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Sunday July 1st 2012
 
   Canada Day 
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Fortunately, I did not get sunburned yesterday, even spending the better part of the day in full sun.  The UV index was 7, but I applied sun block several times, as I always do the first few times I go without a shirt and I guess it worked in spite of a number of dips into the lake through the day.  I also slept well last night, but before I did, I had to take an ibuprofen for sore muscles.   Sailing, loading and unloading and swimming 800 feet used muscles I have not worked for a while.  I should get more active.

I am also noticing some arthritis lately in a thumb, and a foot.  It began with what I thought was plantar fasciitis, but I am now suspecting arthritis.  Bee stings supposedly are the cure, but never have seemed to work for me.  Of course I have not been bothered much by arthritis until recently, so maybe the stings were protecting me.  When I get home, I plan to get myself stung and see if it helps. 

On the other hand, I have been a fairly heavy drinker from time to time over the years and lately have not been drinking at all, except very occasionally, and recently, coincidentally, I am experiencing signs of arthritis.  My dry spell is not due to any particular determination on my part; I have just not been around any booze. 

Anyhow, what I find interesting about this is that, as mentioned, I have been noticing joint pains and triggering in my right thumb and the foot pain, but after I went over to John's last week and we polished off several bottles of red wine and bottle of scotch whiskey, my pains disappeared.  Is this the cure?

Today I return to Alberta, so I have nothing planned except clean up and pack.  I lift off at six and land at ten, so I should be home before midnight.  Tomorrow, I should be getting boxes ready and working the bees, but I know my plans won't work out exactly as envisioned.  I imagine there will be lots of little things to distract me.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Mom drove me to the airport in plenty of time for my flight so I had time for supper before the lift-off.  I decided to see if red wine helps the sore thumb joint, so  I had red wine with supper and a shot of scotch whiskey on the first flight.  It did not seem to make any difference in my thumb.  Next comes the bee sting trial.

The flights were pretty much routine and I was at the gate 35 minutes late, around 10:45. On landing in Calgary, we had to sit on the runway for twenty minutes waiting for a lightning storm to pass over before we could approach the ramp.  When we finally disembarked, I found my taxi, patiently waiting at the exit.  I had reserved in advance and we kept in contact by cell phone.

Some may recall that I went without a cell phone for several months a year or two back after firing Bell as my provider, just to see what it is like.  At one time, before cell phones, nobody could imagine that they would be all that useful or desirable, but I have had phones for beekeeping and personal use since they were the size of an average woman's purse.  Going without was not easy in a world that has become accustomed to instant communication.

In-flight, I started watching The Hunger Games, but by the first few minutes decided it was going to be really, predictably, awful, so quit.  Later, when I glanced at the screens around me where people were watching it, I decided that my instincts were correct.  It looked like a bad B movie.  I suspect that a lot of money went into it, though, and it seems to be a buzz these days.  So, I watched Moneyball and part of 1000 Words instead.  Moneyball turned out to be much better than I expected.  1000 Words, not so much. 

In Airdrie, my van started right up and the drive home was uneventful although sheet lightning periodically lit up the country like daytime.  I noticed that the jungle of blooming weeds that we used to see in the road ditches at this time of year are no longer in evidence.  The road maintenance have sprayed them out and all there is now is grass.

I arrived home at 12:01 and after greeting the excited animals and my wife, went straight to bed.

If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. That's the lesson.
That lesson alone, will save you a lot of grief. Even doubt means don't.
Oprah Winfrey

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Monday July 2nd 2012
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After three weeks without any attention, I was curious how the hives would look.  As expected, a few were hanging out, and many had new comb on the top bars, and at least one had swarmed, judging by the new colony in an equipment stack (left). but the splitting success looks good.  After going through 28 of them, now, at five PM, I have only found four which are apparently queenless. That is 14% and not at all bad considering that I spent no money on queens the last split and that I can use the duds to boost the weaker hives, then split again in a few days.

   

After working through 30 hives, I moved three pallets to the location north of the hedge to make more room.  I did the move at mid-day while bees were flying. I'm not worried about losing bees back to the original location since I am try to avoid making honey and plan to split any hive that gets strong enough in the next week or two.  After that, it gets too late to expect reliable wintering for late splits, especially if the season ends early as it can around here.  Some years the flows go on until late October.  Other years, it is all over in August.

I see we had 1-1/2 inches of rain according to the gauge in the three weeks I have been gone.  This is a wet spring.  Some years, the grass has stopped growing and turned brown by this date.

