the combined hive lays throughout the former split.

If I had just let them raise their own queens, most would have laying queens this coming week, with much less work and much less expense.

If I had raised cells in advance, the success rate could be enhanced and the time required shortened.  Of course, that causes timing issues since the cells have to be ready at the right time, although with sufficient care, cells can be transferred any time, not just when ripe or before they are sealed.

Usually bees start emergency cells using larvae a day or two old, so that is Day 4 in the chart below.  De-queened hives may not start cells until the eggs all hatch though, so it may be three or four days after splitting before emergency cells are begun.  That may explain the failure of the second queen batch, even though I did break down any cells I found and I did look carefully.


So, counting from May 4th -- the last of the splitting was done that day -- emergency queens -- if I had not broken down cells -- would all be laying by the 27th, with some beginning on the 24th.   Usually around 80% are successful, and there is no queen expense and a lot less work.  At 80% success, I'd expect 5 failures: a little less than I am seeing here.  Why do I keep buying queens?  I know -- to get new stock into the outfit -- but I really don't need to.

This is the 19th, and the earliest queens have been laying for several days now.  The second batch of queens have just begun, and seven are duds.  Of the seven apparently queenless hives, two may have queens in a few days. 

At any rate, on average, I may have gained a week by using mated queens, but it has been a whole lot more work, worry, and expense.

My left thumb has been acting up.  The joint has been acting tricky.  It sorta clicks when it bends.  That effect comes and goes.  I was going to see the doctor about it, but the problem went away that day.  Then it came back.  I decided to try bee stings, so this morning, I carefully stung all around the thumb and then tried it.   It worked just fine. 

Shortly after, I realized I had done the wrong thumb, so after supper, I went back out and did the other one.  I don't recall the first one hurting, but the second one really felt the stings and swelled a bit.  Let's hope the "treatment" works.

I suppose I need to start thinking about raising a few cells for splitting in a week or two.  I plan to go east for a while in June.  I covered the topic around this date in recent spring notes.

Fathers send their sons to college either because they went to college or because they didn't.
L. L. Henderson

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