After supper, I drove to Strathmore to get groceries and look at a boat.  I had a good visit with the owner and then picked up groceries and was home around ten.  On my return, I stopped in the bee yard to see how the bees are doing and see that many are now hanging out.

I see no signs of skunks which is good because they would do a lot of damage with so many bees outside.  The hive at right is one of two sitting where the pallets I moved were sitting and has picked up many of the bees which drifted back.  They were already quite packed, so what I see indicates that the drift-back from the twelve hives I moved was not too bad.  Compare that to other hives in the yard, below. All these hives have been split twice, BTW, and many have raised their own queens. Many badly need splitting or boxes -- or both

.

Things do not change; we change.
Henry David Thoreau

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Tuesday July 3rd 2012
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I was planning to go to Delia to get boxes this morning, but we had a heavy rain and I'm thinking that the roads will be very muddy.  I decided to wait until it dries up.  I ordered more of the Meijer EPS boxes and 1,000 or so Pierco black plastic frames and I need them ASAP.

It's noon now and the sky is clearing, so maybe I can go later.  Most of the trip is on pavement, but the last 8 miles to their honeyhouse is on gravel and mud.

I'm up to 70 hives now and expect to have another 30 shortly, so this morning I decided to start advertising.  I'm running  a Bee News ad and made up this page on this site to use for reference.  As it stands, there is the distinct possibility of putting 100 hives into winter.

When it cleared up after one in the afternoon, I went out to measure boxes and the trailer to calculate my load.

I visited my main yard and saw clusters of bees hanging out near where I had removed pallets, then visited the new yard.  The bees are not flying in either yard due to the high wind following the rain and it is quite obvious that the hives I moved did, in fact, lose a lot of their flying bees as the new yard (right)  had no bees hanging down, but the old yard had clusters of waiting bees below the bottom frames, visible through the entrance.  It seems that the loss of flying bees takes place over a number of hours or days and is not immediately obvious.

At some times of year, hives can be moved short distances with no appreciable bee loss.  Those times are generally after the hives have been confined for days by weather.  It is easy to tell those times by watching what the bees do when moved.  If the time is right, any bees that come out will follow the hive to the destination, rather than just flying up and away.

This attrition could be a concern, even though there is brood hatching to replace the lost bees, since some hives have been queenless for periods of time and may not recover as quickly.  I've seen in the past where colonies which lost flying bees did not recover for several generations, probably due to reduced pollen foraging for a period of time.  Patties may help.  I don't know, since I have not tried to compensate that way in any measurable way.  It seems there is no substitute for moving the hives two miles to prevent drifting.  Screening them three days may be an option, but I am not set up for that.

An hour and a bit later, the van and trailer were ready, with all the necessary supplies like ropes, screws, boards, electric screwdriver, etc. on board and the seats removed.  After driving an hour, I arrived at Meijers' honeyhouse and Oene and I loaded 100 boxes, with frames into the van and trailer.  As it turned out, I got 40 into the van and sixty on the trailer.  I could easily have carried at least thirty more on the trailer space-wise, and with some additional strapping, probably 50 more.

I like to take the time to secure the load really well.  Tarps ensure that any thing that squirms loose will be restrained and not just fly off the load, but must be held tight or they will fray quickly from flexing and flapping in the wind at highway speed. 

Even if the load is well tied down, I stop periodically to check that all is still well.  Trailers ride differently from the tow vehicle and shocks like railway tracks or potholes or highway cracks that my not be felt by the driver can shift loads, as can sudden stops or even light braking, especially on washboard or rough roads.  The stop interval increases if there is no sign of trouble.  One mile, ten miles, 50 miles...

The gravel roads were still a bit wet on the way up, so I had driven slowly the last eight miles to reduce the spray but still noticed some mud on the front of the trailer.  Gravel rash on the load is always an issue as well.  It is easy to break the trailer clearance lights with rocks thrown by the back wheels any speed over 25 MPH, since I do not have good mud flaps on the van. 

Flaps help, but they do not stop all rocks. As it is, even with due care to the road surfaces, I noticed gravel dents on the front boxes when I stopped to check the load.  Even on pavement, without a good flap, the occasional gravel or rock hit on the trailer is quite probable, as rocks are dropped by vehicles and gravel is kicked up from gravel shoulders.  There is also constant bombardment by grit.  A infrequent as rock hits may be on pavement, they can do real damage, so a good flap and attention to speed and conditions can save a lot of damage.

FWIW, rocks are merely redirected, not stopped by standard hard rubber flaps and may not be slowed down much.  They are deflected down and can then ricochet back up and do damage.  To prevent gravel damage to towed vehicles or trailers, there are special brush-style rock flaps on the market that do stop rocks from hitting the towed unit with any force.  They generally hang across the entire back of the towing vehicle and work by grabbing and tangling any rocks thrown by the tires, then dropping them once they are stopped, rendering them mostly harmless to the trailer.

Oene and I agreed to meet in Drum for supper and drove separately to Fred and Barney's restaurant for the buffet.  After supper, I returned home and lay down for a nap.  I slept soundly for over an hour and that was it for the day.

Choices are made in brief seconds and paid for in the time that remains.
Paolo Giordano

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Wednesday July 4th 2012
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Today I have to work the bees.  As well, Jean and family will be here for lunch. 

The boxes I picked up yesterday are full of frames of waxed Pierco and although they are not painted and don't have auger holes, I think I'll put them on as-is for the time being.  I have only a week or so before I go back east.  The forecast is for showers and wind, so all things considered, I'm not sure how much I'll get done today.

Cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers early this morning. Clearing this afternoon. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High 20. UV index 6 or high.

I spoke with Nick at Pierco just before the frames were shipped and he was saying that they were in the process of waxing the frames with fresh Canadian beeswax.  I'm not sure what is so special about Canadian wax except maybe less chemical content, but the frames have a good strong bee smell which was very obvious in the van as I drove home with the boxes last night.  I'm sure the bees will love them.

I've known Nick a long time.  Back when Pierco first appeared on the market and was not well-accepted, I tried to get a distributorship, but did not persist and Tim got it.  Now the Alberta Co-op handles them.  At first the one-piece frames were not widely accepted, but a few of us asked for black frames and Nick made them for us.  Now Pierco have caught on over the years and no they are widely copied by competitors.  For some reason, Nick chose 5.25 mm as the cell size for his standard frames (not so for the shallow ones which have larger cells), which is closer IMO to the ideal of 5.2  mm that Root settled on than most other commercial foundation at that time.

*   *   *   *   *   *

FWIW, I am testing the PF100s currently and they look the same as the Pierco, but have 5.0 mm cells.  I have yet to decide what I think, but if 5.0 turns out to work well, the more compact brood nest they permit  may well prove to be an advantage here in the north

(5.252/5.02 = 10% more brood than Pierco per square inch or 5.42/5.02 = 17% more than other foundation).

> You once had a button on your page to remove the left panel.
> As you can see from the attachment it has been duplicated on your sales page.

Yes, but then I narrowed the content panel and also screens widened. Did you use it often? Is it still necessary?

The problem here is that I coded the link to open in the same frame, rather than a new page. I fixed it after you pointed it out.

> I notice that you say August could be the end of your honey flow over there,
> that is a very short season.

Yes that happens occasionally, but lately,. we have had our first killer frost in October. Nonetheless, we have to assume that the season could be short. Drought or extended rain can also shorten the season.

> Do you get any flow from the Ivy, which can be a problem here in the UK,
> although I do take a crop of Ivy honey sometimes which will always sell
> as some people like it.

No ivy here at all. We are a prairie, continental climate at 3,000 feet above seal level with extensive grain , alfalfa and oilseed farming. I should post a picture of the nearby terrain.

Maybe I'll go onto the roof sometime and do a panorama.

Thanks for pointing out the coding error.

As I was writing, Jean phoned.  Nathan has a fever, so lunch is off and the lasagna goes back into the freezer.  Now the bees own me for the day.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Not so fast.  As soon as I wrote that, Carolyn phoned.  I had promised to help her move her flagpole with the forklift.  Her flag is the one we watch out our window for wind speed and direction and a tree has grown to the point where it gets snagged.  So, I spent an hour pulling it out and trying to make a new hole.  I wound up driving in a steel fencepost for a pilot hole, then pulling it out so we could soften the soil further with water, then pulled a few dead trees while waiting for the water to go down in the hole.  The water is going down very slowly, so I'll go back later today.

Next, I went out and put boxes on all the hives that were hanging out and smoked the bees up.  I don't know if that is a good idea or not, but I figure if I smoke them up, they will at least go into the new super for a while.  These are the old bees and not the ones I expect to draw the combs, but I reckon a bee is  a bee is a bee when it comes to clustering on a wet day and I want them to occupy the new box.  One super of foundation provides enough room for a lot of bees.

I used 15 of the brand new supers in the main yard and have not checked the other two yards yet.  There were 41 supers jammed into the van as it turns out.  The weather is windy and cool.  The bees are confined today and working them may not be the best option, other than supering those showing the need.

No sooner did I write the above and have lunch when I noticed that it has warmed up outside.  It is still very windy, but I went over to check and found the ground had softened, so I dug out the hole and planted Carolyn's flagpole, then checked the hives I supered a few hours ago.  The bees are up in most of them and when I pull a frame I can see signs that the bees are working the foundation already.  There are telltale white patches where they have begun to work the wax with their mandibles.

Some of the hives are making wax now and some are not.  Once hives have a foraging force and the nectar comes in, they make wax.  If they are just sitting on honey, regardless of how much, they don't make much wax.

Megan unloaded the 60 boxes from the trailer into the basement in preparation for painting them. I'm hoping she will begin painting them tomorrow. She has never painted before, so I'll have to teach her.   She's a smart kid with a great attitude, so I don't mind taking the time.

I'll see how soon I need these boxes.  So far, I am okay, but colonies always look smaller on cool days.  They may look bigger tomorrow when it warms up.  I'll use them all before I go east a week from now. Wow!  Time flies.

At this time of year, all the waiting is over and the bees perform -- or they don't.  Last year was a bit of a bust.  I started with ten hives and went into winter with twenty-four.  My splits just did not work last year, for whatever reason.  I now suspect that undetected varroa mites were a factor.  Medium to high mite loads can cause big queen problems.  I also suspected new EPS boxes, but this year I have had less of a problem.  I did have some trouble with one batch of mated queens and several hives did not make cells earlier on, but this last split seems -- so far -- to be better.

I kept a few in the van and used four more boxes on the yard down the trail.

Medhat sent out a survey and a registration form while I was away and I found it in the pile of mail when I returned.  This year, he included a postpaid stamped envelope.  What a great idea! (I suggested it some time back).  These days, who can find a stamp or an envelope?  I filled it out and put it in the mailbox immediately.  I think there was an online option, but this was dead simple.

In doing so, I realised that I am very atypical.  The questionnaire was very good (I attribute this this to Sam's insights).  For me, no treatments for nosema or tracheal mites and virtually 100% overwintering success.  No Apivar either.  (What is winter loss?  I did combine two colonies at the end of the winter due to queenlessness and one colony was found to be without bees during the winter).

Also, I don't extract.  Maybe that is the secret.  Maybe most beekeepers rob too much honey and don't replace it quickly enough with sugar.  Maybe feeding patties all the time makes a difference, too. Maybe oxalic vaporization really works.

Maybe I am just lucky.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool
I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Steve Jobs

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Thursday July 5th 2012
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Today looks like a good bee day in spite of possible thunderstorms.  Hot, humid days are often good nectar days.

This morning, I am expecting Megan to paint boxes, but it occurs to me that maybe I should just get her to prepare and stack them for me to spray paint.  That could be much faster and easier since they are full of frames.

I like to bevel the top and bottom edges of the Meijer boxes in the manner of BeeMax boxes and this is easily done by applying pressure while quickly running a round, smooth object held at 45 degrees along the edges.  This compresses the EPS.  I use an extension piece from a 1/2" socket set.  The compressed bevel makes the edges harder and also easier to separate with a hive tool than the square edges the Meijer boxes come with.

The sample boxes -- Swienty and BeeMax -- given to Beaver for use in designing the mold had bevels, but for whatever reason, the mold Beaver had made does not have the bevels.  Also, the end-play for the frame top-bars is a little greater than in the sample boxes.  Otherwise the dimensions are perfect.  The extra end play is not a huge problem, but should be repaired by the mold maker, along with adding the bevels before too many more boxes are made since they deviate from the samples. 

The extra 3/16" of top bar end play can allow some top bars to slide endwise and frame shoulders to interlock if the frames in the box are at all off-square, making aggravating work to extricate them from one another.  The end play also means that there will be a larger bee space between the end bars and the box at one end than the other.  Good modern bee equipment is manufactured to precision standards.  There is really no excuse for this deviation from spec. and it needs to be fixed before tens of thousands of boxes are made.

These are minor issues and do not affect the utility of the boxes much, if at all.  A problem that emerged in one early production run, though, was an inconsistency in density which caused some boxes to be less strong than the first samples and some broke when subjected to rough handling.  When we got the first samples, Joe threw them around the paved parking lot to test them, and they stood up well, so it seems that this one run was defective.  Beaver promised to fix the problem.

I suppose that any production process can have a few bugs at the beginning, but given the small issues with the mold, the production failure, and slow delivery of orders, in my opinion Beaver could do much better.  I trust these issues will be solved over time, and despite the minor issues, all the Meijer boxes I have seen so far seem comparable to the Swienty version and vastly superior to the BeeMax boxes that have served me well for ten years now.  Meijers now have thousands of the new boxes in commercial beekeeping use and they seem happy, too, and not bothered at all by these minor issues.

In addition to beveling the edges, I also drill a 1" hole front and back with centre 3" up from the bottom and install Caplugs.   I am not sure I have enough plugs and do not want to have the holes open in boxes full of foundation since bees do not draw foundation well near open holes, so may or may not drill them today.  If I don't though, I'll be finding boxes that lack holes later when I need them and have to drill occasional holes when I run across them while working the bees.

Well, I drove to town to get more paint and Ellen phoned.  Megan, it turns out, injured here hand at school and was unable to keep doing the job of rounding the corners, so I have to decide what to do.   I can use the boxes as-is and get the beekeeping done, or spend a day on the boxes and have everything right.  I can also just paint them as-is without rounding the corners.  I have an eye examination this afternoon, so that will interrupt things, too.

I decided to bevel and paint the boxes that are in the basement and be done with it.  I'll probably drill them, too.  It takes a little over a minute to bevel a box and there are about 60 here.  There are the ones I put on already and the ones stacked at the quonset, too, but I will ignore them for now,

*   *   *   *   *   *

That is what I did, and all I accomplished all day was to get 61 boxes ready for use plus have my eyes examined mid-afternoon.  Painting boxes is a big job.  I am wondering if I would have been better off just splitting with the boxes as they cam and not off beveling and painting the boxes.  The day might have been better spent.

When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision.
Lord Falkland

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Friday July 6th 2012
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Here comes a really hot day and ideal bee weather.  I have work to do, checking, splitting and supering.  The day began cloudy with a heavy dew, but now, at nine, it has cleared and conditions are ideal for working the bees.  I don't much like to start opening hives too early, as the bees are late risers and they can be cross and sluggish early in the day, but it is time to get going right now and I have everything ready -- at last.

*   *   *   *   *   *

At noon, I have been out three working bees for 2 and half hours and have left 18 hives in my wake.  I am going through them quickly and leaving them all as doubles -- a box of bees with brood and sometimes a queen, plus a box of mostly foundation.  The queenless ones should have a queen by the end of the month and enough time to raise one brood cycle before the earliest likely killer frost.  August 20th has been the early date twice in my memory.

If frost is that early and the hives stall, I'll have to combine some for winter, but If luck holds, then maybe 80% might be good enough to winter.  I have not counted, but I think I must have about 85 stands of bees right now and the number is climbing.  I notice I now have two three swarms in the stacks.

For me, swarms are not necessarily a bad thing unless they leave the yard.  Swarming hives raise good queens and swarms perform well.  I'm raising bees and trying not to make honey.

After lunch I had a one-hour nap and went back out.  The sun is hot overhead and there is no wind in the yard.   A Noel Coward phrase about mad dogs and Englishmen came to mind in.  I worked until four and decided to take a break.  I count 33 hives done now, with at least twice as many to go.

The fields around here are turning yellow with canola bloom, so I have to make sure the hives are not too strong, and also that they have space.

It is amazing what a few bugs can do when conditions are right.  Ellen was wondering what cuts circular holes in the leaves of her rosebush.  As she watched, a little bee came and cut out a circle and flew away.  The whole operation only took seconds.

I have a week to finish with the bees so they are good for at least two weeks before I go back east and two of those days have other appointments booked.

There are still 39 boxes to paint and at the current rate, I may be using them all, so I drove to town and got more paint before the store closed at 6.

After supper, I worked until 8:30 and counted the finished hives: 43 is the count, with 10 to go in this yard.  There are 16 to work in the south yard and  12 in the north yard, for total of 38 to do.  I'm half done.  I'm guessing that I'll have about 80 when done.  How many will be worth wintering is anyone's guess right now.

I have skunk.  When I went out after supper, there was a little skunk eating some scrapings that had gotten onto the ground.  Grubs are skunks' natural food, so the larvae in the scrapings must have been a treat.  This skunk was not used to stings and left after several bees found him/her.  I'm worried, though since I have bees hanging out of quite a few hives.  I smoked them in before leaving the yard, but doubt they will stay in.

This year, I raised the hive pallets up onto a second pallet to raise the entrances as I have heard that skunks don't like to stand up to eat bees.  The get stung on the underside and that bothers them -- apparently.  We'll see.

Hi Allen,

The little bee that cuts circular holes in Ellen's rose bush leaves is a native bee called the leaf cutter bee. She will stuff a circular piece of cut leaf into an appropriately sized hole (in a log, or your siding, or a fence post, or the end of a cut or broken twig after she chews out the center pith), where it acts as an end plug. Then she cuts a slightly more elongated circle which is rolled into a tube and stuffed in after the plug. She packs in a bit of pollen for "baby food", and lays an egg. Then another circular plug to seal the cell, another tube, more pollen, another egg, another plug, and so on, until the hole she has chosen is filled completely. She will stop for a drink of nectar for herself as needed, and will rest in one of the nest holes, but most of her short lifespan is spent filling holes with capsules of leafy tubes, pollen, and eggs.

The eggs will hatch as larvae, and the larvae spin cocoons where they usually overwinter, becoming adult leaf cutters and chewing out of their leafy nests when the weather has warmed up sufficiently the following year. The native leaf cutter bee that visits rose bushes is a different species than the imported alfalfa leaf cutter bee which has been commercially "domesticated" to lay eggs in huge man-made nesting stations with scores of drilled out holes that a farmer erects in his alfalfa field.

The little cocoons are often harvested, kept chilled, and then brought to appropriate temperature approximately 3 weeks before alfalfa blooms the following year, to ensure hatching of the bees at the right time for alfalfa pollination. The newly hatched alfalfa leaf cutter bees will also make nests and lay eggs in the nesting stations provided in the alfalfa field.

Leaf cutter bees that favor rose bush leaves will use a variety of leafy material to make their nests, especially if roses are not available - the ones in my yard seem to favor the petals of the common yellow poppy.

Catherine

I encountered the imported variety back in 2000.  See Friday July 21, 2000.  Nice to know we have a native leaf cutter.  There are many, many varieties of bees around that people never notice.

In  the evening, I decided to reserve my flight east next week and  to call Air Canada to use a flight credit I have had on hand for some time.  I had tried to do so once before and been on hold for sixteen minutes of torture until I gave up.  On hold, customers are subjected to looping ads blasted at high volume and accompanied by a n annoying jingle.  Even on speakerphone, it is insulting as one cannot just turn it off or down -- or risk missing the agent when and if she/he comes on the line.

This time it took a half-hour and when the agent came on, she said she could not honour the price I had called to reserve, which was on my screen, because it had changed during the last five minutes of my hold. 

Moreover I could not speak to a supervisor and was referred to the website to contact Customer "Service".   As it turned out, there is no link there for general complaints and the form I chose to "send email" 404ed after I spent  quite a while carefully and politely detailing the problem. 

I finally found another link that generated real email and submitted my comments  I have not heard back.

This isn't good or bad. It's just the way of things. Nothing stays the same.
Real Live Preacher

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Saturday July 7th 2012
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The sun is up, the dew seems fairly light, and the day is predicted to be hot, so I'm going out to get started early today.  I'm about half done working the hives.

I'm starting to think that I'm crazy to have so many hives and keep buying new equipment.  What is an easy job turns quickly into a burden as the numbers  go up, especially in a small operation with no staff and without streamlined, standardized procedures.

  • A few hives can be managed in a morning every week or two. 

  • 20 take a day or two now and then. 

  • 50 hives are several days work every other week. 

  • 100 can use up an entire week every other week

  • 250 can keep one person busy full-time. 

  • The maximum that one person can handle comfortably in my experience is around 800.

These numbers are not cast in stone and depend a lot on the level of investment and the beekeeping and organizing ability of the operator as well as the season.  Some people are much more fussy about painting and repairing equipment.  A heavy honey flow means more extracting, more barrel-filling, more trucking, more everything.  A bad season means more feeding and more bee problems and more disease management.

I find myself crossing the line between too few hives to keep me entertained and so many hives that I am being pushed by their needs, at least as I perceive them. 

Readers here are privy to my ponderings and are probably very aware of my inconsistencies and oversights, especially as they look back to previous seasons and see how far off the mark my perceptions and expectations can be.

My current problem is that maintaining constant hive numbers is not easy, especially since honey production is not in the plan.  To avoid plugging up, foundation must be added and splits must be made whenever the hives reach the size where they may plug.  Some years this may mean quite an increase.  Other years the increase may be less.

Any excess hives can be sold if customers can be found or combined in fall.  If two or more hives are combined in fall by simply stacking them on one another, the resulting hive will adjust to a good wintering size and the resulting hives will winter with near-100% success in the four boxes and be splitable fairly early in spring.

As it stands, I am reaching the point where the bees are keeping me busier than I want to be and also needing more locations off-site, requiring trucking and outyards.

Will I make money?  I should, if I have customers at decent price.  I'm spending lots on new boxes and queens this year, but have only brought in a little over $1,000.  If I have 70 hives and figure they are worth $350 each when they are ready for sale (EPS boxes and good frames and heavy with feed). Then they value out at $24,500.  The bee boxes and frames alone in 70 hives cost me $5,250.  The feed would cost $7,000 to replace.  Then there are floors and lids and the labour.  Of course, I may not get $350 each and I will have to wait until next spring to have many sales, at which time I can expect to  have lost as many as 20%, so although this business looks attractive, there is risk.

If I ran the same 22 hives I started with for honey, assuming I divided them into 35 hives and got 150 pounds per hive at $1.60 per pound, the income would be $8,400, less the cost of extracting, which I won't estimate here.  Hmmm.  There is only $1,400 difference after the winter loss.

Sometimes I think I should just give up and make honey.  In many ways it is much easier, if not for the extracting.  If I can reliably farm that job out, it would make a huge difference.

I finished the main yard by 10:30 and count 54 hives there.  I now have the 12 in the north and the 17 in the south to do.  That looks like the rest of the day for me.  It is getting hot out and I may siesta again.

*   *   *   *   *   *

I lay down for a nap after lunch and awoke to the doorbell.  Ruth came by and that was the end of the nap.  I got up and went out to look at the bees in the north yard.

I had moved these 12 hives there at mid-day on the 2nd after splitting some of them in the morning of the same day.  I reported at the time that I was not too worried about bees drifting back due to the short move, but on examination at the same time of day exactly 5 days after, I see that some of these hives have very few adult bees, so I think I did some damage.  They are definitely not splitable.

I have to find a better way and it looks like either moving two miles or screening them for three days will be the answer.  Screening is work and risks suffocation and moving out and back is work as well.

I assume that some and maybe most of the adults in these hives are out flying as it is hot today and there is bloom, but there are fewer bees than I like to see.  The hives have lots of brood and I'd split them except that the bee population is far too low.  I am hoping that there is enough brood heat and adults at night that the sealed brood will not be harmed.

On examining the brood, I see that in the queenless splits of this group, the youngest brood is a very small larva.  Cells around them are polished, but empty.  A few eggs can still be seen and no queen cells appear to have been started. 

I have observed previously that the bees have not been starting queen cells until the eggs are all hatched.  It could be that these eggs I see are not viable?  All eggs should have hatched by now.  The rule is...

  • 3 days as egg

  • 6 days as a larva and

  • 11 days as a pupa

with a range of 18 to 22 days. This is day 5.

I quit work after about ten minutes, finding the sun far too hot for me.  I'll wait until it cools down a bit. I did not get around to stinging myself on that thumb.

It is still hot and I'm not ambitious and Joe is just back from Europe, so I called Meijers to come for supper.  I owe them some money for the boxes and frames, plus some queens, so I'll try to remember to settle up.

I saw my first varroa today when removing some burr comb which was mostly drone pupae.  In twenty pupae there just one, solitary varroa was visible.  I should put some drop boards under a few hives.  I have not been monitoring since last January

At that time I was satisfied that I had pretty good control from the oxalic vapour treatments applied previously and I have not seen any signs of varroa since until now, but finding any varroa in drone brood is a warning sign that they may be approaching harmful levels.

One single, isolated varroa sighting like this is a random occurrence and gives no real hint of actual varroa loads, especially since I have been scraping burr comb and separating boxes over the past week without seeing any, so I won't worry to much until I see another, but it is time to begin monitoring and planning fall treatments -- or other earlier interventions if indicated.

An executive is a person who always decides; sometimes he decides correctly, but he always decides.
John H. Patterson

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Sunday July 8th 2012
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I see a stinker of a hot day coming up.  I have only two small yards to work through now and should get to work before it gets too hot out there.

For some reason, I woke up with no aches and pains this morning.  Even in my foot, which is usually stiff and sore is OK.  This turn of events is surprising since last night I had to take an ibuprofen for shoulder and rib pains in order to get to sleep.  I've had something affecting me lately with pains showing up here and there, with some being a bit debilitating.  They come and go.  Right now, they are mostly gone. Odd.

I went out and looked at the hives and then counted the swarms in the stacks.  There are four.  I split two of them, but am thinking that the splits may be too small.

While I was out there, I also decided I am always working at something and should take some time off.  I've quit moderating BEE-L and have not been writing for the list lately, but am too much on-task working my bees while home.  When I go east, I have the Cloud 9 project and my sailboat to work on.  I've loaded myself down with work.  Ellen has relatives coming from Europe in August and that is a stress for me, too.

The problem with dealing with my bees is that I am away a lot and don't know exactly how much space to give them.  Add to that the fact that my brood combs are largely full of feed, and I have a problem.

I've bought 100 boxes of foundation and the bees are accepting the new Pierco very nicely, with no stray comb so far, but I don't know if 100 boxes will be enough for the next three weeks.  I don't want to over-super the hives, especially with foundation, but I don't want to plug them either.  I have enough fat combs already.

I'm going to have to uncap the fat combs and feed back the 'honey' I get from that process since some of it is doubtlessly from syrup feeding in past years.  I hate the idea of having to do that.,  I can use a knife or I wonder if I can find a hobby uncapper like a jiggler.  I suppose I could just use a cappings fork and scrape them flat, leaving the wax and honey on the surface then place them into a hive for cleanup.  Actually, that may be what I'll do.  When we extracted, that was what we did: level them with the fork, allowing the drippings to fall into the extractor.  This could work just as well.

The day was too hot to work bees comfortably, but I did find mowing grass quite pleasant, dressed in only cut-offs.  I mowed some areas which had grown up while I was away.

I read BEE-L from time to time, but nothing there really interests me enough o write.  The list is getting repetitive.  Part of the problem is that people don't use the archives.  They are clogged with extraneous material and threads are broken by the small log size.

After supper, things cooled down and I mowed the south yard, then started splitting there.  The hives were heavy and bees were hanging out.  The first several hives I split were queenless or had a young queen just beginning to lay.  I made three splits, gave a box of foundation, then added some young brood from a nearby hive.  I worked until 10 o'clock and quit.  The bees get crawly when the sun sets.  There is more to do there, but not today. When I left there were 19 hives.  Add the 12 in the north plus the 54 and the 4 swarms and the total is now 81.  All but 4 are in EPS boxes.

A weak man has doubts before a decision, a strong man has them afterwards.
Karl Kraus

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Monday July 9th 2012
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Today, I was up at 5 and off to Red Deer for an MRI.  That took until 9.  After leaving there, I was driving north to Lacombe to pick up Mckenzie when I passed a chiropractor sign and decided to stop.  The office was not busy, so I had a checkup and an adjustment. 

Recently, I have had a pain in my right side which took me to the doctor, and which was the reason for my MRI.  On reflection, it occurred to me that it could possibly be a referred pain from a mid-spine lockup which I have experienced periodically in the past.  A good chiropractor can fix it in a jiffy.  My sciatica has also been giving me more trouble that usual lately, so I am overdue for a visit to a chiropractor.  My usual chiropractor had moved some time ago and I have not found a really good one since.  Why not try this one?

He seemed pretty good, did some adjustments, and sent me back to the same imaging facility for a series of spinal x-rays.  An hour later, he phoned me with a report: I have some arthritic degeneration throughout the spine, which I already knew, but which is now completely documented and he had some specific recommendations.

IMO, about 50% of chiropractors are quacks, but the other 50% can work miracles.  The problem is to determine which.  This one seems pretty good.

I arrived at Jean's around noon, had lunch, then Mckenzie and I went shopping in Red Deer on the way home.  We bought a 18' x 9' x 52" rectangular swimming pool.  When it took two men to lift one end of the box to  slide it into the van, I started having second thoughts.  I already knew it will take 20 cubic metres of water, which at $3/metre3 will cost about $60 and at a rate of a cubic foot every minute, 12 hours to fill.  I doubt I can get a cubic foot a minute out of our taps.

When we arrived home at about 4, the temperatures were oppressively hot and I worked in the gym, repairing screens for an hour.  The rest of the day was pretty well shot as it was too hot to work anywhere else.  I had thought of working the bees from 7 until 10, but was too hot and tired.  I went to bed early with all the windows open.

Check your ego at the door and check your gut instead.
Every right decision I have ever made has come from my gut.
Every wrong decision I've made was the result of me not
listening to the greater voice of myself
Oprah Winfrey

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